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International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: Honouring the past, Building bridges to the future

By Richard Webster

Did you know that there are approximately 370 million indigenous peoples in over 90 countries around the world? Or that of those 370 million, Canada is home to over 1.4 million indigenous peoples, representing 4.3% of the total Canadian population?

Today marks the 19th commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. First proclaimed by the UN General Assembly on December 23, 1994, August 9 marks the day of the first meeting (1982) of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations.

This annual event is an occasion to celebrate and raise greater awareness of the rich cultural diversity of more than 50 distinct and diverse indigenous groups in Canada, while also providing an important opportunity to reflect on the necessity of respecting and promoting the rights of the growing demographic of indigenous children and youth across this country.

For instance, between 2006 and 2011, Canada’s Aboriginal population increased by 20.1%, compared to 5.2% for the country’s non-Aboriginal population. Now, more than ever, this expanding generation of young people should know their rights. Other Canadians should also know these rights, which help form a mutual basis of understanding and dialogue. This year, UNICEF released a youth-friendly version of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clearly describing how indigenous peoples’ rights are to be protected by governments around the world – a tool that not only indigenous children and youth should be made well aware of, but a useful resource for us all.

This year’s theme of ‘Indigenous peoples building alliances: Honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements’ prompts us to honour and recognize the past and build bridges to the future. While these communities saw a number of tragic events this year, in my view, they also saw a leap forward in terms of mobilization and domestic and international recognition of indigenous rights issues in Canada through greater political engagement and the use of social media by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples.

How will you build your bridge this Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples?

Learn More. Volunteer. Talk to your MP. Visit our friends in the North-South Partnership for First Nations Children. Join the conversation with us on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Help us ensure that all children and youth here in Canada know the rights that bind them in important relationships with each other, for a better future for all Canadian children.