The United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples is urging Canada to launch a national inquiry on missing and murdered aboriginal women.
The action is among a series of recommendations outlined in a report issued today (May 12) by James Anaya.
Other steps he is calling on Canada to implement include taking “urgent action” to address the housing crisis in indigenous communities, removing legal barriers to indigenous self-governance, and consulting with indigenous organizations to address any concerns related to the federal government’s proposed education bill.
Anaya is also recommending a policy framework for proposed resource development on land subject to aboriginal claims that allows for the input of indigenous people “at the earliest stages of project development”.
"In accordance with the Canadian constitution and relevant international human rights standards, as a general rule resource extraction should not occur on lands subject to aboriginal claims without adequate consultations with and the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned," he wrote.
In the new report issued following his visit to Canada in October 2013, the UN special rapporteur said the country faces a “continuing crisis” when it comes to the situation of indigenous people.
“The well-being gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada has not narrowed over the last several years, treaty and aboriginals claims remain persistently unresolved, indigenous women and girls remain vulnerable to abuse, and overall there appear to be high levels of distrust among indigenous peoples toward government at both the federal and provincial levels,” he stated.
Anaya also concluded that aboriginal peoples’ concerns merit “higher priority at all levels and within all branches of Government, and across all departments”.
Concerns outlined in his report include social and economic conditions for indigenous people, housing in First Nations and Inuit communities, education, treaty and claims negotiations, and aboriginal participation in economic development.
“One of the most dramatic contradictions indigenous peoples in Canada face is that so many live in abysmal conditions on traditional territories that are full of valuable and plentiful natural resources,” he wrote.
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Bernard Valcourt issued a statement indicating his department will "review the report carefully".
"While more work needs to be done, the report notes the important steps that have been taken to ensure progress in providing equal access to First Nations, as all other Canadians, to safe housing, education and matrimonial rights," Valcourt stated.
Anaya's full report can be viewed here.