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Independent human rights study details unjust B.C and federal mining laws

Monday June 7, 2010: Takla Lake Traditional Territory/Takla Landing, B.C – The BC and federal governments must heed the recommendations contained in a just-released Harvard Law School report on the impacts of an “unjust” government mining regime on Takla Lake and First Nations across BC, Chief Dolly Abraham of the Takla Lake First Nation said today.

The 200-page study was initiated and funded entirely by Harvard’s International Human Rights Clinic and is its first involving indigenous peoples in Canada. It details how mining laws are stacked against Takla Lake and other First Nations in BC, describing them as in contravention of international and constitutional law, overly favourable to industry, lacking in fair compensation, and in need of “urgent law reform.”

“I strongly support this damning assessment of the provincial mining system because I know firsthand how BC law and policy are used to avoid meaningfully addressing our Aboriginal rights, title, and community concerns,” said Chief Abraham.

“For example, the provincial government’s lack of action on historic and abandoned mining sites, such as the contaminated Bralorne mercury mine and the environmental impacts of numerous past exploration sites, have resulted in roads and contaminated waste strewn across our traditional territory,” she said. “BC promised to help us clean up the legacy contamination from the mining industry, and yet no progress has been made. At the same time, BC is constantly approving exploration projects in our territory while paying little attention to our concerns”.

“When these historic impacts are combined with today’s intense exploration, you start to see large scale damages to our land and we are still not consulted or compensated for this,” said Chief Abraham, who noted Takla has still not been compensated by the province for the massive Kemess South open-pit mine, which has generated huge revenues for the BC government over the years.

“Premier Campbell and the province must heed the call for reform and sit down with First Nations to get it done, and the federal government must start living up to its international commitments and its own laws to ensure our rights are protected,” said Chief Abraham, who is a member of BC’s First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM).

FNWARM Chairperson Anne Marie Sam said: “We commend Takla Lake First Nation for cooperating with this detailed study and Harvard for devoting its resources to this analysis of the human rights issues that our members and other First Nations across BC continue to experience.

“This report exposes the rights violations and other infringements we experience as a result of unjust and outdated pro-industry BC mining laws, and the failure of the federal government to meet its duties to us as defined in its international agreements and the Canadian constitution,” said Ms. Sam, a band councilor with the Nak’azdli First Nation, which is challenging the Mt. Milligan mine in its traditional territory because of the lack of meaningful consultation and environmental concerns.

“The provincial government has to reform its impoverished attitude toward First Nations’ concerns with mining in BC, starting with the free entry system, which must be abolished, and online mineral staking,” said Ms. Sam. “The environmental review process is another major issue, and must be revised to fully address Aboriginal interests through joint decision making.”

The Harvard study found that mining “frequently prevents First Nations from using their traditional lands for subsistence and cultural practices and causes significant environmental harm,” and that First Nations generally “bear an unfair burden at every point in the mining process,” from registration of claims to exploration, production, and abandonment of closed sites.

It also found that current safeguards for First Nations and the environment in fact “favor the industry they are designed to regulate.” For example, the study highlights how the online mineral staking system, similar to British Columbia’s free entry system, gives miners legal access to First Nations lands without any specific requirement to consult or accommodate them.

The report says that despite the unfair burden that mining places upon First Nations they “do not always reap economic benefits” from the sector. It also states the province’s mining regime fails to live up to international laws and treaties that Canada has signed or domestic law, thereby leaving First Nations without the proper protection that these laws are intended to provide.

The report, “Bearing the Burden: The Effects of Mining on First Nations in British Columbia,” was authored by Bonnie Docherty, an expert on international human rights law and a lecturer with Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, and a team of her students.

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View the report at: http://law.harvard.edu/programs/hrp/BearingTheBurden.pdf. Or go to www.fnwarm.ca for more information and background.

Media Inquiries/Interviews:

Chief Dolly Abraham: Contact Dave Radies, Takla Lake Mining Coordinator at 604-921-2024 or 250-961-1614

Anne Marie Sam, FNWARM Chair: 250-996-7171.

Author Bonnie Docherty:  Contact Cara Solomon at 617-495-9214 / csolomon@law.harvard.edu.

PDF:

February-March issue 2010

By: Amy Dempsey, THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA – A native women’s organization praised for uncovering cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women is in financial limbo despite a multimillion dollar government promise to provide funding.

The Sisters In Spirit initiative added 62 new names Wednesday to the more than 500 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls it has uncovered over the past five years.

The initiative, run by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, saw its government funding expire at the end of March. There’s been no word on whether it will be extended, even though this year’s federal budget pledged $10 million over two years to address the very problem the group has pioneered research in.

