Go to main menu Go to main content Go to footer

Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Human rights

BY Will Nicholls Feb 10, 2023

In a scathing report, the US-based group Human Rights Watch is denouncing Canada’s failures to meet its fiduciary responsibility toward First Nations and Inuit peoples.

At the top of the list is the continuing water advisories for 33 First Nation communities.

“Inadequate access to clean, safe drinking water continues to pose a major public health crisis in many Indigenous communities and impede efforts to advance Indigenous rights in Canada, one of the world’s most water-rich countries,” says the report. 

The Trudeau government promised to end all drinking water advisories in First Nations communities by 2021. Two years later, it’s nice to see international attention on the problem.

The HRW highlights the violence against First Nations and Inuit women. According to the group, more than 80% of Indigenous women in Canada who were in foster care as children have suffered sexual abuse. 

It’s not surprising that the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has said the federal government’s performance on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is a failure. In Indigenous circles we have always suspected there were serial killers out there. Just look at BC pig farmer Robert Pickton who claimed he murdered 49 women, many of whom were Indigenous. It helped lead to the MMIWG inquiry, but as NWAC asks, what has really been done since then?

But hell, Saskatchewan is where you can legally kill a First Nations person for trespassing on your land. The courts might have said the shooting of Colten Boushie in 2016 was an accident, but a weapons expert said the farmer’s story was impossible. Boushie was shot execution style in the back of the head, but that was somehow an accident despite real proof that this was not possible with that type of weapon. Information the police would have known. 

“Decades of structural and systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples has led to widespread abuses that persist across Canada,” states the HRW in its annual study.

Then there’s Canada’s climate change policy that the HRW criticized. The report censures Ottawa for financing fossil-fuel projects. 

“Canada is the top public financier of fossil fuels among G20 nations and projects increased oil and gas production through 2050,” says the report. “Canadian oil sands are among the most carbon-intensive and polluting oil production methods globally. The government continues to permit oil and gas pipeline expansions, including on First Nations’ lands.

Fossil-fuel production disregards the government’s human rights obligation.

“Federal and provincial climate change policies have failed to put in place adequate measures to support First Nations in adapting to current and anticipated impacts of climate change and have largely ignored the impacts of climate change on First Nations’ right to food,” says the report. 

HRW criticizes “inadequate” government response to the issue, and calls for stronger climate targets. Warming temperatures are affecting food sources for northern Indigenous peoples and other inhabitants. It’s making it difficult for people to live with the land when it is changing so quickly.

Despite the increased food insecurity that exacerbates pre-existing health issues, the feds don’t appear to care, said the HRW.

The warming climate is reducing traditional food sources and making it difficult for communities to live off the land – forcing many to supplement their diets with expensive or unhealthy food imported from other parts of Canada and worsening pre-existing economic and health issues, says the report.

So, disregard the syrupy smiles in Justin Trudeau’s selfies with Indigenous leaders. Don’t trust his sweet words about reconciliation. Check his actions. They’re the same as his predecessors. 

LATEST ᒫᐦᒡ ᑎᐹᒋᒧᐧᐃᓐ

Will Nicholls is a Cree from Mistissini. He started his career off in radio and is still one of the youngest radio DJ’s in Canadian history, having a regular show on CFS Moosonee at the age of 12. Will was one of the founding members of the Nation, and has been its only Editor-in-Chief.