Costa Rican Indigenous land rights activist assassinated by gunmen

Sergio Rojas indigenous land activist is pictured during a interview in Salitre, Buenos Aires de Puntarenas, Costa Rica, October 2, 2015. Courtesy of La Nacion via REUTERS

A well-known Costa Rican indigenous land rights activist was gunned down on Monday night.

Sergio Rojas was at his home in the indigenous territory of Salitre, about 200 km (124 miles) south of the capital, San Jose, when the attack happened late on Monday, the office of President Carlos Alvarado said, calling the killing “regrettable.”

According to a press release, Rojas was assassinated by armed gunmen who shot him as many as 15 times at around 9:15 pm in his home in Yeri. It appears the armed assailant entered the back of Sergio’s home. Neighbors called 911. Over an hour later police arrived. Eventually members of the Red Cross entered and confirmed that he died of multiple gunshot wounds.

The Tico Times reports, an investigation into the murder has been initiated, led by the country’s Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) in collaboration with National Police. 

Alvarado said he has asked the Public Security Ministry (MSP) to provide all necessary support to OIJ to aid the investigation.

MSP officers maintain a presence at the location of Sergio Rojas’s apparent murder. (Via Casa Presidencial. )

Rojas was President of the Association for the Development of the Indigenous Territory of Salitre and coordinator of the National Front of Indigenous Peoples (FRENAP) in Costa Rica and was a staunch defender of the Bribri of Saltire Indigenous people who have been fighting for years to regain their rights to over 12,000 hectares of land in southern Costa Rica pledged to them by a 1938 government agreement, according to a 2014 teleSUR report.

In 2012, Rojas was shot at six times in an apparent assassination attempt near the reserve but escaped the shooting unscathed.

Reuters reports, in 2015, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the government to provide Bribri and Teribe people with protection, arguing they were at risk because of actions taken to recover their lands.

Costa Rica has 24 indigenous territories inhabited by eight ethnic groups, with occupation and encroachment on their land by ranchers causing conflict since the 1960s.

Farmers, angered in a land dispute, burned down the home of an indigenous family in Salitre, a Bribrí indigenous reserve in south-central Costa Rica, July 5, 2014. (The Tico Times)

“He [Rojas] made a lot of enemies over the years,” said Sonia Suárez, a schoolteacher in Salitre.

In a statement, Costa Rica’s ombudsman said Rojas had requested further police protection on Friday after he and other members of his organization said they were shot at in connection with their “recovery” of a farm on Bribri land.

The Central American country has for years struggled to mediate land-right disputes between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

Costa Rica’s 1977 Indigenous Law prohibits the sale of indigenous lands, but is not clear on what to do in cases where land within reserves was already farmed by outsiders.

Indigenous Chileans Defend their Land against Loggers with Radical Tactics

A Mapuche gathering in Ercilla, Chile. The Mapuche are protesting the presence of agricultural firms on their land. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Chile’s Mapuche people are resorting to increasingly extreme tactics to reclaim their ancestral land from exploitive industries

It is late autumn in southern Chile, and in the region of Araucanía, the leaves have turned copper and gold. But on the road to the mist-shrouded town of Lumaco, the hills are covered with rows of charred pines.

“We burned these forests as an act of legitimate resistance against the extractive industries that have oppressed the Mapuche people,” says Hector Llaitul. “If we make their business unprofitable they move on, allowing us to recover our devastated lands and rebuild our world.”

This year has already turned out to have been a particularly combustible one in a decade of rising attacks by indigenous Mapuche activists against the Chilean state and big business. Over several few days in April, crops were burned, roads were blocked and 16 forestry vehicles were set ablaze outside of the regional capital, Temuco.

Such actions have become more and more common. According to statistics published by a local business association, there were 43 attacks in the region in 2017, mainly arson attacks against logging firms.

“Anyone who hasn’t been in the Chilean forest doesn’t know this planet,” wrote Pablo Neruda, who grew up in the region – and whose verse was inspired by its wild landscapes, and the indomitable spirit of its native people who were only conquered after Chilean military campaigns in the late 19th century.

Today, however, much of the west of the region would be unrecognizable to Chile’s finest poet. In the last 50 years, monoculture pine and eucalyptus plantations have replaced the biodiversity of the original forests.

Meanwhile, Mapuche groups have become increasingly aggressive in their efforts to reclaim ancestral lands and gain political autonomy. Llaitul is a spokesman for the Coordinadora Arauco-Malleco (CAM), an anti-capitalist organization that uses direct action and sabotage tactics.

The group has also demanded the release of the shaman Celestino Cordova, who was convicted in February 2014 for an arson attack on a farmhouse north of Temuco that resulted in the deaths of an elderly couple, Werner Luchsinger and Vivianne Mackay.

Hector Llaitul, an indigenous activist. Photograph: Mat Youkee for the Guardian

Cordova began a hunger strike in January after officials denied his request to complete a religious ceremony outside of the prison. He temporarily suspended the strike in April to negotiate.

