15 August 2009

Ward Churchill: Colonialism is Genocide

The following video was recorded on Wednesday, 15 April, 2009, less than two weeks after Ward Churchill's momentarily successful lawsuit against the University of Colorado on the grounds of wrongful termination for constitutionally protected free speech. A jury decided in his favour, finding that he was terminated for exercising his right to free speech, and for no other legitimate reason. Last month, the judge in the case essentially vacated that decision, refused to reinstate Churchill to the position from which he had been unlawfully fired, and decided against compensation. The case continues, as Churchill appeals the judgment.

In April Ward Churchill traveled to Montreal and delivered an address at Concordia University. The entirety of his presentation, and most of his responses to comments are shown in the video.

Restitution for Aboriginal Australia

In a conservative and European-dominated society such as Australia, whose very basis of existence is premised on the expropriation of indigenous access to the land, an impassioned call such as Rev. Peter Adams' will likely rock many boats. The extensive press coverage of his statements in Australia is an indication of the salience achieved by his call. Here are some links and extracts:

Send all non-Aborigines back to where they came from
The Australian, 12 August 2009

Extract: "ALL non-Aboriginal Australians should be prepared to leave the country if the indigenous people want that, making restitution for the vile sin of genocide, an Anglican leader said last night. If they stayed, they would have to provide whatever recompense indigenous peoples thought appropriate, the Reverend Peter Adam said. 'It would in fact be possible, even if very difficult and complicated, for Europeans and others to leave Australia. I am not sure where we would go, but that would be our problem. No recompense could ever be satisfactory because what was done was so vile, so immense, so universal, so pervasive, so destructive, so devastating and so irreparable. The prosperity of our churches has come from the proceeds of crime. Our houses, our churches, our colleges, our shops, our sport grounds, our parks, our courts, our parliaments, our prisons, our hospitals, our roads are stolen property'."

Australia, the Aborigines, and restitution: Such an impossible task may help us focus on real ways to make amends
The Age, Barney Zwartz, 13 August 2009

Extract: "ANGLICAN theologian Peter Adam thinks that unless Australia's indigenous people give us belated permission, everybody whose forebears came after 1788 should decamp and return the land to its first inhabitants. In a public lecture on Monday, he said that if the non-indigenous stayed they should have to provide whatever recompense the indigenous thought appropriate for the genocide and theft they have suffered....The Christian concepts of repentance and restitution or recompense are profoundly radical. Adam's idea is in keeping with the biblical concepts, even if these are honoured more in the breach than the observance now that Christianity is so institutionalised."

Just recompense to Aboriginal people necessary: Anglican theologian
CathNews, 13 August 2009

Extract: "Principal of the Anglican theological Ridley College, Dr Peter Adam says Christians must consider appropriate recompense to Australia's Aboriginal peoples, who suffered European colonisation, church planting and nation-building....'Do churches have any responsibilities in these matters? Yes, because the land and wealth of churches came from land stolen from the indigenous people of Australia. The prosperity of our churches has come from the proceeds of crime'."

Peter Adam urges 'recompense' for Indigenous injustice
Christian Today, 11 August 2009

Extract: "In an address to be presented tonight, Dr Peter Adam, Principal of Ridley College in Melbourne, will call on Christians to consider appropriate “recompense” for the injustice suffered by Indigenous Australians as a result of European colonization, church planting and nation-building. Dr Adam will give the Second Annual John Saunders Lecture at 7.00 pm at Morling College, Macquarie Park, Sydney. The lecture will discuss Aboriginal land claims, the history of injustice against Indigenous Australians, and appropriate Christian responses including the question of recompense."


Personally, I rather like some of the important symbolic and political possibilities of national indigenization that are implied in Adam's vision. One aspect of his call involves seeking permission to stay. In Canada, where we use the label "First Nations" to refer to Aboriginals, one would think that they would have some say on who enters and stays, especially if by implication other people in Canada are "Second Nations," "Third Nations" and so forth (labels not in use). There should be some form of honorary Aboriginal citizenhip offered to all non-Aboriginal Canadians, which involves permission to stay in return for some acts of service and commitment to the First Nation that adopts them.

What do you think?

12 August 2009

Honduras: Indigenous Leaders Call for Return of Zelaya

Thanks to Rick Kearns, friend of the CAC, and Indian Country Today for the following article published 14 July 2009, that ties in with a previous post here: Garifunas Against the Coup in Honduras.

Indigenous leaders call for President Zelaya’s return

Originally printed at http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/global/50466647.html

The largest indigenous organizations in Honduras are calling for the immediate return of deposed President Manuel Zelaya, and they assert that the new administration is trying to hide the real reason for the coup, which was that the opposition feared a new constitution that could provide more rights and protections to indigenous and other Hondurans.

