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.

Nelson Mandela Day

unacto1Nelson Mandela’s recent passing late last year brought an end to a lifetime of unyielding courage and commitment to social justice, peace and equality.  Adopted in 2009 by the United Nations, Nelson Mandela Day enters its fifth year this week on July 18th.

Nelson Mandela’s work is so intertwined with the Human Rights movement over the past century, that it is impossible to speak about “freedom, justice and democracy” without recognizing his contributions.  The effects of his work in South Africa were not only a catalyst for change nationally, but also globally inspired  generations to come.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 9.01.07 PMMandela famously stated, “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.” What will your legacy be? How can you become involved today, in order to improve the livelihood of those in the future?  As we come to the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and approach a new development era, we are provided with a fresh opportunity for renewed commitment, insight and especially, participation.

The MDGs set out in 2000  have achieved considerable success in many sectors. Importantly, they have laid the foundations for our work in years to come. Drawing on the inspiration of Mandela, the importance of belief and especially ongoing dedication, cannot be overstated. 

The MDGs include:

1.    To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2.    To achieve universal primary education
3.    To promote gender equality and empower women
4.    To reduce child mortality
5.    To improve maternal health
6.    To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
7.    To ensure environmental sustainability
8.    To develop a global partnership for development

These goals are still especially relevant to our existence here in Canada. Some issues of particular importance that come to mind include the Enbridge Pipeline proposal and its potential harmful effects on Canada’s environment and our Aboriginal Communities (#7), the insufficient efforts to find our missing Aboriginal women as reported by the United Nations (#3) and specifically, the continuation of poverty and homelessness in Vancouver’s downtown core (#1). 

Although the context for the MDGs are broad in scope, their application can be applied to our local circumstances.  Once we can recognize this applicability our immediate potential for contributing towards their achievement becomes tangible.

With the inspiration of Nelson Mandela in mind, we encourage readers to reflect upon these goals and to remain committed and optimistic for the 2015 agenda. 
Further information on the upcoming Development agenda will be featured in upcoming blogs this summer/fall.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 9.02.22 PMPlease see the United Nations page for  a timeline of Mandela’s life and further information about the day:

Post written by UNAC-Vancouver website writer, Brittney Potvin.