As Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives in Beijing to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao, the Yinka Dene Alliance of First Nations in the interior of BC have written an open letter ( http://ow.ly/8U7S7 ) to President Hu to remind him of Canada's troublesome record when it comes to aboriginal rights.
Of immediate concern in the letter is the government's plan to approve the Enbridge pipeline and tankers project, despite the fact that First Nations have clearly refused consent for the pipeline to cross their traditional territories. The letter, signed by five chiefs, tells the Chinese government of the legal uncertainty associated with the Enbridge pipeline and tankers project: "We have learned that Sinopec, and a subsidiary of China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), are among the companies that have signed preliminary, non-binding agreements with Enbridge in relation to this pipeline. The Canadian government's hearing process to review the Enbridge project cannot be relied upon to provide certainty to project investors, because it does not respect our rights to our land. Investors should not place confidence in Canada's system to review oil pipeline projects until the underlying question of our land rights has been resolved." The Yinka Dene Alliance includes Nadleh Whut'en, Nak'azdli, Takla Lake, Saik'uz, and Wet'suwet'en First Nations in northern BC who have banned the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines from their territories, which cover 25% of the proposed pipeline route, as indicated in this map:
Nadleh Whut'en First Nation
Chief Larry Nooski
250-613-7102 Saik'uz First Nation
Chief Jackie Thomas
YINKA DENE ALLIANCE
Open letter to His Excellency President Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
9 Xihuang‐Chenggen Beijie
Beijing, People’s Republic of China
Hadih President Hu:
We, the Yinka Dene Alliance are comprised of five First Nations communities in central British
Columbia, Canada: Nadleh Whut’en, Nak’azdli, Takla Lake, Saik’uz and Wet’suwet’en.Our
British Columbia remains unextinguished.The Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed that our
Aboriginal title remains unextinguished. We have been at the negotiation table with public
governments for many years with no success and the current deliberations are on hold awaiting
mandates from federal negotiators.A recent United States government cable referenced the slow
pace of treaties and stated, “(the) Lack of a standard model for resolving comprehensive land
claims, self‐government agreements, and the absence of a clear legal definition of what constitutes
an ‘aboriginal right’ have resulted in complex multi‐year negotiations, a significant claims backlog,
and friction between aboriginal communities and the federal and provincial governments.” This is
a true synopsis of the dysfunctional relationship between First Nations and the federal and
We are writing to you to request that you raise our human rights concerns with Canada’s Prime
Minister, Stephen Harper. We understand that you will meet with him in China this week.From
previous public reports we know that Prime Minister Harper always challenges your country on the
human rights record.Open dialogue around human rights is a very positive way to create change
and we hope that you to hear our side of the story before this meeting occurs.
Since colonization Canada has forced us to live under an Indian Act, a piece of federal legislation
that restricts our rights and freedoms.During colonization our territories were taken away, along
with our voting rights and ability to hire legal counsel for to negotiate the return of our lands.In
recent years, with the patriation of Canada’s Constitution (1982) including the creation of Section
35, we have been forced to the Courts to protect our rights.
Aboriginal communities in Canada live at the margins of society – in abject poverty with appalling
conditions.Recently the community of Attawapiskat was highlighted in the news for the extreme
conditions with lack of housing, running water and sewage.Attawapiskat is one of more than 100
First Nations communities in Canada that face this reality. These conditions violate the adequate
standard of living guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the rights to
adequate housing, education, and other rights guaranteed in the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Yinka Dene Alliance c/o Saik’uz First Nation, 135 Joseph St, Saik’uz Traditional Territory (Vanderhoof, BC, Canada) V0J 3A1
We have other examples that we feel should be highlighted in your meeting with Canada’s Prime
Minister. These are only a few examples in the recent history of human rights abuses against
Aboriginal people committed by Canada – in violation of Canadian law and of International law:
Missing and murdered Aboriginal women. More than 580 aboriginal women and girls in Canada
are missing or murdered and there is little to no support by the governments to undertake a
Prisons. Canada’s prisons are overflowing with our people. Nationally our people amount to
about 4% of the population of Canada and the jails in our area comprise 80% of the prison
population. Canada’s response is to build more prisons instead of working with our people to find
Mr. Dudley George, Ipperwash, Ontario. During a 1995 dispute in Ipperwash Provincial Park,
Ontario an Ontario Provincial Police officer killed Dudley George, an unarmed First Nations person.
Often the police have taken hostile approaches to situations that are impacted by unresolved land
and treaty rights. A judicial inquiry found evidence of government wrongdoing in this case.
Mr. Frank Paul. In 1998 police in Vancouver callously dragged this homeless First Nations
member from the confines of a police wagon and dumped him in the alley outside to freeze to
death. A judicial inquiry found evidence of government wrongdoing in this case.
Mr. Clayton Willey. In 2003 police tortured this Aboriginal man in a Prince George jail cell. He was
tasered numerous times while his hands and feet were bound. He died of a heart attack while in
Saskatchewan freezing deaths. In the past there have been numerous deaths that we feel were
caused by the Saskatoon Police Service. Accusations have been made that police officers would
arrest aboriginal men and drive them to the outside of the city in the middle of winter and abandon
them. Some men of died from hypothermia due to these practices. A judicial inquiry has found
evidence of government wrongdoing in connection with these deaths.
Resource development without our support. There are so many cases that are too numerous to
report about First Nations protecting our rights to the land and then being sent to prison. The most
recent issue that is of interest to your government is the transport of crude oil through our
territories. A Canadian company called Enbridge has taken a hostile approach with our people by
its continued intention to build their pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Ocean in spite
of our opposition, and we do not support their proposal. Several Chinese State‐Owned Enterprises
have been reported to invest in this proposal and we are open to meeting directly with them, but
Enbridge has refused to reveal the identity of most of these companies.
We have learned that
Sinopec, and a subsidiary of China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), are among the companies
that have signed preliminary, non‐binding agreements with Enbridge in relation to this pipeline.
The Canadian government’s hearing process to review the Enbridge project cannot be relied upon
to provide certainty to project investors, because it does not respect our rights to our land.
Investors should not place confidence in Canada’s system to review oil pipeline projects until the
underlying question of our land rights has been resolved. An oil spill in our lands and rivers would
destroy our fish, poison our water, and devastate our Aboriginal people, our culture and our
livelihoods. An oil spill on the coast would destroy sources of seafood and fish, like crabs, for
thousands of people. We have taken the time to develop a submission to the United Nations
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), detailing how Canada’s plans to
construct this pipeline violate the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which will
be presented to the Committee later this month.