FWD: WCAR - Remarks of Matthew Coon Come

Craven, Jim jcraven at clark.edu
Thu Sep 6 11:38:39 MDT 2001

-----Original Message-----
From: ericlowl at netscape.net [mailto:ericlowl at netscape.net]
Sent: Wednesday, September 05, 2001 11:23 AM
To: jcraven at clark.edu
Subject: [FWD: WCAR - Remarks of Matthew Coon Come]

Dear Jim:

Please review the remarks of Chief Mathew Coon Come regarding the World
Conference Against Racism which is in session now in South Africa.  If you
have any questions contact me at ericlowl at netscape.net or contact the
American Indian Law Alliance.


Eric Listening Owl

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From: ailanyc <ailanyc at abest.com>
[To list snipped]
Subject: WCAR - Remarks of Matthew Coon Come
Date: Tue, 04 Sep 2001 14:23:05 -0700

Dear Indigenous Sisters and Brothers,

Please find below for your information two pertinent excerpts from Assembly
of First Nations Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come's remarks at the World
Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa.

Best wishes,
American Indian Law Alliance




 [Remarks in Cree.]

 Please consider for a moment how the world would react if the United
 Nations General Assembly declared that "all women", or "all blacks
 people", have no fundamental human rights, except as determined in
 "negotiations" with state parties.  This would not be tolerated.  Yet
 this is exactly what is being done to Indigenous peoples in the current
 World Conference Declaration.

 Paragraph 27 of the current draft of the World Conference Declaration,
 which was adopted at the Third Preparatory Committee meetings in August
 2001, contains a paragraph which constitutes a racist attack by the U.N.
 on the rights of Indigenous peoples.

 I will read you one sentence from this discriminatory paragraph:

 "The use of the term "indigenous peoples" in the World Conference
 Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related
 Intolerance Declaration and Programme of Action cannot be construed as
 having any implications as regards the rights that may attach to the
 term under international law."  (End of quote.)

 In this technical language, Indigenous peoples all over the world, are
 being told that the status and fundamental rights that inhere in "All
 peoples" according to the International Covenants do not inhere in us.
 Indigenous peoples are being told at this Conference that that our
 status and human rights as peoples are not recognized and are not
 applicable. We are being told that our peoples, numbering 400 million or
 more, are not being recognized as equals among other peoples of the

 Elsewhere in the same discriminatory paragraph, Indigenous peoples are
 also being told by the U.N. that the fundamental human rights of all
 peoples are not universal - but are rather to be determined in
 "negotiations" that will be subject to the prejudices and self-interest
 of U.N. state parties.

 The U.N. is proposing to contradict the rulings of its own U.N. Human
 Rights Committee, the body that rules on State Party compliance with the
 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  The Human Rights
 Committee has clearly and repeatedly recognized Indigenous peoples as
 peoples in international law.

 There is also other text in the draft declaration that singles out
 indigenous peoples for restrictive treatment.  If the final Declaration
 contains any language which denies the rights of Indigenous peoples as
 peoples in international law or subjects our peoples to other
 restrictions on our rights and protections, the United Nations will be
 guilty of practising and perpetuating racism and discrimination in its
 own system. Ironically, this is taking place at a World Conference
 Against Racism.

 These developments, which are taking place at the insistence of the
 United States with the involvement of a few other states, are
 unprecedented in modern international law.  They reflect some of the
 worst aspects of colonialism, racial discrimination and official denial
 of access to universal human rights.  If adopted, the paragraphs
 concerned would be illegitimate and illegal, and would contradict the
 overall purposes of the World Conference itself.

 The government of Canada's official position is that the right of
 self-determination applies to all peoples, including indigenous
 peoples.  We applaud this position, which is one of international
 leadership.  However, so far, the Government of Canada has not insisted
 that these discriminatory paragraphs be deleted from the World
 Conference Declaration.  We do not know of any government at this
 Conference that is insisting that our right to equal access to universal
 human rights be upheld.


 The U.N Human Rights Committee reminded Canada that indigenous peoples'
 rights not to be deprived of our own means of subsistence and to be
 afforded the benefit of its natural wealth and resources are part of our
 fundamental human right of self-determination.   As stated by the
 Canadian Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, if indigenous peoples
 are not afforded adequate access to lands and resources, our societies
 face economic, political and cultural extinction.  This is true in
 Canada and it is true everywhere else.   For indigenous peoples, this is
 a matter of our survival.

 This is the importance of full international recognition of our right to
 self determination, at this Conference and everywhere.  Our peoples must
 have the fundamental protections that these rights afford.  As some of
 the most marginalized and dispossessed peoples in the world, we must be
 able to insist, from a position of enforceable rights, to full access to
 our lands and resources, and to full respect for our rights as peoples
 to meaningfully determine our own political futures.

 This has nothing to do with secession and indigenous independence
 movements.  There are certainly no such movements among indigenous
 peoples in Canada, and I have not heard of them anywhere else.  The
 Indigenous peoples I have met from all parts of the world are asking
 only for just and equitable treatment within the states in which they
 now live as vulnerable and threatened nations.   International law, as
 all governments know, provides very strong protections for the
 territorial integrity of all states.

 Sadly, for indigenous peoples, however, as a result of the shameless
 actions of a few powerful states, there is now language in the draft
 World Conference texts that is a shocking manifestation of international
 racism and discrimination.

 For indigenous peoples, the steps now being taken at this Conference
 seem to go backwards.  It seems to me there is little purpose in
 discussing other, broader positive measures if discrimination and racism
 against the most fundamental rights of indigenous peoples is now being
 put into U.N. General Assembly texts.

 There is no place for discriminatory and harmful language of any kind at
 the World Conference Against Racism, whether it affects indigenous
 peoples or any other peoples.  The measures that need to be taken in
 Canada and in every other country, must be steps that move indigenous
 peoples, and all peoples forward.

 Thank you.  Giyabonga.  Miigwetch.

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