Canada: Native People and South Africans: a Human Rights Issue

Project led by the Centre d’information et de documentation sur le Mozambique et l’Afrique australe (CIDMAA) in collaboration with Concordia University, the Group for Research and Initiative for the Liberation of Africa (GRILA), Entraide Missionnaire, Development and Peace, CUSO, Carrefour Tiers-Monde (Quebec) and Radio Basse-Ville (Quebec).


The crisis experienced by the Mohawks of Kahnawake and Kanahsatake during the summer of 1990 revealed the extent of the problems faced by the native people in Quebec. During his visit to an Amerindian reserve in the summer of 1990, the South African Archbishop Mgr. Tutu compare the situation in this reserves to the townships of South Africa. This statement expressed the certain similarity between the lives of these two peoples and how they are denied their human rights.

The collective and individual rights of Canada native people have been constantly denied for centuries. First Nations are often denied their territorial and political rights. The parallels are striking with the situation faced by South Africans under apartheid that prevailed at that time in a country that denied political, economic and social rights of more than 85% of its population.


The project aimed to organize an exchange between Quebec First Nations communities and South Africans to enable them to become aware of the situation of human rights in their respective communities and the prospects for democratic development. The objectives were:

  • to support building and self-development initiatives of both communities;
  • to foster a mutual understanding of the life conditions and struggles for human rights within the two communities;
  • to create an atmosphere of exchange and solidarity between them;
  • to encourage the creation of lasting links of solidarity between the two communities.


A delegation of three South African community movement (the Civic) came to Canada for a period of three months (from March 6th to May 30th, 1992). During this visit, they had the opportunity to meet with First Nations leaders and live in these communities. They also benefited from a program of training and initiation supported by university teachers and recognized resource persons.

A fifty pages document was prepared for the South African participants. An animation notebook was also produced in French and in English to support the various meetings. Nearly 4,000 copies were distributed in schools and native communities in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick.

The tour went through the cities of Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa, Woodstock (New Brunswick) and many indigenous communities. Activities often followed the same pattern in those communities: meeting with the elementary and high schools students, meetings with members of the Band Council, interviews on community radio and television, meeting with the women's council, meeting with the youth council and finally, some exchange workshops and discussions with the people.

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