The groups also said the coup leadership was preventing indigenous people from protesting, forcing the military recruitment of children, active persecution of leaders and creating a “black list” of resistance leaders (including protest against the recently enacted suspension of the rights of free speech, free assembly, and protection against illegal search and torture.)

While mainstream coverage of the crisis has focused on objections made against the coup by most Latin American presidents, the Organization of American States, U.S. President Barack Obama and the United Nations, the indigenous peoples of Honduras have been active in expressing their outrage at the coup d’etat of June 28, when Honduran soldiers took Zelaya from his home at gunpoint, and put him on a plane headed for El Salvador.

According to press sources, Zelaya acted illegally in June when he pushed ahead for a non-binding referendum to be held in November along with regular elections. This referendum/survey would have asked Hondurans whether they wanted to convene a constituent assembly that could then rewrite the Honduran constitution. The National Congress and the Honduran Supreme Court ruled the referendum was illegal and that the president could not go ahead with the plan.

Zelaya persisted, and fired General Romeo Vasquez, head of the Armed Forces (and graduate of the U.S. School of the Americas), for refusing to deliver the ballot boxes to election sites.

Many press accounts emphasized the idea that the chief executive was interested in creating a new law to allow him to run again, and that he was a puppet of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. But Zelaya’s indigenous supporters are saying they were in favor of the referendum because it could give Native peoples a chance at re-writing the constitution to give them more rights and protections of their territories; and when the president was deposed, indigenous peoples reacted quickly.

From June 28 to July 5, indigenous groups like the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the Indigenous Coordinating Body of Mesoamerica and the Caribbean (CIMCA) and MASTA or Moskitia United, issued press releases outlining a list of demands and concerns, all connected to Zelaya’s forcible removal by the military.

The groups publicized these positions in the many demonstrations that have occurred on an almost daily basis since June 28 (including the demonstration July 6 at the national airport that drew more than 100,000 people in favor of the president’s return).

Edgardo Benitez Maclin, a Tawahka leader and Regional Coordinator for CIMCA, responded to requests for comment by sending a series of press statements outlining the issues for Native peoples in Honduras. According to Benitez, the Lenca, Miskitu, Tawahka, Pech, Maya-Chorti, Tolupan, Garifuna, Creole, Nahoa and Chorotega peoples contributed jointly to each of the press releases.

The “Political Position of the Peoples” statement included a section about the groups’ desire for a new constitution. “We will never give up our historic struggle for reform of the political constitution of our country, in which it recognizes the multicultural and multilingual Honduras; the particular rights of our peoples; for a participative and inclusive democracy; the right to the free, prior and informed consent of our peoples. … as is established in the Treaty 169 of the UN and the UN Declaration on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

In another document, entitled “Public Condemnation,” the groups list eight complaints.

“The Army and National Police has not ceased in its harassment, beating, and threatening of indigenous peoples and has removed the right to free movement of those who seek to travel to the capital of Tegucigalpa to protest publicly and peacefully for the re-establishment of constitutional order and the return of President Manuel Zelaya.”

The CIMCA document states that the “… National Congress. … has suspended all of the constitutional guarantees. …” Along with that suspension media has been affected; according to the press statement issued separately by COPINH, “… the guarantee for free movement continues to be violated in that buses full of people continue to be detained along the highways. Also they have fortified the gag rule so that local and community radio stations or those commercial stations that wanted to present a version of the events that was different from that of the coup leaders were closed, destroyed or threatened.” These charges were echoed by the OAS’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in one of its press statements issued June 29, the day after the coup.

“The Office of the Special Rapporteur received information that since June 28, 2009, in Honduras, local and international media have been suffering severe limitations to freely accomplish their work. According to the information received, open broadcast media outlets have been closed; while other cable channels, such as Telesur and CNN en Español and other radios such as Globo, were banned from broadcasting.

“Moreover, energy was cut off, which prevented television and radio from broadcasting, as well as the access to the Internet. According to the information received, many reporters were attacked while they were working, and others were arbitrarily retained; such was the case of Adriana Sivori, Rudy Quiróz, and other members of Telesur team. Cartoonist Allan McDonald would have been detained with his 17-month-old daughter. Finally, it was informed that many journalists would have been receiving threats in order to make them stop reporting,” stated IACHR.

CIMCA and IACHR asserted that other human rights violations were occurring in connection with the coup. “We are also aware that they are recruiting young indigenous and rural men in isolated areas, mainly in the departments where most of the Lenca population lives,” read the CIMCA statement. “This action also violates the Honduran Constitution. Information also exists of a black list of leaders opposed to the coup, whom the military must arrest, torture, eliminate or incarcerate immediately.”

