Muhammad Usman Ranjha: Are indigenous rights racist?

Racial profiling is indeed often directed towards indigenous people. It is mainly influenced by stereotypes that are distinctly negative against these communities. For example, in Ontario, it was discovered that racial profiling and discrimination is widespread among indigenous people. In fact, in some communities, it is normalized. It is characterized by denial of services or low quality services are provided to them, unfair targeting, harassment and humiliation. In some areas, indigenous communities are treated like “second class citizens” yet they’re in their own homes. Their race and ancestry exposes them to being singled out as risky to others. They are scrutinized, watched and followed as a result of this.

They experience racial discrimination in education, business, healthcare, social services, child welfare, government and housing. Racial profiling is also prevalent against them in policing. Indigenous people in Ontario were reported to have been experiencing daily racism, harassment, inequitable treatment and hate. In the criminal justice system, racism is also very prevalent. For example, accused people of indigenous nature often languish in the jails before they are released or provided with appropriate accommodation. They often struggle to come up with bail plans as they are placed far away from their families, thus lacking social support.

Jeffrey Guzman: How do individual rights conflict with indigenous rights?

In addition to what you’ve said above, it is important to note that international law covers the topic of indigenous rights. In fact, referring to indigenous people as “peoples” has been a great source of debate in international law. Disagreements have been based on whether collective rights are entailed of “peoples”. It has been generally viewed that “peoples” such as indigenous peoples have individual rights, political and civil rights and collective rights. Governments have for long been opposing the use of this term with regard to indigenous peoples as it tends to conflict with the rights of individuals.

To demystify this, the UN Working Group has expanded the definition of indigenous peoples by including the aspect of self-identification. In other words, every individual identifying him/herself as part of a community of indigenous peoples is considered an indigenous person with their own individual rights. This makes it easier for individual rights to be applied on each person and indigenous rights on the population, reducing the conflict between these two rights. Convention 107 emphasized on individual rights by treating indigenous peoples as individual persons. This has been beneficial as people are able to exercise their individual rights such as pursuing social, cultural and economic development and political status. It has also helped to preserve the community’s traditions and culture through maintaining indigenous rights.

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