Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

January 4, 2013

Grand Chief Clearsky's letter to Obama

 Grand Chief Murray Clearsky's letter to President Obama

President Barak Obama
United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

RE:  Idle No More – Canadian Indian Democratic movement

As the Grand Chief of the Southern Chiefs Organization in Manitoba, Canada, it is my honor to extend to you our heartfelt congratulations on your successful re-election as President of the United States of America. You have become a role model and a source of inspiration for our people and especially for our youth.

As we are aware, you have an unprecedented relationship with Indigenous people in your country and do consult with them on matters which impact their lives. Due to an awakening of the Indigenous people in Canada, I would like to share with you some thoughts about issues that I feel are of significant importance.

Canada does not provide for the right to property in its Charter of Rights and Freedoms unlike the United States of America, and this ought to be amended so all people including the First Nations of Canada can enjoy the benefits. Canada and the United States have historically been close trading partners and we, the First Nations of Canada, have been marginalized and cannot fully participate and contribute to this economic relationship when being denied our right to property.

The sale of natural resources is a major component of the Canadian economy and First Nations have never ceded their right to these natural resources, rather they have been taken and unilaterally legislated to the provinces by Canada. This is in contravention of the Treaties and it denies the Canadian government’s responsibility to respect our nation-to-nation relationship.

First Nations are the legal indigenous owners of the natural resources of Canada and we are requesting that you and your administration encourage Prime Minister Stephen Harper to establish a relationship where a fair and equitable share of the revenues generated through the sale of natural resources accrues to First Nations. This would allow the First Nations of Canada to exercise a degree of autonomy in economic and institutional development and an opportunity to participate in, and contribute to the growth of, our integrated economies.

The UN declaration affirms the minimum human rights standards necessary for the “survival, dignity and well being of the Indigenous peoples of the world”. These include the right of self-determination, protections from discrimination and genocide, and recognition of rights to lands, territories and resources that are essential to the identity, health and livelihood of Indigenous peoples. This declaration also explicitly requires that all provisions are to be balanced with other rights protections and interpreted in accordance with principles of justice, democracy, non-discrimination, good governance and respect for the human rights of all.  Any actions taken by signatories (governments) bound by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must also exercise the provision of and attaining free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous peoples for their traditional territories being impacted by successor state governments.

The Idle No More grassroots movement in Canada is gaining unprecedented momentum and in the past two weeks, there have been rallies held in major cities across the United States and across the world in solidarity with the movement for freedom, equality and future integrity of our lands, resources and water from resource extraction industries which under the recently unilaterally imposed Canadian Bill C-45 will now be symbolically regulated with no legal or regulatory deterrent mechanisms in place to prevent long term negative environmental impacts. The Idle No More movement is supported by an unprecedented number of non-indigenous people globally and this support is growing daily and the message is getting louder.

The United States of America is the largest trading partner with Canada through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and due to the increasing marginalization and complete disregard by the Stephen Harper Conservative government for First Nations rights, the rallies and temporary blockades being implemented and organized now will only increase and future rallies, demonstrations and blockades could have a devastating impact on the very fragile American economy as our economies are so intrinsically intertwined that potential blockades on economic supply routes in Canada may trigger negative economic impacts on the United States of America in both the short and long term.

As Grand Chief of the Southern Chiefs Organizations in southern Manitoba and being the representative voice for 33 First Nations, I am formally requesting that you contact the Stephen Harper government and strongly advise Prime Minister Harper to work in true partnership with Canadian First Nations and repeal Bill C-45 which has grave short and long term threats to indigenous rights and compromises the environmental integrity of our lands.

Mr. President, with your assistance in attaining this long overdue recognition of our nations, preservation of our lands, recognition of our land rights, and with our share of the revenues, we shall significantly improve the lives of all First Nations people across Canada where our people and communities would be healthy and vibrant once again.

Thank you for considering these matters and for your anticipated assistance. Should you wish to further explore First Nations issues in Canada we invite you, and any of your officials, to join us in dialogue at your earliest convenience. Finally, I have been personally encouraged and challenged by your call to a renewed and higher purpose, and I trust that together, we will provide a time of hope, opportunity and a full measure of success for all people.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you and all Americans.  

Grand Chief Murray Clearsky
Southern Chiefs Organization
225-530 Century Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
R3H 0Y4

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