UN rapporteur says Canada faces an aboriginal crisis

James Anaya identifies myriad social and economic woes


Sean Kilpatrick/CP

“Canada faces a crisis when it comes to the situation of indigenous peoples of the country.” — James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples

James Anaya didn’t tell Canadians anything they didn’t already know. The law professor at the University of Arizona just spent nine days in Canada in his capacity as a UN special rapporteur, charged with assessing the quality of life enjoyed by aboriginal Canadians. As his trip wrapped up yesterday, Anaya offered some preliminary conclusions, none of which would surprise anybody who’s even passively paid attention to the plight of Canadian aboriginals.

“The well-being gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada has not narrowed over the last several years, treaty and aboriginals claims remain persistently unresolved, and overall there appear to be high levels of distrust among aboriginal peoples toward government at both the federal and provincial levels,” wrote Anaya.

The rapporteur pointed to work that should be done to improve living conditions on reserve, discourage suicide, improve service funding, examine disproportionate incarceration rates, fully document the miserable history of residential schools, launch an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, improve educational outcomes, mitigate family violence and unemployment, invest in self-governing capacity, expedite treaty claim negotiations, and develop a common vision for achieving all of these things.

Worthy goals, no doubt, though the feds will certainly pick and choose their own priorities from that daunting list. But fixing problems is about more than government taking action, wrote Anaya, repeating the claim that drove to the heart of Idle No More’s discontent earlier this year. “Unless legislative and other government actions that directly affect indigenous peoples’ rights and interests are made with their meaningful participation, those actions will lack legitimacy and are likely to be ineffective,” he wrote.

Easier said than done, that. The federal government and many aboriginal leaders sometimes disagree fundamentally about the definition of “meaningful participation.” Bridging that gap is a monumental task, among the most difficult anyone in aboriginal affairs can tackle. Perhaps Anaya already knows that, and perhaps he’ll suggest solutions in his final report that the government and aboriginal leaders can rally around. Perhaps.


What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail Ontario may launch its own pension program.
National Post Arsala Jamal, an Afghan governor who’d lived in Canada, was assassinated.
Toronto Star Toronto police aren’t trained to deal specifically with the mentally ill.
Ottawa Citizen Elections Canada will draw wisdom from a big-name advisory group.
CBC News Congress is still negotiating a deal to extend the country’s debt limit.
CTV News Stephen Harper hosted an event in NYC that cost taxpayers over $65,000.
National Newswatch A deal on cheese might be the final obstacle in Canada-EU trade talks.

What you might have missed

THE NATIONAL Citizenship. Deepan Budlakoti says he’s a Canadian citizen who was born in Ontario and, at one point, issued a passport. The feds say when Budlakoti was born, his parents worked at the Indian High Commission—meaning he didn’t qualify for citizenship. Indian officials say he’s not an Indian citizen. Budlakoti wants the government will admit he’s Canadian.
THE GLOBAL Iraq. A new study claims that over 460,000 Iraqis died between the U.S. military intervention in 2003 and June 2011. The researchers behind the report come from four universities in three countries, including B.C.’s Simon Fraser University. Their tally is four times higher than the ongoing totals estimated by Iraq Body Count, which tracks daily deaths.
THE QUIRKY Bonnie and Clyde. Two teenagers who live west of Ottawa led police in two provinces and an American state on a wild goose chase across the Quebec border into Maine. Along the way, they stole a pair of vehicles and outran a U.S. border guard. By the time they were caught in the Carrabassett River, the pair had travelled more than 500 kilometres from home.


UN rapporteur says Canada faces an aboriginal crisis

  1. Library of Economics: “Gary S. Becker received the 1992 Nobel Prize in economics ….. Becker showed that discrimination will be less pervasive in more competitive industries because companies that discriminate will lose market share to companies that do not. He also presented evidence that discrimination is more pervasive in more-regulated, and therefore less-competitive, industries.”

