Working Group on Indigenous Peoples

18th  Session - 24 -  28, July 2000


INTERIOR ALLIANCE
Southern Carrier, St’at’imc, Secwepemc, Nlaka’pamux, Okanagan

STATEMENT ON AGENDA ITEM NUMBER 5:

REVIEW OF DEVELOPMENTS PERTAINING TO THE PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES PRESENTED TO THE UNITED NATIONS WORKING GROUP ON INDIGENOUS POPULATIONS,

18TH SESSION, GENEVA
By Chief Arthur Manuel, Neskonlith, Chairperson Interior Alliance
 
Dear Chairman:

        First of all allow me to thank you for giving the Interior Alliance the opportunity to address this expert Working Group. I firmly believe that the Human Rights issues of indigenous Peoples must be shared because invariably we are the weakest of weak, and the poorest of the poor, when it comes to protecting our collective interests as Peoples. In this regard I would like to say that I agree with the description made by the Canadian government earlier in their presentation regarding the dismal conditions that our “Children and Youth” are forced to suffer under. It is apparent to me that these kinds of conditions – as tragic as they are – are merely symptomsof a more serious problem regarding the relationship between indigenous Peoples and settlers in Canada. It is clear that past efforts by the Canadian government have not worked and that new solutions need to be found.

        The fundamental problem of past solutions regarding settlements with indigenous Peoples has been the “extinguishment and land selection” formula. The extinguishment and land selection formula is premised on indigenous Peoples “ceding, surrendering and giving up” their interests in their traditional territories for small parcels of Indian reserve lands. Typically settler governments have become rich from this lopsided and unbalanced allocation formula while indigenous Peoples have become impoverished. This economically and morally bankrupt principle is at the essence of the existing 1986 Comprehensive Claims Policy of Canada.

        The Constitution of Canada and the judicial decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada do provide an avenue for making “fundamental change” to the 1986 Comprehensive Claims Policy. The Canadian
government however refuses to review and change their existing Policy.

        There is clearly an effort on the part of the Canadian government to narrowly interpret the Constitution of Canada and its Supreme Court of Canada decisions to force indigenous Peoples to struggle for every inch of their land.


        The Supreme Court of Canada in the Delgamuukw decision recognized amongst other things that
Aboriginal title is a collective proprietary interest of my Peoples to our traditional territories. After the Delgamuukw decision was made in December 1997 we expected the federal government to change
its 1986 Comprehensive Claims Policy but they did not. Consequently my Peoples have engaged in direct political and legal action against the provincial and federal governments of Canada in order to protect our collective proprietary interests in our traditional territories.

        The indigenous Peoples of the Interior Alliance are once more again getting out on their traditional
territories and are implementing their inherent right to make decisions on their lands. These political initiatives are more than a public demonstration they are simply “Indigenous Acts of Freedom”. Indeed we are being forced to take political and legal actions against Canada in order to avoid being assimilated through the existing 1986 Comprehensive Claims Policy.It is our hope that through our struggle and international support we will be able to find new solutions to this fundamental Human Rights dilemma.

        It is our submission that our inherent Aboriginal title is a fundamental aspect of our Human Rights as indigenous Peoples. It is also clear that a new relationship needs to be found that balances the Human Rights interests of both indigenous Peoples and settlers, so we can both assume responsibility and enjoy the benefits of our traditional territories. In fact the Supreme Court of Canada requested that indigenous Peoples and Canada negotiate in “good faith” towards a reconciliation between Aboriginal title and Crown title, because ‘We are all here to stay’.

        It is therefore very important for the Working Group to understand that it is our submission that the reconciliation of Aboriginal title and Crown title has not been achieved, nor is there a mutually acceptable land settlement policy in place to do so. Therefore all initiatives like “Gathering Strength”
are too premature. Indeed, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples of Canada reported that
Aboriginal title has to be dealt with first before Gathering Strength can be accommodated. Therefore,
“Gathering Strength” is either a poor policy miscalculation of the Canadian government or an effort to circumvent the issue of Aboriginal title through an expensive international public relations campaign.

        Aboriginal title needs to be addressed before issues regarding self-government are reached because
otherwise we will be merely assuming delegated authority to manage over the poverty of our people.
The Interior Alliance therefore calls upon the Working Group on Indigenous Populations to remind all
governments that the right of indigenous Peoples to their land is an essential part of our Human Rights as indigenous Peoples.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

Chief Arthur Manuel   Cell: 01-250 314-7179
Neskonlith Indian Band
Chairman, Shuswap Nation Tribal Council
Chairman, Interior Alliance
or:
Nicole Schabus    Cell: 01-250 314-4507
International Relations
Interior Alliance
email:   Nicole.Schabus@interioralliance.org
 

INTERIOR ALLIANCE
Southern Carrier, St’at’imc, Secwepemc, Nlaka’pamux, Okanagan
c/o Shuswap Nation Tribal Council
Suite 304 – 355 Yellowhead Highway
Kamloops, British Columbia V2H 1H1
Phone: (250) 828-9789 Fax: (250) 374-6331
Email: cnelson@interioralliance.org 

  


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