Will China take Stephen Harper to task for Canada’s record on human rights?

Andy Radia
·Politics Reporter

It's expected that prime minister Stephen Harper will raise the issue of China's human rights record this week while meeting with government officials in the middle kingdom.

But will China take Canada to task for its record on human rights?

In an ironic twist, a First Nations group from British Columbia is asking the Chinese government to raise the issue with Stephen Harper.

In an open letter to Chinese President Hu Jin Tao, the Yinka Dene Alliance, comprised of five First Nations communities in central British Columbia, suggest their human rights are being violated at the hands of the Canadian government.

"We are writing to you to request that you raise our human rights concerns with Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. We understand that you will meet with him in China this week. From previous public reports we know that Prime Minister Harper always challenges your country on the human rights record. Open dialogue around human rights is a very positive way to create change and we hope that you to hear our side of the story before this meeting occurs," notes the letter signed by Chiefs from the alliance's five first nations.

"Aboriginal communities in Canada live at the margins of society conditions. Recently the community of Attawapiskat was highlighted in the news for the extreme conditions with lack of housing, running water and sewage. Attawapiskat is one of more than 100 First Nations communities in Canada that face this reality. These conditions violate the adequate standard of living guaranteed by theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights."

The letter, published on the group's website, includes examples of human rights abuses against Aboriginal people: it notes their communities' disproportionate incarceration rates and the high number of aboriginal women that have gone missing or were murdered. The letter also warns the Chinese government of the legal uncertainty associated with the proposed Enbridge pipeline and tankers project:

"We have learned that Sinopec, and a subsidiary of China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), are among the companies that have signed preliminary, non-binding agreements with Enbridge in relation to this pipeline. The Canadian government's hearing process to review the Enbridge project cannot be relied upon to provide certainty to project investors, because it does not respect our rights to our land," notes the letter.

"Investors should not place confidence in Canada's system to review oil pipeline projects until the underlying question of our land rights has been resolved."