Indigenous communities finding common ground
Grand Chief Stan Beardy of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Northern Ontario said something interesting last night at the public panel on Indigenous Rights and Resource Extraction: We face the same challenges as indigenous peoples around the world – yet we are part of Canada. As he went into the story of his community, the similarities between his story and that of the other panelists from Guatemala, Ecuador and the Philippines were shockingly evident. Where he is living, mining interests are taking precedence over those of his community, which is hardly being consulted on a project that could threaten their very way of life. They have been given little information about the potential environmental impact, an impact that could effectively tear the fabric of their spiritual connection to the land. Six members of his community were sentenced to six months in jail simply for protecting their land. What becomes striking in hearing all these stories is how the rights of Indigenous people, from North to South, continue to be ignored and put aside. Is it because the Earth is sacred for them? Because they believe in preserving the environment and worshipping its riches over brutally ripping them out? Chief Beardy ended by asking us to step up to the challenge, to search our hearts, minds and souls, to support Indigenous rights here in Canada – and by extension around the world. It is a challenge that needs to be taken up quickly and is happening as we speak right here in this room.