“The government practices and respects Catholicism but it discriminates against Mapuche spiritual beliefs,” he said from a hospital bed, guarded by police officers. “The Mapuche have been impoverished spiritually, culturally and economically by Chile. I’m willing to sacrifice my life for my people.”

But Cordova’s conviction in the high-profile Luchsinger-Mackay case has made it tougher to win public sympathy for his cause, said Nicolas Rojas Pedemonte, a professor at Alberto Hurtado University in Santiago and author of a new book on the Mapuche conflict.

“That case was an inflection point for the conflict,” he said. “It was the first fatal attack, it turned Chilean media against the Mapuche and was used by the state as a Trojan horse for a repressive response.”

Police presence has since been heavily increased in Araucanía leading to the militarization of the region and increasingly indiscriminate targeting of indigenous people, according to Rojas.

In January 2017, charges against several Mapuche – including Llaitul – were dropped after it was revealed that police had used manipulated WhatsApp messages as evidence in arson cases. “I don’t even use WhatsApp,” says Llaitul, brandishing a tiny Nokia.

The Luchsinger-Mackay case was also the first sign of a split in Mapuche activist ranks. A new more radical group – know as the Weichan Auka Mapu (the Struggle of the Rebel Territory, WAM) – emerged, adopting an explicitly anti-Chilean stance and the tactic of burning churches – most recently during the Pope’s January visit to the region.

Llaitul says the CAM rejects the targeting of individuals and that direct action against forestry projects is the first stage towards reclaiming the land for Mapuche settlements.

On a former timber reserve overlooking Lumaco, his vision is being put into action. The logging firm, Arauco, abandoned the project following repeated arson attacks and today, in a small clearing, a dozen young men and women are hammering timbers together on the construction of a house in the woods.

A Mapuche red, blue and green flag flaps from the apex.

The destructive results of a forest fire started by Mapuche radical groups. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

“When we recover lands we plant crops, breed animals and reconstruct our cultural world,” says Llaitul. “We will build houses but our first priority is a spiritual centre, the rewe.”

The rightwing government of the current president, Sebastián Piñera, has a different vistion for the future of Araucanía, the region with the worst poverty and unemployment rates in the country.

Ministers visited Temuco in April to finalize plans for a major growth plan for the region, focusing on tourism, agriculture and energy investments and training programs to allow the 150,000 hectares of land turned over to Mapuche groups in recent years to return to production.

The plan, to be launched in August, is also expected to increase the purchase of private lands by the national indigenous development agency.

“People in Araucanía are calling out for peace and development. Over the years so much investment has been turned away due to security fears,” says Luis Mayol, the Santiago-appointed administrator of Araucanía. “Piñera won 63% of the vote in this region – the Mapuche people want growth like everyone else. However, there is a small number of terrorists with radical ideologies and the resources to generate fear.”

While the development plan aims to win the support of Araucanías indigenous groups, accompanying amendments to the anti-terrorism law aim to make it easier to convict arsonists under terrorism charges.

“Our current legislation is quite useless: too many violent acts are being processed as regular crimes,” says Mayol. “We need to bring our definition of terrorism in line with those of countries such as the UK and Spain. For me, the systematic burning of trucks and churches are terrorist acts.”

Back at the reclaimed timber plantation, Llaitul remains defiant as two young Mapuche lift roof rafters into place on the new construction. “When there was no Mapuche struggle, the government did nothing for us” he says. “We’re not asking for palliative measures or integration, we want territory and autonomy for the Mapuche nation.”

This article originally appeared in The Guardian

[SOURCE]

Kentucky Man Sentenced to 15 months in Federal Prison for Robbing Native American Graves

Gary Womack. WNKY.com

A Kentucky man described as a grave robber who plundered Native American burial sites will serve time in prison.

Gary Womack, 60, of Woodburn, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison on Wednesday for violating a federal law that protects archaeological remains.

Womack pleaded guilty to three felony violations of the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) in March, including trafficking in archaeological resources (Native American artifacts) from the western United States.

According to the Glasgow Daily Times, the case resulted from a three-year undercover investigation by the National Park Service, based upon allegations that Womack possessed human remains which originated from Mammoth Cave National Park.

A federal agent posed as someone interested in ancient artifact collections during meetings at Womack’s residence.

The investigation revealed Womack’s dealings in artifacts removed from the graves of Native Americans buried in caves and rock shelters in southcentral Kentucky and also burials from Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

Mammoth Cave National Park

WKMS reports, Womack sold the undercover agent artifacts from a mound in Posey County, Indiana. Several people were prosecuted there in 1992 after digging into the mound. But prosecutors said Womack was able to purchase the artifacts as recently as 2015 in Warrick County, Indiana.

In sentencing, Judge Greg N. Stivers told Womack that he was disturbed the defendant had chosen to dig the graves of the ancestors of Native Americans for profit and had done so while being fully aware of the laws he had chosen to violate.

