| International Indian Treaty Council |
CONSEJO INTERNACIONAL DE TRATADOS INDIOS
Alberto Saldamando, General Counsel,
International Indian Treaty Council
Tel: [USA] +(415) 641-4482
Title: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mr. Rodolfo Stavenhagen
UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL 4th Session, March 12 – 30, 2007
Agenda Item: Report of Rodolfo Stavenhagen, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Human Rights
The International Organization of Indigenous Resource Development and the International Indian Treaty Council have a strong commitment to the inclusion of the voices and perspectives of our chiefs, traditional leaders and elders in the United Nations process.
We welcome this opportunity to thank Rodolfo Stavenhagen, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, for his unwavering commitment to bring the pervasive violations of Indigenous Peoples’ human rights before this body and its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights.
We also express our appreciation to the members of this Council for their commitment to continue to include the vital mandate of the Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples' Human Rights in the methods of work and expert advisory structures currently being discussed by this body.
We welcome this opportunity, as the only one provided at the session of the Human Rights Council specifically to address Indigenous Peoples’ human rights concerns. It is important that Indigenous Peoples continue to have this opportunity, and that it be expanded and formalized in the agenda and programme of work of this Council in its future sessions.
The human rights violations carried out against Indigenous Peoples are too often ignored and disregarded by the judicial systems of the states whose actions are in many cases directly responsible for these violations. Indigenous Peoples around the world are therefore depending on the vigilance, integrity and commitment of this Council.
For these reasons, it is our honor to present the following statement to the Council at its fourth session from one of the Traditional Chiefs of the Samson Cree Nation in Alberta Canada for your consideration under this agenda item:
United Nations Human Rights Council 4TH Session
Statement by Chief Victor Buffalo Samson Cree Nation, Hobbema, Alberta, affiliate of the International Organization of Indigenous Resource Development (without prejudice)
“In 1989, after years of unsatisfactory interpretation and implementation of Treaty No. 6 by Canada, Samson Cree Nation instituted legal proceedings against Canada. The legal proceedings seek to have the Federal Government declared in breach of its Treaty and trust obligations to the Samson Cree Nation and more specifically, with respect to the mismanagement of its oil and gas and of its royalty moneys.
With the encouragement and support of our Elders, in June of 2000, an event of great historical and legal significance took place on the ancestral lands of the Samson Cree Nation. For three weeks, the Federal Court of Canada moved the Federal Court to our land to hear from our Elders, in our language, the oral historical account of what took place when Treaty No. 6 of 1876 was negotiated and concluded. Their testimony is now part of the evidence in our landmark treaty and breach of trust lawsuit against the Federal Crown and thus, is part of the permanent Court record.
They testified that the Treaty is sacred and spiritual. The Treaty was entered into not only with the Crown and the Great Nation of the Plains Cree but also with the Creator. To violate the Treaty is to break promises made to the Creator.
Secondly, the Elders emphasized that we were promised that we would be able to live the way we always had. We never gave up our rights as Peoples. Their testimony confirmed that we did not give up our right to self-determination. We continue to this day to assert our sovereignty as a Nation.
Thirdly, the Elders told us that we agreed to share the land and to live in peace. We did not give up our rights to the natural resources.
Finally, the Elders stated that the Crown’s representatives agreed that the Treaty was sacred and spiritual, that we were not giving up our rights as Peoples and that they only wanted to share the land and did not come for the resources.
In final written and oral closing arguments from the Canadian Government, demeaning and disparaging descriptions of the respected Cree Elders and their testimony was put forward. The Government of Canada, through its lawyers, attacked the integrity of our Elders and showed outright contempt for our culture, protocols, spiritual beliefs and traditions. Correspondence was sent to the Prime Minister of Canada to register our outrage and dissatisfaction about the treatment afforded our Elders. We stated we had difficulty believing that the Prime Minister of Canada could possibly endorse such dishonorable and shameful conduct or that a majority of Canadians would support the unethical behavior of Canada in this case. The Prime Minister of Canada never responded to our correspondence. This is just one example of the judicial system in Canada and how the Government of Canada uses its policies, legislation and courts to undermine and thwart the legitimate claims of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada.
Yet, the Crown has ignored the spiritual aspects of the Treaty. The Crown has also extracted resources outside of the reserves with no benefits to Indigenous Peoples. In regard to Samson Indian Reserve resources and royalties, the Crown has acted unilaterally, improperly and without accountability. And through a statute called the Indian Act, the Crown has imposed on us colonial legislation which has denied our rights as Peoples.
However, through all of this, we have continued to uphold our agreement to Treaty.
Canada would not exist as a country without the Treaties. Nonetheless, Canada continues to violate its own rule of law by failing to honor and implement the Treaties as they were truly negotiated as understood by the Samson Cree and in their original spirit and intent.
It is time that Canada should be accountable to the international community for its disrespect and fundamental disregard of the Treaties. The historical inequitable treatment must be redressed and the true spirit of partnership between the Indian Nations and the Crown must be restored.”
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