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Friday, June 17, 2011

It's About Time

  Today, it was announced that the 700, 000 Aboriginal people who reside on First Nations reserves in Canada will finally be awarded the same human rights protections as other Canadians. Amazingly, when the new Charter of Rights and Freedoms was penned in 1977, First Nations persons were excluded from the freedoms that all other Canadians enjoy, such as protection from workplace discrimination.

  Originally, the Feds claimed that the goings-on of reserves weren't a big deal, since the Indian Act should protect those both on and off reserves. Finally, after years of pressure from international factions, the government acquiesced, admitting they were wrong all along, but taking time to enjoy the spotlight: 

"The Canadian government has taken an important step toward correcting this historic injustice," said David Langtry, acting chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
"The purpose of the Canadian Human Rights Act is to ensure equality of opportunity and freedom from discrimination for all people in Canada. The exclusion of people governed by the Indian Act from human rights law was discriminatory and contrary to democratic principles."
  The new law comes into effect tomorrow, and it's hoped that a real difference can be made to the living conditions of Aboriginals living on reserves, half of whom don't even have access to safe drinking water. A quick look at your average reserve will make most of you readers weep. First Nations people routinely live in shacks with little to no basic health care, unsafe or no electricity, and very limited social services. The levels of unemployment are horrifying, and those who do have the education to gain the few available jobs have often been prevented by disabilities. There are often pockets of devastating diseases of old, such as polio and tuberculosis combined with high rates of HIV and Hepatitis infection.
  While the immediate effects of recognizing First Nations people as equal Canadians aren't entirely known, it is never to late to at least attempt to atone for such a gross injustice committed against what were once proud societies. For example, details might need to be ironed out, like who pays for accessibility and health and the availability of federal transfer monies. One surefire change is that tribes will no longer be able to hurt their own with anti-LGBT and anti-disability rulings, which have plagued some groups more than others. Employment prospects for First Nations members should increase soon, both on and off of the prisons called Reserves.
  Many Canadians take their liberties for granted, but for those who have been rendered second class under the Indian Act, detention from birth is a way of life. Unbeknownst to most, the nation that fights for the freedoms of other global citizens was isolating, stealing from, abusing, and quashing the rights of their own. And as of today, that promises to change, but make no mistake, the government didn't give anyone anything- we demanded it ferociously and they saw the writing on the wall.
  Victories for humanity are never small, to be sure, but this one is as monumental as any human rights ruling in the modern history of the western world. It's not just those of us who have relatives confined in Canada's barrios who are triumphant today, it's a very real conquest to be shared with all; for if it weren't for international unity, the sombre song would be the same for generations to come. 
  It's never to late to change the future.
  Be well.

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