A letter from Ben Barnes, Second Chief of the Shawnee Tribe, of Miami, Oklahoma, was made a part of the record and read at the sentencing hearing.

The letter said, in part: “The remains that are within the soils of our original homelands contains the hallowed remains of human beings, our ancestors. We would urge the court to send a message to all those what would desecrate a grave, that ARPA violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

All artifacts in the case have been recovered and will be repatriated to tribes.

Who is Métis? Statistics Canada numbers open window on debate

David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, middle, carries the Métis flag in Ottawa on April 14, 2016 (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

‘It’s not simply you just get a little check mark and say I’m Métis. You have to prove your identity’

The president of the Manitoba Metis Federation says the 2016 census numbers for Métis in Canada are wrong — but his objections point to a larger debate about who in fact is Métis.

“People just think that because you have potentially First Nation blood in you that you can quantify yourself as Métis,” David Chartrand said Tuesday. “I can guarantee there’s not 125,000 Métis Nation citizens in Ontario.”

The 2016 census asked people whether they were Aboriginal, and then further broke that down to First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

There were 587,545 people who self-identified as Métis, a growth of more than 50 per cent since 2006, with the most in Ontario, where there were just over 120,000. Almost 90,000 in Manitoba self-identified as Métis.

But Chartrand says a lack of understanding prompted many people to incorrectly self-identify as Métis, a word with roots in the French for mixed blood.

“Our nation is probably about no more than 400,000, from parts of Ontario all the way to parts of British Columbia and all of the Prairies. That’s our population. We know it. We know where we live, we know who we are,” he said.

Chartrand’s organization strictly regulates who gets Métis Nation citizenship cards.

David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

They must show they trace their ancestry back to the mixed First Nations and European people who lived in Western Canada during the time of the fur trade.

“It’s not simply you just get a little check mark and say I’m Métis,” Chartrand said. “You have to prove your identity and prove your connection to the historical and collective homeland of the Métis Nation. It’s a long process.”

However, not everyone agrees with Chartrand’s definition.

A 2016 Supreme Court ruling about Métis rights launched some infighting among Métis about who meets the definition.

The Daniels vs. Canada ruling states the Métis and non-status Indians are “Indians” under the Constitution and thus fall under federal jurisdiction, so they must turn to Ottawa when negotiating rights or for new programs and services.

The ruling determined Métis status must be granted on a case-by-case basis, with the generally agreed upon criteria including ancestry and community ties.

The Métis Federation of Canada has a broader criteria for membership than the Manitoba Metis Federation.

“The true history of the Métis is very inclusive,” said president Robert Pilon said following the Daniels ruling.

“If you want to have a true representation of Métis in Canada, they got to make sure all Métis are at the table,” Pilon said in 2016. “Not just pick and choose just because one group has been around longer.”

A Statistics Canada analyst said the census did allow a wide variety of people to identify as Métis, but more data is being gathered to learn exactly what people mean by the term.

“We understand that there’s no single definition of Métis that’s endorsed by all Métis groups in Canada,” said Vivian O’Donnell.

Statistics Canada is trying to find out what people mean when they self-identify as Métis, she said.

Statistics Canada added two new questions to the Aboriginal Peoples Survey for those who said they’re Métis.

“We asked them, ‘Do you have a card or certificate issued by a Métis organization that identifies you as Métis?’ and if they say yes, we ask what Métis organization issued the card or certificate,” O’Donnell said.

“We also have other questions about sense of belonging — trying to capture some cultural connectedness — so there’s a lot of research potential there to better understand how people are identifying with the Métis nation or the Métis population.”

‘Capital M Métis’

Jacqueline Romanow, chair of the department of Indigenous studies at the University of Winnipeg, says she uses the terms “capital M Métis” and “small m Métis” in her classes to define two separate groups.

Small m Métis are people with mixed blood, which is how many people interpret the word, which has its roots in the French for mixed blood, Romanow says.

Capital M Métis are members of the Métis Nation who trace their ancestry back to the Red River Settlement and Ruperts Land before the creation of the province of Manitoba, she said. She is a member of that group.

Those Métis developed a culture with its own language and traditions in a specific region, she says.

“This is a unique place in history and in time, where you have the genesis of a whole new kind of culture,” she said.

“This didn’t happen everywhere — a new culture with a new language, new traditions that evolved that are very unique and specific.”

There are also specific rights given to those who can trace their heritage to Red River Métis, including land entitlements tracing back to the creation of Manitoba, when Métis were promised land that many never got.

Chartrand said only those who meet the Manitoba Métis Federation’s citizenship requirements are entitled to those rights.

People who are not members of the Métis Nation but want to be identified as part Indigenous should embrace their heritage, but it is not Métis, he said.

“We worked too damn hard to get where we are as a nation,” he said. “We do not take kindly to others who are just trying to jump in to something we’ve been working on for 150 years.”

