By Tim Harper, National Affairs columnist
It is a visit more than 18 months in the planning, a somewhat grudging welcome mat laid out by a government that does not embrace international observers on its turf.
But James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, says he takes the Conservative promise of co-operation at face value, even as he began his tour of the country Monday to gauge the government's progress on aboriginal rights with his eyes wide open.
He knows the likes of him have been treated with disdain by the Harper Conservatives in the past.
"I don't think it's surprising that governments might look at someone from the outside as not having as much knowledge or awareness as someone from the inside," he said. "I think it's only natural."
His visit will receive unprecedented attention because his timing is auspicious.
As we spoke Friday, there were tears being shed on the steps of Parliament, and at as many as 200 other venues across the nation, as the families of missing and murdered aboriginal women remembered loved ones and again called for a national inquiry into what they believe to be the indifferent reaction of authorities to the tragedies visited upon them.
Such an inquiry has the support of First Nations leadership, the federal opposition parties and the provinces, but not the Conservative government.
As Anaya begins his work Monday, there will be ceremonies here marking the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation that set aboriginal title to land in this country and set out the treaty process.
As he wraps up his week-long tour, he will sit down at an Ottawa news conference the day before Prime Minister Stephen Harper lays out his vision for the remainder of the term in a vitally important speech from the throne that could provide the Harper legacy or propel him to another term.
There are expectations that the throne speech will touch on native education, the mismatch between unfilled jobs and aboriginal unemployment, the need to reach consensus with aboriginals on pipelines and other resource extraction projects, and perhaps even - finally - movement on the missing and murdered women file.
Harper's acknowledged high point in dealing with aboriginal concerns in this country was his 2008 apology for the Residential Schools abuses, but the ensuing five years have been marked by disappointment and frustration, culminating with last winter's Idle No More protests and the liquids-only fast by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.
The next flash point is Harper's stated priority of getting Alberta bitumen to Asian markets over aboriginal objections.
And Anaya, while in British Columbia, will be asked by First Nations to investigate the legality of drilling and tree removal permits already granted to Enbridge.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo has characterized the looming resource battle as "collaboration or collision" and he has vowed that First Nations will stand their ground until their rights are respected.
Anaya says there is a duty of the state to consult "in order to obtain consent" in regards to resource extraction on aboriginal land.
But whether the question is title rights, land rights or rights to sacred sites, "the consultations are a safeguard that any limitation on those rights are mitigated or compensated for or adequate steps are taken to address those concerns if there are any limitations.
"All of that should lead to consensus."
Last year, the UN right-to-food envoy, Olivier De Schutter, scolded Ottawa in very plain language, calling the government "self-righteous," and pointing to child hunger in our inner cities and our remote reserves. He also told Postmedia News that Canada had an "appallingly poor" record of responding to UN human rights concerns.
For his trouble, one Harper cabinet minister, Leona Aglukkaq called him ill-informed and patronizing and another, Jason Kenney, called him "completely ridiculous."
Anaya cannot be painted as an outlier. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Toronto and has visited this country many times, both for business and pleasure. Anaya, who will meet with Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, says he is not coming to stir the pot or shame anybody.
But expectations are high.
Atleo says the visit will hold a mirror for the world on aboriginal injustice for this country.
Anaya says he has had "a lot of different reactions" from a lot of countries regarding his recommendations and analyses, but one reaction he does not deserve from this government is disdain.
Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. email@example.com Twitter:@nutgraf1