On National Indigenous Peoples Day, a leading B.C. First Nations organization says it's time for the federal government to take concrete steps to live up to its promises for justice.
“On National Indigenous Peoples Day, we celebrate the vast achievements of Indigenous peoples, and we call attention to the injustices still to be corrected,” Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs secretary treasurer Kukpi7 Judy Wilson said in a news release. “This year marked the monumental passage of the British Columbia Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, affirming the minimum standards for our collective rights, and offering a path toward improving our Government-to-Government relationship.
"We recognize this work is ongoing, and call attention to the as-yet-unfulfilled promises of the Government of Canada to implement the Declaration federally," she continued. "This failure, and the failure of Canada to meaningfully implement the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry in Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women released one year ago this month are violent in consequence. Indigenous women and girls are integral and cherished members of our society, and we call on Canada to honour them through action this Indigenous Peoples Day.”
According to the MMIWG report, fulfilling the Calls for Justice "requires a decolonizing approach".
"It involves recognizing inherent rights through the principle that Indigenous Peoples have the right to govern themselves in relation to matters that are internal to their communities; integral to their unique cultures, identities, traditions, languages, and institutions; and with respect to their special relationship to the land," the report states. "Our approach honours and respects Indigenous values, philosophies, and knowledge systems. It is a strength-based approach, focusing on the resilience and expertise of individuals and communities themselves."
Services and solutions, the report notes, must be led by Indigenous governments, organizations, and people.
"This is based on the self-determination and self-governance of Indigenous Peoples, as defined by United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) articles 3 and 4, as well as by the recognition of an inherent right that exists independent of any statute or legislation," it adds. "The colonial mindset by which Indigenous leaders ask for permission and the state gives permission has to end. Further, the exclusion of Indigenous women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA people, Elders, and children from the exercise of Indigenous self-determination must end."
UBCIC's president, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, said today that Indigenous people share "linked legacies of oppression with Black people, with policing having originated as a tool of enslavement and genocide".
"The Government of Canada has for too long silenced and ignored the voices of Black and Indigenous leaders," he declared. "We do not need flowery rhetoric, we do not need acknowledgement of our resilience, and we do not need more empty promises from Canada. In solidarity, we need to work to reimagine ‘justice’ and prevent further death at police hands, and we need a commitment to transformative change.”
Meanwhile, UBCIC vice president Chief Don Tom stated that the global pandemic has "exposed and intensified the pre-existing socioeconomic inequities and injustices that Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island have confronted since decolonization".
"Despite the numerous challenges they are facing, First Nations’ leaders are enforcing their jurisdiction and preventing the spread of the pandemic to their Nations with great innovation and tenacity," Tom said. "We call on Canada to uphold First Nations jurisdiction and increase the funding available for Indigenous communities recovering from COVID-19 in celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day.”