CBC News

[SOURCE]

Tribe Sharpens Arrows against Amazon invaders

A man aims a bow-and-arrow at the Waiapi indigenous reserve in the Manilha village, in Amapa state, Brazil (AFP Photo/Apu Gomes)

The Waiapi still use poisoned arrows 

Waiãpi – (AFP) – They appear silently, seemingly from nowhere: a dozen figures, naked except for bright red loincloths, blocking the dirt road.

These are the Waiapi, an ancient tribe living in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest but now fearing invasion by international mining companies.

Leading AFP reporters to a tiny settlement of palm-thatched huts hidden in foliage, the tribesmen streaked in red and black dye vow to defend their territory. They brandish six-foot (two-meter) bows and arrows to reinforce the point.

“We’ll keep fighting,” says Tapayona Waiapi, 36, in the settlement called Pinoty. “When the companies come we’ll keep resisting. If the Brazilian government sends soldiers to kill people, we’ll keep resisting until the last of us is dead.”

The Waiapi indigenous reserve is in pristine rainforest near the eastern end of the Amazon river. It is part of a much larger conservation zone called Renca, covering an area the size of Switzerland.

Surrounded by rivers and towering trees, the tribe operates almost entirely according to its own laws, with a way of life at times closer to the Stone Age than the 21st century.

Yet modern Brazil is barely a few hours’ drive away.

And now the center-right government is pushing to open Renca to international mining companies who covet the rich deposits of gold and other metals hidden under the sea of green.

In August, President Michel Temer abruptly ended mining restrictions in swaths of Renca, sparking an outcry from environmentalists and celebrity campaigners like Leonardo DiCaprio.

Temer backtracked in September. However, the Waiapi, who were nearly wiped out by disease after being discovered by outsiders in the 1970s, remain terrified.

The rainforest, says 35-year-old Moi Waiapi, another inhabitant of Pinoty, “is the foundation for our survival.”

The road

The dirt road is the only route into Waiapi territory. Pinoty, where a few dozen people sleep in hammocks under roofs with open sides, is the first village — the frontier.

To get here requires several layers of authorization, then a bumpy two-hour drive from the small town of Pedra Branca. The Amapa state capital Macapa, one of the most remote in Brazil, is several hours further.

By the time you reach Pinoty and a government sign reading “Protected Land,” you are already well beyond cellphone reception, the electric grid, the last gas station, and many Brazilian laws.

But for all the remoteness, the Waiapi have scant protection against the powerful forces that for decades have pushed industry and agribusiness deeper and deeper into the Amazon in a bid to make Brazil a commodities exporting superpower.

The road itself is a monument to those ambitions.

Known as the Northern Perimetral, highway 210 was started under the 1964-1985 military dictatorship with the aim of linking Brazil to Venezuela.

Funding collapsed and the road was abandoned in the 1970s, literally stopping dead in the deep jungle, more than 700 miles (1,100 km) from its intended goal.

But even unfinished, the pharaonic project retains an ominous presence. Barely a car a day passes, yet the road to nowhere, slicing in a broad red scar through the tree-covered hills, has been remarkably well maintained.

Calibi Waiapi, another tribal villager, suspects that the government hopes one day to resurrect that dream of a thoroughfare through the wilderness. Wearing a circular headdress of parrot feathers, Calibi frowns at the thought.

“There’d be cars, trucks, violence, drugs, robberies. The culture would change. The young would want the cellphones, the clothes, the computers,” the 57-year-old says as he imagines Brazilians pouring down the road.

“If a lot of white men came, it would be the end.”

Arrow ‘for Temer

Hotter heads threaten a violent response to any attempt at encroachment.

“If Temer comes here, anywhere near me, this is what he’ll get,” says Tapayona Waiapi, brandishing one of the long arrows, tipped in a lethally sharp sliver of wood.

Although the Waiapi have had shotguns for hunting since first contact with the government in the 1970s, they still also use arrows, which are poisoned.

“These are our weapons so that we are not dependent on non-Indian weapons,” said Aka’upotye Waiapi, 43, in Manilha village, as he carved a new bow.

But the show of force by the tribesmen, one of whom swung a club in the shape of a wooden ax, was mostly bravado.

There are only about 1,200 Waiapi, scattered in villages reached by foot or river: they can barely monitor, let alone protect their territory. Just this May, an illegal mine was discovered and shut down a mile south of Pinoty.

Jawaruwa Waiapi, 31, says that fighting or even fleeing into the forest will no longer work.

Last year he was elected to the municipal council in Pedra Branca, the first member of his tribe to hold a Brazilian political post. He says peaceful persuasion is the only viable way now.

“We have another road, another strategy, which is to participate in political life,” he said.

“Today we don’t have to fight with arrows or clubs. We have to fight through knowledge, through politics…. This is our new weapon.”

