Continued: Int’l Day of the World’s Indigenous People and the MDGs

unacto1As was discussed in a previous post emphasizing the impact and significance of the 2000 Millennium Development Goals, parties are calling on the 2015 Post-Development Agenda to recognize the special relationship that Aboriginal peoples have to the international goals. Specifically, it is the Aboriginal communities in Canada who have played a pivotal role in ensuring Canada maintains its integrity to issues of environmental sustainability.

Continually these communities have resisted pressures from both the public and private sector in order to preserve and protect the land. A recent UN News Centre article (“Indigenous peoples’ must feature in new global development agenda, stress UN experts,” July 2014) emphasizes the reality that despite the substantial contribution made by Aboriginal communities to environmental sustainability (Millennium Development Goal #7 – Ensure Environmental Sustainability), the reality in Canada is that Aboriginal communities are often the group most lacking in the enjoyment of the other goals. For instance, the overall prevalence of low income is significantly greater among Aboriginal people than among the non-Aboriginal population, while half of Aboriginal children live in poverty (see:  Education for Aboriginals is also troubling; as the need to close the gap between Aboriginal (26.5%) and non- Aboriginals (9.8%) obtaining university degrees is increasingly emphasized.

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 8.59.48 AMWhile the MDG’s do not touch on post-secondary education (the aim is to achieve universal primary education), Canada’s level of development ought to also address issues of access to education for our specific circumstances, that being our Aboriginal children and young adults.

Although concerns not limited to education, poverty and governance continue to characterize the Aboriginal experience here in Canada and are frequently cited, this does not represent the multifaceted reality of a group that is not one, but many communities that span an entire nation, representing those living on and off the reserves, in Canada’s biggest cities and in the some of the most remote locations of the world.

A 2009 study by the C.D Howe Institute, “Breaking the Stereotype: Why Urban Aboriginals Score Highly on ‘Happiness’ Measures ” (Dominique M. Gross & John Richards, Toronto 2012) illustrated that when urban Aboriginals in Canada were asked “Overall, are you happy with your life?”, the response was comparable to other urban communities. Greater access to and success in education and employment, the study concluded, would further increase happiness rates. Although this paints a simplistic picture of the Aboriginal experience (of which the authors have not personally experienced), it helps emphasize the continued importance of the application of the the Millennium Development Goals here in Canada (as well as their adaptation to our country-specific needs), and their direct impact on urban Aboriginals here in our city.

As United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated: “We must ensure the participation of indigenous peoples – women and men – in decision-making at all levels. This includes discussions on accelerating action towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and defining the post-2015 development agenda. ”

vafc-logo_438x0_scale.pngIt is critical that Canada recognize and seek to incorporate, Aboriginal knowledge, culture and philosophy into the wider development agenda, while simultaneously seeking to redress the inequalities this group still faces.

We encourage readers in the Vancouver area to show even more gratitude and solidarity with the Aboriginal community by continuing to learn from and enjoy the cultural contributions seen in Aboriginal art, music, museums, etc. as well as in local knowledge that our city is so fortunate to be able to enjoy.

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

unacto11.jpgAugust 9th is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population.

Through the International Day and Decade on Indigenous Peoples, the United Nations aims to strengthen international cooperation for solving problems faced by indigenous people in such areas as human rights, development, education and health. Also, it celebrates the achievements and contributions of indigenous people to improve world issues, such as environmental protection.

In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People shall be observed on 9 August. The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

Indigenous People in Canada

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 8.46.22 AMOn June 21st each year, National Aboriginal Day in Canada recognizes and celebrates the cultures and contributions of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.

Unfortunately, despite living in the developed world, indigenous peoples of North America often suffer many social obstacles. These factors can play into indigenous peoples’ social dislocation and alienation from both their ancestral lands, and North American society in general.

Also,  Aboriginal People have serious environmental concerns: the natural relationships that have sustained them are now altered because of the exploitation of the land and water. These changes have accelerated in recent years with health issues related to toxic chemicals and pollution.

On a positive note, Canada was one of the first countries in the modern era to extend constitutional protection to indigenous peoples’ rights. This constitutional protection has provided a strong foundation for advancing indigenous peoples’ rights over the last 30 years, especially through the courts.

Indigenous peoples and the Millennium Development Goals

A group of United Nations experts stated that the new global sustainable development agenda must include specific references to indigenous peoples and the challenges they face.

As the experts say: “Indigenous peoples can contribute significantly to achieving the objectives of sustainable development because of their traditional knowledge systems on natural resource management which have sustained some of the world’s more intact, diverse ecosystems up to the present”.

More on the the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and their references to indigenous peoples in the next blog post.