Canada was one of only four countries to vote against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007 to help eliminate human rights violations against the planet’s 370 million indigenous people.
"If you look at the demands of native people over the past 30 years here, nothing has changed. The major fight is still for basics like clean drinking water, environmental protection against industries that pollute [and land rights]," says Sarita Ahooja, an organizer for Indigenous Sovereignty Week (ISW) in Montreal.
From Oct. 25 to 31, a series of educational and awareness-raising events will be organized by the Defenders of the Land network, a nationwide group of leaders, elders, youth and spokespeople from indigenous communities involved in land struggles with the Canadian and provincial governments.
Ahooja says it is often outspoken local community leaders who are the first to be censored or cut off from government funding. She describes the event as a way to reach out to regular Quebecers and all citizens in urban centres, "where polluting industries and governments reside, in order to help raise awareness and the stakes."
Featuring a tour of Kahnawake, as well as panels, workshops and film screenings, the Montreal event closes with Le Frigo Vert’s sixth annual Anti-Colonial Thanksgiving and a Halloween party with Cree rock band CerAmony.
Bestselling author Wade Davis also speaks this week as part of the Massey Lectures. His talk, "The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World," will trace some of the great cultures and civilizations on earth, fragile and endangered but essential to our survival as a species. At Pollack Hall (555 Sherbrooke W.), 8 p.m., $22 for adults, $12 for students.
For more info, visit www.defendersoftheland.org/montreal.