VIETNAM: Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination discusses situation in Viet Nam and Canada with non-governmental organizations

20 February 2012

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this morning held an interactive dialogue with non-governmental organizations from Viet Nam and Canada. The reports of those two countries will be reviewed by the Committee this week.

Representatives of non-governmental organizations in Viet Nam raised a number of issues concerning discrimination against the Montagnard Degar people in Viet Nam including arbitrary detention for men, forced sterilization among women, land confiscation without compensation and the unlawful imprisonment of 400 individuals for their Christian faith and exercising their right to peaceful assembly. Speakers also noted the racial discrimination against the Khmer Krom indigenous people in the Mekong Delta of Viet Nam whose ancestral lands were confiscated by the Government and whose religious freedom was denied on the grounds that these minorities were a threat to society.

Yong-an Huang, the Committee’s Rapporteur for Viet Nam, asked why the Khmer Krom referred to themselves as indigenous people rather than as an ethnic minority, the term used by the Vietnamese Government, and noted that the accusations of extermination against indigenous people were extreme and amounted to racial cleansing. Other Committee Experts asked the status of the creation of an independent human rights institution and the inter-linkages between discrimination against the Montagnard Degar people on the basis of ethnicity and religion.

Representatives of non-governmental organizations in Canada said that African Canadian people consistently faced extreme marginalization and exclusion, including racial profiling. Many speakers noted the disproportionate level of violence faced by indigenous women and their high rates of incarceration, with a 131 per cent increase from 1998 to 2008 in the number of indigenous women serving federal sentences. Speakers noted the failure by the Government to hold Canadian mining companies accountable for human rights violations against indigenous people outside of Canada and that there was a glaring abuse of indigenous people’s rights taking place through the Government of Canada’s support for and licensing of corporations to carry out oil extraction from tar sands mining in Northern Alberta. Speakers raised the issue of the huge socio-economic gap between indigenous people and the rest of Canadian society and urged that the gap be addressed through the direct and full participation of indigenous peoples in all resource development.

Anwar Kemal, the Committee’s Rapporteur for Canada, asked why valuable resources were not shared between the Government and indigenous people when extracted from their land in the tar sands and the potash mines. A Committee Expert said a central issue which appeared to run through all the presentations on Canada was the question of proof of title, especially in land acquisition cases, and asked about the structural and cultural questions behind proof of title.

Speaking during the discussion were representatives from Montagnard Foundation, Inc, Khmers Kampuchea Krom Federation, Unrepresented Nations and People Organization, Viet Nam Committee on Human Rights, Montagnard Human Rights Organization, African Canadian Legal Clinic, Canadian Friends Service Committee, The Grand Council of the Crees, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Amnesty International, International Indian Treaty Council, Indigenous Bar Association, International Indian Treaty Council, ITTC and Dene Nation, Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations and Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, Treaty 4 Nations (Saskatchewan and Manitoba) and Assembly of First Nations.

The next meeting of the Committee will take place this afternoon, Monday, 20 February at 3 p.m. when the Committee will begin consideration of the twelfth to fourteenth periodic reports of Portugal (CERD/C/PRT/12-14).

For more details, see OHCHR

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