The IACHR highlighted some details of the accusations about detention and threats in another June 29 press release. “According to information received by the IACHR, military forces have been surrounding the house of Bertha Cáceres, member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. Military forces have allegedly also surrounded the house of César Ham, Representative in the National Congress by the Partido Unificación Democrática. The military also allegedly fired on Representative Ham’s house with machine-guns. Additionally, Edran Amado López, a journalist on the TV Channel 36 program ‘Cholusatsur,’ was allegedly detained and his whereabouts remain unknown.”

The CIMCA statement pointed out that what was happening recently was a throwback to a darker time in Honduran history.

“The military during the ’80s lead abominable operations against the civil populations, as is being done now by coup President Micheletti who is calling on these same men to be his advisors. This means that there is a latent and serious danger to the lives of all indigenous leaders and those of others in the social movements.”

As of press time July 7, no other updates had been sent by any indigenous groups.

Ecuador: Indian Federation Confronts Threats

Thanks to Indian Country Today's article by David Dudenhoefer "Ecuador’s Amazonian Indian confederation faces varied threats" (10 August 2009), from which the following was derived:

About 100 representatives of Ecuador's Amazonian Indian communities met to celebrate the inauguration of new leadership for the Confederation of Indigenous Nations of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE).

Among their latest concerns are "government’s promotion of mining, oil exploitation and hydroelectric projects in the Amazon threatens indigenous lands and natural resources."
“The spirit of our ancestors is present in all of our nations, and in the common idea that we need to defend our territory – our territory is not for sale. Our territory is protected by all of our nations, because we are part of our territory.”
Throughout the 1990s, CONFENIAE mounted massive demonstrations that led to negotiations. The government then recognized and legalized large indigenous territories in the Amazon. The organization suffered deep internal schisms when some of its leaders joined the government of President Lucio Gutierrez in 2003, later pushed from power from huge popular protests. As a result the group was discredited and its collaborating leaders left it bankrupt.

The new CONFENIAE leader, Tito Puanchir, a Shuar Indian, vows that they will never again form political alliances with ruling groups.

The new leadership notes that Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa is supervising the drafting of a constitution that recognizes Ecuador as a "pluri-national state" – a reference to the country’s 13 indigenous and afro-Ecuadorean minorities – also enshrining the rights of nature. However, Correa has opened the door to oil exploration and mining on or near indigenous land.
“There are plenty of reasons to say no to oil exploration here,” said former CONFENIAE president Domingo Ankuash, Shuar. He said 40 years of oil extraction in the northern Amazon has hardly benefited the region’s indigenous inhabitants, but all of them have suffered from the pollution caused by oil spills and poor disposal of toxic wastes.

“Eighty percent of the money from oil leaves the country, and most of the 20 percent that stays here is robbed by a few corrupt politicians. What little goes to the municipalities near the oil wells is spent in urban areas, so it doesn’t even reach the (indigenous) communities.”
Instead, what indigenous leaders want to promote is a vision of "good living": good health, clean water, a healthy environment and a strong culture.

Implementation of UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights

Thanks to the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) for relating this report. (Emphases were added below, and parts were abridged for publication on RICC.)

Joint Statement
Second session, Geneva
10-14 August 2009

Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Second session, Geneva
10-14 August 2009

Agenda Item 4(a): United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
(a) Implementation of the Declaration at the regional and national levels

Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Positive Initiatives and Serious Concerns

Joint Statement of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee); Assembly of First Nations; Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP); Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC); International Organization of Indigenous Resource Development (IOIRD); Tebtebba Foundation; Saami Council; International Indian Treaty Council (IITC); Consejo de organizaciones aborigines de Jujuy (COAJ); First Nations Summit; Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC); Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA - Australia); Na Koa Ikaika Kalāhui Hawai’i; Asian Indigenous Women's Network; Asamblea Mixe para el Desarrollo Sostenible; Servicios del Pueblo Mixe; Asociación de Autoridades Mixes; Chiefs of Ontario; Québec Native Women’s Association; Samson Cree Nation; Ermineskin Cree Nation; Montana Cree Nation; Louis Bull Cree Nation; First Peoples Human Rights Coalition (FPHRC); Union of BC Indian Chiefs; Koani Foundation; Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador; Native Women’s Association of Canada; Indigenous World Association; Ke Aupuni Hawaii; Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers); International Work Group For Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA); KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives; Almáciga; Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights; Oceania HR.

1. Indigenous peoples and human rights organizations welcome this opportunity to contribute to the discussion on implementation at the regional and national levels of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

2. The Declaration is an historic human rights instrument that has universal application to countless Indigenous contexts in over 70 countries. It provides a principled and normative legal framework for achieving justice and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has emphasized:

The Declaration is a visionary step towards addressing the human rights of indigenous peoples. It sets out a framework on which States can build or rebuild their relationships with indigenous peoples. The result of more than two decades of negotiations, it provides a momentous opportunity for States and indigenous peoples to strengthen their relationships, promote reconciliation and ensure that the past is not repeated.

3. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, stated in his August 2008 report:
[The Declaration] represents an authoritative common understanding, at the global level, of the minimum content of the rights of indigenous peoples, upon a foundation of various sources of international human rights law.
4. The Declaration is the most comprehensive universal international human rights instrument explicitly addressing the rights of Indigenous peoples. It elaborates on the economic, social, cultural, political, spiritual and environmental rights of Indigenous peoples.

5. Indigenous peoples’ collective rights are human rights, as affirmed in the Declaration and other international and regional instruments. In its Agenda and Framework for the Programme of Work, the Human Rights Council has permanently included the “rights of peoples” under Item 3 “Promotion and protection of all human rights …” For decades, the established practice is to address Indigenous peoples’ collective rights within international and regional human rights systems.

6. Like other human rights instruments, the Declaration is necessarily drafted in broad terms. Its provisions can accommodate the different circumstances relating to Indigenous peoples – both now and in the future. This wide-ranging perspective enhances the effectiveness of the Declaration....

7. International treaty monitoring bodies are referring to the Declaration and using it to interpret the rights of Indigenous peoples and individuals and related State obligations. This practice underlines the significance of the Declaration and its implementation at all levels – international, regional and national.

… the Committee [on the Rights of the Child] urges States parties to adopt a rights-based approach to indigenous children based on the Convention and other relevant international standards, such as ILO Convention No.169 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

8. Even if a State voted against the adoption of the Declaration at the General Assembly, international treaty monitoring bodies are free to recommend that the Declaration “be used as a guide to interpret the State party’s obligations” under human rights treaties.

9. In terms of implementing the UN Declaration, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), specialized agencies and mandate-holders of special procedures are committed to making important contributions at various levels. For example, the OHCHR has confirmed: “The OHCHR's work is to assist States and indigenous peoples in implementing the Declaration”.

10. Thirty-one UN specialized agencies are represented in the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues (IASG).....

11. ....

Positive initiatives

12. ....

13. Within the Organization of American States (OAS), the UN Declaration is being used as “the baseline for negotiations and … a minimum standard” for the draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

14. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has stated that it is “confident that the Declaration will become a very valuable tool and a point of reference for the African Commission’s efforts to ensure the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights on the African continent.” Some aspects of the Commission’s “Draft Principles and Guidelines on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights” are reflective of the UN Declaration. In regard to Indigenous peoples’ rights to lands and natural resources, specific reference is made to the Declaration.

15. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has adopted the terms of reference for a new ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission for Human Rights (AICHR). While no specific reference is made to the UN Declaration, the guiding principles for the AICHR include “upholding the Charter of the United Nations and international law ... subscribed to by ASEAN Member States”. Thus, as part of international law, the Declaration appears to be included. As proposed by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, there should be explicit consideration of the Declaration, Indigenous peoples and their human rights issues:

The Forum recommends that ... the commission explicitly recognize indigenous peoples in its terms of reference. We look forward to a strong commission with full investigatory and implementation powers, which uses the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as its framework in dealing with indigenous peoples’ issues. The Forum also recommends that the commission establish a committee on indigenous peoples in addition to its proposed committees on migrant workers and women and children.

16. In the Americas, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has relied in part on the UN Declaration in determining unanimously that the Saramaka people have “the right to give or withhold their free, informed and prior consent, with regards to development or investment projects that may affect their territory”.

17. In Bolivia, the Declaration was adopted at the national level as Law No. 3760 of 7 November 2007 and incorporated into the new Constitution promulgated on 7 February 2009. Bolivia emphasizes that it “has elevated the obligation to respect the rights of indigenous peoples to constitutional status, thereby becoming the first country in the world to implement this international instrument”.

18. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the government has endorsed the Declaration. In addition, the “Constitution has reaffirmed in that regard the attachment of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to human rights and fundamental freedoms such as those proclaimed by the international legal instruments to which it has acceded.”

19. In the Arctic, a highly significant example of harmonious and collaborative implementation of the right to self-government and self-determination is taking place. In their March 2009 report to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Denmark and Greenland have reported on these initiatives under the agenda item on implementation of the UN Declaration. As of 21 June 2009, the new Greenland self-government regime has been in effect.

20. In Belize, the Supreme Court of Belize relied on the UN Declaration and other aspects of international and domestic law in upholding the land and resource rights of the Maya people.

21. In Australia, on 3 April 2009, the Labour government in Australia reversed the position of its predecessor and endorsed the Declaration. In the spring of 2009, New Zealand and the United States indicated that they are in the process of reconsidering their opposing positions.

22. Colombia abstained in the General Assembly vote on the Declaration. In a welcome development in April 2009, Colombia announced its endorsement of the Declaration.

