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Mexico and Canada Sign Memorandum of Understanding about Indigenous Peoples Without Consulting First Nations

Cultural Survival

On June 28th, 2016, the President of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, issued a joint statement declaring that they have reached an accord regarding Indigenous Peoples. The statement affirmed “the importance of a renewed strategic partnership founded on the fundamental values of democracy, respect for human rights, diversity, inclusion, gender equality, Indigenous rights, good governance, and rule of law, as well as on improved economic opportunity and respect for our shared environment.”

Information on the accord is still limited, but the statement notes that “both countries have also agreed to share more information about how we can improve the health and prosperity of our Indigenous Peoples.” Both Justin Trudeau and Enrique Peña Nieto attest that First Nations and Indigenous Peoples will form part of the advancements promised by the accord. The statement issued also mentions increased efforts by both countries to create new energy reforms, taking steps forward for Indigenous communities to participate in the decision-making in the energy sector.

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde acknowledged the new accord between Canada and Mexico, answering that “any initiatives aimed at Indigenous Peoples must respect Indigenous rights, Treaties, human rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are concerned that First Nations have not had the opportunity to provide input on the Accord announced today. We fully expect to get more details immediately so we can assess the accord and consider the next steps. We are pushing for sustained action to close the gap and ensure respect for Indigenous rights and it is essential that First Nations be directly involved in any agreement of this kind from the beginning.” The Assembly of First Nations is an organizationthat represents First Nation citizens in Canada. Chief Perry Bellegarde added that the Assembly of First Nations is currently examining the accord and plans on searching for more specific information regarding First Nations and Indigenous Peoples in the accord to distribute it as soon as possible.

According to the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), 851,560 people in Canada identified themselves as First Nations individuals, making up 2.6% of the total population of Canada. As a group, they represent more than 600 First Nations and at least 60 different languages. In Mexico, The National Institute for Statistics and Geography (INEGI), the National Population Council (CONAPO) and the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) report that there are 16,933,283 Indigenous people in Mexico. Indigenous Peoples in Mexico make up 15.1% of the total population of 112,236,538 people. As a whole, Indigenous communities in Mexico speak 68 different languages and 364 different dialects.

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