Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1999 13:23:57 -0800
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
From: Ann Pohl <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Subject: Coalition Press Release: Federal Inquiry into Ipperwash or UN

December 10, 1999 - Media Release 

Coalition for a Public Inquiry into Ipperwash
Postal: Box 111, Station C, Toronto, On., M6J 3M7
Telephone: 416-537-3520
Fax: 416-538-2559

On the anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 
the Coalition for a Public Inquiry calls on Ottawa to strike a Federal
Commission of Inquiry into Ipperwash --- 
  ---  otherwise it's back to the United Nations.
"Today, December 10th,  is the anniversary of the United Nations Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. The UN considers Canada the best nation in the
world. Internationally, our human rights reputation has been held up as a
standard to which other nations should aspire but our image is tarnishing at
the speed of light, due to a number of factors. The unresolved nature of the
Ipperwash Affair is a central element,"  said Coalition Spokesperson Ann
Pohl at a press conference held in Toronto this morning. "As ashamed as we
are about this decline, we will not be quiet about Canada's failures in the
area of human rights.  We are working with others, through Citizens for
Public Justice, to put together another appeal to the United Nations Human
Rights Committee."
"Yesterday the most powerful Provincial government in Canada proved that
they WILL NOT call the Public Inquiry which Amnesty International, the UN
Human Rights Committee, Ontario's own Ombudsman and hundreds of Canadian and
First Nations leaders and organizations have demanded.  To settle this
dispute at home, the Federal government must ACT NOW," continued Pohl.
"With the Federal Reform party and like-minded interest groups whipping up
anti-Aboriginal sentiments across the country, we may be hours or days away
from another Ipperwash, another Oka or another Gustafsen Lake. Is that what
it will take to make Ottawa do the right thing?"

As part of the Coalition's lobby strategy for a Federal Inquiry, its members
are writing the Honourable Robert Nault,  Federal Minister of Indian
Affairs,  pressing for action:

"A federal Inquiry into Ipperwash would go a long way towards ensuring that
hot-headed local authorities, vigilantes, or others who might oppose
Aboriginal Rights, NEVER AGAIN act independently on their biases and local
priorities. Local authorities should  follow a protocol which requires them
to hand over responsibility to  your officials when this sort of
controversial protest occurs, because you and your staff are
constitutionally responsible for "Indians and lands reserved for Indians"."

Pohl released details on the Coalition's federal lobby campaign. Efforts
made earlier in the year have netted support on the matter from the federal
NDP, and the Coalition has secured a commitment to meet from the Bloc and
P.C. critics on Aboriginal Affairs.  Throughout 2000, the Coalition will
continue to mobilize its vast network in labour, social justice, faith
groups and Aboriginal communities to press Ottawa for this Inquiry. But, at
the same time, preparations are underway for another international approach.

"Our organization, Citizens for Public Justice, is part of the Coalition's
network,' commented Harry Kits, Executive Director of CPJ which is mandated
to promote justice in Canadian public affairs.  "Yet, independently we have
been extensively involved in solidarity with Aboriginal Peoples, such as the
Innu, the Lubicon, and the Gitxsan. And, we have observed a pattern among
the many issues we have taken up - seldom does an Aboriginal rights issue
seem to get fully resolved."

"About six months ago, " continued Kits, "we initiated a research project to
examine the interconnections between these separate frustrations.  We have
been working collaboratively with a legal team, Aboriginal rights activists
and human rights groups to define the nature of these barriers.  After much
analysis and dialogue, we have identified a primary and over-arching
violation of  Article 2 of the United Nations International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to "Effective Remedy"
.  The right to effective remedy has not been secured in Canadian policy and
practice, as far as Aboriginal Peoples are concerned.  And the reasons for
this are that Ottawa's bureaucratic structure for dealing with Aboriginal
rights issues have inherent conflicts of interest which impact both the
federal and the Aboriginal side in negotiations. Among other options, we are
examining the possibility of appealing to the UN Human Rights Committee
through the "Optional Protocol".  This route was successful in acheiving the
1985 changes to The Indian Act."
Unlike his predecessor Jane Stewart, who kept up an active correspondence
with the Coalition, since coming into office last August Minister Nault has
not responded to the group's letters and telephone calls. In Spring 1999,
the Coalition released a legal opinion prepared by Constitutional Law expert
Bruce Ryder, stating that Ottawa has both "the right and the responsibility
to call an Inquiry into Ipperwash".  The Department of Indian Affairs has
not yet responded to this opinion.  Aboriginal leaders, such as Marilyn
Buffalo, National President of the Native Women's Association of Canada,
have called on Nault to strike this Inquiry. Nonetheless, the group will
continue to press for a meeting with him before making any final decision
about the approach to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. 

Pohl did confirm that the UNHRC "Optional Protocol" approach is an
attractive one to her core group as well as  a number of organizations in
the Coalition's network who are also involved in long-standing non-resolved
human rights issues affecting Aboriginal Peoples.  "It takes years to put
together a case like this," explained Pohl. "While we're working on Minister
Nault, we intend to start putting these pieces together.  Many of us feel
we're in this fight for our lives."

- 30 -

For more information:   
Ann Pohl - 416-537-3520
Harry Kits - 416-979-2443x24

Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine 
of international copyright law.
           Tsonkwadiyonrat (We are ONE Spirit)

Reply via email to