23. Implementation of the UN Declaration is being further enhanced by the translation of this instrument into different Indigenous and other languages. Such actions promote human rights learning and education and can be highly beneficial for Indigenous communities in developing a human rights-based approach.

Serious concerns

24. With respect to implementation of the UN Declaration, the positions and actions of opposing States require careful scrutiny. Hopefully, constructive dialogue will lead to affirmative results.

25. In regard to New Zealand, the national government has positively indicated that it is reconsidering the opposing position of its predecessor and might endorse the UN Declaration. However, the government has recently suggested that the debate has shifted to what “exceptions” New Zealand would want. In particular, the government has indicated that it would endorse the Declaration “only if it does not trump New Zealand's constitutional framework and law”.

26. It is misleading to speak of the Declaration as “trumping” New Zealand law. The Declaration is not an absolute instrument that automatically trumps domestic law. In relation to Indigenous peoples, it elaborates a set of norms that should be effectively applied in all national, regional and international contexts.

27. Human rights are generally relative in nature so that the human rights of all are respected. The Declaration reflects and builds upon international human rights standards. It does not exist in a vacuum and allows for full consideration of relevant international and domestic law.


28. In interpreting human rights and related State obligations within a particular country, domestic courts may choose to consider declarations and other international instruments. Such dynamic interaction between domestic and international law is well-established and growing in different regions of the world.

29. The New Zealand government has suggested that the Declaration could be interpreted so that i) Māori would have to give full informed consent to laws being passed in Parliament – thus overriding New Zealand’s democratic institutions; and ii) Māori had the right to occupy all land they had before colonisation or receive full compensation for it.

30. Such absolute perspectives lack balance and accuracy. It is well-established that the principles of democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law are interrelated.

31. Such government claims rely on extreme interpretations of individual provisions in isolation from the necessary context of the Declaration as a whole and without regard for the body of international human rights law to which it belongs. In the close to two years since the adoption of the Declaration, none of the imagined negative consequences have materialized.

32. Like other human rights instruments of a similar nature, the Declaration can only complement, and not override, existing human rights protections. The necessity of a balanced interpretation and application of the Declaration is made explicit. Every provision must be “interpreted in accordance with the principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and good faith” (art. 46(3)). The rights of all interested parties must always be fully and fairly considered.

33. It has been suggested that the Treaty of Waitangi or related framework might somehow be jeopardized by the Declaration. As stated by New Zealand’s Justice Minister, “the important point is to make sure that the unique framework constitutionally put in place primarily by the Treaty of Waitangi is not disrupted by any affirmation of the declaration [by the NZ government]”. However, the Declaration explicitly affirms:

Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements concluded with States or their successors and to have States honour and respect such treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements. (article 37(1)).

34. In regard to Canada, it has continued its ideological opposition to the Declaration. The current minority government has ignored the April 2008 Motion adopted by the House of Commons in Canada’s Parliament – calling for the Parliament and government of Canada to “fully implement” the standards in the Declaration.

35. The House of Commons is the elected chamber of Canada's Parliament. In adopting this resolution on the Declaration, the House of Commons rejected positions on the Declaration expressed by the current minority government at home and abroad.

36. In relation to Indigenous peoples, Canada has repeatedly violated the rule of law both internationally and domestically. It has failed to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and “cooperate with the Council”, as required of all Human Rights Council members. During its three-year term, Canada pursued the lowest standards of any Council member within the Western European group of States.

37. The Canadian government has opposed the Declaration in various international forums. It has encouraged other States to not support the Declaration. In taking its opposing positions, Canada has ignored its obligations under s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. It has failed to consult and accommodate Indigenous peoples and uphold the honour of the Crown.

The duty to consult arises when a Crown actor has knowledge, real or constructive, of the potential existence of Aboriginal rights or title and contemplates conduct that might adversely affect them. This in turn may lead to a duty to change government plans or policy to accommodate Aboriginal concerns. Responsiveness is a key requirement of both consultation and accommodation.

38. The Canadian government has encouraged States that are supportive of the Declaration to go on record stating concerns or conditions for its implementation. The government has then used these same statements as evidence of a lack of genuine support for the Declaration.

39. At the world climate talks in Poland in December 2008, Canada’s Environment Minister announced at a press conference that the UN Declaration “has nothing whatsoever to do with climate change.” Such statements unfairly politicize Indigenous peoples’ human rights and undermine global attempts to respond effectively to climate change.

40. This appears to be the first time that Canada has vigorously opposed a human rights instrument adopted by the General Assembly. The government erroneously claims that, in view of its opposing vote, the Declaration does not apply in Canada. In its December 2007 report, Amnesty International cautions that Canada’s position “attempts to set a very dangerous precedent for UN human rights protection”. The Report adds:

The proposition that governments can opt out … by simply voting against a Declaration, resolution or other similar document, even when an overwhelming majority of states have supported the new standards, dramatically undercuts the integrity of the international human rights system. … It is impossible to recall a similar example of Canada taking such a harmful position on the basic principles of global human rights protection.

