10th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
"Let them drink the water we have to drink" - Loydi Macedo, Indigenous community of Cuninico, Peru
Today, as we mark the 10th anniversary of the global adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Amnesty International is releasing a devastating new report documenting the callous failure of government authorities in Peru to address the urgent health needs of Indigenous peoples in that country who live in the midst of intensive mining and oil and gas development.
The human rights concerns set out in this report – the refusal to listen to Indigenous women’s concerns about the safety of the water on which they depend, the reluctance to investigate and hold companies responsible for the contamination of Indigenous lands and waters, and the failure to provide culturally-appropriate health care to those in greatest need – are all too familiar.
Reading this new report on Indigenous peoples in Peru, I was immediately reminded of Grassy Narrows in northwest Ontario, of the Mount Polley mine disaster in British Columbia, and the concerns around the impacts of the Site C dam in BC and the Muskrat Falls dam in Newfoundland and Labrador.
For anyone familiar with the struggles of Indigenous peoples in Canada and elsewhere in the world, the list could go on and on.
It was these kinds of parallels that helped fuel the long struggle for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Adoption of the Declaration by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007 took place only as a result of decades of work by Indigenous advocates and their allies. However, the struggle did not end there.
Whether in Cuninico, Peru or Grassy Narrows, Ontario, the struggle today is to see the important promises contained in the UN Declaration made real in the lives of Indigenous women and men.
Today, Amnesty Canada joined with Indigenous nations and organizations, and with many other human rights and social justice groups, in calling on the federal government to adopt a concrete legislative framework for implementing the UN Declaration in Canada. Such a framework is critical to consistently and comprehensively addressing the most urgent needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals, communities and nations on the basis of an agreed framework of rights recognition and protection.
Systematic and sustained measures to implement the Declaration in Canada are also urgently needed to set a positive example for the rest of the world and in that way strengthen Canada’s voice in calling for justice when the rights of Indigenous peoples are violated in Canada or anywhere in the world.