October 23, 2007
Yesterday afternoon in Ottawa, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Housing announced his preliminary observations from a two-week fact-finding mission to investigate the state of housing in Canada.
As part of his fact-finding mission, Miloon Kothari visited the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation community at Little Buffalo to see first-hand the desperate situation faced by the Lubicon people.
Mr. Kothari met with Lubicon members and visited their houses, paying particular attention to the lack of clean running water in Lubicon homes. His concern for the poverty the Lubicon people face, in stark contrast to the billions of dollars of resource wealth being extracted from their lands, is clearly expressed in his preliminary observations.
Mr. Kothari said:
"Throughout the mission I was disturbed to see the devastating impact of the paternalism that marks federal and provincial government, legislations, policies and budgetary allocation for Aboriginal people on and off reserve. These policies have seriously compromised the right to self determination that Aboriginal people enjoy under the original treaties and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. (the UN Human Rights Committees review of Canada in 2006 referred to this phenomenon as having the potential to lead to " extinguishment of inherent aboriginal rights ")
"Housing and homelessness conditions facing Aboriginal people both on and off-reserve are shocking. Overcrowded and inadequate housing conditions, as well as difficulties to access basic services, including water and sanitation, are major problems for Aboriginal peoples. For instance, during my visit to the Lubicon Lake Nation, I could witness how families still live without access to water in sanitation and appalling living conditions and how development projects and continue to lead to the loss of lands and the asphyxiation of livelihoods and traditional practices.
"I heard a consistent message when I met with Aboriginal leaders at the national, provincial and local levels throughout the country. They said that the Federal Government must honour its treaty and fiduciary responsibility to Aboriginal people. They said that Aboriginal people should be in control of Aboriginal housing and services. The Federal Government has a contractual responsibility to Aboriginal people, and it has a duty under international laws on indigenous peoples."
Mr. Kothari recommended that:
"The Federal Government needs to commit funding and resources for a targeted national Aboriginal housing strategy both on- and off-reserve that ensures that Aboriginal housing and services are under Aboriginal control.
"Place a moratorium on all oil and extractive activities in the Lubicon region until a settlement is reached with Lubicon Lake Nation. The Federal Government should resume negotiation with the Lubicon Lake consistent to the Human Rights Law instruments including the Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples."
Mr. Kotharis full preliminary observations are available here.
A final report will be prepared and submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee in early 2008.
Once again the United Nations has clearly condemned the ongoing injustice faced by the Lubicon people and again asked that resource exploitation within the disputed lands be halted pending a land rights settlement with the Lubicon people.
And once again, the silence from the federal and provincial governments is deafening.
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