41. Even as Canada opposes the Declaration, implementation is taking place domestically, with the leadership of Indigenous peoples and in partnership with civil society. The Declaration is becoming an integral part of human rights education and is used in presentations and materials shared across the country. Indigenous peoples are emphasizing the Declaration’s standards in their discourse with government and corporations. Academic institutions are including the Declaration in curricula, and trade unions are educating their members.

42. Within Canada, there are ongoing efforts from many sectors for the Canadian government to fully endorse and implement the Declaration. The opposition of the government was a central issue during Canada's Universal Periodic Review.

“Constitutional frameworks”, discrimination and universality

43. On 13 August 2007, an amendment was proposed unsuccessfully by New Zealand, Canada, Colombia and the Russian Federation in relation to article 46(3) of the Declaration that would require all provisions in this human rights instrument to be interpreted in accordance with “constitutional frameworks”.

44. The proposed amendment on “constitutional frameworks” was not disclosed to or discussed with Indigenous peoples prior to its submission to the President of the General Assembly. Nor was such an amendment ever tabled during the two decades of discussions in the UN Working Groups that drafted and considered the earlier texts of the Declaration.

45. During the standard-setting process, a version similar to article 46(3) of the Declaration was initially drafted and proposed by the former government of Canada in collaboration with Indigenous peoples. Canada actively encouraged other States to support this provision. Yet the current government of Canada continues to refuse to accept art. 46(3).

46. To require the provisions of the Declaration to be interpreted in accordance with the “constitutional frameworks” of each State could serve to legitimize any existing injustices and discrimination in national constitutions. Treaty monitoring bodies and special rapporteurs could be hampered from recommending amendments to constitutions, so as to recognize or safeguard the human rights of Indigenous peoples.

47. No such limitation or qualification is found in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights or the two international human rights Covenants. To impose such a requirement on the rights of Indigenous peoples would run counter to the principle of “equal rights and self-determination of peoples” in the Charter of the United Nations. It would also constitute a discriminatory double standard.

48. The interpretation of Indigenous peoples’ human rights in accordance with “constitutional frameworks” could severely undermine the principle of “universality”. Indigenous peoples in States with national constitutions that deny Indigenous rights could be denied rights that exist for Indigenous peoples in other countries.

All human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis. ... [I]t is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and freedoms.

49. Canada and New Zealand cannot be selective in what human rights they choose to respect and protect. The principles that govern the Agenda and Framework for the Programme of Work of the Human Rights Council include “universality”, “objectivity” and “non-selectivity”. Double standards or politicization should be carefully avoided.


50. Indigenous peoples’ human rights and related issues continue to be mainstreamed throughout the UN system. Implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must remain a central objective. It is welcomed that the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has added this crucial item to their agenda.

51. The process of implementing the Declaration is in its initial stages and there remain formidable challenges to overcome. In the different regions of the world, Indigenous peoples continue to suffer severe poverty, dispossession of lands and resources, marginalization, discrimination and other widespread and persistent human rights violations.

52. While significant progress is being achieved in some cases, in other situations there may be little or none. In many instances, regional or national human rights institutions may be sorely lacking. There may also be no well-established culture of respect for human rights.

53. In fully assessing implementation of the Declaration at regional and national levels, a comprehensive and systematic approach is strongly recommended. It would be highly useful for States and Indigenous peoples to report on implementation, and share best practices and concrete results.

54. In regard to New Zealand, United States and Canada – there is virtually no advantage to retaining regressive or prejudicial positions. The international reputation and credibility of opposing States will likely continue to suffer. Moreover, such actions are not consistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, run counter to the principles of international cooperation and solidarity, and serve to undermine the international system as a whole.

55. In regard to the United States, an additional compelling reason in favour of unequivocally endorsing the UN Declaration is that as a member of the Human Rights Council, the United States is required to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and “cooperate with the Council”.

56. In order to play a leadership role internationally, the three opposing States should set positive examples. In particular, it is crucial and urgent to fully endorse the Declaration – the most universal comprehensive international human rights instrument relating to 370 million Indigenous people worldwide.

Full copy including footnotes available here:

Garifunas Against the Coup in Honduras

As the coup regime in Honduras, led by Roberto Micheletti who replaced the democratically elected Miguel Zelaya, completes almost two months in existence, Honduran Garifunas and indigenous peoples have vocally and publicly protested against the coup.

