On Indigenous Peoples Day, Indigenous rights defenders remain the target of criminalization and fatal attacks
Photo by Skyler Williams.
Today is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The United Nations says: “On this day, people from around the world are encouraged to spread the UN’s message on the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples.”
Just ten days ago, the Global Witness Defending Tomorrow report on the killings of land and environmental defenders around the world highlighted that:
“Indigenous peoples are at a disproportionate risk of reprisals. Last year, 40% of murdered defenders belonged to indigenous communities. Between 2015 and 2019 over a third of all fatal attacks have targeted indigenous people – even though indigenous communities make up only 5% of the world’s population.”
This year’s Global Witness report also notably drew attention to the criminalization of the Wet’suwet’en people in Canada in 2019.
The global human rights organization IWGIA (International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs) has further highlighted that:
“According to the United Nations (UN), indigenous rights defenders are facing greater violations of their rights today than they were just a decade ago. Every year, thousands of indigenous peoples are criminalised and discriminated against – increasingly, this trend takes the highest toll of all: the life of indigenous rights defenders.”
In September 2019, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples at that time, noted: “Extractive activities within indigenous peoples’ lands and territories undertaken without adequate consultation or consent are the main source of serious violations of their human rights, including violence, criminalisation and forced displacement.”
Peace Brigades International accompanies numerous defenders of land rights, culture and natural resources in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.
We have noted: “International declarations and mechanisms on indigenous rights enshrine the right to self-determination for indigenous peoples and recognise the importance of land rights for the original inhabitants of many countries now governed by the descendants of colonizers. These rights are often the focus of conflict as powerful interests wish to exploit the natural resources found within and beneath traditional territories.”
This year, PBI-Canada draws attention to the struggles of Secwepemc land defenders opposed to the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline, Wet’suwet’en land defenders working to stop the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline, Six Nations land defenders protecting Haudenosaunee territory from a 1,000 unit housing development, and Haida land defenders protecting Haida Gwaii from a luxury fishing resort during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We remain concerned about the unresolved arson attack against the Spirit of the Buffalo Camp on Treaty 1 territory this past April.
And we further draw attention to the Mohawk land defenders who face a court hearing in Napanee, Ontario this coming Tuesday August 11 for their peaceful blockade on Tyendinaga territory in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en peoples.