    Maple Leaf Web: “While Canada routinely ranks in the top ten of the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) – a quality of life indicator based on income, education and life expectancy applying the same criteria to Canada’s aboriginal population reveals some striking figures. Registered Indians living on reserves are ranked approximately 68th, somewhere between Bosnia and Venezuela, while off-reserve Indians are ranked 36th.”

    Ronald Reagan – The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’

  2. Frederick Douglass –

    Everybody has asked the question, and they learned to ask it early of the abolitionists, “What shall we do with the negro?” I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature’s plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!

  3. Had the Europeans not immigrated to Canada, under what conditions would one expect the aboriginals of Canada be living under? How does that compare to the conditions they are living under now?

    • Land ownership? Self-government?

    • They’d have clean water and air. Hunting grounds would be stocked. There’d be no small pox or a host of other deadly viruses. They’d not have guns, alcohol, crack, oxy, meth, gasoline huffing, etc..

      I’d say it’d be a significant improvement. Would it be problem free? Of course not. But if you ask me and most of them, the coming of the Europeans was a complete disaster for the Aboriginal populations of the Americas.

      • My, oh, my: you are ignorant of historical facts!

        • By all means, enlighten me.

      • And they wouldn’t have modern medicine, social safety nets, protection from famine, freedom of religion/speech, democratic governance, etc. But they would have famine, disease, tribal warfare, far lower life expectancy, and high infant mortality.

        The idea of the happy ‘noble savage’ has been thoroughly debunked. Ask any experienced aboriginal anthropologist. We may be enslaved by the trappings of modern life, but we are still far happier and healthier than ever before.

        • I don’t think you can claim that people are happier today than they were, and especially in the case of Aboriginal people. Their life spans may of been shorter, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t lead full, happy lives. They were relatively free of disease, they were all healthy, they had tight-knit, family oriented societies. Their youth didn’t kill themselves off at alarming rates based on a feeling of hopelessness that many of them experience today. We’re not saying life wasn’t tough, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t happy with what they had. I’m not even sure ‘happier and healthier’ can apply to people of European descent either. Maybe in some regards, but in a lot of ways people are way less healthy than they were 500 years ago.

          • Average age of a prairie FN was less than 35 years old. How is that better?

        • Europe was hardly democratic or religiously inclusive when the first “explorers” arrived in New France. They had something called an “absolute monarchy” which allowed for rulers who were immoral, insane and dictatorial as long as they were born in a castle. On the other hand, the US system of governance borrowed heavily from the Mohawk Nation model in place at the same time.

          The streets of Europe stunk like shit when Cortes arrived in Mexica where they had barges to tow away the night soil and compost it for growing maize, unlike in Europe where sewage was used to spread disease. We still mix our shit with water and flush it into rivers and lakes in Canada.

          My point is that Europe developed between 1492 and now, and the First Nations in Canada would have too. Insisting that they needed to have their culture, religion, access to land and decision making seized from them to accomplish this is ridiculous.

        • I think you’re attributing ideas to me that I don’t hold – namely of the ‘noble savage’.

          I think you’re also making other assumptions that are incorrect regarding social safety nets, democratic governance and general happiness. Sure these would not have existed in the forms in which they are commonly recognized today. but they did exist in other forms.

      • More likely they would have killed themselves off through war’s and starvation due to over hunting. But I know, that goes against the mantra that it’s all the white man’s fault.

        • Wow, that is wildly incorrect. Aboriginal people lived in North American for close to 14 000 years. There is no evidence to suggest that they were anywhere near close to dying out or over hunting the landscape. In fact, their hunting patterns ensured that animal were NOT over hunted.

          • And there is evidence they were not first.

          • And that’s important because?

            The fact is First Nations have been the primary inhabitants of this land for all of known human history. Hence, your argument is very unimaginative. Seriously if tomorrow someone invades Europe and claims since Europeans weren’t the “first” people on this land, they’re not entitled to the land then what would you say?

            So please have an honest conversation and stop trolling. You’re not fooling anyone.

