UN Special Rapporteur expresses concern about criminalization of Indigenous human rights defenders in Canada

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: UN Special Rapporteur José Francisco Calí Tzay

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, José Francisco Calí Tzay, has concluded his official March 1-10 visit to Canada.

He presented his preliminary findings in Ottawa today and will present his final report to the UN Human Rights Council in September.

His preliminary report notes:

“During my visit, I was informed that a large number of megaprojects in Indigenous territories proceed without good faith consultation and in the absence of obtaining Indigenous Peoples’ free, prior and informed consent as, in the case of Trans Mountain Pipeline. I am also concerned about the ongoing militarization of Indigenous lands and the criminalization of Indigenous human rights defenders resisting the Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink pipelines in British Columbia. I urge the Government of Canada to end these violations and to adopt adequate measures to guarantee Indigenous Peoples’ right to consultation and free, prior and informed consent, and their rights to lands, territories and resources.”

His full 10-page statement can be read here.

UN Committee on Coastal GasLink, Trans Mountain and Site C

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Wet’suwet’en peoples and that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and associated security and policing services will be withdrawn from their traditional lands; [and] to prohibit the use of lethal weapons, notably by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, against indigenous peoples.”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.”

We continue to follow this and will share news when the UN Special Rapporteur presents his report to the Human Rights Council this September.

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