Canada’s ‘First Nations’ – the name given to the country’s indigenous peoples (excluding the Inuit and Métis) – are following the Tibetan protests ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games with great interest, and have said that they are considering holding similar demonstrations in 2010, when Vancouver will host the Winter Olympics.
This was the message of the head of the First Nations Assembly, Phil Fontaine, although he also reminded people that his organization has previously shown its support for the Olympics. But Fontaine is not ruling out demonstrations to encourage the Canadian Government to take action against the poor quality of life faced by the indigenous population.
The Amerindians, or – to use the more politically correct term – “First Nations”, represent 3.75% of the Canadian population (or 1,172,790 people) and rank among the country’s poorest communities. The major problems faced by the First Nations include access to decent housing, high unemployment and a high suicide rate. Indigenous peoples from across Canada will take part in a protest on 29 May to raise awareness of their plight.
The Olympics – a chance for international exposure
Many communities have attempted to use the Olympic Games to raise awareness of their plight around the globe. A few months ago it was announced that the 2014 Winter Olympics would be held in Sotchi in the North Caucasus. A group of local associations have begun a campaign entitled Sotchi, the Land of Genocide to express their concern over the ecological costs of hosting the Games in a popular tourist destination and their disappointment that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should have chosen the Russian Federation, and specifically the Caucasus, to host the sporting event, thereby legitimizing the “gross human rights violations” in the region reported by international human rights organizations.
During the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona members of some independentist groups were victims of repression and even claimed to have suffered physical abuse and torture. In 2004, the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg condemned Spain for not thoroughly investigating the claims.