          • Ask the Hurons if ya kan find one !

        • Has anybody thought of going to Newfoundland and finding out why they don’t have an aboriginal problem !

      • Part of the problem is too much idle time. No mater what race you are, humans with too much idle time become belligerent and dysfunctional.

        Add in living off of other peoples money, a hate is developed and keeps them in a vicious cycle of low self worth and hate of mainstream society as they are in effect, excluded form main stream society. Chiefs love it as they are more likely to stay on reserve as head count is money.

        • Mismanagement isn’t unique to reserves. I can count 20 financial scandals in the past year which have cost Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars. I rather spend money on health and education then buying the ultra useless F-35 which will only line the pockets of 1% at Lockheed Martin.

      • Andy, white eyes, round eyes, or just plain caucasians have all those devils in their closets to except for the gas sniffing but we could do that to just to make the playing field level what do ya think ?

    • I don’t see native Indians hunting in my backyard. Nor do I see them collecting our un-contaminated water just down the street from me. Why ? because they can’t hunt, they are not allowed to and the water is full of pollutants. Their way of life is totally different to our civilization, we do limit their capacity to produce their own well-being. They are not self sufficient any more. And, there too much negative influence within their communities. ( I think)

      The best solution is to develop the native Indian communities into Cities of their own and allow them to flourish and grow into a more modern lifestyle while maintaining their roots; up to them on what way they want to modernize themselves. I think they need to change to embrace the entertainment of our world, and establish their own intellectual society with their spiritual aspects fully incorporated into it.

      I think they need to establish an official written language , so people can learn their language as well and maybe we can establish courses in schools….

      they can learn from us and we can definitely learn from them at the same time. This dividing line needs to stop, cause the one is getting hurt while the other wins.

      • Aboriginees can hunt, fish, cultivate, mine, anytime without a license but its too much work eh !

        • What are you talking about? Many First Nations communities work harder to gather their food then urbanites. Insulting others only makes you look bad.

          • A lot of people work hard to get food on the table. What’s your point?

          • Francien, there is difference between “gathering your food” by means of hunting it yourself and buying frozen food from supermarkets to put it “on the table” which many of us urbanites do and that isn’t even an option in many First Nations communities. So please don’t equate the two.

          • I grow some of my own food and my partner hunts for deer and moose. Some do that and others are too lazy to do that. It’s a fact. We don’t have to ignore the facts.

          • Francien, anecdotal evidence is not a fact and “some of my food” is not all of your food.

          • I make my own alchohol !

          • I worked on one of the best functioning reserve in Canada and just like white folk all their valuables were locked up secure at night except for one building. It was the reserve maintenance building. I asked the maintenance supervisor why he left that building unsecured at night, he replied that aboriginees are very honest trustworthy people but he said, I think its because there are only tools in the building and they don’t take much to working with tools ya know !

      • There is an Official written format for Native American langauge’s that is different to the Western Roman Format that I am using right now. It’s called “Syllabics” and looks like this:ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᐏᐣ. If not that then they can always adopt the Mayan system to their Languages (100% Native American invented). I don’t see how they can have Cities when you need a very high Population to make Cities. Only the Aymara Native Americans in Bolivia made a true City (El Alto) cause they have more than a Million people in a single Area. Canada Native’s is only a million spread out all across Canada and are not a single ethnic group.

    • FN conditions before Europeans was no glory. It was a brute force survival thing, produce or die. Frost bitten hands, broken bones often meant death. Average age wasn’t that high, an elder might be 35. Wasn’t the spiritual thing they make it out to be. If you didn’t get the buffalo today, you went hungry.

      Europe has a better approach with Sami than Canada does. Our forefathers were idiots and setup a bad situation for both parties. And without politicians that are leaders, we are stuck with the problems generation after generation as no one wants to step up against the idiocracies for political bloat and waste.

    • Yeah right, ask the UN rep to go into the Amazon where there are indians who still live the way ours did 150 years ago and compare their lives to ours and let our natives choose which they prefer.

