There’s an important editorial in this week’s edition of Nepali Times. It points out that while the Government of Nepal portrays itself as a human rights leader at the global level, at home it falls distressingly short of what’s required of a rights champion.
Not only have successive governments failed to implement a credible transitional justice process following the ceasefire between government and the Maoists in 2006, current leaders – including former Maoist fighters – are trying to curtail the powers of the National Human Rights Commission. The NHRC’s recommendations have been almost totally ignored by various governments since it started work in 2000.
In Australia, the debate on Indigenous Peoples issues takes two forms: silence or romanticisation.
I’m constantly drawn to the similarities between the history of Indigenous People in Canada and Australia. In both places, settlers stole their land and tried to wipe out their cultures, mainly by taking children from their parents with an aim to ‘kill the Indian in the child’. (The approach was shockingly similar in the US also).
“Many victims have been unable to get on with their lives. They are frustrated and suffer from psychological trauma.”
I set out to write an article about the vision underlying Nepal’s transitional justice (TJ) process — was the focus on truth, reparations, justice? etc. — but I quickly understood that any such theorizing was quickly overtaken by political leaders’ desire to use TJ to absolve them of responsibility.
Instead, I focused on some of the victims in this article for IPS News. I understand that efforts are being made to draft amendments to the laws creating the truth and disappearance commissions. If anyone has details, contact me.
“Reconstruction and reconciliation require finances and physical structure, but the families of the victims of the conflict first and foremost need their integrity protected. Physical and financial compensation mean little without justice,” wrote Suman Adhikari nearly 11 years ago, during a ceasefire in Nepal’s Maoist insurgency. Continue reading “Time stands still for Nepal’s conflict victims”
I recently reviewed a report by the Nepal office International Centre for Transitional Justice and Martin Chautari, a think-tank in Kathmandu. The focus was what ‘truth’ means for victims of the 10-year Maoist insurgency. I wrote:
Referring to the dysfunctional truth and disappearance commissions the report says: ‘So far only a relatively narrow constituency of two broadly opposing sides has been involved in debates. Among national and international NGOs, human rights lawyers, and victims’ groups, the dominant discourse has focused on the demand for individual criminal accountability, while government leaders and representatives of the major political parties and security forces have worked to ensure that criminal prosecution and trials are completely off the table.’
A senator apologist for Indian residential schools and a justice who bases a judgment on the devastating impact of those schools. It’s a good thing only one has decision-making powers.
Two Canadians in powerful positions with totally divergent views about the impact of residential schools on Indigenous Peoples: thankfully the one with the decision-making power has taken the time to understand the painful history, and legacy, of this atrocious system.
In January, Justice David Gibson of the Ontario Court of Justice wrote an insightful commentary on the history of Pikangikum, a First Nation community in northern Ontario.
Now that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has scheduled the release of its final report, the real work must begin: getting all Canadians to recognise that the residential school system was only a symptom of how society in general mistreated aboriginal people historically, that the effects of that abuse are still being felt, and that it will take an effort by all of us to overcome them.
I was happy to see the TRC’s Chairman, Justice Murray Sinclair, say that he wants to kick-start a national debate on how to bridge the gap between aboriginal Canadians and the rest of us. One very public way to engage would be to participate in the Walk for Reconciliation in Ottawa on May 31. I hope to see you there!
“I lost my brother CJ at the residential school in Kenora,” says Achneepineskum. “His name was Charlie Wenjack. He was only 12.*
My life has been not as good as it should be… Love is something I don’t know. I don’t know what that is.”
It was lonely: all I wanted to do was go home. Getting beaten up, and picked on, and sexually abused … that was the stuff I wanted to run from.
I’ve got 4 children, 1 daughter and 3 sons … and I treat them as if they were in residential school – that’s all I know.”
*Charlie Wenjack’s body was found a week after he ran away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora. CBC Radio News did a special report on his death, and broader issues linked to it.
In March 2014, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission held its seventh and final national event concerning the residential school system. In the 19th and 20th centuries about 150,000 indigenous children were seized from their families by authorities and forced to attend such schools across Canada.