The money will be spent on the issue but it may not be going to Sisters In Spirit.

“We don’t know what this $10 million dollars will be allocated for at the moment, but we do look forward to hearing an announcement … to actually find out exactly what the plans are,” Sisters In Spirit director Kate Rexe said.

The government has dodged questions about how and when the money will be spent since budget day. Opposition parties slammed the government for stalling and demanded answers Wednesday in response to the group’s new findings.

NDP Status of Women critic Irene Mathyssen said the Sisters In Spirit – not the government – should decide how the $10 million is spent.

“They’ve done the legwork, they’ve talked to the families, they’ve talked to those who have been victimized . . . and because they’ve done all of this research, they’re in the best position to say alright, what needs to happen?” she said.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, whose department is responsible for providing the funding, provided little illumination on the money promised to the group’s cause in the last budget.

“I can say that the government will be investing $10 million over two years to address the disturbingly high number of missing and murdered aboriginal people,” Nicholson said.

“We will work with provinces, territories, aboriginal people and other stakeholders for effective solutions. After all, we all have a stake in finding a solution to this terrible problem.”

Sisters In Spirit found that aboriginal females are more likely to be killed by a stranger than non-aboriginal women. The initiative’s report says many victims are targeted simply because they are aboriginal and their attackers assume they will not fight back or be missed.

Nearly half of all murder cases involving First Nations, Metis and Inuit women and girls remain unsolved. The rate is dramatically different for cases where non-aboriginal women are murdered, where 84 per cent are cleared by charges or other means.

Sisters in Spirit offered rare words of praise for Helena Guergis for supporting their project before losing her job as minister for the status of women.

“Minister Guergis, for a lot of the criticism that she’s received, was a huge champion for us to actually make sure that this issue was ongoing,” Rexe said.

Guergis responded with warm words.

“No matter where I end up politically, personally or professionally, the plight of Aboriginal women will be one that I will always advocate for, and I will continue to honour their strength and resilience,” Guergis told The Canadian Press.

Rexe said before Guergis was ousted she arranged for the Sisters In Spirit to continue its work until the end of this year. But the group still has no idea how much funding it has to operate for the next eight months. And it can’t make plans for the long term until its future is certain.

Rexe said the Sisters In Spirit is ready to move out of the research phase and straight into action. The group wants to establish supports for victims and train law enforcement – often first responders – to be more attuned to the unique experiences of aboriginal women and girls. She said reported cases of missing Aboriginal females are often not taken seriously by police.

“The response has been that maybe she’s not missing but that she’s just left, that she’s run away,” Rexe said.

Secwepemc Territory – The Sexqeltkemc (People of the Lakes) Division of the Secwepemc Nation who encompass a vast territory from Monte Creek to the Alberta Border in the Interior Region of British Columbia, are dismayed that Minister Lekstrom made the decision on April 9, 2010 to sanction the Environmental Certificate to BC Hydro despite the Sexqéltkemc’s continued concerns.

The Projects – The proposed Mica 5 and Mica 6 projects, are located at the Mica Dam 135km north of Revelstoke, whereas the associated capacitor station is located near Salmon Arm. These projects are one of many BC Hydro is pursuing despite being challenged by First Nations throughout the Province.

Kukpi7 Wayne Christian, Splatsin –

The Environmental Assessment Process is not equipped to deal with the past infringement of our title, nor the historical loss of our land, water, salmon, and resources. These must be dealt with on a Government-to-Government basis. We will no longer be beggars in our own country.

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Neskonlith –

The Sexqeltkemc have filed our own Environmental Assessment report whereby we reject the Mica 5 and Mica 6 Environmental Assessment Certificates issued by the Ministers (MEMPR and MOE). BC Hydro and the Environmental Assessment Consultation Process do not have the jurisdiction or capability to deal with aboriginal title and rights.

Kukpi7 Nelson Leon, Adams Lake –

The issuance of the Environmental Assessment Certificate is again proof the Province denies and continues to contradict the legal obligations required by legal cases regarding the Crown’s duty to consult, won by numerous First Nations in British Columbia. The Province continues to illegally allocate our resources, therefore maintaining poverty in Aboriginal Communities.

For further information or questions please contact Sunny LeBourdais, Sexqéltkemc Energy Technical Coordinator svlebourdais@gmail.com

I am a Witness Campaign

The B.C. All Chiefs’ Task Force is proud to support the I am a Witness Campaign (www.fnwitness.ca).

First Nations children are drastically over represented in child welfare care. As of May of 2005, the Wen:de study found that 0.67% of non Aboriginal children were in child welfare care in three sample provinces in Canada as compared to 10.23% of status Indian children. Overall there are more First Nations children in child welfare care in Canada than at the height of residential schools.