  4. @Andy Jackson this country would, haver been taken over by someone at sometime. History shows, that the majority of civilizations have been, conquered at one point or another. The difference is I dont recieve compensation for it like natives do.
    I work hard for my money and do not believe in the treaties. No one had the right to financially enslave future generations in perpetuity . I have a right to expect value for my tax dollars and reserves have shown they are not financially responsible. With what they have been given over the years, it has more than compensated them for land and any ill done to them . Time to abolish the treaties and reservations and live like the rest of the world. They can keep their culture alive the same way the rest of us do, at home and with public celebrations.As long as natives want to live in an aparthied state.nothing will improve. Time to get jobs pay taxes and be financially responsible for themselves just like the rest if us.

    • Then give the land back and go home.

      • Come and take it! If you can.

        • Well at least now you’re admitting it’s theft……….. but it wouldn’t take much to shut this country down so don’t get cocky.

          • He never said it was theft! Land exchanges hands all over the world, all throughout history! That is the point.

          • Shut the country down. Then wait and see how much it will help the native community!

          • Yet another internet “tough guy”.

          • EmilyOne isn’t all that tough! And I don’t think she is a he.

          • The comment was for you. Now try again.

      • You didnt own all the land …not to mention you would not have it as good as you do…hmmm just think how you would fare as russians or chineese….lol you would have been taken over by someone….not to mention if we used your mentality of “give it back” the entire world would be in an uproar as every country would change, because every culture or civilization has been overtaken by another at some point in time and, they dont get a free, ride as recompense.

        • FNs owned all the land in the Americas….and were quite happy with what they had.

          When Europeans arrived, deals were made to divide up the land…..which is fine, but the deals haven’t been settled and it’s long past time they were.

          Simple solution….settle the land claims.

          • Even those that were settled are now being re-opened, one I know for sure has been renegociated at least 3 times and they aren’t finished yet. Some time ago in the lower mainland area of BC an enterprising native community decided it would lease out land on their reserve for residential development. A 99 year lease for $1000 a year was too good a deal to pass up. Hundreds of non asboriginal people signed on only to find out that several years after they built their dream homes the pure and honest aboriginees raised the annual lease rate to 50 and 60 thousand dollars a year. Many homes were turned over to the band while others fought in the courts. Finally the courts made a decision that they were only entitled to $25,000 a year. Many houses were burnt down and other left to deteriorate. Now there are only 7 lease holders still on those properties and when they die I suppose there will be another barbeque !

          • There are always stories….how true they are is debateable….but if the whole situation was settled then quibbles could go to court like any other real estate deal.

        • I suggested some time ago they go to Russia and see for themselves how their brothers over there have to fend for themselves, no government subsidies whatsoever. Of course they are more industrious that our 3 million losers !

      • If we gave it back and left, they would chop the houses down for firewood, cut a hole in the bathroom wall so the horse could drink out of the bathtub and when all the moose are gone they would pillage an plunder neighbouring tribes and brothers to extiction.

        • And your source for this utter garbage is………..

          • …………reality.

          • Sorry, we all know your reality is in Cloud Cuckoo Land so that doesn’t count.

          • I am a little, ” out there”, like most Canadians but I did work on reserves in the Yukon and actually witnessed the dismantling of houses we round eyes built them for firewood. I actually saw a section of wall cut out with a chainsaw so the horses could water from the bathtub. In Alberta I had to move my fuel tanks indoors so the kids wouldn’t pilfer to sniff gasoline. I’ve seen many natives put into bodybags because they drank to excess and died of exposure stumbling their way home. None of this is nice or symptomatic of all natives but it is a reality that these things have and do occur.

          • Gosh, even the horse and the bathtub story. I think you’re more ‘out there’ than you realize.

          • I know it enough to say ,I am A little OuTthar, but only other out thar persons really notice. Chow E1

          • Nah, it’s your spelling.

          • Did you mean nah, or chaw ?

          • Ahhh, that explains your spelling.

