Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
Little Buffalo Lake, AB
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, AB T6J 1A4
April 4, 1991
Enclosed for your information is a copy of a newspaper article on the annual report of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The report again identifies the plight of aboriginal people in Canada as Canada's "No. 1 human rights problem."
The article also records the total lack of effective response on the part of the man who carries constitutional responsibility for insuring that the rights of aboriginal people in Canada are respected and enforced -- Federal Indian Affairs Minister Tom Siddon. Such obvious and total ineptness would not be tolerated in most government portfolios. That Mr. Siddon is Federal Indian Affairs Minister only once again underscores the nature of the problem faced by aboriginal people in Canada.
re-printed without permission from The Edmonton Journal, Wednesday, March 20, 1991
HARD TIMES FUEL RACISM, YALDEN FEARS
Bigotry 'alive and well'
Journal News Services
Tough economic times could lead to increased racism in Canada, the country's human rights watchdog warned Tuesday.
In his annual report to Parliament, Max Yalden said hard times tend to provide "a breeding ground for racial prejudice."
There's a tendency "to pick on those who are most vulnerable," said Yalden, head of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
His annual report said racism and bigotry are "alive and well" in public and private workplaces, schools, shops, government departments, banks and television companies.
Incidents such as white supremacist rallies, the desecration of cemeteries and the sale of racist pins and posters cannot be ignored as aberrations, the commission said.
"I'm not saying that the Canadian working man is a racist," Yalden told a news conference.
"In times of problems over employment and problems over making a decent wage, people are increasingly tense about other people who may be perceived as taking the employment that they would like to have."
Yalden's report said injustices plaguing natives remain Canada's No. 1 human-rights problem.
It pointed to last summer's violent confrontation at Oka, Que., as evidence Canada will ignore these problems at its peril.
But just hours after Yalden repeated his call for a royal commission into aboriginal issues; the minister of Indian affairs dismissed the suggestion as premature.
Tom Siddon said larger constitutional questions have to be resolved first.
"I think it's premature to give a royal commission a mandate when there are so many profound and important questions about the future of Canada and our future constitutional relationships which are yet unsettled," Siddon said outside the Commons.
He insisted he hadn't closed the door on a royal commission. But progress is being made through consultation with native leadership, he said.
Yalden warned that Canada's international reputation for upholding human rights would take a beating unless solutions to aboriginal problems were found.
"There are some very grave problems relating to the aboriginal people in this country and we do not know our way out of the maze."
He called the standoff at Oka "the crucial event of 1990" and suggested the public attention given to aboriginal affairs as a result "was probably helpful in bringing Canadians to realize the extent of the problem."
Although French-English tensions in Canada are not likely to go away, Yalden said, he does not expect them to increase because of the debate over the Constitution.
"I wouldn't expect to see more stamping on the Quebec flag," he said. He was referring to the much-publicized incident in which a Brockville, Ont., man wiped his feet on the fleur-de-lis during the debate over the Meech Lake accord.
The report also called for action to address the wrongs native children experienced at residential schools.
It called the school system -- in which native children were scooped out of their communities and sent to religious schools where they were forced to speak English -- "consciously assimilationist."
The report took the government to task for failing to broaden the scope of the Human Rights Act to protect gays from discrimination.
It also repeated calls to ban discrimination on the basis of political beliefs and criminal convictions, and it urged an end to mandatory retirement. Competence, not age, should determine when a worker must retire, it said.