United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, will be visiting Canada from October 12 to 30 to gather information about the human rights conditions of the country's Indigenous Peoples.

Anaya Bringing U.N. Human Rights Investigation to Canada

Gale Courey Toensing
August 24, 2013


James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, will conduct an official visit to Canada in the fall to gather information about the human rights conditions of the country’s Indigenous Peoples.

Anaya’s visit will take place October 12 to 30 during which time he will travel the country, holding meetings and consultations with government officials, indigenous nations and their representatives, according to an announcement on his website.

Anaya is Regents' and James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona James E, Rogers College of Law. He was appointed to the mandate of Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2008 by the U.N. Human Rights Council. His job as Special Rapporteur is to “gather, request, receive and exchange information and communications from all relevant sources, including Governments, indigenous people and their communities and organizations, on alleged violations of their human rights and fundamental freedoms” and to “formulate recommendations and proposals on appropriate measures and activities to prevent and remedy violations.”

Anaya’s visit is being planned as revelations about past and continuing violations come to light. For example, stories recently re-emerged about Canadian health officials using experimental vaccines on indigenous children in the 1940s rather than address the conditions of poverty that led to their illnesses.

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The recent death of Bella Laboucan-McLean, the 25-year-old sister of Lubicon Cree activist and Greenpeace environmental advocate Melina Laboucan-Massimo has prompted provincial prime ministers to call for a national inquiry into the ongoing issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women, of which there are hundreds of unsolved cases across Canada. Laboucan-McLean was the third unexplained death of an indigenous woman in Toronto in recent months.

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The Special Rapporteur will present his findings to the Canadian government in a preliminary report for its comments and response. A final version of the report will be circulated publicly and presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council. The report will include recommendations to Canada, indigenous governing bodies and, possibly, other interested parties on how to address issues of ongoing concern to Indigenous Peoples.

The report on Canada will be similar to the one Anaya wrote after his first official visit to the United States in 2012. The comprehensive report examined issues that are common among Indigenous Peoples in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere in the world: the country’s law and policy regarding Indigenous Peoples; the disadvantaged conditions of Indigenous Peoples as the present day legacies of historical wrongs; economic and social conditions; violence against women; lands, resources and broken treaties; sacred places; the removal of children from indigenous environments; self-government; recognition; the need for determined action within a program of reconciliation and more.

In his final report on his U.S. visit, Anaya wrote that American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian peoples “face significant challenges that are related to widespread historical wrongs, including broken treaties and acts of oppression, and misguided government policies, that today manifest themselves in various indicators of disadvantage and impediments to the exercise of their individual and collective rights.’ He recommended that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should be used as “an important impetus and guide” to address the concerns of Indigenous Peoples and develop new ways to forward reconciliation. “The Declaration, which is grounded in widespread consensus and fundamental human rights values, should be a benchmark for all relevant decision-making by the federal executive, Congress, and the judiciary, as well as by the states of the United States,” Anaya wrote. The report included a series of recommendations.

Information and updates on Anaya’s agenda for his visit to Canada, including opportunities to participate in consultations, will be available on his website. The Special Rapporteur invites Indigenous Peoples and organizations, and other interested parties, to send information relevant to the visit to Canada or any other aspect of the mandate to: [email protected]. He notes on his website that, due to the large volume of invitations and information submitted, he may not be able to respond individually to each request.