    • I’m finding your response difficult to comprehend. Perhaps you’re typing on a device that is too small for your fingers. However, I do get the gist that you don’t like the reservation system, the treaty system or anything of that nature.

      On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if you recognize and accept the existence of borders (such as that between the US and Canada), as well as expect others to meet their contractual obligations they have with you. That is, generally what the treaty system is all about – a contract that divides the ownership and right of use to land to 3 general types. 1) Reserve land – reserved exclusively for the right of Aboriginal peoples, 2) Occupied Crown Land – reserved exclusively for the right of ‘her majesty’s subjects’ (which may also be used by aboriginals under crown property laws), and 3) unoccupied crown/treaty land – which is shared by aboriginals and non-aboriginals. This system regulates the title and ownership of land all across Canada (with the exception of large swaths of BC) as well as Canadian relations with Aboriginal peoples across Canada.

      For someone to simply say, “lets do away with it all” would be akin to someone moving into your house and setting up camp without you having recourse to any law to protect your exclusive right to it. Or, to offer another analogy, for you to sell something to someone, and the cheque bounces. In these cases, you’d fully expect the law to step in and enforce your ‘rights’.

      Last, your post seems to be predicated on the notion that Canada’s Aboriginals are a conquered people. They were never conquered. We entered into treaty relationships with them, first with the French, and then with the English crown whom agreed to uphold and continue the treaty process after they beat the French.

      • None of these systems work. Fine settle land claims but that is not going to solve the issues facing fn’s. They have every opportunity to increase their own financial standing. One of my best friends is one of these people. He teaches his kids language and culture all while living mainsream. For fn’s to expect “Taxpayers” to keep paying for systems that dont work is like beating your head against a wall. There needs to be one final solution to the benefit of all Canadians.

        • Talk of a ‘final solution’ needs to be dropped immediately.

        • I disagree, and to be frank, I don’t think you have a clue what you’re talking about. They don’t have the same opportunities to increase their financial standings. Look into the history of residential schools, for example, the last of which closed in 1996. That’s many, many generations of children from the ages of 4 into their late teens that were never sung ‘happy birthday’ to, were seldom hugged, were often physically and sexually abused, and, when it comes down to it – never learned effective parenting skills because they were forcefully removed from their own families and communities. This was all meant to ‘remove the Indian out of the child’ and replace him with skills and aptitudes for an industrial economy – one that has yet to eliminate inequality in the school system, in the workforce, in wages. in hiring practices, in its political institutions and many other metrics of its system. The sub-plot of this whole tragedy is that the removal of aboriginal children from their homes and the forcing a new identity was designed as the primary measure by which the crown could take the land. In essence, it’s a land-grab. And after all this and a heck of a lot more, you expect that they have every opportunity like everyone else?

          They don’t. It will take many generations before needed parenting skills alone are re-learned to the standards by which we can call it a level playing field.

      • Too much watching of American movies, and the assumption Hollywood had it right methinks

    • 80% of the Aboriginal population live off reserve. Aboriginal people off reserve pay taxes, under no circumstances do we not pay taxes off reserve. My immediate family alone pays roughly $65,000 in income tax alone every year.
      $7 billion is allocated to spend on Aboriginal peoples on reserve for infrastructure, health and education which equals a population the same size as New Brunswick. Wanna know what New Brunswick receives every year from feds for the exact same thing? $8 billion, why not ask them where the money goes? ..shared by Wab Kinew… (http://youtu.be/GlkuRCXdu5A?t=54s) But New Brunswick also receives provincial funds for the same things on top of that, reserves do not receive provincial money for anything. Also there are mostly no reserves near any urban or residential areas offering employment. Many are accessible only by air and no the “indians” didn’t chose to live there, government forced them there.
      Out of 250 reserves there were 6 chiefs recently who came under criticism for paying themselves more. The federal government has spending scandals every year in the hundreds of millions. 10+ this year alone with Conservatives.
      And PLEASE I beg of you in a humble way, educate yourself and don’t ask me where your hard earned tax money has gone, because money doesn’t simply disappear when it goes to the reserves, if it did, then the economy would crumble into itself as currency is nothing but a promise. 100% of the time the money sent to reserves goes right back to the government and your local stores down the road. Think about it next time.

