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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 June 11 - 17  > Ainu policy must be drastically reviewed to meet new Diet resolution
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2008 June 11 - 17 [CIVIL RIGHTS]
editorial 

Ainu policy must be drastically reviewed to meet new Diet resolution

June 16, 2008
Akahata editorial (excerpts)

Following passage of the unanimous “Resolution Seeking to Recognize the Ainu People as an Indigenous People” through both houses of the Diet on June 6, the government accepted it after many years of refusal.

Ainu are indigenous people who live primarily the northern areas of Japan, including Hokkaido, Sakhalin, and the Chishima Islands.

*According to a Hokkaido government survey, there are about 24,000 Ainu people living in Japan today.

It is significant that the Diet resolution states, “The government shall recognize the Ainu as an indigenous people with a unique language and distinctive religious/cultural practices.”

Calls for Ainu to be recognized as an indigenous people began to grow following the U.N. General Assembly Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted in September 2007. Although the Japanese government voted in favor of the declaration, it continued to refuse to acknowledge Ainu as an indigenous people until the recent adoption by the Diet of the resolution.

The resolution noted, "The government would like to solemnly accept the historical fact that many Ainu were discriminated against and forced to live in poverty." Indeed, the Ainu people were forced to endure terrible discrimination.

According to a Hokkaido Prefectural Government survey in 2006, 38 out of every 1,000 Ainu people were on welfare. The rate is much higher than the national average. The percentage of Ainu children going to high school and universities is much lower than the national average.

The Japanese government is to blame for their terrible economic situation. Because of the “Aborigine Protection Law” enacted in 1899, the Ainu people were severely discriminated against. The law remained intact until it was abolished in 1997.

What’s worse, the government has refused to take any positive measures to end the discrimination and to improve their daily living conditions.

To date, the government has never conducted a census on the Ainu. How can the government eliminate discrimination against the Ainu people without knowing their real situation?

In order to end the discrimination against the Ainu people and to reduce their poverty rate, the government must ensure that their children can receive equal opportunities for education and work, and establish a special allowance system to support the living conditions of tribal elders.

It is essential to support the Ainu people in the struggle to establish their rights to live in dignity under stable living conditions. - Akahata, June 16, 2008
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