Saturday May 30, 2015
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International Affairs and Human Rights

International Affairs:


The work in Human Rights and International Affairs has continued to focus on ensuring that Aboriginal women’s distinct perspectives, rights and needs in Canada are considered and met in relation to key human rights concerns. NWAC has worked to raise the profile of many issues such as: violence against women, the lack of justice response, high rates of women in prison, the under-funding to on-reserve education, all forms of discrimination against women, poverty, ongoing sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and girls, the lack of clean water, and other violations to our basic human rights.

This year we also worked with our many partners through several Coalitions to advance the rights of Indigenous women, including through our participation as Interveners in the Bedford case which went to the Supreme Court of Canada on the issue of the legalization of prostitution.

Aboriginal female gender perspectives are also required at the international level, such as, the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States (OAS). Aboriginal issues are advocated collectively with Indigenous peoples worldwide due to similar economic and social experiences such as: human rights violations, education challenges, poor health, environmental impacts from development and trade on indigenous rights, border crossing issues, the preservation of cultural, language and traditional knowledge and lands rights and many oither issues. 

NWAC is also actively involved with partner organizations across the globe towards internationally promoting its collective goals, in the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Amnesty International and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). NWAC welcomes the opportunity to share, support and learn from Aboriginal populations worldwide. NWAC currently participates on the following international fora:

  • World Conference on the Elimination of Racism
  • The Organization of American States (OAS)
  • The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
  • The International Indigenous Women’s Forum
  • The Indigenous Summit of the Americas
  • The World Urban Forum
  • The International Indigenous Youth Conference (IIYC)
  • Human Rights for Indigenous Peoples Internationally

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

CERD NWAC Submission  PDF

CERD Joint Media Advisory  PDF

CERD Concluding Observations  PDF


Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. CEDAW Committee consists of 23 experts on women’s rights from around the world. Countries who have become party to the treaty (States parties) are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights of the Convention are implemented. During its sessions the Committee considers each State party report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of concluding observations. In accordance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention, the Committee is mandated to : (1) receive communications from individuals or groups of individuals submitting claims of violations of rights protected under the Convention to the Committee and (2) initiate inquiries into situations of grave or systematic violations of women’s rights. These procedures are optional and are only available where the State concerned has accepted them. The Committee also formulates general recommendations and suggestions. General recommendations are directed to States and concern articles or themes in the Conventions.

Organization of American States (OAS):

Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas have had a long and dark history of marginalization and abuse dating back to colonization. The lack of dignity and, too often, the lack of basic human rights afforded to these peoples are tragic policies that have been allowed to continue for far too long. The OAS is committed to ending discrimination against the native people of the hemisphere, as well as to affording them the same basic human rights as enjoyed by the rest of the population of the region. In order to reach this goal, the OAS has ratified numerous documents on indigenous rights, and is currently negotiating a landmark Declaration of Indigenous Peoples, which would enshrine these stated principles as official OAS policy.

United Nations Fora:

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a comprehensive statement addressing the human rights of indigenous peoples. It was drafted and formally debated for over twenty years prior to being adopted by the General Assembly on 13 September 2007. The document emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to live in dignity, to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their self-determined development, in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. The Declaration addresses both individual and collective rights, cultural rights and identity, rights to education, health, employment, language, and others. The text says indigenous peoples have the right to fully enjoy as a collective or as individuals, all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the rest of international human rights law. Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity. Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By that right they can freely determine their political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development. They have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their rights to participate fully, if they choose to, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the state.

Universal Periodic Review


At an international level, we have continued to build on collaborations and partnerships. NWAC submitted a Shadow Report to highlight our key concerns to the Universal Periodic Review for Canada’s review and attended the United Nations in Geneva in March 2013.  While at the UN, NWAC met with other non-Government organizations, Aboriginal, women’s and human rights organization to strategize, develop Joint Statements to the Committee and issue Press Releases in order to raise awareness of the ongoing racial and sexual discrimination that Indigenous women continue to face today. NWAC made interventions before the Committee and met with the Committee members at side events and individually to discuss issues impacting on Indigenous women in Canada.

Joint Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council in regard to the Universal Periodic Review Concerning Canada

(Second Cycle),  Submitted By:

Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee); First Nations Summit; Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations; Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs; Chiefs of Ontario; Native Women's Association of Canada; Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers); Treaty Four First Nations; Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador/Assemblée des Premières Nations du Québec et du Labrador; Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat; Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group; KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives; First Peoples Human Rights Coalition  (October 2012)  PDF

See also:

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)

UNDRIP Poster format:

International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

International Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

International Convention on the Rights of the Child (ICRC)

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Mother Earth Water Walk:

Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment: t

Convention on Biological Diversity:

United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) UNESCO Sustainable Development:

United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):

World Health Organization (WHO):

 Joint Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council in relation to the May 2013 Universal Periodic Review of Canada, October 9, 2012  download PDF


United Nations Commission on the Status of Women - March 2013 - New York City, New York

A global policy-making body, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), dedicated exclusively to the promotion of gender equality and the advancement of women. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide. Representatives from Member States, UN entities, and NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, like NWAC, attended the 57th session.


The session included a high-level round table, interactive dialogues and panels, and parallel events and had key areas of focus: Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls; the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including care-giving in the context of HIV/AIDS; key gender equality issues to be reflected in the post-2015 development framework. The Commission on the Status of Women adopted agreed conclusions on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.



UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues - May 2013 – New York City, New York

NWAC IAHR also attended the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May where we brought our youth Board of Directors to build on their capacity, human rights education and networked with other Indigenous Women’s groups to build alliances, share best practices, and to exchange ideas. NWAC signed on to Joint Statements and Samantha Lewis, our Youth Board member from the East, presented the Statement on Violence Against Indigenous Women on behalf of the NWAC and its partners. NWAC also participated in side events hosted by the Indigenous youth, the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas (North Region), and the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus  to ensure the integration of Aboriginal women's views at all the discussions held during the sessions.



Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – July 2013 - Geneva, Switzerland

NWAC along with other Aboriginal and equality-seeking organizations participated in the sessions to discuss the issues being raised including the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to share best practices in attempt to improve the lives of Indigenous Peoples, highlighting the importance of Indigenous women’s rights and freedoms needing to be implemented.

 NWAC also participated in the sessions, side events, and met with the North American Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus to strategize on recommendations for the Committee for future areas of study.   NWAC signed on to Joint Statements and submitted its own report on the issue of Access to Justice.