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|The UN Human Rights Council
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UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW
scrutinizing state behavior in
relation to their legal human
rights obligations as signatories
to the international human rights
on Human Rights (IACHR)
|The UN Permanent Forum
on Indigenous Issues (PFII)
PERMANENT FORUM ON INDIGENOUS ISSUES
Agenda Item 6 - Rights of indigenous peoples to food and food sovereignty
Presented by the International Human Rights Association of American
We can't eat our rights, and we will not survive culturally or economically, and therefore
neither politically or socially, on genetically modified crops and animals.
We call the Chair's attention to three striking examples of the disastrous results of
indifference to indigenous food sovereignty from British Columbia, Canada.
Industrial Atlantic salmon feedlots have been in operation on the coast of British
Columbia for two decades, despite serious protest from indigenous nations and no
consultation on the matter from government with the vast majority of indigenous nations
affected by them. The farms are disease vectors and they are situated directly in the
wild Pacific salmon migration corridor of the Fraser watershed and that of many coastal
systems in southern BC, where the farms are located.
These wild salmon have always been the lifeblood of the coastal and interior peoples.
All five species of Fraser salmon have crashed to critical lows since the introduction of
salmon farming in the Pacific northwest, and this is causing a crisis of loss in terms of
food, cultural activity and associated indigenous language use, and community stability
economically because of food shortage. Evidence of the culpability of salmon farming in
this matter is ignored and even obscured by the federal department concerning
Fisheries and Oceans, particularly in the case of evidence of the presence of a deadly
salmon flu, Infectious Salmon Anemia virus, in the farms. Not only does the state deny
the negative impact of these farms, it actively promotes their product in American and
European markets. This year, in 2012, many locally farmed Atlantic salmon bought in
British Columbia groceries tested positively for ISAv.
The Canadian government presently supports development of two oil pipelines through
the Fraser River headwaters which will link highly controversial tar sands oil to a deep
sea port on the coast. Any leakage in that area, statistically proven to happen once
every sixteen months for every 1,200 kilometers of pipeline in use, would be disastrous,
particularly at certain times of year, to already dangerously small salmon populations.
Any accident, also statistically certain, in the oil tanker traffic along the treacherous
Pacific coast would result in the poisoning of this essential salmon and potentially the
decimation of whole areas of aquatic life that feed many distinct indigenous nations.
Existing hydroelectric facilities in British Columbia have decimated animal, plant, bird
and fish species which were previously the mainstay of indigenous peoples in several
areas throughout the province. The province plans to build a further massive dam and
flood further thousands of hectares. This action will result in total food dependence on
the parts of those indigenous nations who would be able to rely on that breadbasket,
were their rights to do so not neatly curtailed by racist, exclusionary and extra-legal
policies. In some cases the government has offered compensation for the impacts of
hydroelectric facilities. These final settlements, which necessarily include the
indigenous nation’s agreement that they will make no more claims regarding the flooded
or impacted lands in question, are not of “replacement” value in terms of buying food;
but the point is that the role traditional food plays culturally, socially, in health and
economically cannot be replaced anyway.
We cannot refrain from noting that state non-recognition of indigenous rights to gather
traditional food is a deplorable tactic in a state, such as Canada, to attack indigenous
While Canadian courts routinely maintain that indigenous rights may be infringed when
"justified" by the socio-economic mores of the general population, this is not a practice
in keeping with the demands made by international laws of treaties that show Canada is
not the proper title holder of approximately 95% of the British Columbia land base. As
well as incorporating the demand that all indigenous peoples must have their food
supply protected by states, we strongly urge that states refrain from making any
encroachments where there are no state treaties with the indigenous title holders that
specifically describe and provide for those sorts of exchanges and interactions between
the state and the indigenous.
Recommendation: States must not permit industrial or development activities to
threaten or destroy those populations of plants, fish, animals or birds which are the
mainstay of an indigenous people.