UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples on official visit to Canada, March 1 to 10

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Photo: UN Special Rapporteur José Francisco Calí Tzay

The United Nations has announced: “The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, José Francisco Calí Tzay, will conduct an official visit to Canada from 1 to 10 March 2023.”

Cali Tzay, an Indigenous Maya Kaqchikel from Guatemala, began his term as Special Rapporteur in May 2020.

Their statement adds:

“The UN expert will examine a diverse range of issues affecting Indigenous Peoples, including the implementation of the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, the right to self-determination and the rights to land, territories and resources.”

“He will also focus on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls,  residential schools and unmarked burial sites, indigenous education, language and culture, business and human rights, including the extraterritorial obligations of Canadian companies, free prior and informed consent.”

The Special Rapporteur will visit Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and British Colombia then present his preliminary findings on March 10 in Ottawa. He will then present his final report to the UN Human Rights Council in September.

The RCMP “community-industry response group”

On a recent PBI-Canada webinar on the abolition of the RCMP C-IRG unit, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’moks mentioned that he would be meeting with the Special Rapporteur. To watch the video of that webinar, please click here.

Notably, Cali Tzay was previously the President of the Committee for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. It appears that he was a member of that Committee in December 2019.

That Committee has repeatedly called on Canada to halt construction on three megaprojects in British Columbia: the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory, the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline on Secwepemc territory, and the Site C hydroelectric dam on the Peace River on Treaty 8 territory.

The first resolution from the UN Committee, dated December 13, 2019, urged Canada to: guarantee that no force will be used against Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en peoples and that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and associated security and policing services will be withdrawn from their traditional lands; [and] to prohibit the use of lethal weapons, notably by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, against indigenous peoples.”

RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en territory, November 19, 2021. Photo by Amber Bracken.

The Committee’s most recent letter, dated April 29, 2022, to Leslie Norton, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations in Geneva, requested Canada “to provide information on the measures taken to … prevent and duly investigate the allegations of surveillance measures, practices of arbitrary detention, instances of excessive use of force against protesters, in particular those belonging to the Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en peoples, by the RCMP, CIRG, and private security firms.”

On September 28, 2022, Kim-Mai Vu of Peace Brigades International presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva during the Interactive Dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

She stated: “The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on Canada to stop construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory. Canada ratified this International Convention in 1970 and said in 2016 that it supported the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, however, the construction of this gas pipeline without consent continues as does the criminalization of land defenders.”

Yesterday, Wet’suwet’en land defender Sleydo’, commenting on an application to the Supreme Court of British Columbia to have criminal contempt charges stayed in light of widespread Charter violations stemming from police misconduct, stated: “Society is rightly concerned with how a special unit of RCMP (C-IRG) acts with impunity, using racist language and violence against unarmed indigenous women. Now it’s in the courts hands to decide if this is still acceptable in 2023.”

Video: When Sleydo’ was released on November 23, 2021, from the Prince George Regional Correctional Centre she also stated: “CIRG and the RCMP need to be abolished.”

We are following the Special Rapporteur’s visit with interest.

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