[SOURCE]

Online Threats, Arson and Illegal Traps: Feud between Indigenous, other Fisherman in Nova Scotia at Boiling Point

Lobster boats head to drop their traps from Digby, N.S. on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017. CP/Andrew Vaughan

Non-Aboriginal fishermen have held a series of protests, saying some Indigenous fishermen were illegally selling lobster outside of the commercial season, and federal authorities have seized more than 300 illegal traps

A drydocked boat owned by a non-Aboriginal fisherman was torched, followed a few days later by a boat owned by a Mi’kmaq man.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said it wasn’t clear what was going on in picturesque St. Mary’s Bay, and the RCMP said even less. But suddenly, a simmering dispute over the province’s Indigenous lobster fishery had taken on a new sense of urgency.

Non-Aboriginal fishermen have held a series of protests, saying some Indigenous fishermen were illegally selling lobster outside of the commercial season, and federal authorities have seized more than 300 illegal traps, though it remains unclear who owns them.

The tensions represent unfinished business from a September 1999 ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada that confirmed that First Nations have sweeping fishing and other treaty rights but left lingering questions about the limits.

“Some people are patient, but I think what we’re seeing is that some people are not patient — or have given up on a timely resolution,” said Bruce Wildsmith, legal adviser to the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs.

Wildsmith has been involved since the beginning. He represented Donald Marshall Jr. in the 1999 case, when the country’s highest court ruled that Marshall had a treaty right to fish for eels when and where he wanted — without a licence.

Marshall — previously best known for being wrongfully convicted of murder — had caught 210 kilograms of eels one day in August 1993, and then sold them for $787.10.

Lobster boats head to drop their traps from Digby, N.S. on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017. CP/Andrew Vaughan

The Marshall decision also said Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy bands in Eastern Canada could hunt, fish and gather to earn a “moderate livelihood,” though the court followed up with a clarification two months later, saying the treaty right was subject to federal regulation.

However, the Mi’kmaq communities at Burnt Church in New Brunswick and Indian Brook in Nova Scotia defied federal authorities and immediately set lobster traps under their own band management plans.

That led to the seizure of traps, arrests, charges, collisions on the water, shots fired at night, boat sinkings, injuries and threats of retribution.

Over the course of three turbulent years, most First Nations in the Maritimes and Quebec signed interim fishing agreements with Ottawa, which has spent more than $600 million providing Indigenous bands with boats, equipment and licences.

But those interim agreements remain just that — temporary fixes for a festering problem, says Wildsmith.

He says negotiations with Ottawa following a framework agreement in 2008 have dragged on with no end in sight.

The latest clash in Nova Scotia is focused on the Indigenous food, social and ceremonial fishery. Under a previous ruling from the Supreme Court, known as Sparrow, First Nations are allowed to fish outside the regular commercial season to feed their communities or to supply ceremonial gatherings — but they are barred from selling their catches.

In mid-September, non-Aboriginal fishermen in western Nova Scotia started a series of peaceful protests at federal offices to draw attention to their claims that a small faction of Indigenous fishermen were selling their catches out of season, using the food and ceremonial fishery as cover.

“The powers that be simply aren’t enforcing the rules and regulations,” said Bernie Berry, president of the Coldwater Lobster Association.

Berry stressed that non-Indigenous fisherman support the food, social and ceremonial fishery, but he insisted the federal Fisheries Department must put a stop to what he described as a growing black market.

Lobster boats head to drop their traps from Digby, N.S. on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017. CP/Andrew Vaughan

Morley Knight, an assistant deputy minister with the Fisheries Department, says Fisheries officers have stepped up their patrols in the area, which has resulted in the seizure of illegal traps.

As for the pace of negotiations with Indigenous groups seeking permanent fisheries agreements, Knight said progress is being made despite the long time frame.

“It’s not unusual, given other experiences where there have been negotiations related to treaty-related rights,” he said in an interview. “They do take a very long time.”

He said the Marshall decision made it clear that a “moderate livelihood fishery” must be conducted under federal regulations to ensure conservation of the resource.

“The response that the department has made … to Marshall has been to provide access (to the fishery) for the purposes of sale, which contributes to the economies of the communities and therefore to a moderate livelihood,” he said.

Wildsmith disagrees with that assessment. He repeatedly stressed that implementing a permanent agreement that addresses what it means to earn a moderate livelihood has yet to be resolved at the negotiating table.

“To think that the negotiation process that has been ongoing since 2008 is going to solve this immediate crisis is California dreaming,” he said. “That process is nowhere close to resolving these issues and it will certainly will not be done in a timely way for those folks who want to go sell fish.”

He said access to the commercial fishery doesn’t equate with a “moderate livelihood” fishery, which must have a separate and distinct set of rules and regulations. That’s why the Indigenous groups that he works with are calling for a separate moderate livelihood licence.

A livelihood fishery would focus on individuals providing for their families, rather than the simple creation of commercial wealth, he said.

“Commercial is not the same as livelihood, and the Supreme Court said that in Marshall … There was never any agreement to have the livelihood fishery conducted under the commercial rules.”

As well, the Marshall decision made it clear that Indigenous Peoples have an existing constitutional right to engage in a moderate livelihood fishery, Wildsmith said. That’s why some Aboriginal fishermen may believe they can sell lobster caught outside the commercial season, he said.

