Yukon Human Rights Commission
CRPD and UNDRIP Special Promotion Activities
The Commission has continued to focus on both the Convention and the Declaration in its public education, awareness, and promotion work.
Partnering with the Yukon Council on Disabilities, the Commission established a multi-agency steering committee to advance Yukon's commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Steering Committee submitted a funding application to the Territorial Government to deliver a 3-day workshop using York University's CRPD monitoring and evaluation tools, and a one-day summit to develop a Yukon-wide framework for monitoring and evaluation. This work sets the foundation for future collaborative work among the Yukon Human Rights Commission, NGO'S and government agencies.
On May 14th, 2014, the Yukon Legislative Assembly voted unanimously in favour of a motion to endorse Canada's Statement of Support on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The timing of this endorsement could not have been more poignant, a mere two days after the UN's Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, called attention to the work that remains to be done regarding treatment of aboriginal people in Canada, especially in light of the documented alarming rates of violence against aboriginal women. In the words of the MLA who brought the motion forward, Mr. Barr, "This is a beginning of an ongoing work that we have to do. […] Adopting this motion […] must be done recognizing that it is just another step along the path toward healing and reconciliation."
The Yukon Human Rights Commission does its best to adhere to the principle "it can't be about us, without us". As such, the Commission corresponded with Yukon First Nations chiefs before calling on the Legislature to endorse the Declaration. The Commission met with Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) Grand Chief Ruth Massie, who provided strategic advice and public support. She explained that after discussion at a General Assembly, CYFN chiefs agreed to support the Declaration. New Kwanlin Dϋn First Nation Chief Doris Bill also supported the call for endorsement and her letter was tabled in the Legislature. Both Mr. Barr, who is Metis, and another Vuntut Gwichin First Nation MLA, Mr. Elias, spoke at length of their support of the motion before the Legislative Assembly.
National Aboriginal Day
On National Aboriginal Day, June 21, 2014, Grand Chief Ruth Massie announced the endorsement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to over 600 community members. The Grand Chief spoke to the significance of the Declaration and what it means for the future of Yukon. Community members gathered around the Sacred Fire to read Articles from the Declaration.
The Commission also took part in National Aboriginal Day celebrations by inviting community members to have their portrait taken to be used for future educational resources on the Declaration.
National Aboriginal Day, 2014
Over half of the complaints currently in our system are systemic ones, on the grounds variously of First Nations ancestry, disability and sexual orientation. A very recent one has received local and national media attention. It is a complaint by a father on behalf of his son, a First Nation man who alleges he has spent many months in segregation without treatment at the territorial jail and who has a number of mental disabilities. The public record makes it clear he is not receiving appropriate treatment for his mental disability while at the jail in segregation. A copy of the complaint was given to members of the media by concerned friends and family members.
Another recent February 2014 complaint made public (with extensive local media coverage) by both co-complainants alleges discrimination against them as lesbian mothers due to former provisions in the Vital Statistics Act whereby the Registrar of Vital Statistics refused to issue a birth certificate for their newborn child, with both their names as parents. This in turn led to a speedy amendment of that Act during the spring sitting of the Legislature to stop this discrimination.
The Commission has other systemic complaints in its system currently based on aboriginal ancestry and on disability.
On May 8, 2014, Barb Joe was appointed as the Commission's new member, following the death of Commissioner Joe Prentice earlier in 2014 – a sad loss for our small and close-knit Commission.
Ms. Joe is a member of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, born and raised in the Yukon. She has a BA in Rural Development and Natural Resources Management from University of Alaska and a Law Degree from the University of Victoria. She is the Chair of the Yukon Dispute Resolution Board and Vice President of the Yukon Aboriginal Sport Circle. She is currently employed at the Council for Yukon First Nations Self Government Secretariat as Project/Research Manager and at Kwanlin Dϋn First Nation as their Judicial Council Administrator. She is also the Chef de Mission for Team Yukon Softball team travelling to the North American Indigenous Games in July, 2014.
The Commission thanks the Alberta Human Rights Commission for kindly inviting our intake officer to the May 7 Red Deer training session on Dealing with High Conflict Behaviours, which she found was very useful training.