Canada’s Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) have filed a complaint of discrimination to the United Nations Human Rights Committee against the Canadian Government.

The complaint, filed to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, alleges discrimination against “off-reserve Status and non-Status, Métis, and Inuit Indigenous Peoples based on their Indigeneity”.

According to CAP, the federal government has a “distinctions-based approach” to policy specific to Indigenous Peoples and has selected only three recognised groups of Indigenous Peoples to engage with – The Assembly of First Nations, the Metis National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

None of the three groups currently represent off-reserve or non-Status Indigenous Peoples.

The complaint argues government denies rights to “CAP and its constituents, Canada’s off-reserve Indigenous Peoples” by excluding them from consultations that relate to them – including self-government, land claims, healthcare, education, infrastructure, and natural resources.

“Canada, under the Trudeau government, calls this discrimination ‘a distinctions-based approach’ towards Indigenous policy-making. This has been in place since approximately 2016,” said CAP National Chief Elmer St. Pierre.

“As part of this policy, Canada has chosen only to engage in consultation and negotiation with three ‘recognised’ groups, none of whom represent the interests or voices of all off-reserve Indigenous Peoples.

“Canada has failed to engage with or meet the needs of its urban Indigenous people.”

The organisation alleged discrimination on the government’s “inaccurate and stereotypical assumption” that the nation’s off-reserve Indigenous Peoples are “less Indigenous than their reserve-based counterparts”.

Currently, it’s recognised that over 70 per cent of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples live off-reserve. CAP believes that without their inclusion in government consultations, many of said people will be unrepresented and their needs will not be met by government policy or programs.

CAP National Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin said that off-reserve Status and non-Status Indians, Métis and Inuit peoples have faced a history of disadvantage.

“Indigenous People in Canada still face widespread discrimination and racism in justice, and health care,” said Beaudin.

“All this stems from a lack of recognition that should have followed the Supreme Court ruling on the CAP-Daniels legal battle.

“Prime Minister Trudeau has allowed a discriminatory approach to off-reserve Indigenous peoples that is wrong and is badly hurting grassroots indigenous peoples.”

The organisation saw its national leadership united in the decision to proceed with the complaint against the government.

They did not pursue legal action within Canada as it would be extremely expensive and would take “years to resolve and is unlikely to result in an effective remedy”.

By Rachael Knowles