TORONTO, Feb. 9, 2012 /CNW/ - UOI Offices, Nipissing First Nation (February 9, 2012) - "If Stephen Harper wants to talk about human rights abuses, he didn't have to go all the way to China," says Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee, noting that First Nations in Canada pay a steep price for the Conservative government ignoring their rights.
"Treaty rights protect human rights, and his government doesn't want to pay any attention to them," said Madahbee, speaking on behalf of the 39 member communities of the Anishinabek Nation. "First Nations here at home have rights to share in Canada's resource wealth, and to be treated with at least the same respect as any foreign country.
"Instead of getting serious about helping First Nations become major contributors to Canada's economy, Mr. Harper's priority is to make trade deals with China. Instead of lecturing the Chinese about their human rights abuses, he could set a good example here at home by spending the same amount to educate First Nations students as is spent on other young people in this country."
The four Anishinabek Regional Chiefs shared Madahbee's concerns about the Harper government's lack of commitment to working on comprehensive solutions to First Nations issues, especially ones that could help end the chronic poverty faced by many of the 700,000 First Nations citizens in Canada.
'"The very resources that are extracted from First Nations in Canada ultimately end up on the trade table in negotiations with other 'nations' like China," said Lake Huron Regional Chief Isadore Day. "It's as if Mr. Harper wasn't paying attention to all the discussions about treaty rights at the recent Crown-First Nations gathering he hosted in Ottawa."
Northern Superior Regional Chief Peter Collins said: "It's hypocritical for the prime minister to travel halfway around the world to talk about human rights when First Nations citizens are forced to accept lower living standards because Canada does everything it can to exclude us from meaningful participation in the national economy."
Southeast Regional Chief J. R. Marsden criticized the federal government for not living up to its commitment as a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. "The Harper government signed onto an international agreement that says First Nations have the right to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities."
Economic inequities also impose environmental penalties on First Nations, according to Southwest Regional Chief Chris Plain. "It's not safe for many of our citizens to drink the water or even breathe the air in their communities. We can't afford environmental assessments."
The Anishinabek Nation established the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 39 member communities across Ontario, representing approximately 55,000 people. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.
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