“Constitutional rights supersede the statutory requirements,” Wildsmith said.

Knight said the federal government is open to discussing creation of moderate livelihood licences.

“The federal government … is open to any and all suggestions that make sense, as long as there are measures in place to ensure the fishery is sustainable and conservation objectives are maintained … within a regulated fishery.”

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

Tobique Marijuana Dispensary Raid Came Close to ‘Full-Out Conflict,’ Chief Says

Tobique First Nation Chief Ross Perley. (Tobique First Nation)

Ross Perley says First Nation band sees RCMP raid on Tribal ReLeaf as an ‘attack’ on sovereignty

The chief of Tobique First Nation says the RCMP raid on the community’s new marijuana dispensary Thursday prompted a blockade that could have turned into a “full-out conflict.”

Ross Perley says Tribal ReLeaf, which opened in July, is 51 per cent-owned by the band and has the full support of band council as a “pain management centre.”

“We’re sick and tired of doctors and pharmacists shoving opioids down the throats of our people, paid for by Health Canada,” he said. “So this is a way … for people to get the medicine they need to try and live happy, peaceful lives.”

Perley said the marijuana can help people in the community with medical conditions such as cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as those trying to kick addictions to opioids and other narcotics.

And the band’s share of the revenue can go back into the community — everything from programs for youth and assistance for the elderly to helping the unemployed find jobs and infrastructure projects.

It’s only been a couple of months, but Perley said the initiative has been “good for the community” and that’s why there was such a strong show of support during the raid.

About 100 members and several vehicles blocked officers from leaving “for a number of hours,” he said. It was peaceful and no weapons were involved, but the situation was “delicate.”

The search and seizure by police was viewed as a “disrespectful” “attack” on the band’s sovereignty, said Perley.

“Luckily, me and my council were able to negotiate their safe release,” he said. “Basically, we avoided a full-out conflict and crisis in our community.”

Perley declined to disclose any details about the negotiations but did say charges against three arrested employees were dropped.

“We strongly believe in self-government and self-determination,” he said. “We regulate and license our own gaming, our own alcohol, our own tobacco and our own marijuana, and we do it efficiently.”

Tribal ReLeaf reopened within hours of being raided by the RCMP on Thursday. (Facebook)

RCMP contend the dispensary, located on Route 105 in northwestern New Brunswick, is illegal and unregulated and failed to comply with a “cease and desist” order last month.

​No charges have been laid and the investigation is continuing, spokesperson Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said on Friday.

Police are trying to determine who is supplying the shop, she said.

Perley declined to disclose the identity of the supplier or the names of the other part-owners.

“All I’ll say is we have the educational capacity and the sophistication to do proper quality control and regulation,” he said.

More serious problems

Perley questions why the RCMP would focus on the marijuana dispensary when the community is struggling with narcotics, such as opioids, fentanyl and cocaine — particularly when the federal government is expected to legalize recreational marijuana use by July 2018.

“People are sick, they’re dying on these [other] drugs,” said Perley, who has been the chief for three years.

“For us, that’s what the RCMP should be focusing on. We’ve been asking them to do something about it, they’ve done absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing.

“When you have the support of the leadership and you have the support of the community to raid other real drug dealers,  and you’re not doing it, and you’re wasting your time and your resources on something that’s supported by leadership and by the community, I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Rogers-Marsh said the RCMP have to enforce the laws as they exist today, including the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, under which marijuana is still considered illegal.

She said she couldn’t speak about other “enforcement efforts ongoing.”

“There are different investigations at different stages,” she said.

CBC News, Posted Oct 6, 2017

[SOURCE]

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Winnipegers Rally for Indigenous Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thousands call on MPs to vote for Bill C-262 and adopt and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

WINNIPEG, MB—On Saturday, September 23, starting at 1 pm, a group of Indigenous peoples and settlers from Winnipeg (Treaty 1 territory) will walk 12 km from Stephen Juba Park to a public gathering at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba to urge the Canadian government to fully adopt and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

The Declaration is a landmark document that provides a framework for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and a guide for legislators, courts, human rights groups, and other institutions. The adoption of the Declaration was one of the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In April 2017, NDP MP Romeo Saganash, who spent 23 years at the UN helping negotiate the Declaration, tabled a private member’s bill, Bill C-262. The bill provides a legislative framework for how the Declaration would be implemented and monitored in Canada. The anticipated date for Bill C-262’s second reading is October 18.

Senator Murray Sinclair, environmentalist David Suzuki, Conservative MP Candice Bergen, and singer-songwriter Steve Bell are a few of the thousands of Canadians who have lent their signatures in support of Bill C-262.

“We’re urging our MPs to vote for Bill C-262,” says Leah Gazan, an Indigenous rights advocate who teaches at the University of Winnipeg. “The Liberal government promised to implement all 94 of the TRC’s calls to action and fully adopt the UN Declaration. I’m holding them to their promise.”

