UN offers ‘advice’ to Harper on how to deal with Idle No More protests

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

A "United Nations expert" has some advice for prime minister Stephen Harper with regard to Chief Theresa Spence and the Idle No More movement.

On Tuesday, James Anaya, the UN's special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, issued a statement saying that while he is encouraged by reports that Harper will meet with First Nations leaders on Friday, he hopes that both sides will adhere to the standards expressed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Declaration states that indigenous peoples have the right to maintain their distinct identities and cultures as a basis of their development and place in the world, to pursue their own destinies under conditions of equality, and to have secure rights over lands and resources, with due regard for their traditional patterns of use and occupancy.

In particular, Mr. Anaya highlighted one of the preambles in the Declaration which affirms that treaties, agreements and other arrangements are the basis for a strengthened partnership between indigenous peoples and States.

Anaya goes on to say that he is concerned about the health of hunger-striking Chief Spence and that he will "continue to monitor the developments."

[ Related: Reporter evicted from Attawapiskat reserve ]

In recent years, Anaya and the UN have been critical of the Canadian government's handling of First Nations' issues.

In December 2011, in the midst of the Attawapiskat housing crisis, the special rapporteur issued a statement stating that: "the social and economic situation of the Attawapiskat seems to represent the condition of many First Nation communities living on reserves throughout Canada, which is allegedly akin to third world conditions."

In response to that public rebuke, the Harper government quickly fired back, characterizing the statement as an attention-grabbing publicity stunt.

[ Related: Chief Phil Fontaine expresses hope for hunger strike, Idle No More protests ]

While the Tories haven't responded to Anaya's latest letter, the Sun News' Ezra Levant has: