By Ray Bobb
In 2007, the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand voted against this declaration came as a surprise to many people.
Compared to many countries of the global south that labour under thinly disguised military dictatorships, these four countries are seen as pillars of freedom and democracy. In reality, these countries are imperialist settler states. As oppressor nations, the freedom of these countries is the freedom of wolves and their democracy is the democracy of whites in apartheid South Africa.
The indigenous of these countries have recently been afforded economic reforms the likes of those which had been afforded the working classes of these countries more than 100 years ago. Politically, however, in terms of the colonized status of the indigenous and their legal right to self-determination, they have been subject to constant government attack. In Canada, for instance, the federal government is in the process of forcing the indigenous to renounce their Indian nationality and formally incorporate into Canada.
In 1973, the federal government initiated a treaty process based on the strictly circumscribed Comprehensive Land Claims Policy. The terms of the treaty process separate Canadian Indians into hundreds of reserve-level “First Nations” represented by Indian leaders on the payroll of the Department of Indian Affairs. The federal government has entered into treaty making with these leaders, requiring them, for payment, to remove their bands from the jurisdiction of the Indian Act and formally incorporate them into Canada on the municipal level.
These two requirements of the treaty process contravene Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These two articles of international law state, respectively, that “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality” and “All peoples have the right of self-determination.” Today, the indigenous of Canada’s North, including northern Quebec, and many bands in the south have already been swindled into signing treaties.
The federal government heralds the treaty process as the way to a glorious “new relationship” and “self-governance”. In fact, the Canadian government is effecting a policy of bureaucratic ethnic cleansing.
Ray Bobb is a member of the Seabird Island Indian Band, a labourer, and a former Red Power advocate. He currently lives in Vancouver and writes on Native issues.