  5. Crisis…..ran out of beer.

  6. The concept of land ownership I believe is not in the Aboriginal vocabulary. The Creator is the only entity that can claim ownership, all others just get to use it in its’ name. It is a gift. Perhaps the Creator didn’t/doesn’t want the Natives to have it anymore? The old adage of leading a horse to water might apply.

  7. I wonder how much time was spent in assessing the squandering of tax dollars by the privilaged few in the FN leadership

  8. Amazing how the “plight” of aboriginal’s always has to be solved by the government, and never ever ever their own communities or leaders.

  9. UN is just pressuring Ottawa for more of our money. In a snit as taxpayers wallets are owned by Ottawa and not the UN.

    UN track record in Bosnia-UN sex trade wasn’t very good. No Moon/UN progress on justice either, just hot air.

    UN loves ignoring the 300,000,000 abused women and children around the world, ignores child brothels in India, Thailand… ignore Saudi no rights for women, can’t even drive and if the slaves “disappear” and media doesn’t report it they ignore that too.

    Yet we fork out huge resources towards out FN and rich USE forks out nothing for their problems….

    Hm, sounds to me like UN is crooked. Maybe UN should rant less and deliver more.

    • Drivels. Drivels. And more drivels.

      Dave, you’re seriously butt hurt by this UN report. Get in touch with a doctor.

      • What a silly comment. Just because a commenter does not agree with your point of view does not mean he or she needs to get in touch with a doctor. It just means that his or her opinion differs from yours and you better get used to that, if you want to be an adult.

        • You are too naive, Francien.

          Even if UN fixed “India, Thailand, Saudi Arabia”, it wouldn’t fix anything in Canada. That should be obvious to adult but apparently it isn’t to you. You really need to learn to argue.

  10. I am very surprised the media, nor the present Native leadership are not discussing the impact re the recent recognition of Metis as full fledged natives with full rights to all native benefits. Since those natives eligible to receive have almost doubled, does this mean they have to share the existing payments paid annually? Surely they do not expect the grants to double. Come on folks, get in on the debate.

  11. Aboriginals have a Canadian crisis, it isn’t whities fault they don’t maintain their houses, water systems and trasnsportation infrastructure. It wasn’t whitie that grew the mold in their houses, it wasn’t whitie that tore the house apart for firewood, it wasn’t whitie who cut a hole in the bathroom wall so the horses could drink out of the bathtub. Whitie didn’t tell them to leave school in grades five and six nor to sniff gasoline, nor to drink themselves into oblivion and finally to dope up and live the free loading lives the majority of them do ! In BC when the aboriginals were invited to submit their tradional land claims they claimed over 110% of the land surface what does that tell you?

    • I feel bad for you, but its okay but the sounds of it you are white, and thus have endless educational possibilities in front of you. In fact just go to the library, get a history book, read about slavery, genocides, etc. and then read about the treatment of First Nations, and perhaps people will understand you more, cause this racist, ignorant, unintelligent viewpoint is disappointing and pitiful, so catch up the rest of Canada (at least many of us) are waiting for healthy constructive in put, no more none sense please.

  12. I am from vancouver and i wanted to say that it is good that James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur came here to canada to report on how Native People live in canada.This is a disgrace on the part of the canadian gov.
    There is no doupt in my mind that an Apartheid Policy against the native People by the canadian gov. has been in force here for many decades.This needs to be exposed to the rest of the world.All progressive people and unions in canada should fight against this barbaric policy of the canadian gov. against the native people.This is a Human Rights problem and should be treated as such.The Human Rights dept.of the UN should be working to put an end to this injustice against the Native people here by the canadian gov.

Sign in to comment.