One of the first signs that Honduras' indigenous peoples condemned the coup came in the form of this statement on 01 July 2009:

Honduras National Indigenous Statement On Military Coup
Lenca, Pech, Miskitu, Garifuna, Tawahka, Maya-Chorti, Tolupa, Creole, Nahoa, Chorotega

Indigenous Peoples and Blacks in Honduras, through this document, we want to make our position clear and firm policy against the coup d'état in our country, in the terms we have agreed to express to the national and international public opinion:

a) To declare our strong condemnation and abhorrence at the national and international public opinion, the conspirators of the coup (Micheletti, armed forces and powers) supported by Ramón Custodio (Commissioner for Human Rights), Luis Rubio (Attorney General) , Judges of the Supreme Court of "Justice" and the Members of Congress representatives of the parties, Liberal, National, Pinu-Sd, and the Christian Democrats.

b) We demand the immediate unconditional return of the President of the Republic Don Manuel Zelaya Rosales, whom we recognize as our only president elected by us. Therefore we are unwilling to obey any order issued by Micheletti and his supporters.

c) under Article 3 of the Constitution, which says no one should obey a usurper government or to assume those duties by force of arms, we clarify that we are willing to go to the extreme, to defend dignity of our peoples historically tarnished by groups of economic power, the corrupt political class and the military.

d) We request the urgent presence of Dr. James Anaya (United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples), Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpus (Permanent Forum of Indigenous Peoples of the UN), the International Labor Organization (Geneva office ), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Amnesty International, Armstrong Wiggins of ILCR, among others, to send assessment missions in order to analyze the situation of violation of human rights of indigenous communities, peasant organizations and leaders of the popular movement to the crisis in our country.

e) leave a record that will not participate in any "national dialogue" that the touting putschists. Rather, we alerted the international community on this "circus" where the clowns will be the poor as ever, it is only seeking to gain time to legitimize and consolidate the privileges of the powers (the godfather of the coup) and fooled again the Honduran people, as well as agencies and cooperating countries.

f) our efforts to adhere to the National Front millennial struggle of resistance against the coup, the National Coordination of Popular Resistance, as well as all other sectors of the popular movement that advocated by the transformation of Honduran society a more equitable, more just and more humane.

g) Never abandon our historic struggle for a reform to the constitution of our country, which recognizes the multicultural and multilingual in Honduras, the rights of our peoples, for a participatory and inclusive democracy, to free, prior and informed consent, recognition and self-defense of our territories and natural resources, to self-determination of peoples, among others, as well as in various treaties, international conventions and declarations, notably the ILO Convention 169 and the Declaration of UN Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"I struggle because I do not want stolen most of our honey combs" Tupac Amaru
Secondly, on Honduras Resists/HONDURAS RESISTE, this interview with Teresa Reyes, Garifuna leader from Triunfo de la Cruz was published on 20 July 2009. Here are some extracts:

Q: What has been the reaction of the Garifuna community to the coup d'etat?
A: What they have wanted is for people to stay calm in their houses because anything can happen in the streets, but we have a movement in the community which has come out because we can't continue to sit in our homes with our arms crossed. We have to do something to participate because we have a right to the participation even if it's limited. We have looked for ways to protest because we can't stay silent about a situation as horrible as what we are living through in this country. We are representing the Garifuna people currently even though there's few of us but we are doing it and we are showing the face of our people because we are also against what is happening.

Q: And what was the level of support for Zelaya in the Garifuna communities before the coup?
A: Before the coup, there was a situation of confusion, because Zelaya had committed to some things with the Garifuna people that we wanted to do but nonetheless those around him were in practice against the agreements he was taking up with the Garifuna People.

It is not as much for Zelaya that we are showing support as for Honduras, because we know that the current situation can't continue like this. Also, they are closing off the constitutional and international rights of peoples, which is why we consider it necessary to support so that we can return our constitutional rights, that's what this is about.

[she also indicates that OFRANEH (National Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras), is the only Garifuna organization that is protesting the coup]
Thirdly, we also have some videos of Garifuna protests in Honduras, and interviews with Garifuna elders:

Nicaragua's Miskitos Seeking Independence?

The BBC reported on 03 August 2009, in an article by Stephen Gibbs titled "Nicaragua's Miskitos seek independence," that a group of elders have proclaimed their loyalty to the "Community Nation of Moskitia." No indication is provided of the degree to which these elders represent the popular wishes of fellow Miskitos (indeed, it is cast in doubt), or how this plan for sovereignty will impact on other, non-Miskito indigenous persons on the Caribbean coast of the country, as well as non-indigenous Nicaraguans. We are told, however, that they have a flag and an anthem.

Gibbs suggests that the main reason for the proclamation of independence is primarily economic: outrageously high unemployment of 80% in some parts, while oil drilling concessions in the area are being offered, and the fact that those employed on government-licensed lobster fishing vessels have seen their wages cut.

