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Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lil'wat at UN: The forced removal of children and genocide

Lil'wat at the UN Permanent Forum: Colonialism, sovereignty and human rights

May 30, 2011
Lil’wat, St’at’imc Press Statement

A Lil’wat delegation to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues addressed the lack of implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
From a statement by Pau Tuc la Cimc, James Louie, in 12th Meeting of the UN PFII, May 25:
James Louie introduced himself as Pau Tuc la Cimc, a Lil’watmc of the St’át’imc Nation. Addressing the issue of human rights and implementation of the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, he drew attention to Article 5, the right to self-determination, and Article 7 – the right not be subjected to any act of genocide, including forcible removal of children. Canada declared support for the Declaration last year.
Contrary to these provisions of the Declaration and to several of its own laws, which Louie contends made it unlawful for colonial Governments and their successors to interfere with the internal affairs of Indigenous Nations, the Canadian Government has imposed upon the St’át’imc Nation its own vision and structures for indigenous self-government (which is not the same as self-determination) by means of a Canadian-legislated Indian Act. Since at least 1925, Canada has insisted that one Chief be elected for each community – a total corruption of St’at’imc governance.
Canada has no treaty with the Lil’wat or St’át’imc that consensually recognizes and embraces the Indian Act as a duly and legitimately constituted governance structure. Therefore Pau Tuc la Cimc does not recognize any Band Councils formed under the Indian Act within Lil’wat, or the larger St’át’imc nation to which Lil’wat belongs.
Specifically, he contested at the Permanent Forum the right of the elected St’át’imc Chiefs to enter into a Settlement Agreement with British Columbia and the hydroelectric utility BC Hydro Power Corporation earlier this month. The elected Chiefs concluded a Royalty-free payout for land usage in perpetuity; gave a guarantee for the utility’s water licenses (which dominate three watersheds in the territory), and released the province, the utility and “anyone else” from any future claims for any damages deriving from the existing facilities on those lands. They purported to do this on behalf of all St’at’imc people, present and future.
In his view, as imposed governance mechanisms, they don’t have the right, according to Article 1 of both Covenants of the International Bill of Human Rights, to speak on his and his family’s behalf, or to enter into negotiations with the Canadian government on issues which impact the resources, rights and well-being of the St’át’imc nation. Elected Indian Band Chiefs are mandated by Canada to deliver Indian Act programs and funding.
“No one but the Lil’watmc can speak for Lil’wat,” Louie declared to the 500 or so PFII participants. “To quote from our Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe of 1911, "…we are the rightful owners of our tribal territory and everything pertaining thereto."” Canada continues to deny this, and the human rights that would flow therefrom.
To contest the Canadian government’s persistent violation if Lil’wat’s right to self-determination, in 2007 Louie and twelve other signatories from Lil’wat brought a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS). Louie is the principal initiator on behalf of Loni Edmonds, a young Lil’wat mother whose children have been seized and removed by the Canadian Ministry of Children and Families. Loni Edmonds’ children are the fourth in successive generations of her family to be seized and removed from Lil’wat by the Canadian state.
The OAS case challenges Canada’s legal right to jurisdiction over Lil’wat children. There is no treaty giving this right to Canada, and it is inconceivable that the Lil’wat would give Canada such a right.
To date, the petition to the IACHR has not been reviewed. Recourse and actions are needed – as provided for in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Articles 40 and 42.
Having now delivered their recommendations to the appropriate international human rights mechanism, the Petitioners will continue to raise awareness and seek aid and support. If they are unsuccessful in having the Inter-American Court review their Petition, they will pursue it through other fora of the United Nations system.
The main function of the Permanent Forum is to receive recommendations that will help it inform the UN General Assembly on Implementation of the Declaration. Pau Tuc la Cimc strongly urged the Forum to engage with UN member states, procedures and mechanisms to make the Declaration a “binding and enforceable” international convention, augmenting the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
James Louie attended the Forum in New York, May 16 – 27, as a representative of the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM), an international NGO in Consultative Status with ECOSOC, and with critical support from the Canadians for Reconciliation Society.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, September 13, 2007:
Article 5
Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.
Article 7
Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group.

United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Common Article 1:
All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

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