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Defenders of the Land is a group of Indigenous Peoples in Canada who are defending lands and water, ways of life and indigenous rights and are of one mind that Indigenous Peoples are sovereign nations and so should have the inherent right to self-determination.

The Defenders of Land are seeking full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples including Canada honoring all international and historic Treaty obligations with Indigenous Peoples. Canada should jointly change the federal policies on self-government, land claims, historic treaties, the right to self-determination and the right to exercise free, prior, and informed consent. The government should fully support the right of Indigenous Peoples to practice cultures and languages, and give full redress for past wrongs.

A call from the Defenders of the Land to support a cross-Canada week of educational events on Indigenous rights and struggles resulted in the formation of the Indigenous Sovereignty Committee, a group of Indigenous people and allies including CUPE to organize activities across the country during the week of October 24-31, 2009. The purpose of this week is to build local relationships between groups and individuals, and contribute to building a cross-Canada movement for Indigenous rights, self-determination, and justice that is led by Indigenous communities but with a broad base of informed support.

It is evident that several negative social and economic conditions faced by members of Aboriginal communities include: high unemployment rates, lack of adequate housing, inadequate access to healthcare, lack of support for Aboriginal youth and women, and inadequate education and training. CUPE believes that the leadership of all political parties urgently need to address these issues as well as to call upon both federal and provincial governments to resume the stalled discussions on land claims and self-government.

CUPE’s 2007 Convention Policy Paper on Aboriginal Issues and Strategic Directions outlines CUPE’s commitment with the Aboriginal communities on issues such as rights to their land and their own governmental structures. Along with this is a commitment related to mutual understandings and collaboration between First Peoples and the union. CUPE is supportive of educating our own members about the aspirations of the Aboriginal Peoples and will work to combat discrimination and unemployment internally and externally to CUPE.

CUPE vows to support and continue working in solidarity with our Aboriginal Sisters and Brothers and their communities to raise and address these important issues as our ongoing work in the struggle for full equality and justice for all. We encourage all CUPE members to participate in Indigenous Sovereignty Week activities.

In solidarity,

National President

National Secretary-Treasurer