Arthur Manuel: Vancouver Olympics can’t hide Canada’s dismal record on indigenous peoples

By Arthur Manuel

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics will happen, and very little attention has been given to Canada’s dismal human rights record on indigenous peoples. This has to be contrasted with how Tibet human rights issues were raised during the 2008 Summer Olympics in China. Canada decided to do its torch relay inside Canada and used the Four Host First Nations to divide and rule over indigenous peoples in Canada.

It is important not to pick on the Four Host First Nations, because it is Canada that is the real culprit in this human rights travesty. The economic initiatives accepted by the Four Host First Nations cannot override the human rights of indigenous peoples. In fact, the preparatory meeting for the 2008 session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues acknowledged Canada’s unprecedented involvement of indigenous peoples in the 2010 Winter Olympics but also said this did not absolve Canada from responsibility for its violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples.

Some Canadians may argue that the human rights of indigenous peoples do not have anything to do with an international sporting event. That is not true. Canada, when applying for the Olympic Games, put its human rights record on the table for intense scrutiny. That is why Canada and British Columbia have gotten the Four Host First Nations to support the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Canada is deliberately trying to buy its way around its terrible human rights record by creating a media spin behind the Four Host First Nations. Canadians should be embarrassed that Canada has resorted to this kind of cheap and shallow scheme, instead of addressing the substantive human rights problems Canada has with indigenous peoples. Bluntly, this kind of human rights trickery by Canada is similar in deception to an athlete using drugs to win Olympic gold.

Indigenous peoples are not at the top of Canada and British Columbia’s list of people who benefit from federal and provincial government money-generating programs. Indigenous peoples collectively register at level 47 on the UN Human Development Index. Canada always registers in the top five. Indigenous peoples have systemically been impoverished by federal and provincial policies that deliberately ignore judicially recognized and constitutionally protected aboriginal and treaty rights.

On September 13, 2007, 143 state governments adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada, United States, New Zealand, and Australia were the only four countries to vote against the declaration. In fact, Canada also voted against the declaration as a member of the UN Human Rights Council on June 26, 2006.

Australia has reversed its position, and New Zealand and the United States are reconsidering their positions. Canada is really out of step with other countries globally when it comes to treatment of indigenous peoples.

It is clear that the poorest of the poor—namely indigenous peoples who have been forced out of their Indian reserves from across Canada because of lack of housing, education, employment, and recognition of their aboriginal and treaty rights—will be the first impacted by the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The indigenous peoples who gravitate to Hastings and Main streets, or Skid Row, because of the economic marginalization and poverty of our people, come from across Canada. They have already been impacted by being dispossessed again of the affordable housing they had in order for their places to be renovated and rented out to 2010 Winter Olympic visitors. These people will not enjoy any of the benefits from the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. They will just have to pay the price again for an insensitive and callous federal government.

It is ironic that most countries that will be participating in the 2010 Winter Olympics adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canadians and indigenous peoples should make it very clear to Canada and British Columbia that satisfying four local First Nations is not good enough. If the spirit and intention of the 2010 Winter Olympics is to become a real positive force, Canada must take this occasion to announce that it will reconsider adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Former Neskonlith chief Arthur Manuel is spokesperson for the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade.

Comments (11) Add New Comment
Get a Job
Always amazing to see people whine about the rights of others - from what I see in the north the natives are the ones who bring it on themselves. Gee I wish my great great grandfather had got drunk and traded our land for beads, then the next several generations of my family would be entitled to free medical, dental, housing and schooling to name a few. Oh wait I'm white - I don't get hand outs.

Seems the worst thing you can be is a unemployed over 30 white male - everyone else is entitled to some Hand out - except the people who died for this country in war time.
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AW Mason
the people who survived wartime don't get much either.

