The extraordinary and much-anticipated arrival and visit to Canada of James Anaya begins today, Monday, October 7, 2013. He is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He will travel and investigate across the country for eight days.
The visit comes at an explosive time in Canada as pressure mounts by First Nations peoples against tar sands and other fossil fuel projects in western and central Canada and as demands grow for a national, public inquiry into the cases of more than 600 missing or murdered women across the country, most of whom are Aboriginal. The federal government is also refusing international pressure to convene such an inquiry.
In addition to Anaya’s inquiry into the conditions of First Nations peoples, Canada is currently under investigation by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) over the responses of the federal government and federal and provincial judicial agencies to the murders and disappearances of more than 600 women across Canada in the past several decades.
Last February, Human Rights Watch issued a scathing report looking at the conduct of the RCMP in northern British Columbia regarding Aboriginal women, including how the force has investigated the cases of several dozen missing women along the ‘Highway of Tears’ connecting northern British Columbia to the small coastal city of Prince Rupert.
Anaya’s visit to Canada has been stalled for well over one year by the federal government. He first requested permission to visit in February 2012.
James Anaya is a member of the Apache and Purepecha First Nations in the United States and a professor of law at the University of Arizona. He was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as a special rapporteur in 2008. He will visit Ontario for several days, then spend one day each in Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
Toronto Star columnist Tim Harper provides an informative commentary on Anaya’s visit to Canada in today’s edition of the newspaper.