BCAFN Calls Canada to Action on the 2020 International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

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Press Release

(Lheidli T’enneh Territory, Prince George, BC AUG. 9, 2020) – The BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN) is joining celebrations around the world today to observe the United Nation’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. On this important date BCAFN calls Canadian governments to action to continue and increase support and resources for British Columbia First Nations as they face increasing threats to their communities.

As we navigate the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, we explore this year’s theme - COVID-19 and Indigenous peoples’ resilience. In British Columbia, First Nations have quickly and effectively demonstrated their strength and innovation to confront this grave threat to their communities, cultures, and in particular, their Elders who are keepers of their cultures and languages. Many of the challenges faced by BC First Nations have been worsened including access to healthcare with local medical facilities under-equipped and under-staffed; and when they do try to access healthcare services, they often face stigma and racial discrimination. Recently, BC Health Minister Adrian Dix appointed Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to lead an independent investigation into allegations of racism in the province’s health care system. Turpel-Lafond and her team completed the first stage of the investigation on August 6, 2020 and a report of their findings will be made before December 31, 2020.

“British Columbia First Nations quickly reacted to the threat of COVID-19 and are practicing their right to self-determination as they implement their sovereignty as nations to restrict or limit public access to their communities. In addition, many BC First Nations are leveraging their vast wealth of traditional knowledge and cultural systems as they react and prepare for an uncertain future caused by the economic and social effects of COVID-19 and focus on building their communities stronger. Support and resources must be sustained, and in some cases increased, to maintain this work,” stated Regional Chief Terry Teegee.

For the past year British Columbia First Nations and the BC government have advanced a fundamental change toward self-determinism, economic equality and cultural revitalization as BC’s laws begin to align with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. The first annual report on this work was released and covers the period from November 28, 2019 when the Act became law, to March 31, 2020.

Helpful links:
UN 2020 Virtual Commemoration: https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/international-day-of-the-worlds-indigenous-peoples/2020-2.html

2019/2020 Annual Report: Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act:https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/indigenous-people/aboriginal-peoples-documents/dripa_annual_report_2020.pdf

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