L-R: President Chartier, MP Julie Dzerowicz, Min. Declos

The United Nations convened its third world conference in Quito, Ecuador, with the first one held in Vancouver, BC in 1976 and the second, in Istanbul, Turkey in 1996.

Habitat III was officially designated the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development and focused on committing efforts to reinvigorating sustainable urbanization through the implementation of a New Urban Agenda, building on the previous two conferences, in particular the one in Istanbul.

According to published material preceding the conference, the New Urban Agenda will take into consideration:

  • the role of sustainable urbanization as a driver of sustainable development;
  • urban-rural linkages;
  • the interlinkages among the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development in promoting stable, prosperous, and inclusive societies.

Thousands of delegates from around the world participated in the many sessions and events which took place during the four day conference.

Noticeably absent however, were Indigenous peoples, particularly from the Americas.  President Chartier attended but did not have much success in making contacts with other Indigenous leaders or people/delegates from the Americas.  The one session featuring Indigenous peoples did have Teanna Ducharme, an Indigenous youth from Haida Gwaii (BC) as part of the panel and President Chartier was impressed by her passionate presentation.  But for that session, there was no (visible) active engagement of Indigenous peoples.

For President Chartier, this was his second Habitat Conference, as he was part of the Association of Métis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan delegation which attended the 1976 Habitat Conference in Vancouver.  As part of the 1976 delegation, President Chartier wrote an article about that experience for their New Breed Magazine, a copy of which is appended.

The differences between the two Conferences over the past 40 year period is that domestically, the Aboriginal and Treaty rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada have been entrenched in Canada’s constitution, and the the Supreme Court of Canada has rendered a number of favourable ruling on Métis Nation rights.  Additionally, the United Nations has passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which Canada has embraced and in June of this year, the Organization of American States (OAS) has passed the Inter-American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, for which Canada has yet to indicate its support or non-support.

Interestingly, the Prime Minister in 1976 was The Rt. Hon. Pierre Trudeau who in 1982 entrenched Indigenous rights in the Canadian Constitution, with the current Prime Minister being the son, The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau who has pledged to implement those rights and the relationship with Indigenous peoples on a nation-to-nation basis.

The Canadian delegation was headed by the Hon. Jean-Yves Declos who was quite open and accommodating to all delegates from Canada and who has, since his appointment as Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, been open to dealing with the Métis Nation and who in Ecuador re-affirmed his continuing efforts to work with the Métis Nation leadership on a nation-to-nation basis.

Also part of the Canadian delegation were Members of Parliament, Adam Vaughan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Julie Dzerowicz, MP for Davenport.

At the final debriefing session on Thursday evening, President Chartier had an opportunity to express his observations about the absence of Indigenous peoples and called on Minister Duclos to lend his support to current efforts to convince the Canadian government to once again support the Indigenous peoples in the Americas to formalize relationships and thus be better able to represent their peoples and nations at future international events which impact their lives individually and communally.

New Breed Magazine, July 1976, Habitat Conference, Vancouver BC (Download PDF)

Adam Vaughan

Teanna Ducharme

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