Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Permanent Mission of Canada

Madame/Mr. Chair:

Canada values the important work that Professor James Anaya carried out in the discharge of his mandate during his time as Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous peoples. We would like to thank him for his positive contribution to international efforts to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples and welcome the new Special Rapporteur, Ms. Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz. We look forward to our continued positive and valuable collaboration with her as the Special Rapporteur.

Canada is committed to promoting and protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples at home and abroad.  We support the consideration of Indigenous issues within a variety of international venues, including here at the Human Rights Council. 

Canada welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur on his visit to Canada in 2013. The report acknowledges that, while many challenges remain, many positive steps have been taken to improve the overall well-being and prosperity of Aboriginal people in Canada. We are working hard to ensure constructive engagement and reliable channels of communication aimed at positive and meaningful outcomes in support of ongoing national efforts, to improve the lives of Indigenous communities.

The Government of Canada and the provinces and territories were actively engaged during the Special Rapporteur’s country visit in October 2013, and we have continued our substantive engagement during the follow up to his visit. We were pleased that he was able to meet with such a large number of federal and provincial officials, Aboriginal leaders, communities and organizations, as well as with civil society organizations, including academics.

Given our diverse and multicultural society, Canada has been a leader on the world stage in the protection of human rights. There are numerous laws, policies and programs aimed at addressing Aboriginal peoples’ concerns, and to allow collaboration on shared priorities and a renewed relationship built on reconciliation and trust. As acknowledged in the report, Canada was one of the first countries in the modern era to extend constitutional protection to the rights of Aboriginal peoples, including Treaty rights. Our country’s unique constitutional framework will continue to be the cornerstone of our efforts to promote and protect the rights of Aboriginal people in Canada.

As pointed out in the report, Canada’s policies and processes to address historical grievances are an example to the world, and many of Canada’s efforts provide important examples of reconciliation and accommodation. The Government of Canada is committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian Residential Schools and is focusing on an agenda of reconciliation between Aboriginal people, their families and communities, and all Canadians. On November 14, 2013, the Ontario Supreme Court approved, on consent of the parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, a one-year extension to the operating period of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), to June 30, 2015. This additional year will allow the Commission sufficient time to fulfill its mandate.

The Government of Canada recognizes the challenges faced by many Aboriginal people in Canada, including the particularly unique challenges posed by Canada’s vast geography. It is important to note that many of the areas Professor Anaya highlights in his report as representing the greatest challenges coincide with the areas that Canada has identified for increased action, including Aboriginal housing. The Government of Canada makes significant annual investments for on-reserve housing; we have provided $2.3 billion in on-reserve housing support to First Nations between 2006-07 and 2013-2014. Since 2006, overall Government investments have created 11,364 new units and facilitated over 21,212 renovations. It has also improved schools and clean water on reserves. In addition to ongoing investments in housing on First Nations reserves, the Government of Canada announced in Economic Action Plan 2013 that it is investing $100 million over two years to address the unique challenges in providing affordable housing in Nunavut ($30 million for 2013-2014 and $70 million for 2014-2015).

As the youngest and fastest growing segment of Canada’s population, the Government recognizes that Canada’s Aboriginal communities are a critical part of our future. Canada is investing $241 million over four years to help First Nation youth between the ages of 18 and 24 and living on-reserve to get personalized job and skills training. These investments are targeted to youth receiving income assistance, providing them with access to a wider, more tailored range of training, education and career counseling programs that will help them get jobs. Investing in jobs and skills training will lead to their greater participation in the economy, more prosperous, self-sufficient First Nation communities, and a stronger Canada.

We can all agree on how important it is for First Nations children living on reserve to receive the same high quality education as all other Canadian children, and that they are given every opportunity to become full participants in Canadian society. In April 2014, following extensive consultations with First Nations parents, schools, teachers, and leaders across the country, the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act was introduced in the House of Commons. However, given recent developments, the Bill has been placed on hold.

The natural resources sector offers a significant opportunity to support Aboriginal participation in Canada’s economy, and our Government is undertaking a number of measures to support this participation. Under the plan for Responsible Resource Development, enhanced consultation and accommodation processes have been put in place for all major projects, and protocols and memoranda of understanding are being negotiated with Aboriginal groups and provinces. These agreements help to better align federal and provincial consultation processes, reduce duplication, support information sharing and clarity of the process for all parties. Our Government has also recently announced additional measures to further support Aboriginal participation in natural resource development, in response to the report of the Special Federal Representative (SFR) on West Coast Energy Infrastructure. On May 27, 2014, the Government announced the creation of the Major Projects Management Office-West and the Tripartite Forum to enhance Aboriginal engagement and participation in energy development in Western Canada. On July 28, 2014, the Government announced its appointment of a Ministerial Special Representative to lead engagement on the development of policy reforms that will replace the outdated Comprehensive Land Claims Policy. Canada is also taking action to address several key impediments to treaty negotiations in British Columbia and elsewhere, including: reforming Canada’s own-source revenue policy; resuming treaty fisheries negotiations; and introducing a new method to obtain certainty through settlement.

In Canada’s resource rich North, Aboriginal people make up more than half the population.  Inuit and other Aboriginal peoples in the North already play important roles in shaping policy, setting priorities and governance, and Canada’s Northern Strategy is helping to provide all Northerners with more control over their own economic and political destiny. On April 1, 2014, the Northwest Territories became the second territory to assume responsibilities for land and resources management. Through a unique revenue sharing plan, Northwest Territories’ residents and Aboriginal communities directly benefit from the responsible development of the region’s resource potential.

Through these initiatives, as well as ongoing work in other parts of the country, Canada will continue to engage with Aboriginal communities to identify specific measures that will generate social and economic benefits for Aboriginal peoples and all Canadians.

The Government of Canada continues to take action to reduce violence against Aboriginal women and girls in Canada; these abhorrent acts of violence will not be tolerated. On September 15, 2014, the Government released its Action Plan to Address Family Violence and Violent Crimes Against Aboriginal Women and Girls. This Action Plan implements the Government’s 2014 budget commitment of new investments of $25 million over five years to address this issue and sets out concrete actions to prevent violence, support victims and families, and protect Aboriginal women and girls. Initiatives include supporting communities to develop community safety plans, ensuring families are supported to access and navigate the justice system, and preventing violence through projects to engage men and boys and empower Aboriginal women and girls. This new investment is part of a range of measures to address violence against Aboriginal women and girls outlined in the Plan, totalling nearly $200 million, including funding for shelters on-reserve on an ongoing basis. The Government’s Action Plan builds on the results, best practices and lessons learned from the earlier $25 million investment announced in Budget 2010, which helped to improve the law enforcement and justice response. It demonstrates the Government’s commitment to ensuring that Aboriginal women and girls are supported to reach their full potential as mothers, daughters, sisters, community members and Canadians.

 Last June, the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act received Royal Assent. The legislation ensures basic rights and protections to individuals on reserves regarding the family home and other matrimonial interests or rights during a relationship, in the event of a relationship breakdown, and on the death of a spouse or common-law partner. The provisional federal rules in the Act contain emergency protection order provisions to provide protection for individuals and their children living on reserves in situations of family violence. The Government of Canada will continue working with partners at all levels of government, police, the justice system, and most importantly with Aboriginal families, communities and organizations, to address this critical issue.

Canada is examining the recommendations put forward in Professor Anaya’s report which will contribute to our collective national efforts to improve the lives of all Aboriginal people in Canada. Once again, we would like to thank the UN Special Rapporteur for the important work in this area.