The Third World is Close to Home

1 Jan 2015

 

Attawapiskat is an isolated First Nations community of 1900 people in Northern Ontario, near the James Bay River.[1] This community first garnered attention in 2011 because of the poor housing and living conditions that were present there.[2] One of the residents, Lisa Kiokee-Linklater, had no running water or bathroom in her home.3 She shared her previous home with twenty other people.[3] Currently, not every member of the community lives in poverty.[4] Raveena Aulakh of the Toronto Star reported that in 2012, many houses in Attawapiskat had “50-inch TV’s” and “[s]hiny new trucks”.[5] However, many residents live off of “bread, eggs and cheese”.[6] 

 

Communities like Attawapiskat are not anomalies; unfortunately many communities across the country face similar harsh living conditions, effectively living in “third world” conditions, without running water, heating or sufficient housing.

 

The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, wrote a report on Indigenous populations in Canada on May 7, 2014.[7] As a representative of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, Anaya found that the Canadian government’s response to Indigenous issues has been “insufficient” so far.[8] Anaya describes the difference between the conditions of Indigenous peoples and the rest of Canadians as “jarring” and “distressing”.[9] He states that despite Indigenous communities requiring more funding than other Canadian communities, the Canadian government has

not provided more resources.[10] This extra funding is primarily necessary because of the physical remoteness of many of these communities.[11]

 

Furthermore, Anaya notes that overcrowding in homes can lead to “depression, sleep deprivation [and] family violence”.[12] He believes the Canadian government should focus funding efforts for Indigenous communities in the areas of “education, health and child welfare”.[13]

 

 Despite the staggering statistics about Indigenous communities in Canada, and the recommendations made by James Anaya, Canada rejected the UN’s Indigenous Rights Document.[14] The document would reaffirm the protection of the rights of the Indigenous people and Canada is the only UN member country to reject the document.[15] The justification for this, as provided by the Canadian government was that, the words “free, prior and informed consent” were troublesome.17 In a statement issued on the Government of Canada’s website, it states that this could be interpreted as giving a “veto to Aboriginal groups”.[16] In essence, the government of Canada feared that by agreeing to “free, prior and informed consent,” Indigenous populations in Canada would be able to have a right to reject proposals or laws found to be inappropriate.[17] 

 

 Often times the needs of Indigenous populations are ignored in Canada, perhaps because of the physical remoteness of many communities. The issues facing these communities are unfortunately regarded as being “out of sight, out of mind.” It is necessary to bring these problems to the forefront of political discussions and legislation creation. A way in which every Canadian can help is by sharing and discussing information about the Canadian government’s treatment of Indigenous people. By constantly reminding and educating one another about these problems, we can ensure that Indigenous people will not be “out of mind.” Many reserves across the country offer reconciliation visits, in which they invite people from urban areas to experience their everyday lives. While a lack of government funding can drastically alter the way in which Indigenous people live their lives in this country, it is important to remember that these communities are not permanently grief ridden or always unhappy. They also deserve the same rights and access to resources as the rest of Canadians.

 

 

References

 

[1] Walkom, T. (2013, Jan 8). Walkom: The real story behind Attawapiskat’s problems. The

Toronto Star. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/01/08/walkom_the

_real_story_behind_attawapiskats_problems.html

 

[2] Aulakh, R. (2012, Dec 28). Attawapiskat: No end in sight to problems of inadequate housing, unemployment, drug addiction. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/news/ canada/2012/12/28/attawapiskat_no_end_in_sight_to_problems_of_inadequate_housing_unempl oyment_drug_addiction.html 3 The Canadian Press. (2011, Nov 29). Locals disagree on who’s to blame for Attawapiskat crisis. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/localsdisagree-on-whos-to-blame-for-attawapiskat-crisis/article4252696/

 

[3] Ibid.

 

[4] Aulakh, R. (2012, Dec 28). Attawapiskat: No end in sight to problems of inadequate housing, unemployment, drug addiction. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/news/ canada/2012/12/28/attawapiskat_no_end_in_sight_to_problems_of_inadequate_housing_unempl oyment_drug_addiction.html

 

[5] Ibid.  

 

[6] Ibid.

 

[7] Anaya, James. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya. “The situation of indigenous peoples in Canada” (May 7 2014): 1. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2012/12/28/attawapiskat_no_end_in_sight_to_problems_ of_inadequate_housing_unemployment_drug_addiction.html

 

[8] Ibid, 1.

 

[9] Ibid, 7.

 

[10] Ibid.

 

[11] Ibid.

 

[12] Ibid, 9.

 

[13] Ibid, 23.

 

[14] Lum, Zi-Ann. (2014, Oct 2). Canada is the Only UN Member to Reject Landmark Indigenous

Rights Document. The Huffington Post Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/10/ 02/canada-un-indigenous-rights_n_5918868.html

 

[15] Ibid.  17 Ibid.  

 

[16] Government of Canada. (2014, Sep 22). Canada’s Statement on the World Conference on

Indigenous Peoples Outcome Document. Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations.

Retrieved from http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/prmny-mponu/canada_uncanada_onu/statements-declarations/other-autres/2014-09-22_WCIPD-PADD.aspx?lang=eng

 

[17] Ibid.

 

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