First Nations children are entering child welfare care at increasing rates. According to federal government figures the number of status Indian children entering child welfare care rose 71.5% nationally between 1995-2001.

In this resolve, the All Chiefs’ support Jordan’s Principle (http://www.fncfcs.com/more/jordansPrinciple.php)  calling upon all provincial and territorial governments as well as the government of Canada to immediately adopt a child first principle to resolving jurisdictional disputes involving the care of First Nations children.

The Canadian Human Rights tribunal on First Nations child welfare is March 29th, details are below:

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

> March 29, 2010 (10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) 160 Elgin St – 11th Floor, Ottawa, Ontario

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network motion to broadcast the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on First Nations child welfare. The following parties are in support of having the proceedings broadcasted (Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, Canadian Human Rights Commission, Chiefs of Ontario). The Government of Canada is the only party that opposes broadcasting the proceedings.  The Caring society filed over a dozen affidavits sworn by First Nations Elders, leaders, youth and citizens stating their view that the proceedings should be broadcast so they can be accessible to people across Canada.  This hearing is open to the public!

Below is more information on First Nations child welfare:

WHY THE WORLD NEEDS TO WATCH: THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT HELD TO ACCOUNT FOR RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AGAINST INDIGENOUS CHILDREN BEFORE THE CANADIAN HUMAN RIGHTS TRIBUNAL

Bamoseda radio interview

Chief Wayne Christian and Chair of the All Chiefs’ Task Force, Beverley Clifton Percival were on Bamoseda radio to speak about the B.C All Chiefs’ Task Force and the letter writing campaign to Stephen Harper.  Listen to it here:

http://radio.pmd.rogersdigitalmedia.com/bamoseda/7/MAR4_BAMOSEDA_WEB.mp3

THUNDER BAY – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Stan Beardy is urging the federal government to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). “Treaties 9 and 5 were signed on a nation to nation basis under the international law therefore, it?s essential that Canada sign the UNDRIP to continue to maintain the honour of the British Crown,” said NAN Grand Chief Stan Beardy.

The UNDRIP recognizes the collective rights of Aboriginal people living in Canada including the inherent rights to traditional lands and territories, self-determination, and recognition of culture and language. To date, Canada remains one of the only countries refusing to adopt the UNDRIP. “By Canada signing the Declaration, it sends a strong signal to the rest of the world. It shows Canada is sincere in its apology to the First Nations regarding the residential school experience,” said Beardy. “It will also show that Canada recognizes there must be meaningful consultation and accommodation and that consent is required from First Nations to conduct any business in our territory.”

The UNDRIP states „shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.?In the 2010 Federal Throne Speech, the Government of Canada stated “We are a country with an Aboriginal heritage. A growing number of states have given qualified recognition to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Our Government will take steps to endorse this aspirational document in a manner fully consistent with Canada’s Constitution and laws.” However, the Federal Government failed to make any recognition of the UNDRIP in the 2010 federal budget.

The BC All Chiefs Task Force recently launched a letter writing and post card campaign in that province encouraging communities and leadership to contact the Prime Minister?s office about adopting the UNDRIP.

Since Canada voted against signing the UNDRIP in September 2007, NAN has been active in raising its concerns with industry and provincial cabinet leaders including at the Ontario Premier?s level. NAN has also decided to establish a letter writing campaign for its First Nations leaders.

Latest radio PSA’s #2

The final two radio PSA’s for our campaign to the Federal Government have been finished, you can hear them below

PSA#1

PSA#2

New Radio PSA’s

We have produced two new radio psa’s which you can find below:

PSA#1- Poverty

PSA#2- UNDRIP

With the success of our last round of Radio PSA’s, we have decided to run another set of PSA’s with the focus on Aboriginal child poverty.  Here are what the new PSA’s look like:

PSA1

Nearly one in three Aboriginal families in BC live at or below the poverty line. Lack of education and basic human rights violations face First Nation children on a daily basis. First Nations people are one of the fastest growing demographics in the country, yet remain largely ignored by the federal government, who have refused to address discrimination against First Nations children in the Child Welfare system and education.   This has to stop. Support the campaign for justice; go to firstnationstaskforce.wordpress.com

PSA2

Approximately forty First Nations communities do not have schools. Poverty, disease, lack of education and basic human rights violations face First Nation children on a daily basis. As one of the fastest growing demographics in Canada, First Nations peoples are largely ignored by the Federal Government. the federal government is not providing First Nations Child and Family Services agencies with adequate funding. This has to stop. Support the campaign for justice; go to firstnationstaskforce.wordpress.com

What do you think? Do the ad’s do the issue justice?

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