The United Nations (UN) International Day of the World’s Indigenous People is observed each year on August 9 in Canada and elsewhere around the globe. This day is celebrated to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population. This is also an occasion to recognize the many valuable achievements and contributions that indigenous people make to our environment and way of life.
Across the globe, approximately 370 million indigenous people continue to endure and deal with longstanding injustice and discrimination. Covert forms of colonization continue to impose harsh policies of extermination on indigenous communities, resulting in many extinct tribes and putting the rest on endangered watch. Because of globalization, state governments tolerate multinational companies in dispossessing indigenous people of their traditional lands, territories and natural resources. Take India, Brazil, Thailand, and Malaysia, for example, where multinational companies have blatantly stolen the biological resources used by indigenous communities for many generations, halting them to use their own natural resources. Globalization has invaded, manipulated and destroyed the indigenous people’s cultures, languages, spirituality and traditions.
The UN is focusing this year’s theme on how the indigenous media can challenge myths and misconceptions about the indigenous communities. As Canada’s largest private sector union, we fully support the UN in upholding the strength that media has in narrating our indigenous sisters’ and brothers’ social and cultural experiences and then sharing their stories to the world. With their human rights often being historically violated, media can put these cases to international attention, elicit global solidarity, and put pressure on the government’s social and political agenda. Most importantly, media can be helpful in re-constructing stolen identities and effectively altering the existing mainstream narratives.
The indigenous struggle to fight for their human rights is far from over. Although our indigenous sisters and brothers have recognized rights laid out in Conventions 107 and 169 under the International Labor Organization (ILO), many governments still routinely violate their rights. Here in Canada, the Harper government persists in ignoring the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), utterly compromising the basic necessities of our indigenous sisters and brothers. The government’s systematic failure to provide and properly restore their inherent rights as the first inhabitants of this nation falls short of international standards.
As we observe the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, let us empower the voices of the Inuit of the Arctic, the Iroquois of the Eastern Woodlands, the Peoples of the Plains, the Peoples of the Plateau, and the Peoples of the Northwest Coast. Let us rally round in getting their voices heard while highlighting their contributions and potential. As continue to support to our national partner, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (FNCFCS), let us remember the paramount importance of protecting our indigenous sisters and brothers’ human rights. Let us stand behind them in preserving their ancestral territories and ethnic identity for the sake of our future generation.