From Remembrance to Reconciliation
In November 2013, the OHRC co-hosted, with community organizations representing communities of colour, a day of dialogue to build solidarity with the Aboriginal community and promote truth and reconciliation. “From Remembrance to Reconciliation – A Shared Community Dialogue on Our Roles as Treaty Peoples” also marked the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the 25th anniversary of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act.
The dialogue was organized by the Colour of Poverty/Colour of Change, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic and the OHRC, and sponsored by York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School. It featured keynote speaker Justice Murray Sinclair, Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). As well, former Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine and Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall, who are both Honorary Witnesses with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, offered their insights. As well, speakers from the Aboriginal, African, Chinese Canadian and South Asian Canadian communities described historical wrongs and their communities’ search for truth and reconciliation.
All participants were invited to sign a Statement of Commitment to Truth, Justice and Reconciliation, which called for:
- using the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for working towards ongoing reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples
- reparations for historical wrongs that have yet to be acknowledged and/or redressed by the governments in Canada
- extending the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“We are all Treaty peoples, and we share a collective responsibility to help bring about justice and equality for all. Reconciliation for Indigenous peoples and peoples of colour is an important first step towards that goal,” said Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.
Promoting the rights of Aboriginal Peoples: Impact and Benefit Agreements
Impact and Benefit Agreements (IBAs) are becoming an industry standard for resource development projects located on or affecting Aboriginal Peoples’ traditional lands and rights. The agreements often contain employment and contracting provisions that give priority for training, hiring and contracting to Aboriginal Peoples. However, some resource developers questioned whether these agreements contravened human rights legislation, and we heard concerns that the agreements were leading to unfair advantage for Aboriginal Peoples.
In March 2014, the OHRC released a statement supporting the legality of these provisions and confirming they can be considered “special programs” under the Code, to address historical disadvantage and promote substantive equality for Aboriginal Peoples in Ontario.
Impact Benefit Agreements (IBAs) are negotiated private contracts between one or more Aboriginal governments and a resource extraction company. IBAs typically provide commitments and benefits by the resource extractor, which includes mitigating or eliminating negative impacts on Aboriginal rights, and employment, training and contracting benefits. Mining and resource development sectors are increasingly seeing IBAs as a way to share benefits with Aboriginal Peoples whose rights would be affected by the proposed resource development project.
Writing to the UN Visiting Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights
The United Nations has recognized the important role human rights commissions can play in advancing the implementation of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the country level. In September 2013, we wrote to James Anaya, the United Nations visiting Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights, and provided information about our increasing efforts to reach out to Indigenous communities, including our involvement with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
We also talked about our work as a member of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA) calling on government to address the situation of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. Together with other commissions, we are developing a document on promising practices in advancing the human rights of Aboriginal Peoples.