Leaders from First Nations across B.C. have returned home from Geneva, after presenting arguments on systemic racial discrimination experienced by Indigenous people in Canada.

The delegation addressing the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) shared its account of how Indigenous communities continue to face discrimination through federal policy.

"The overarching goal is to let the international world know that Canada has some very serious racial discrimination occurring toward First Nations people, systemically and systematically, and the fact that Canada continues to ignore its very own laws that flow from the Supreme Court of Canada," said Chief Bob Chamberlain, vice president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

"The members of CERD were very interested in what First Nations had to speak about, in terms of Canada's foundation, based upon the Doctrine of Discovery, which is a very racist document," said Chamberlain.

'Canada's dirty little secret'

"The committee went well over time to ask questions, so I take from that they were quite keen and very interested to hear more and learn more about Canada's dirty little secret about racial discrimination, as a country, towards First Nations people," he said.

Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Nation is an executive member of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. This was her first trip to Geneva to represent Indigenous communities.

"The CERD committee members were very responsive and had good questions for us internally, and they also had really good questions to the Canadian delegations, who I felt deflected and minimized the issues," said Wilson.

Indigenous Nations at UN

Chief Judy Wilson from the Neskonlith Nation is an executive member of the B.C. Union on Indian Chiefs. She was one of the Indigenous representatives who presented to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"One hundred and fifty years years of colonization under the state, that's what we're fighting about, and the thing is, our people will continue to do that, because we have to do that ensure that, you know, everybody has the planet, the Mother Earth to take care of."

Wilson said many of the issues around racial discrimination stem from struggles over land rights and title and major resource projects are often to blame.

"As Indigenous people, we'll continue to be at the international front, at the national front and in the provinces and wherever we need to be to continue the work we're doing, because it's very important to everyone," she said.


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