While the Canadian government supports the UN Declaration in theory, so far there is no legislative framework for its implementation and review; Bill C-262 provides both.

A key right supported by the UN Declaration is free, prior and informed consent: the right of Indigenous peoples to say “yes” or “no” to initiatives such as resource projects that impact their lands and lives.

“I’m behind this issue not in addition to, or in spite of my Christian faith, but precisely because of it,” says Steve Bell. “The gospel message is inextricably bound to issues of justice. The Scriptures take a dim view of those who possess by dispossession.”

In Winnipeg, Bill C-262 has gathered a broad coalition of grassroots supporters from churches, mosques, and community organizations.

Community organizer Michael Redhead Champagne plans to bring a group of Indigenous youth on the walk. “As an Indigenous man, I’m afraid to have children because of how I’ve seen Indigenous families treated here,” says Champagne. “The UN Declaration would guarantee that their rights would be respected.”

After the march, Winnipeggers will convene at 6:30 pm at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. The event will feature stories and performances by Ray ‘Coco’ Stevenson, Ry Moran director of NCTR, Leonard Sumner, Shahina Siddiqui and others.

Sign Petition here: http://www.adoptandimplement.com/
Read Bill C-262 here: http://www.parl.ca/DocumentViewer/…/bill/C-262/first-reading (the bill includes the 46 articles of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)

Walk the Talk Coalition For Bill C-262 is a grassroots organization of people supporting Bill C-262.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation is the permanent home for all statements, documents, and other materials gathered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The NCTR is located at the University of Manitoba and works in partnership with a wide variety of agencies and organizations to advance Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.

Posted: Sept. 13, 2017

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Brazilian Supreme Court Upholds Land Rights of Indigenous People

A member of Brazil’s riot police trains his gun at Brazilian Indians. Photograph: Gregg Newton/Reuters

Land rights activists applaud rejection of case brought by Brazilian state that claimed it was due compensation for award of territory to native inhabitants

The Brazilian supreme court has ruled in favour of two tribes in a case that is being hailed as a significant victory for indigenous land rights.

The unanimous decision – which went against the state of Mato Grosso do Sul – settled a dispute over land traditionally occupied by indigenous people and ordered the authorities to respect the demarcation of land.

Amid increasing conflict over land and diminishing rights for indigenous people in the country, the south-western Brazilian state had sought compensation of about 2bn reais (£493m) from the Brazilian government after land was declared as the territory of the Nambikwara and Pareci tribes.

A third case, involving Rio Grande do Sul state, was adjourned for 15 days.

“This is an important step towards achieving justice for indigenous people in Brazil,” said Tonico Benites, a Guarani leader. “This gives us hope the judiciary will protect our rights, which are guaranteed by the constitution and international law.”

Activists had feared judges would uphold a recommendation from the attorney general’s office that any tribe not occupying its ancestral land when Brazil’s new constitution came into force on 5 October 1988 would lose its right to live there – a time limit that had been called the worst blow to indigenous rights since the military dictatorship ended in 1985.

But Sarah Shenker, a campaigner with Survival International, said feelings were running high in Brazil against indigenous rights: “If the judges apply the same thinking in the third ruling, in theory [indigenous] land rights should be protected. But there is such a strong anti-indigenous campaign in Brazil at the moment that we have to be very careful.”

Benites said indigenous leaders would now work to overturn the 1988 cut-off date – a plan signed by President  Michel Temer last month and which critics claim is to win favour with the powerful agribusiness lobby, known as the ruralistas.

The deadline would not only halt new demarcations of indigenous land but also legitimise claims by ranchers and wealthy farmers who have long coveted Indian territories.

“It is a very cynical move,” said Juliana de Paula Batista, a lawyer working with the Socio-environmental Institute in Brasilia. “Since many indigenous people were violently expelled from their ancestral land in the colonial and military eras, they could not possibly have been living on this land in 1988.”

Campaigners have claimed Temer is using land rights as a bargaining chip to shore up his unpopular government.

Luiz Henrique Eloy Amado, a lawyer for Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples (Apib), said: “The Temer government wants to remain at all costs, which requires the votes of the ruralista bloc.”

The attorney general’s recommendation of a time limit was greeted as a triumph in a video by ruralista federal deputy Luiz Carlos Heinze, potentially resulting in the dismissal of 90% of ongoing indigenous land claims. Hundreds of indigenous territories around Brazil are awaiting demarcation.

The Guarani-Kaiowás occupy only a fraction of their ancestral territories in Mato Grosso do Sul and their decades-long struggle has caused violent conflict with cattle ranchers and soy and sugar cane farmers.

Fiona Watson, director of campaigns for Survival International, estimated that 45,000 Guarani-Kaiowás would lose rights to land under the proposed cut-off point, as would other tribes across the south and north-east.

The 1988 deadline, the marco temporal, has triggered major protests across Brazil, organised by the Apib under the banner: “Our history did not start in 1988, no to the time limit”. Hundreds of people converged on Brasilia for the supreme court ruling on Wednesday.

