Native leader challenges government

Social record ‘unacceptable’: Beaucage

NIPISSING FIRST NATION – Canada has a lot of work to do to improve economic, social and cultural rights in this country, according to a draft report from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Although Canada continues to rank high on the Human Development index, the United Nations felt compelled to comment on a number of areas including concerns specific to Canada’s First Peoples.
 
According to the UN Report: “The Committee regrets that most of its 1993 and 1998 recommendations have not been implemented, and that the State party has not addressed in an effective manner the following principal subjects of concern..”
 
One of the main concerns in the report is the “disparities that still persist between Aboriginal peoples and the rest of the Canadian population in the enjoyment of (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) Covenant rights”.

“Canada’s social, economic and cultural rights record pertaining to First Nations is unacceptable.  The government has some real soul searching to do,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage who represents 43 First Nations in Ontario. 

“This is a black eye for Canada and I challenge Prime Minister Harper to work with us to eliminate First Nations poverty.”  
Last week, Grand Council Chief Beaucage released a document called the “Political Manifesto of the Anishinabek Nation” calling for the elimination of Anishinabek Nation poverty in 20 years.
  
“My plan takes into account a number of objectives, including a new approach to funding First Nations government, building a First Nations economy and working cooperatively with all parties including government,” said Beaucage. “This will not happen if the government continues to bury its head in the sand.  We are ready to do our part, is the government ready to do their part?”
  
Beaucage feels the government needs to take more substantive steps to address poverty.  
“First Nations would like to see the government address poverty in a more substantial way,” said Beaucage referring to the committee’s conclusions about poverty.  “We need Canada to define a poverty line, and develop social assistance and minimum wages based on that standard.  This would go a long way towards eradicating First Nations poverty.”
  
Beaucage feels the key is to implement the objectives of the already agreed-upon First Ministers’ Kelowna Accord.
  
“This government has yet to respond or commit to the agreements of the First Ministers.  Many of the UN’s concerns are dealt with in a substantial way by the First Ministers including its concerns over poverty, health, housing and education,” concluded Beaucage. 

Some of the concluding observations from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: 

– “The disparities that still persist between Aboriginal peoples and the rest of the Canadian population in the enjoyment of (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) Covenant rights, as well as the discrimination still experienced by Aboriginal women in matters of matrimonial property.”
  
– “The absence of an official poverty line.”  

– “The insufficiency of minimum wage and social assistance to ensure the realization of the right to an adequate standard of living for all.”  

– “The Committee is concerned that, despite Canada’s economic prosperity and the reduction of the number of people living below the Low Income Cut Off, 11.2 percent of its population still lived in poverty in 2004, and that significant differences in levels of poverty persist between Provinces and Territories. The Committee also notes with particular concern that poverty rates remain very high among disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups such as Aboriginal peoples…”  

– “The Committee is also concerned by the significant disparities still remaining between Aboriginal people and the rest of the population in areas of employment, access to water, health, housing and education…”  

– “No time frame has been set up for the consideration and implementation of the recommendations of the Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures, and that no concrete measures have been adopted in the area of intellectual property for the protection and promotion of ancestral rights and traditional knowledge of Aboriginal peoples…”  

The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 43 member First Nations across Ontario.  The UOI 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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