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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

Around the world: Three firms ask Canada court to consider systemic discrimination claims against Inuit children, a damning report in New Zealand finds systemic hospital inequities for Māori people, the Aboriginal Sea Company reaches a milestone in Australia, British Colombia commits to Indigenous reconciliation through health-care spending, and Indigenous communities in Kenya remain uncertain over proposed changes in forest law

CANADA: Child welfare unequal in Quebec, suit says

This week starts in Canada, where three law firms have filed an application in Quebec Superior Court on behalf of Inuit children who underwent “decades of allegedly discriminatory and unlawful underfunding of child welfare” and other services in the northern Quebec region of Nunavik, APTN News reported on Feb. 22.

If accepted, the class-action would affect Inuit children who were taken into the Quebec child welfare system since 1975, their parents or grandparents, and Inuit children who “faced a denial, delay, or gap in services,” according to the court application.

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The law firms — Sotos Class Actions, Kugler Kandestin, and Coupal Chauvelot — contend that the Quebec and federal governments violated the constitutional rights of the children and their families by “failing to provide child welfare and other essential health and social services on a level that is substantively equal to what any other Canadian child receives.” APTN News reported.

The application said the Inuit children of Quebec “suffered avoidable family breakups, horrendous abuse, and neglect.”

The petitioners in the suit, Lucy Tookalook and Tanya Jones, are survivors of the child welfare system in Nunavik.

NEW ZEALAND: Māori more likely to die in hospital, study finds

A new study raised questions about the treatment Māori people receive after being admitted to hospital intensive care units, Te Ao Maori News reported on Feb. 28.

The study found that Māori people are more likely to be admitted to ICUs after trauma or with sepsis, and are more likely to die than non-Māori.

The Medical Research Institute of New Zealand analyzed data of more than 50,000 patients admitted to hospital over a 10-year period, and found that Māori patients were more likely than European patients to die within 180 days of admission to intensive care.

The findings suggest a lower standard of care for Māori patients before they are admitted to the ICU, according to Paul Young, an intensive care specialist and deputy director of the research institute.

“When we accounted for underlying conditions and how unwell patients were on hospital arrival, there was no difference in survival rates between Māori and European patients, Young told Te Ao Maori News. “This implies that differences in health outcomes are unlikely to be related to the care being delivered after patients get to the ICU.”

AUSTRALIA: Aboriginal Sea Company reaches milestone

It was all joy after the Northern Land Council reached a major breakthrough in the historic Blue Mud Bay settlement with incorporation of the Aboriginal Sea Company, National Indigenous Times reported on Feb. 25.

The company will facilitate participation of Traditional Owners in commercial fishing, aquaculture and other opportunities.

“We have been waiting for this moment ever since we signed the Nitmiluk heads of agreement in 2019,” land council chairman Mr Bush-Blanasiis quoted as saying. “We have had many critics of land rights over the years, but the sky hasn’t fallen in. It’s good for the economy and it’s good for Traditional Owners. Everyone benefits.”

The land council praised the formation of the Aboriginal Sea Company as a new era of economic enablement for Indigenous people. More than 85 percent of the coastline is under Aboriginal ownership

A 2008 judgment in the Blue Mud Bay High Court found that Traditional Owners were confirmed to have the right to control access to waters covering Aboriginal land.

CANADA: Health care gets boost in reconciliation efforts

The British Columbian government announced new measures in the provincial budget to respond to the needs of Indigenous people and to help meet reconciliation goals, CBC News reported on Feb. 22.

The measures include new primary care centers for First Nations communities, new government agencies and better Internet access.

“It's about finding the path forward, finding the style of engagement that honors the past and provides a future that is beneficial to everyone," said Finance Minister Selina Robinson, according to CBC News.

In 2019, the province passed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People Act into law. It gives a framework for reconciliation in British Columbia.

KENYA: Changes could mean land grab for ancestral lands

Environmentalists and community groups say a proposed change to Kenyan forest law could open ancestral territories to land grabs, though Indigenous groups are mixed on the proposal, Mongabay.com reported on Feb. 21.

The proposed change would effectively eliminate the Kenya Forest Service’s role as a middle-man between activists and the legislature in requests to alter forest boundaries, Mongabay.com reported.

Some Indigenous leaders and others think the change will make it easier for Indigenous people to contact lawmakers about forest land rights.

Paul Chepsoi, program director of the Indigenous organization Ngazi Initiative for Minority Trust, said he is skeptical about the proposal.

“In most Kenyan forests, you will notice that most Indigenous communities either have ongoing cases or were disposed of their ancestral lands,” Chepsoi said, according to Mongabay.com.

The Forestry Society of Kenya said the move will increase forest encroachment, increase the risks for fragile econsystems and weaken Kenya’s conservation goals. Nature Kenya, Africa’s oldest environmental society, voiced similar concerns.

“It is dangerous to reduce the safeguards that protect our remaining forests by leaving the decision to parliamentarians alone,” the Forestry Society of Kenya said. “Removing Kenya Forest Service from decisions on forest boundaries is ill-advised, ill-timed.”

Final thoughts

In my final thoughts, I would like to congratulate the Northern Land Council in the Northern Territory of Australia for the incorporation of the Aboriginal Sea Company, which allows expansion of economic endeavors.

And on a different note, I would like to stand with the Indigenous people of Ukraine and all Ukrainians against the Russian invasion of their country. You are in my thoughts.

Lastly, let me share with you Article 22 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 22
1. Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of Indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities in the implementation of this Declaration.
2. States shall take measures, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples, to ensure that Indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.

Global Indigenous is a weekly news roundup published every Wednesday by Indian Country Today with some of the key stories about Indigenous peoples around the world.

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