UN report on Canada’s treatment of aboriginal people in spotlight Monday

A much-anticipated report on the conditions facing aboriginal people in Canada will be made public on Monday, says UN special rapporteur James Anaya.

Canada saw and commented on a ‘preliminary’ version of the UN report

UN rapporteur on indigenous rights James Anaya talks about his report on Canada 7:09

The United Nations special envoy on the rights of indigenous people confirms he will publish on Monday his findings on the conditions in Canada's aboriginal communities, following a nine-day cross-country visit last fall.

“The report will be made public on Monday,” James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, told CBC News in an email on Saturday.

Anaya’s initial assessment of the conditions facing aboriginals in Canada was grim.

“From all I have learned, I can only conclude that Canada faces a crisis when it comes to the situation of indigenous peoples of the country," the UN fact-finder said last October.

Monday’s UN report comes at a fragile time for relations between the federal government and First Nations.

The government put “on hold” its prized but controversial First Nations education bill following the sudden resignation of Shawn Atleo as national chief for the Assembly of First Nations.

Bill C-33 will stay on hold until the AFN “clarifies” its position on the bill which it is expected to do during a special assembly of national chiefs in Ottawa on May 27.

‘Preliminary’ report

The UN report will not come entirely as a surprise to the federal government which had an opportunity to see an earlier copy of it.

Anaya told CBC News that as per the rules and procedures set out by the UN Human Rights Council, the federal government was given a chance to see and comment on an earlier version of the report.

“Canada was given the opportunity to see a confidential, preliminary version of the report, and it did submit to me comments, which I took into account in finalizing the report,” Anaya said in an email to CBC News on Saturday.

Otherwise, the report “remains confidential until finalized and made public,” Anaya said.

Last fall, the UN envoy also urged the federal government to:

  • not "rush" forward with the tabling of a First Nations education bill
  • “re-initiate discussions” with aboriginal leaders to develop a process and ultimately come up with an education bill “that addresses aboriginal concerns and incorporates aboriginal view points”
  • launch a "comprehensive and nationwide" inquiry into the case of missing and murdered aboriginal women
  • extend the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The federal government introduced Bill C-33 one month ago following what it said was extensive consultations with First Nations which began in December 2012. 

But as recently as two weeks ago, half a dozen chiefs came to Ottawa vowing to scrap the bill after complaining the government never consulted them. The two sides appear to differ on what constitutes a duty to consult.

While the government has refused to launch a national inquiry into the case of missing and murdered aboriginal women, the RCMP said this month there are about 1,186 recorded incidents by police of aboriginal homicides and unresolved missing women investigations. That report is expected to be released soon.

The federal government extended the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by a year, until June 2015, so that it can complete its work. An Ontario court ordered the government in 2013 to turn over all residential school documents.

Anaya’s term as special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples comes to a close at the end of the month.

The UN Human Rights Council confirmed on May 8 that Vicky Tauli-Corpuz will replace Anaya beginning June 1.