Ontario Native Women's Association executive director Betty Kennedy believes it is a national embarassment for the United Nations to raise Aboriginal issues to the federal government.
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Betty Kennedy thinks it is disgraceful that an international body has to bring forward Aboriginal concerns to the federal government.
The executive director of the Ontario Native Women’s Association spoke out on the same day the United Nations special rapporteur on indigenous rights was in Canada to examine the issues surrounding Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.
“I think it’s utterly disgraceful the United Nations has to bring forward the issue to Canada itself when we espouse to the rest of the world that we are a leader in human rights and yet we choose not to take action in our own country,” Kennedy said at ONWA’s office on Monday.
The UN has sent law professor James Anya to meet with both First Nations representatives and government officials to gather information so he can release a report with recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council next year.
While the rapporteur does not have legally binding authority, Kennedy is hopeful his visit and subsequent report can help put political pressure on Ottawa to recognize issues.
The main issue Kennedy identified as being of paramount concern is the amount of violence committed against Aboriginal women.
“It’s a human rights violation from my perspective. Aboriginal women are not given the same level of safety and protection under Canada’s laws,” she advocated.
“We’d like to bring forward the issue of violence against Aboriginal women, the fact that the levels of violence are pervasive, and the fact we’ve been pushing very hard for a public inquiry into the number of murdered and missing Aboriginal women.”
Ottawa has denied the calls for any public inquiries, a stance that greatly frustrates and dismays Kennedy.
She added events such as last week’s Sisters in Spirit Vigil not only memorialize those lost, but also raise awareness of the prevalence of the issue.
“The momentum is growing across Canada,” Kennedy said. “I think the more we’re out there raising the issue the more support we’re gathering in terms of the necessity to do something about it.”
The visit from the UN rapporteur also coincides with an important date in Canadian history, as Monday also marked the 250th anniversary since Britain’s signing of the Royal Proclamation, which is a landmark document in Aboriginal history.
“It’s an extremely important date given that Canada was legally mandated to recognize indigenous rights and treaties, but 250 years later they are still unresolved,” Kennedy said.
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