Last week the United Nations took a look at Canada’s human rights record. This has not been done since 2006, making this the first review since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister. A Globe and Mail article written by Alex Neve, the secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada, is currently circulating. Right away it quotes British member of the UN Human Rights Committee, Sir Nigel Rodley, saying, “This is not the Canada I once knew.”
Unsurprisingly, we didn’t get a gold star. Our missing and murdered Aboriginal women and the sex discrimination of the Indian Act were a couple of issues rightly brought to a global stage. As was Canada’s refusal to respect the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which mentions the rights of women and children throughout. The federal government apparently sees the international declaration as a suggestion, even though it is now legally binding. Either way, it does not adhere to its message, which can be summarized in its Article 43: “The rights recognized herein constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.”
Dr. Pamela D. Palmater wrote about the review, on the subject of Indian Act sex discrimination, and included her recommendations as a Mi’kmaw lawyer and a member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick, in an article for Rabble:
“Indigenous women and their descendants are already impoverished and without Indian status, miss out on health benefits, post-secondary education, and other social programs critical to their health, safety, and well-being; which we already know makes them vulnerable to violence”
She adds: “Canada also stated that they have a ‘Special Rapporteur’ that is currently ‘consulting’ with First Nations on how to clean up the Indian Act discrimination. This is simply not true—and if it has done so, they have not informed anyone.” The Indian Act is how Canada determines who is and is not a “Status Indian.” Status is determined by equations, and a woman is not looked at as an individual, but as her connection to the status of her father or husband. If these standards continue, many worry—rightly—that it can result in a bureaucratic genocide of sorts.
All countries that have signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are reviewed. The committee’s report on Canada is due by the end of the month.
A former This intern, Hillary Di Menna is in her second year of the gender and women’s studies program at York University. She also maintains an online feminist resource directory, FIRE- Feminist Internet Resource Exchange.