A well-known indigenous people’s rights advocate activist and United Nations (UN) expert was in town recently to examine ways of overcoming obstacles toward the full and effective protection of native people’s freedom.
UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz recently visited British Columbia to speak on her priorities and challenges as special rapporteur and to listen to concerns facing First Nations groups in the province.
Media have reported that in a Westbank gathering, Okanagan Nation Alliance Chief Stewart Phillip conveyed to Tauli-Corpuz that First Nations peoples’ rights have been neglected under the Harper government and First Nations will continue to be marginalized until a new government is elected.
Phillip made the remarks during Tauli-Corpuz’s Mar. 31 meeting with First Nations leaders from around B.C. He referred to a July 2014 report by the UN on Canada’s relationship with its indigenous peoples, which stated that initiatives undertaken by the government to address problems have been insufficient.
“This is a very significant time in our respective nation’s history where we have an opportunity to formally bring forth, to the United Nations, the difficulties that the indigenous people in British Columbia are facing today,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tauli-Corpuz visited Vancouver from Apr. 1 to 3, and spoke on what she described as the continuous violation of people’s rights by corporations and governments around the globe wanting to extract resources mostly found in indigenous people’s territories.
The talks were sponsored by Kathara Pilipino Indigenous Arts Collective Society and hosted by Migrante. Other discussions were presented by UBCO’s Indigenous Studies Program and the Schools of Arts and Sciences, with support from the International Distinguished Visitor Fund.
Tauli-Corpuz is from the Kankanaey Igorot people of the Cordillera Region in the Philippines. She is a social development consultant, an international indigenous activist, civic leader, human rights expert, public servant and advocate of women’s rights.
As an activist, she helped organize indigenous peoples in the community level to fight against the projects of then President Marcos. They succeeded in stopping the Chico River Hydroelectric Dam and the Cellophil Resources Corporation.
Corpuz is a trained nurse from the University of the Philippines. – MM