Last week, 48 indigenous organisations and civil society bodies signed a letter to the UN high commissioner for human rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, denouncing violations since the 2016 visit of UN special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpus, who noted a “worrying regression in the protection of indigenous people’s rights”.

Brazil has experienced a rise in homicides related to rural land disputes, with 37 people killed in the first five months of this year, eight more than died over the same period in 2016, according to the Pastoral Land Commission, a non-profit group.

Eliseu Lopes, a Guarani leader from Mato Grosso do Sul, expressed relief at the outcome: “The land conflict is already killing us. Imagine what it would be like if the proposal were approved,” he said. “It would legitimise the violence against us. The vote doesn’t solve all our problems, but it gives us some breathing space.”

By the Guardian published on August 17, 2017 

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Brazil: Increase in Land killings as Political Crisis Threatens Amazon

The 14th ‘Free Terra’ Camp in Praça dos Ipês, Brasília, during April 24-28 2017. Over 4,000 representatives from 200 indigenous peoples from all regions of the country were present in a large demonstration of strength of the indigenous movement. Photo: NINJA Media / National Indigenous Mobilization via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

By Joe Sandler Clarke & Sam Cowie / Greenpeace Energydesk 

There has been a significant increase in the number of indigenous people and environmental activists killed over land disputes in Brazil, as human rights experts warn of a dangerous political mood in the nation.

New research shared with Energydesk by Brazilian human rights NGO Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), shows that 37 people have been killed in the first six months of the year in rural land conflicts, eight more than at the same time in 2016.

The data comes as President Temer’s right-wing government has cut funding dramatically for the country’s indigenous rights agency, Funai.

CPT, which has been collecting data on rural violence since 1985, has found that so far the number of people killed in these disputes is set to exceed last year’s figures, when 61 people died.

At the end of April, violence against indigenous people in Brazil made international headlines, as 13 members of the Gamela community in Maranhão state were attacked by farmers wielding machetes in brutal land dispute.

A couple of week’s earlier, nine people were stabbed and shot over a territorial dispute in Mato Grosso state, in the Amazon.

Jeane Bellini, national coordinator of CPT told Energydesk that recent years have a significant increase in the number of people being killed in rural land conflicts.

Bellini believes the current political turmoil in Brazil, the former President Dilma Rousseff was ousted last year while sitting President Michel Temer is embroiled in a corruption scandal, has helped fuel the violence:

“Rural violence has accelerated under President Temer. Actually, it isn’t only the government. I would say that the political instability created by all of those irresponsible people in congress, as well as Temer and his government have added. I mean, they’re doing things that are completely against the needs and the rights of the people.”

Indigenous rights agency cut

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, told Energydesk that there is a close correlation between the government’s moves to cut the agency and the increase in violence. She explained:

“There is increased violence because the offices of Funai at the state levels are not functioning anymore. Funai is the only government agency trusted by Indigenous people. People look up to Funai to protect them. Now there is nobody trying to protect them.”

Tauli-Corpuz visited Brazil at the end of last year and found government agencies unable to function. She told Energydesk in December that she visited Funai regional offices which had no staff:

“We went to the office in Bahia and there was no one there. There have been huge cutbacks, and they have continued since I came back from my trip … I have a sense that the situation in the country is deteriorating.”

Months later, the UNSR said that the recommendations she made to Brazilian officials have not been addressed.

In May, a congressional committee led by a powerful farming lobby moved to replace the indigenous rights agency with a body controlled by the justice ministry – a move which campaigners believe could have terrible consequences.

Impunity

According to Bellini, a culture of impunity around rural killings in Brazil is also to blame for the worsening situation. CPT states that of the 1,800 killings the organisation has recorded since 1985, only 112 ended up in court with very few ending with conviction.

She said: “Given all the political instability in Brazil since last year, those who are looking to accumulate land, in whatever way they can, have found an opportunity to accelerate the process and apparently they feel quite convinced of impunity.”

In response to this story, Amnesty International Brazil – which uses CPT’s data in its own work – sent us the following statement.

“Amnesty International believes, that in the light of the recent attack on the Gamela community in Maranhão state, it is absolutely essential that the Brazilian government makes a strong statement committing to upholding the Constitutional obligations to demarcate and deliver Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral lands.

“Funai must be strengthened, by making available necessary financial resources, and recent appointments to the agency should be reviewed, in order to ensure that those in leadership positions in the agency have the necessary political independence to do their job.

“The Brazilian government must ensure security to human rights defenders and withdraw any initiatives to criminalize or limit their work.” 


Joe Sandler-Clarke is a UK-based journalist specialising in investigative and public interest stories. His writing has been published in the Guardian, Independent, The Sunday Times, VICE and others, and he curently works at Greenpeace UK.

Sam Cowie is a freelance journalist based in São Paulo, Brazil.

This article was originally published on Greenpeace Energydesk.

Read more: Amazon deforestation rises as government moves to weaken Indigenous protections.

Article originally published in Ecologist on Jun 7, 2017

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