Resolution Calling to Ensure the Rights of the Ainu People
The Ainu people are the indigenous people who originated from Hokkaido and its surrounding areas. They have formed “Ainu Kotan” (traditional autonomous communities of Ainu people located throughout their habitats), made a living centered on fishing, catching and collecting seafood and aquatic plants such as seaweed, hunting and gathering. Additionally, they enjoy the blessings of nature, speak their own language called the Ainu language, and conduct traditional religious ceremonies and festivals, cultivating a culture of their own.
However, since the Meiji era, the government changed the name of the regions that had been referred to as Matsumae and “Ezo” to Hokkaido and have pursued the policy of assimilation of the Ainu people by banning the Ainu traditions and customs and forcing the use of the Japanese language on the Ainu people.
The lands where the Ainu people traditionally have led their lives and made a living by fishing, hunting, gathering, etc., were designated as government-owned lands. Also, a large number of “Wajin” (referring to Japanese citizens other than the Ainu people) settled in Hokkaido for the purpose of economic development of the lands. The habitats of the Ainu people were taken away and the natural environment such as rivers and forests that served as the basis of their livelihoods were altered. In addition, restrictions on fishing and hunting were introduced, inflicting major damage to the daily lives and culture of the Ainu people.
In 2008, the “Resolution Calling for the Recognition of the Ainu People as Indigenous People” was adopted in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors. In 2019, “The Act Promoting Measures to Achieve a Society in which the Pride of Ainu People is Respected” was enacted, recognizing the Ainu people as indigenous people. The Act contains provisions relaxing the restrictions on the use of traditional fishing methods, etc., while provisions protecting the rights of Ainu Kotan, for example, the rights of the Ainu people to do fishing, hunting, gathering, etc., to manage and maintain the natural habitats of the animals and plants they fish, hunt and gather, to use the Ainu Language in public settings and to receive education in the Ainu language, etc., were not included.
Amongst others, the fishing and hunting of salmon, which is a major component in the diet of the Ainu people, is an integral part of their life, traditional ceremonies, and culture. Ensuring the fishing and hunting as the rights for Ainu Kotan, traditional autonomous communities of the Ainu people, is a matter of importance.
Furthermore, it can be said that the destruction of nature in Hokkaido is a serious infringement of the rights of the Ainu people to live in harmony with nature. A good example of this infringement is the controversy surrounding the Nibutani Dam, the construction of which was planned by the government but opposed by the residents of the Nibutani district in the town of Biratori, as it would destroy sacred sites of the Ainu people, leading to the filing of a lawsuit by the residents who opposed this plan.
In 2007, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted and voted in favor by Japan. Ensuring the rights of the Ainu people is a matter of significant importance in both national and international contexts.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (the “JFBA”) calls on the national and Hokkaido governments to take the following measures in order to align their policies concerning the Ainu people with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, restore the traditional lifestyle and culture of the Ainu people, and realize the rights of Ainu Kotan and the Ainu people. Also, we as a bar association whose mission is to protect human rights express our determination to continue to work tirelessly to ensure the rights of the Ainu people.
1. The national and Hokkaido governments shall respect the unique traditions of the Ainu Kotan and recognize and ensure the rights of the Ainu Kotan to participate in fishing, hunting and gathering, etc., and to manage and maintain the natural habitats of the animals and plants they fish, hunt, and gather. They also shall recognize and ensure the cultural and spiritual rights of the Ainu Kotan to hold religious and traditional ceremonies, etc.
2. The national and Hokkaido governments shall implement measures to ensure the rights of the Ainu people, such as ensuring the right to receive an education in the Ainu Language, fostering academic efforts for the preservation and growth of the Ainu language, and improving the social status of the Ainu people including the improvement of access to higher education and employment opportunities.
3. The national government shall confirm that international treaties that have been ratified by Japan such as the International Covenants on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, etc. recognize that indigenous peoples have the collective right as stated in paragraph 1. The government shall work on the prompt domestic implementation of these treaties, consider ratifying the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169) of ILO, and introduce domestic laws aiming to achieve what is stated in paragraphs 1 and 2.
We resolve as above.
September 30, 2022
Japan Federation of Bar Associations