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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

Around the world: A teenage activist is killed in Colombia, pesticides are being dispersed in the Amazon rainforest, a Māori employment plan is delayed, an Inuit traditional food program gets high marks in Ottawa, and Australia’s new cybersafety law stirs debate.

COLOMBIA: Teen activist among three killed in ambush

This week begins with a horror story about a 14-year-old Indigenous activist murdered in cold blood along with two others while on patrol with an unarmed group known as the Indigenous Guard, The Guardian reported on Jan. 18.

According to the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, Breiner David Cucuñame, of the Nasa people, was accompanying his father when the teen and two other colleagues were killed in an ambush.

It is the latest in a wave of killings in the South American country, with an environmentalist or social leader killed every 60 hours in 2021. Indigenous leaders blamed the murder on the remnants of the largely defunct rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, the Guardian reported.

“The Indigenous Guard are protectors of the land and the environment, and Breiner represented that,” Eduin Mauricio Capaz, the council’s human rights coordinator told the Guardian. “In Colombia, armed groups dominate once more.”

Colombia remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for activists, although the 145 deaths in 2021 was down a bit from 182 in 2020.

BRAZIL: Pesticides released to speed up deforestation

Pesticides are being dropped from planes and helicopters to speed up the deforestation of the world’s largest rainforest in Brazil, Mongabay.com reported on Jan. 19.

The move allows developers to evade the Brazilian Environmental Agency by allowing the pesticides to reach remote areas of the forest without being detected by satellite.

“Although human-induced forest degradation takes a few years to happen, the process is advantageous to criminals because chances of being caught are very low,” Mongabay.com reported. “A dead forest is easier to remove than a living one.”

Among the pesticides being used are glyphosate, which is prohibited for aerial spraying, and 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange used extensively in the Vietnam War that can cause birth defects.

“Causing forest degradation through pesticides is a major aggression to the environment,” Eduardo Malta, a biologist at the NGO Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), told Mongabay.com. “And it’s very dangerous for anyone nearby when pesticides are thrown.”

NEW ZEALAND: Delay of Māori jobs plan draws fire

Activitists are accusing the New Zealand government of failing to prioritize the Māori employment action plan that was set to be released in December last year, Te Ao Māori News reported on Jan. 22.

Louise Upston, national spokesperson for Social Development and Employment, said the delay “is appalling and an opportunity lost for many Māori,” Te Ao Māori News reported.

"You would have thought with Covid-19, in the high levels of unemployment that were expected, that actually, it would have brought forward the Māori employment action plan,” Upston told the news. “So not only did they not do that, knowing unemployment was likely to hit Māori harder than other groups, but also, they haven't delivered it on time.”

According to December 2021 figures, more than 70,800 Māori received the Jobseeker support payment, which was about 37 percent of the total number. The same number was a drop of about 5,000 from the September quarter.

“It's a no-brainer that people want to be in work,” Upston said. “There are employers all over New Zealand who are desperate for workers.”

CANADA: Program offers traditional foods to Inuits

The community organization Tungasuvvingat Inuit is offering a food security program aimed at giving Inuit people greater access to traditional cuisine, APTN News reported Jan. 21.

The traditional foods being offered to the Inuit community in Ottawa’s Vanier district are only available in Canada’s far north, including muktuk, caribou and Arctic char.

“The first week we opened we served 30 people and now we’re serving about 100 people a week,” Rhonda Huneault, the program’s food security manager, told APTN News. “Our highest number, which was 155 people, we served the week after Christmas.”

The rapid increase in food prices is also contributing to the popularity of the program. According to a 2022 Canada Food Price Report published by Dalhousie University, the cost of basic groceries is estimated to rise 5-7 percent this year.

The program, which has been operating since August, is open to all Inuit people living in Ottawa.

AUSTRALIA: New cybersafety law sidesteps racism

A First Nations expert on Indigenous people’s experiences with online violence is criticizing a new law on cybersafety, saying it doesn’t do much about racist attacks online, National Indigenous Television reported Jan. 21.

The cybersafety law, the first of its kind in the world aimed at protecting adults who experience harm online, is part of the new national Online Safety Act that went into effect on Sunday, Jan. 23.

The new law gives the eSafety commissioner authority to order the deletion of online abuse when social media companies fail to act on user complaints.

An Aboriginal professor, Bronwyn Carlson, who was born and lives in D’harawal Country, says the law doesn’t openly link cyberbullying to racism. She said Indigenous people were not included in the process for drafting the legislation.

“Racism is an insidious and violent behavior which can manifest in many ways, including online posts that are both random and targeted,” she told NITV. “Sadly, I do not think it will lead to greater accountability for those experiencing racism online.”

Austrialia’s Minister for Communications said the law would protect people being threatened.

“Those that show a clear intent to cause serious harm, and which any reasonable person would regard as menacing, harassing or offensive (would breach the act),” Fletcher told NITV.

Final thoughts

In my final thoughts this week, my heart is with the family of the 14-year-old Indigenous teen and with all the Indigenous people of Colombia for losing such a young soul and a brave fighter for his people. He died defending the environment like many other Indigenous people around the world. May his killers face justice, and may his young soul rest in eternal peace.

Lastly, let me share with you Article 7 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which addresses rights to life.

Article 7
1. Indigenous individuals have the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person.
2. Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group.

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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