International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples


Today is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and the 10th Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration addresses many issues to try to rebalance the incredible imbalance of rights and power between Indigenous people and descendants of colonists who traveled and “found” traditional Indigenous land the world over, many years ago. The Declaration speaks of building equality, recognizing the deeply negative impacts of colonization; of recognizing Indigenous peoples’ rights to lands and resources and self-determination. Canada committed to support the UN Declaration only last year, and even then, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould noted that legal contexts in Canada mean that the Declaration can’t be adopted ‘word for word’. The Canadian Government will have to work hard to get through this.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde released a statement yesterday that calls for (among other things) investments to ensure all First Nations can access essential government services such as potable water, health, emergency services, education and community infrastructure. He also notes the urgent need for measures to address diverse forms of racial discrimination impacting Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Hear, hear.

At PAN we recognize the inequities faced by people of Indigenous heritage in the past and in the present. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (unfortunately shorted to UNDRIP!) mentions social and health conditions, pieces that PAN and member organizations can address:

Article 23 states:

Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, Indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.

Article 24 continues:

Indigenous peoples have the right to their traditional medicines and to maintain their health practices, including the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals. Indigenous individuals also have the right to access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services.

Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. States shall take the necessary steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of this right.

The entire Declaration is worth reading. It can inspire us all and how we do our work. We know that Indigenous people are more impacted by HIV and HCV than non-Indigenous people. We know that Indigenous people are disproportionately impacted by the overdose crisis. We know that generations of Indigenous communities deal with multiple layers of historic and ongoing trauma, and this deeply affects health.

PAN and its member orgs are committed to working with BC’s many Indigenous communities and First Nations to support positive change as these communities and Nations see fit. PAN’s membership includes Indigenous organizations that have demonstrated great leadership on many of these issues and we are proud to work with and learn from them.

PAN works in partnership with the First Nations Health Authority on an annual training event for Educators, providing culturally appropriate skills development. Our new Making It Work project is being co-led by Sherri Pooyak, the Community Based Research Manager with the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network/Aboriginal HIV & AIDS CBR Collaborative Centre (AHA Centre) who is a principal investigator. We are also working with Positive Living North: No kheyoh t’sih’en t’sehena Society and Operation Street Angel of the Ktunaxa Nation in Cranbrook. As a foundation of our work, we require all of our staff to complete Provincial Health Services Authority’s Indigenous Cultural Safety Training so we are building our own understanding and sensitivity to our actions and directions. We have ongoing conversations in our team about what reconciliation looks like for our programs and services.

For other organizations and individuals who want to know how to further their commitment to working with Indigenous people, there is the PHSA’s Indigenous Cultural Safety Training, as well as Indigenous Canada, a free course from the University of Alberta. Forthcoming is a guide to reconciliation for non-Indigenous Canadians by a Gwich’in woman named Crystal Fraser.

On this, and every day, PAN wishes to acknowledge where we are, and thank those who work with us on where we want to go. This ongoing recognition of our valued partnerships is why you will find the following acknowledgement at the bottom of PAN staff members’ emails:

Territorial Acknowledgement: PAN, as a provincial organization, gratefully and respectfully works and partners with BC’s 198 First and Métis Nations.


Learn More:

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Marks International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and the 10th Anniversary of the UN Declaration

Statement from Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett

Indigenous Cultural Safety Program

Overdose Data and First Nations in BC

An advocate’s perspective on being Indigenous and fighting the overdose epidemic

PAN’s Drug Use and Overdose Response resources

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action 



Questions? Feedback? Get in touch!
Jennifer Evin (Evin) Jones, Executive Director,
[email protected]