Press Launch of the Follow up Report to the Canadian Human Rights Commission on the Human Rights of the Innu of Labrador

Speaking Notes

Marie Claude Landry, Ad. E.
Chief Commissioner
Canadian Human Rights Commission
Press Launch of the Follow up Report to the Canadian Human Rights Commission on the Human Rights of the Innu of Labrador

August 9, 2021

1:30 p.m. Newfoundland Time

8 minutes

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Good afternoon everyone.

What a great day this is… and a long awaited one.

We gather here today on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples to release the Follow up Report to the Canadian Human Rights Commission on the Human Rights of the Innu of Labrador.

I would like to begin by respectfully acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the ancestral homelands of the Beothuk whose culture has been erased forever.

I would also like to acknowledge with respect the diverse histories and cultures of the Mi’kmaq, Innu and Inuit of Newfoundland and Labrador.

As First Peoples have done since time immemorial, we strive to be responsible stewards of the land and to respect the cultures, ceremonies and traditions of all who call it home.

As we open our hearts to the past, we commit ourselves to working in a spirt of truth and reconciliation to make a better future for all.

As I stand here today, I reflect fondly on the impactful discussions I had in Ottawa with former Grand Chief Gregory Rich and a delegation of the Innu Nation in spring 2018.

I am also filled with vivid and fond memories of the time I spent visiting with Innu communities in Sheshatshiu and Natuashish in the following year.

I was and continue to be taken and moved by:

  • the resilience of the Innu people,
  • the beauty of their landscape,
  • their innate self reliance and self determination,
  • the richness of their history, and
  • the dedication of their leaders.

These memories are forever engraved in my heart and I am ever grateful to the Nation for their warm welcome and their openness.

Twenty eight years have passed since the original 1993 investigative study into the human rights of the Innu Nation…

…Nearly two decades since the first follow up report in 2002…

…It is a long time…

…Some would even define it as a generation.

And in that time, we have seen a promising arch of progress in the way that people in Canada and Canada’s leaders understand and recognize the rights of Indigenous peoples.

There has been a shift in the national conversation. The national consciousness.

People in Canada have a better working knowledge today than they did twenty years ago of how the historic roots of colonialism continue to show up in the chronic gaps in equality for many Indigenous peoples.

We have seen a wave of government programs, Prime Ministerial apologies, National Inquiries, and other initiatives that have all led to improved life for many Indigenous people in Canada.


As this report will show, many challenges that are still playing out today for the Innu people are remarkably similar to those outlined in the original 1993 Report.

To quote the report directly: “The Innu people are still owed a debt of justice for decades long denial of their human rights.”

We are talking about some of the most basic rights issues, including:

  • access to health care,
  • interacting safely with the police and government officials,
  • systemic racism and discrimination, and
  • education, language and culture.

We’re talking about how the Innu Nation needs to be recognized the same as other First Nations communities have been over the past two decades.

This includes:

  • equitable access to essential federal services,
  • recognition of and compensation for the impacts of the residential school system on generations of Innu people, and
  • full inclusion in national inquiries, and the human rights ruling over federally funded child welfare services.

These initiatives, which have taken place over the past two decades, have continuously fallen short when it comes to including the voices and realities of the Innu.

Today, with the release of this 70 page comprehensive study, governments now have a roadmap to best address and improve the human rights situation of the Innu. It provides a roadmap on how to restore the ability of the Innu to exercise the rights they had been denied.

Because at the end of the day, at the heart of this study is the Innu Nation’s right to self determination, to self government, and to exercise control over their lands, territories and resources.

The Innu have a rich history that has been marred by colonialism, paternalism, displacement and the intergenerational impacts of residential schools in the same way that other Indigenous histories have across Canada.

This history, and its bearing on the present day struggles of the Innu Nation, must not be forgotten.

It must be answered with the same sense of urgency and action that other First Nations and Indigenous communities are finally being shown.

We hope this report today is the jumping off point.

We call on the federal and provincial governments to review this report closely, and to give full and serious consideration to the recommendations it contains.

They must work closely and meaningfully with the Innu to ensure that their priorities and values are reflected in any action taken.

On a final note, I will say that while sometimes in life “thank you” is not big enough to convey all that is in your heart, I nevertheless must say thank you to several key players in today’s report.

First and foremost, to the Innu leadership, Innu community members and Innu legal representatives whose testimony and leadership have helped drive this undertaking.

And to Celeste McKay and Professor Donald McRae, for lending their eloquence to the page and making this report not only comprehensive, but a powerful read.

Our collective hope is that the findings and recommendations in these pages spur concrete action toward substantive equality for the Innu.

Only then will Canada be able to say that it is starting to live up to its human rights obligations.

Thank you.


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