As a former Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada and as current member of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), my presentation on "Indigenous Health and Wellbeing"will be to share our recent findings and advice from two reports.
For over 150 years, an Indian Residential School policy was enforced in Canada. Some 150,000 children were removed from their parents and placed in Residential schools across Canada, the stated purpose of which was "to kill the Indian in the child". Called by some as the "saddest, darkest and most unknown chapter in the history of Canada", it resulted in the largest class action lawsuit in Canadian legal history. Thousands of cases of abuse on children were settled out of court through an agreement which had four elements, one of which was the establishment of the unique Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).
A court ordered mandate for the three Commissioners was to find the truth of what happened including a complete background history and legacy of the Residential schools. The presentation will cover the direct assault on the identity, languages, cultures, family and communities of Indigenous Peoples. It will also cover the background of the TRC of Canada, how it went about its work and what the findings were with a focus on the consequences of the policy on the health of children and the resulting inter-generational trauma. After an extended five year term, a Summary report and a Final Report were released with ninety four (94) Calls to Action. A very important part of the court order was to take this knowledge from the truth gathering, the strength and resilience of the survivors and inform a path to Reconciliation. How do we restore respectful relationships?
The UN Human Rights Council also instructed the Expert Members of EMRIP to do a study on "The right to health and Indigenous Peoples with a focus on children and youth". The study consists of a critical analysis of the content of the right to health via-a-vis Indigenous Peoples and a review of the legal obligations of States and others in terms of fulfilling that right. It also looks at current challenges relating to Indigenous peoples and the right to health like persons with disabilities, environmental health, climate change and displacement. We conclude with Advice to the Human Rights Council directed to States, Indigenous Peoples and other third parties. (This was recently presented and adopted at the last session of the Human Rights Council in September.)