The RCMP C-IRG is inconsistent with Canada’s stated priorities in its bid for a seat at the UN Human Rights Council

Published by Brent Patterson on

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“We want to live free on our lands, without the constant threat of violence by C-IRG, who are illegally occupying Gidimt’en territory.” – Wet’suwet’en land defender Sleydo’. Video: Sleydo’ and Gitxsan land defender Shaylynn Sampson arrested at gunpoint by RCMP C-IRG officers on Wet’suwet’en territory on November 19, 2021.

Canada has announced that it is seeking a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2028 to 2030 term.

Canada last sat on the UN Human Rights Council from 2006 to 2009

In this bid, Canada has articulated six priorities, notably: “Seeking justice and accountability for those on the frontlines of defending human rights” and “Advancing the rights of Indigenous peoples and reconciliation”.

The vote for this at the UN General Assembly is expected to take place in 2026.

The Canadian Press reports: “So far, Greece has [also] announced a run for one of the three spots that will be available to a group of 28 countries includes Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.”

The bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council follows the defeat of Canada’s bid in June 2020 for a seat on the UN Security Council.

At the War Resisters’ International conference held in London, United Kingdom, last week, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’moks said he opposed that Security Council candidacy because “where is our security in the so-called country of Canada?”. He stated the Wet’suwet’en will oppose this new bid too.

Organizations are already commenting on this latest bid.

Climate Action Network Canada notes: “Across the land currently known as Canada, fossil fuel companies continue to push through infrastructure projects against the sovereign will of Indigenous peoples, abetted by law enforcement agencies. Canadian resource extraction companies continue to directly violate human rights in other countries, including the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.”

Justice for All Canada, a Toronto-based organization dedicated to preventing genocide, says: “Canada’s silence on human-rights violations by India, Israel, Egypt and Tunisia, among others, has drawn particular criticism, with even its positioning on Saudi Arabia being called hypocritical owing to its arms sales to the kingdom.”

And MiningWatch Canada highlights: “Canada is home to nearly half of the world’s publicly traded mining companies and for decades, allegations of human rights abuses and environmental harm tied to many of these companies have been well-documented. Canada has had ample opportunity to prove it is serious about reining in corporate abuse but has repeatedly failed to act — even in the face of serious crimes like forced labour, sexual violence, militarized evictions and targeted killings.”

Photo: The Canadian Embassy in Mexico is being challenged at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for its alleged role in the death of human right defender Mariano Abarca. The complaint alleges that Canada failed to uphold its international human rights obligations when it pressured Mexican authorities to advance a Canadian mining project despite having knowledge about related threats to Mariano’s life.

Canada’s human rights record will be reviewed on Friday November 10, 2023, through the “universal periodic review” process at the Human Rights Council.

In advance of this, the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) with support from MiningWatch Canada, sent a 30-page submission to the UN Human Rights Council denouncing Canada for its continued diplomatic support of mining companies over the safety of human rights and environment defenders.

When Canada’s human rights record was last reviewed by the Human Rights Council, numerous recommendations were made.

For instance, Spain called on Canada to “comply with its commitment to guarantee the human right to drinking water and sanitation”, the Holy See said Canada should “ensure that indigenous communities can express their free and informed consent prior to any measure that may affect their land”, Ireland said Canada should “prohibit the environmentally detrimental development of resources on the territories of indigenous peoples without the free, prior and informed consent of those communities”, Bolivia said Canada should “consider ratifying the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169)” and Switzerland said Canada should “develop a national action plan for business and human rights.”

Most recently, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issued its third rebuke to Canada in April 2022 commenting on its “use of force, surveillance, and criminalization of land defenders”, particularly those opposed to the construction of the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory.

That letter expresses concern about the RCMP Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) and reminds Canada of a CERD decision issued in December 2019 that called for the removal of the RCMP from Wet’suwet’en territory.

The RCMP C-IRG has launched at least two more militarized raids on Wet’suwet’en territory since that December 2019 decision by the CERD.

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.”

In March of this year, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC), a federal watchdog agency, announced that it was conducting a “systemic review” of the C-IRG to “examine whether relevant policies, procedures, guidelines and training … are consistent with applicable jurisprudence/case law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

The CRCC report is not expected for 12-18 months.

In the meantime, the Abolish C-IRG coalition has stated that all deployments of the C-IRG should be suspended pending the “investigation and resolution” of all complaints now before the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission.  

We continue to follow this situation.

For more:

C-IRG violence against the frontlines (PBI-Canada webinar, April 16, 2023)

Dismantle the C-IRG, end violence against land defenders (PBI-Canada webinar, February 21, 2023)

PBI-Canada Board member volunteers as Legal Observer on Wet’suwet’en Territory (May 15, 2022)

Wet’suwet’en land defenders seek support against the Coastal GasLink Pipeline (PBI-Canada interview with Sleydo’ on Rabble radio, April 29, 2022)

Listen to Wet’suwet’en land defenders Eve Saint and Jocey Alec on Rabble Radio (PBI-Canada interview, December 13, 2021)

Photo-journal of PBI-Canada’s 4-day visit to Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan territories (November 24, 2021)

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