Symposium will link arms together for rights of indigenous people

Former students of residential schools for aboriginal people, members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and representatives of the United Nations and human rights organizations will all converge at York University for a symposium aptly titled Linking Arms Together, to join hands in upholding aboriginal rights, Friday.

Linking Arms Together, a public symposium, will take place June 28, from 9am to 5:30pm, in Osgoode Hall-Moot Court, Kaneff Building, Keele campus.

Speakers will bring ideas to bear on the process of reconciliation using the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The symposium will also provide opportunities to reach out to other PeterDawsoncommunities, educate the public and also create networks of solidarity, says key organizer Professor Peter Dawson of the Department of Sociology in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. The symposium is also organized and sponsored by the Centre for Human Rights at York and the  Department of Equity Studies.

The symposium, whose title recalls the Mohawk teaching based on the sacred wampum that emphasizes the importance of co-operation and solidarity among aboriginal communities, marks the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which continues to be of legal importance to First Nations in Canada.

Some of the speakers will include the following:

Marlene Brant CastellanoProfessor Emeritus Marlene Brant Castellano of Trent University, a longstanding member of the Native Studies department and an Officer of the Order of Canada, served as chair of the department from 1989 until 1991, during which time she became co-director of Research for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. She is a member of the Mohawk Nation, Bay of Quinte Band, who has also pursued careers as a social worker in child and family services. She also serves on the Institute Advisory board of the CIHR Institute of Aboriginal Peoples' Health and the College of Reviewers for Canada Research Chairs.

JohnMilloyProfessor John Milloy of Trent University is one of the country’s leading experts on residential schools. He was appointed director of Research, Historical Records and Report Preparation with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. In 2008, Milloy received approval from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to carry out an extensive research project that aimed to reveal what actually happened to the children who did not survive Canada’s residential school system. Previously, he served an adviser to the working group of church, Aboriginal and federal government representatives that laid out for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission a plan for filling in gaps in information about how many children died, what they died of and where they are buried. He is author of the book, A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986. In 2005, the Literary Review of Canada selected it as one of the 100 most important books in Canadian history.

MarieWilsonA commissioner with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Marie Wilson has more than 30 years of professional experience as an award-winning journalist, trainer and senior executive manager. She has also been a university lecturer, a high school teacher in Africa, a senior executive manager in both federal and territorial crown corporations, and an independent contractor and consultant in journalism, program evaluation, and project management. She has lived, studied and worked in cross-cultural environments for almost 40 years, including Europe, Africa and various parts of Canada. As a journalist, she worked in print, radio and television as a regional and national reporter, and later as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's senior manager for northern Quebec and the three northern Territories. Wilson is the recipient of a CBC North Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Northerner of the Year Award.

Grand Chief Edward John, a Hereditary Chief of Tl'azt'en Nation on the banks of the Nak'al Bun (Stuart Lake) in Northern British Columbia, has dedicated his life to the pursuit of social and economic justice for Canada’s indigenous people. He has worked as a leader in Indigenous politics, business and community development and been a lawyer for over 30 years. He is currently serving his 10th consecutive term on the First Nations Summit Task Group and was recently reappointed for a second three-year term as a North American Representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (January 2014 to December 2016).

RomeoSaganashRomeo Saganash, NDP MP Abitibi – Baie-James – Nunavik – Eeyou, was raised in the small northern community of Waswanipi, Quebec, is a residential school survivor and a graduate of the University of Quebec at Montreal law school. He is fluent in Cree, both of Canada’s official languages. He was one of the negotiators of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As Deputy Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Cree, he also participated in the negotiation of the Charlottetown Accord, and in 1985, founded the Cree Nation Youth Council.

Ellen Gabriel was chosen by the People of the Longhouse and her community of Kanien’kehá:ka Nation to be their spokesperson during the 1990 Oka Crisis; to protect the Pines from the expansion of a nine-hole golf course in Oka. For the past 22 years she has been a human rights advocate for the collective and individual rights of Indigenous peoples and has worked diligently to sensitize the public, academics, policing authorities and politicians  on the history, culture and identity of Indigenous peoples. She has been active at the international level participating at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues, negotiations on the Nagoya Protocol of the Convention on Biodiversity and most recently, at the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Jennifer Preston is the program coordinator for Aboriginal Affairs for Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers). Her work in recent years has focused on Indigenous peoples' human rights at the international level, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She was actively involved in the intensive lobbying efforts to ensure the successful adoption of the Declaration at the United Nations in both Geneva and New York. She is a co-editor and contributor of Realizing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Triumph, Hope and Action (Purich Publishers, 2010).

Paul Joffe is a member of the Quebec and Ontario bars. He represents the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) and collaborates with numerous Indigenous and human rights organizations in different regions of the world. He specializes in human rights and other issues relating to Indigenous peoples at the international and domestic level. His active involvement in international standard-setting processes includes those relating to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the Organization of American States; and the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989. He is a co-editor and contributor of Realizing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Triumph, Hope and Action.

Craig Benjamin works for Amnesty International in Canada as staff campaigner for the human rights of Indigenous Peoples. Amnesty International’s work in Canada includes the Stolen Sisters campaign though which Amnesty has worked with Indigenous women’s organizations to focus attention on the high rates of violence faced by Indigenous women; campaigns for recognition and protection of Indigenous peoples’ rights to land and water; promoting equitable access to essential services such as safe drinking water and family services; and promotion of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Benjamin represented Amnesty International at the UN Working Group on the Declaration in the final years of its work.