TORONTO, June 20, 2011 /CNW/ - Implementing the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is key to addressing
longstanding social problems faced by many Indigenous communities in
This is the main message of Indigenous and national church leaders
speaking at a news conference on Parliament Hill today organized by
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives. KAIROS is a
church-based social justice organization that focuses on ecological
sustainability and human rights, including Indigenous rights.
The leaders called on the federal government to work in meaningful
collaboration with Indigenous peoples to fully implement the UN
Declaration endorsed by Ottawa last November. It's a message they will
be taking to meetings with Members of Parliament this week.
"We welcome Canada's endorsement of the Declaration," said KAIROS
executive director Mary Corkery, "Now the real work of implementation
Bishop Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church
of Canada, explained why the Declaration is so crucial.
"I have often heard many people wonder, out loud, how Canada can bring
justice and healing to the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and
the rest of the Nation," he said. "This is the foundation. Without
it, there is neither justice nor health for anyone."
Describing deplorable conditions faced by children in Indigenous
communities in Canada, Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the
First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, said the Declaration
provides a framework for finding real solutions to these problems.
"First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada face unique challenges
in terms of poverty, access to education and other measures of social
well-being due to systematic violations of their human rights," she
said. "The Canadian government must come to grips with these problems."
The Auditor General's report released last week also drew attention to
these social problems and to the need for action on the part of the
Ellen Gabriel, long time human rights activist and member of the
Longhouse of Kanehsatà:ke has been involved with working on the
Declaration at an international level and explained how its
implementation in Canada will impact land rights issues.
"Effective implementation of the Declaration will tell us how serious
States are about protecting and respecting our collective and
individual human rights," Gabriel said.
Bishop Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in Canada, said KAIROS' involvement with these issues is part of its
member churches' longstanding commitment to seeking right relations
with Indigenous peoples.
"We are aware that our history includes profoundly harmful mistakes that
have failed to honour the dignity of Indigenous peoples in particular.
We see in the UN Declaration an opportunity to learn from past wrongs
and to work together for peace, justice, respect and the integrity of
all God's creation," said Johnson.
On display during the news conference were some of the hundreds of
banners created by people in communities all across Canada to express
their support for the Declaration and KAIROS' call for action.
As the news conference was underway, hundreds of people gathered at
Victoria Island on Algonquin territory in Ottawa to begin a full day of
public events, including a procession of banners through downtown
Ottawa, to be led by church and Indigenous leaders. The procession
will make its way to Parliament Hill and move on to the national Human
Rights Monument on Elgin Street. There will be brief remarks by
Indigenous and church leaders at each location.
These events are part of KAIROS' national Roll With the Declaration
campaign. The cross-Canada action involved a series of local events
that brought together Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to learn
about the Declaration and create handmade banners of support.
People in dozens of communities from Antigonish, NS to Vancouver Island,
BC and from as far north as Kuujjuaq, QC have particpated in the
campaign. KAIROS staff and Indigenous elders travelled to Ottawa on
trains and buses from British Colombia, Ontario and Nova Scotia. At
train stops enroute, they collected banners created by local KAIROS
groups, churches and community organizations.
The campaign is endorsed by a broad range of civil society
organizations, labour and Indigenous groups. These endorsements and
the broad participation in the "Roll With the Declaration" campaign at
a community level indicate the growing desire among Canadians for
Ottawa to collaborate with Indigenous peoples to improve conditions.
The news conference participants said the Government of Canada must
provide Parliament with regular reports on how the Government will
reform laws and policies that fall below the UN Declaration's
SOURCE KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
For further information:
Communications Program Coordinator
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
(416) 463 5312, ext. 223