[JURIST] Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) [official website] on Tuesday urged [report, PDF] the government to move from “apology to action” in its policies and programs directed toward restoring the aboriginal peoples’ relationships with the rest of the country. The TRC interviewed more than 7,000 individuals to track a six-year timeline of abuse and neglect of the aboriginal peoples, with special emphasis on the disparity of educational opportunities to aboriginal peoples. Its report characterizes Canada’s 100-year history with these individuals as a “cultural genocide,” and recommends [calls to action, PDF] 94 remedial actions to be taken by all levels of Canadian government, corporate entities, educators and others named in the report. The TRC specifically requests, among other things, that the government acknowledge its fault in the current state of aboriginal health; that the federal government implement laws to increase aboriginal peoples’ health care rights; that the government create new funding for aboriginal education legislation; that the federal government provide the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation with $10 million over a seven-year period; and that a national council for reconciliation be created for purposes of reporting progress in reconciliation.
The rights of indigenous peoples have become a pressing international legal topic in the past decade. In September the UN raised awareness for indigenous peoples [JURIST report], comprising approximately 370 million people in 90 countries around the world, and urged members of the international community to reconcile any past differences with indigenous peoples for prior rights violations and work towards open communication about the important legal issues which affect indigenous populations. In October 2013 a UN rights expert expressed similar concern for aboriginal people [JURIST report] in Canada, finding that despite the general wealth of Canada’s citizens as a whole, one in five indigenous people live in poverty, and concluding that the country faced a “crisis” at that time. In August 2013 then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged [JURIST report] states to honor treaties with indigenous peoples, regardless of how long ago they were signed, as such treaties serve to protect human rights. In December 2010 US President Barack Obama announced [JURIST report] that the US would support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People [text]. The declaration adopted in 2007, is a non-binding treaty outlining the global human rights of approximately 370 million indigenous people and banning discrimination against them. The US was one of four member states originally opposed to adopting the treaty.