Follow-up Report to the CHRC on the Human Rights of the Innu of Labrador
August 9, 2021 – St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador– Canadian Human Rights Commission
Today, the Commission was pleased to receive the Follow up Report to the Canadian Human Rights Commission on the Human Rights of the Innu of Labrador. This third report on the Human Rights of the Innu of Labrador builds on two previous reports on the rights of the Innu, issued in 1993 and 2002.
The Commission is grateful to the authors of the 2021 report, Celeste Mackay and Professor Donald McRae, and to the Innu Nation for sharing their experiences and knowledge. It is the Commission’s hope that this report will help shine a light on the situation of the Innu and lead to lasting change.
As the report clearly outlines, the Innu of Labrador continue to face systemic discrimination and significant obstacles to the full enjoyment of their rights. Since 2002, there have been notable developments domestically and internationally towards the promotion and protection of Indigenous rights. Yet, there has been little change in the situation of the Innu. More must be done.
We urge the federal and provincial governments to review this report closely, and to give full and serious consideration to the recommendations it contains:
- The federal government should make a new commitment to the conclusion of the Modern Treaty negotiations with the Innu in accordance with its human rights obligations.
- Pending resolution of the Modern Treaty negotiations, the federal government should take immediate action in collaboration with the Innu to resolve critical gaps in services. Such action must be consistent with its obligation to ensure substantive equality.
- The federal government should move quickly to complete negotiations on the decommissioning of the old village site on Iluikoyak Island, including the appointment of a project manager and providing adequate funding to allow the site to be adapted by the Innu according to their own priorities and values. This should be achieved within one year of the release of this Report.
- The federal government should support anti-racism measures to address the systemic racism facing the Innu. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador should give high priority to advancing the work of the anti-racism working group that it had agreed with the Innu in 2019 to establish. The intended mandate of this working group is to address systemic racism in health care and other services.
- The provincial and federal governments must act to ensure the timely launch of the promised inquiry into the treatment of Innu children in provincial care. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador first announced plans for this inquiry in 2017, and the federal government declared that it would be a “full participant” in the inquiry in 2018, but a launch date has yet to be announced.
Additionally, the federal government should work closely and meaningfully with the Innu to ensure that their priorities and values are reflected in any action taken. This approach aligns with the federal government’s Indigenous rights obligations, as affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Principles respecting the Government of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples.
Today, as we celebrate International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, let us commit to redressing the historic and ongoing injustices experienced by the Innu. The time for the federal government to act is long past due. We must protect all human rights so that every person in Canada can live with health, safety, security, well-being, and access to human rights justice.
The Commission is pleased to have partnered with the Innu Nation, Celeste McKay Consulting Inc., and Professor Donald McRae in producing this Follow-up Report to the Canadian Human Rights Commission on the Human Rights of the Innu of Labrador. It was developed following visits and consultations with the Innu Nation, beginning in 2019, by CHRC Chief Commissioner Marie-Claude Landry, other CHRC staff, and the authors.
This document builds on two previous reports on the rights of the Innu, issued in 1993 and 2002 following investigations by Professor McRae and Professor Constance Backhouse. The 1993 Report concluded that the Government of Canada had violated its constitutional responsibilities toward the Innu. While significant progress had been made by 2002, the 2002 investigation found that the funding and range of programs and services available to the Innu was still not equivalent to that provided to other First Nations, and that Canada was at risk of violating its international human rights obligations and failing to meet the recommendations of the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
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