A standing invitation from Canada to the United Nations Special Rapporteur to come to this country to investigate the deaths and burials of children related to residential schools is not enough.
“What we have found is that Canada is right. There could be a standing invitation to the rapporteur, but… what we need is an official invitation to go and see the rapporteur,” said National Chief RoseAnne Archibald of the Assembly of First Nations.
Archibald says she made her three-day trip to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York from April 25 to April 27 specifically to ask Francisco Calí Tzay, special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, to come to Canada “to investigate the deaths of our children. We seek remedies for human rights violations, including genocide.
Calí Tzay told Archibald he needed an official invitation, preferably from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to make the trip.
“You actually have to formalize the invitation, otherwise the reporter comes and can’t do anything official in terms of documentation or study,” Archibald said.
At a press conference at the UN on April 25, Archibald insisted that Canada should not be allowed to investigate itself because it was that country’s policies and legislation that led to the creation of the Indian residential school system.
A resolution was passed by the AFN in December to “order the AFN to seek justice by intervening with the International Criminal Court in this matter, to hold the Imperial Crown, the Government of Canada and the Vatican accountable for their actions and to demand justice for the crimes against humanity for the families of the victims and the international community.
Canada’s “standing invitation” to all United Nations Special Rapporteurs on human rights was extended by Daniel Canough, Senior Policy Analyst, International Relations (United Nations), Indigenous and External Relations Bureau, Crown-Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.
Canough was speaking to the UNPFII on April 28.
Talking to Trudeau about sending this formal invitation to Calí Tzay is one more item on the ever-growing agenda, says Archibald, who points out that there was no formal meeting between the executive committee of the AFN and Trudeau since 2019.
Trudeau attended the Special Chiefs Assembly in December 2021.
Archibald became National Chief in July 2021.
“It’s been three years since the prime minister met with the Assembly of First Nations (executive), so that’s a problem for himself. Yes, there will be a number of points that we will discuss with the Prime Minister and I believe one of the main ones is why this (MoU) is not working properly. We clearly need a new process,” Archibald said.
In 2017, Canada and then-AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a Bilateral Mechanism to establish a process to, among other factors, “support the renewal of the relationship nation-to-nation relationship between Canada and First Nations on the basis that First Nations are holders of treaty rights, inherent rights, title, jurisdiction and Aboriginal rights.
Archibald proposes a “new economic agreement”. She made the call when the federal budget was tabled in April. She wants to see First Nations fully benefit from resources extracted from treaty lands or unceded territories, and from taxation.
“We need a new economic arrangement that allows First Nations self-reliance, self-determination, self-government guaranteed to them under the Constitution and these financial arrangements have to do with sharing the wealth of this country,” she said.
Other “big issues” that need to be built into a new agreement, she adds, relate to clean water, adequate housing, the return of culture and language, and the creation of safe and vibrant communities.
“We are always looking for actions, not just words. Anyone can spin a good phrase, but when it comes to action, what’s really happening on the pitch,” she said.
Archibald adds that those discussions will also take place with Jagmeet Singh, leader of the federal NDP, since the NDP and the Liberals put in place an agreement in March to keep Trudeau’s minority government in power.
Archibald says they’ve “just started reaching out” to Singh’s office and hope a meeting will be confirmed shortly.
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