The writer, is a Native Man himself.
Native People are paying for the colonialism, we didn't bring the alcohol, the drugs, etc., we got our land stolen, our women raped, murdered, etc etc. You should study some history before making stupid statements, like the ones you made. Sure it is tough being white and over 30, but blame YOUR colonial government for their polices regarding that; don't further victimize Native People with you ignorant and probably biased stereotypes. We didn't get 'handouts'...we paid dearly for the things you enjoy as a white man. We have no buffalo to hunt, our rivers and lakes are poisoned, we have very little land left to live on, porr housing, bad water, etc etc, so we have to come to places like Cities where we are stereotyped by people like you, and forced to be marginalized by policies like the ones Canada has adopted from their historical parent, Britain.
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Ouch101
Really? Really? Let's not forget the BILLIONS that the government pours into First Nations communities every year. Where does this money go?
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Wow re: Get a Job
To Get a Job: I believe it is in your best interest to plead ignorance in this case because it is evidently clear you have no idea what you are talking about and that you were poorly raised.
"Gee I wish my great great grandfather had got drunk and traded our land for beads, then the next several generations of my family would be entitled to free medical, dental, housing and schooling to name a few."
Wow.
Perhaps you should spend some time on one of Canada's First Nations reserves to truly understand the conditions of the "hand outs" you think you know so well. With overcrowding, lack of drinking water, basic medical supplies and educational institutions some reserves are examples of how Canada's government is perpetuating the social problems that plague Aboriginal people in this country by contributing to the cycle of poverty. It is for reasons like this that articles such as the piece above are so important.
Shame on you for looking at Canada's marginalized population with such a lack of respect and/ or compassion. Ahhhh but I guess life isn't easy for a white alpha male now is it?
I think it is time to do some light reading”¦.
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Coast Salish Territory
Well stated by Former Chief of the Neskonlith Nation, it is 100% correct to state that Canada, British Columbia and Vancouver, collectively had and continue to try and hide the ongoing Colonialism taking place throughout Canada. After the last G8 meeting in Pittsburgh 2009, Prime Minister Harper, informed the world that Canada has had no hand in colonization for the last 150 years. This statement has gone largely unchallenged by media, and is nothing short of racism.

Billions of dollars are made off the resources of this country every year, with minimal resources going back to the various Indigenous Nations. The in your face reality ,is that this continues to be a racist country as we look at all social variables, and see Indigenous Peoples negatively represented in every major category.

The world is coming to unceded Coast Salish Territory and our colonizers will not be able to hide this ongoing racist-colonial process.To the racist simpletons that are commenting on here, please keep sharing, because it only proves my point and outside media can see how mainstream many of you are to the entrenched colonial process.
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Mark Stevens
"unceded Coast Salish Territory"? It is ceded. To say it is unceded is a technicality. Unless the Salish nation wishes to declare war on Canada, this land is ceded and what we have to do is find a way to get along.
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Wrong Mark
Can you show us the document where the Coast Salish Nation ceded our territory? In fact Mark, if you read your Constitution you would see that Canada has not honored its own laws with dealing with my people, throughout its history, to this moment.

In fact, you will notice that Canada, British Columbia and Vancouver continue to deny this reality and perpetuate ...yes Mark going to use the R-word...RACISM...against the Indigenous Peoples. So, I disagree with you about the war call, we as Indigenous Peoples will continue to demand Canada honor its Constitution and the First Peoples of this land. We will continue to use every forum to expose this human rights violation.
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Indigence
I think this says it all ...
"Indigenous peoples are not at the top of Canada and British Columbia’s list of people who benefit from federal and provincial government money-generating programs. Indigenous peoples collectively register at level 47 on the UN Human Development Index. Canada always registers in the top five. Indigenous peoples have systemically been impoverished by federal and provincial policies that deliberately ignore judicially recognized and constitutionally protected aboriginal and treaty rights. "
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compassionate student
thank you Mr. Manuel. we need more writers like you to debunk the myth that our government is transparent and working in the best interest of the people.

To build more on your case, I would argue that the neoliberal-driven agenda pushed by Canadians and multilateral organizations are the main problem. This agenda is based on economic efficiency and where profits (not people) are the goal at the end of the day. This agenda is also framed on insecurities. The capitalist market doesn't see people but projects. So if a project will make the economy be more efficient and create profits, the marginalized victims are "collateral damage". The human face has been covered with dollar signs.

So while we want to point the finger at the government or corporations, they are just as bad as you and me who sit in silence and buy into it. It is also the patriarchal structure of society. Where are the women in this decision-making process? Working double duty that they don't even get paid equally for.

Okay, i've gone on an tangent. But the basic idea I want to get across is that at the end of the day it's our neoliberal, captialist society that has justified human rights violations against the country's first peoples.
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Andrew
@ Get a Job - you better grow some hair, your skinhead is showing (or did you leave some in the form of a swastika?). I would like to see what kind of hand out you would get from the Indigenous Vets and their families if you were to spout this garbage at them.
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indigeneous U.S.A.
It seems that the whole of North America (Governments) have the same agenda in mind. Make profit and keep the Indigenous peoples in poverty. They would sweep us under the rug if possible- but with the internet and unbiased news agencies- we can make our voices heard. We First NATIONS peoples never gave up our land! They were stolen by out right theft,deception,lies and greed. What the governments couldn't accomplish, the churches (in the name of religion)tried to finish. This is called genocide.
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