The Miskitos were allied with the British throughout the 1700s and 1800s. In the 1980s, many joined and supported the US-funded and equipped contras, fighting against the Sandinista Revolution. The president at the time, Daniel Ortega, is once again the president, and the article provides no indication of any response from him. The Sandinista government in the 1980s was the first in the Americas to produce an ambitious autonomy plan for the so-called "Atlantic Coast" region.

Bolivia: Universities for Indigenous Peoples

This story was published by the Latin American Herald Tribune, 12 August 2009:

LA PAZ – The three universities for indigenous peoples promoted by the government of Evo Morales began their activities with a total of 480 students, Bolivia’s Education Ministry said in a communique.

The students, who were selected in indigenous communities and will be able to take advantages of scholarships, began their studies Monday at what Education Minister Roberto Aguilar called an “historic moment for the educational and university environment.”

Aguilar made his remarks on Sunday at the official inauguration of the Guarani-language university at Kuruyuki in the southeastern province of Chuquisaca, which will bear the name of indigenous hero Apiaguaiki Tumpa.

In the town of Chimore will be a Quechua-language institution with the name of Casimiro Huanca.

The other university, Tupac Katari, will be established in the Andean town of Warisata, near La Paz, where the medium of instruction will be the Aymara language.

The indigenous universities “will open up (for the students) not only the Western and universal world of knowledge, but the knowledge of our own identity, culture; without leaving to the side the hope and yearning of the peoples” said the education minister.

Therefore, he urged the students to take advantage of their classes to transfer the knowledge they acquire to their communities.

“You have the right to educate yourselves as part of the right of peoples. It’s a right won with blood and sacrifice,” said Aguilar.

Morales, an Aymara, is the first indigenous president of Bolivia, where Indians make up around 60 percent of the population of nearly 10 million. EFE

U.N. Secretary General on International Day of World's Indigenous People

The following was the statement issued by United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous People, observed this past 09 August 2009:

The world’s indigenous peoples – 370 million in 70 countries -- are the custodians of some of the most biologically diverse areas on earth. They speak a majority of the world’s languages, and their traditional knowledge, cultural diversity and sustainable ways of life make an invaluable contribution to the world’s common heritage.

The adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the General Assembly in 2007 was a landmark in the struggle of indigenous peoples for justice, equal rights and development. There have also been recent welcome steps at the national level; some governments have apologized to indigenous peoples for past injustices, and others have advanced legislative and constitutional reforms.

Still, indigenous peoples remain some of the most marginalized populations, suffering disproportionately from poverty and inadequate access to education. Many face discrimination and racism on a daily basis. All too often, their languages face strictures or are threatened with extinction, while their territories are sacrificed for mining and deforestation.

Indigenous peoples also tend to suffer from the low standards of health associated with poverty, malnutrition, environmental contamination and inadequate healthcare. With that in mind, this year’s observance of the International Day focuses on the threat of HIV/AIDS. It is essential that indigenous peoples have access to the information and infrastructure necessary for detection, treatment and protection.

Insufficient progress in health, in particular, points to a persistent and profound gap in many countries between the formal recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights and the actual situation on the ground. On this International Day, I call on Governments and civil society to act with urgency and determination to close this implementation gap, in full partnership with indigenous peoples.

Ban Ki-moon

Dominica Caribs/Kalinago Elect New Chief

On July 9, 2009, the Miami Herald published the following report on the elections for a new chief of the Dominica Carib Territory:

ROSEAU, Dominica -- The newly elected chief of Dominica's Caribs, the last remaining pre-Columbian tribe in the eastern Caribbean, said Thursday he has high hopes for the island's dwindling indigenous population.

Chief Garnett Joseph dominated Wednesday's tribal elections to defeat incumbent Charles Williams and become the new leader of the tribe's rural communities in Dominica's northeast.

Dominica is home to about 3,000 Caribs, or ethnic Kalinagos.

''I feel very elated, and I'm confident that the Kalinago people can achieve anything once they put their minds to it,'' said Joseph, who previously served as the Carib's leader from 1999 to 2004.

Caribs elect a chief every four years. They also elect one representative for Parliament.

Joseph said his first order of business will be to establish a credit union on the 3,800-acre (1,538-hectare) Carib territory, where the tribe has collective property rights.

He has also pledged to bring more development to the communities, where Caribs live in greater poverty than the rest of the country, relying mostly on banana and citrus farming for income.

A former colony of Britain and France, Dominica was the last Caribbean island to be colonized by Europeans mainly due to resistance by the Caribs.

One error that needs to be corrected is that the "last" Caribs are not to be found on Dominica alone, but rather there are Carib communities and individuals throughout the Island Caribbean, most prominently in Dominica, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and Trinidad.

We wish Garnett Joseph the very best for his tenure as chief, a position in which he has served previously.