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Indigenous Peoples

    December 08, 2015

    Read the FAQ on Public Inquiries

     

    Today the government of Canada launched the design process for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada. Amnesty International welcomes this announcement, which has been long called for by Indigenous women and girls, the families of women who have gone missing and been murdered, National Aboriginal Organizations, and human rights groups like Amnesty International. We are mindful of all the families we have worked with for so many years as part of our No More Stolen Sisters campaign--they are in our thoughts today and every day. 

    In the lead up to this announcement, many questions. What exactly is a National Inquiry? What can it accomplish? How will the voices of Indigenous women and girls and family members be heard? 

    November 24, 2015

    Respect for Indigenous peoples' right of free, prior and informed (FPIC) must be a matter of urgent priority for any government committed to a respectful relationship with Indigenous peoples.

    This is part of a message to the the new Prime Minister and his Cabinet from Indigenous peoples' organizations, human rights groups, environmentalists and others.

    In an open letter sent today, 16 organizations from across Canada called on the federal government to collaborate with Indigenous Peoples’ governments and organizations to ensure that:

    October 15, 2015

    “Our people have a deep connection with this land because our ancestors told the stories and legends that are connected to that valley.”
    -- Chief Liz Logan, Treaty 8 Tribal Association, testifying before the environmental impact assessment of the proposed Site C hydroelectric dam

    The Peace River Valley in northeastern British Columbia is a unique ecosystem and one of the very few areas in the region that so far has been largely preserved from large-scale resource development. First Nations and Métis families and communities rely on the valley for hunting and fishing, gathering berries and sacred medicine, and holding ceremonies. Their ancestors are buried in this land.

    The planned $8 billion plus Site C hydroelectric dam would flood more than 80 km of the river valley, stretching west from Fort St. John. There is no dispute that construction of the dam and the flooding will have a severe impact on the First Nations and Métis families and communities who depend on the Valley. 

    August 14, 2015

    “I find it shocking that we are better at keeping our young people locked up in detention than in school.” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda in a recent Amnesty International report on Australia

    In many countries around the world, Indigenous women, men and youth are much more likely than other members of society to spend a significant part of their lives behind bars.

    The disproportionate rates of incarceration are usually a result both of the ongoing, largely unaddressed impact of colonial policies and practices that have marginalized and impoverished Indigenous peoples and of the systemic discrimination and bias that continue to face Indigenous peoples in justice systems that remain foreign to their cultures and values.

    June 08, 2015

    Last week, a summary report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission described Canada’s Residential Schools as “part of a coherent policy to eliminate Aboriginal people as distinct peoples and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will.”

    The statement affirms something that is now well-established –and which was, in fact, acknowledged in Canada’s official apology to residential school survivors.

    Quite simply, the residential school policy had at its heart an insidious agenda to eradicate First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples as distinct cultures, societies and nation. And the tragic effects of the harm that was done --  including the terrible deprivations and abuses inflicted on so many of the girls and boys who were torn from their families and communities to attend these schools, as well as the loss of language, community cohesion and cultural knowledge and skills -- continue to be felt today.

    April 23, 2015

    Never am I seen as strong, as proud, as resilient, never as I am
    Finally given the stars laid to gaze at them on back roads and in ditches on ghostly stretches of forgotten pebbled pathways your vastness swallows me. Do I fall in your line of sight? Do you see me now?
    Because I get this feeling that your eyes they curve around me
    —Exerpt from “Your eyes,” a poem by Helen Knott, an Indigenous woman from Fort St. John, BC

    April 14, 2015

    Amnesty international is urging Canadian Parliamentarians to support Bill C-641, a private member’s bill to help implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    Adoption of Bill C-641 would commit Parliament to “take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent” with the UN Declaration.

    The Declaration, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007, consolidates existing international human rights protections into a framework of minimum standards for the “survival, dignity and well-being” of Indigenous peoples around the world.

    March 31, 2015
    By Rosemary Ganley, Group 46

    Three lively community groups came together in Peterborough on March 22 to meet Father Alberto Franco, a Redemptorist priest and dedicated human rights defender from Bogota, Colombia.

    Father Franco leads the Colombian Justice and Peace Commission in a dangerous and unstable atmosphere. He is known to Amnesty International as the subject of an Urgent Action appeal two years ago. He was threatened many time and shot at once. He smiles as he admits that, at the behest of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, he now travels with guards.

    Father Franco’s work involves accompanying peasants and indigenous people in the region of Choco in northern Colombia as they strive, first to survive in a warring area, and then to return home and re-establish communities of peace. His office provides legal and social-psychological support, education and communication for exploited groups as they assert their rights to livelihood and stability.

    February 19, 2015

    By Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen

    The shocking levels of violence faced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls requires nothing less than a comprehensive, coordinated national response to ensure effective, unbiased police investigations, to support the families of those who have been murdered or gone missing, and to address the factors putting Indigenous women in harm’s way in the first place.

    To get there, we need an independent public inquiry to ensure that the policies and programmes that make up a national action plan are based on a clear, unbiased understanding of the issues, and help hold government accountable for acting on the recommendations brought forward by affected families, communities and Indigenous peoples’ organizations.

    Next week, a national roundtable on missing and murdered Indigenous women will focus public attention on the need for action.

    February 09, 2015
    Have a Heart Day at the University of Regina

    This week, communities across Canada are speaking out for the future of First Nations children and youth.

    The annual Have a Heart Day campaign (on and around February 14th) is an opportunity for ordinary Canadians to show their support for basic principles of fairness and equity.

    The campaign was launched by our friends at the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society in response to the shocking gap in basic government services – including education, healthcare and family services – facing many First Nations children and families on reserves.

    This year’s Have a Heart Day campaign is particularly timely.

    In the coming weeks, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal will rule whether the federal government’s persistent underfunding of family services on reserves is a form of discrimination. The complaint was launched by the Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations in response to the large numbers of First Nations children being put into foster care because on reserve children’s didn’t have the resources  carry out less drastic forms of intervention.

    October 01, 2014

    By Lucia Hernandez, Campaigner in the Americas Program at Amnesty International.

    No one thought it would happen, but it has.

    After more than a decade of determined struggle for recognition of years of human rights abuses, members of the Indigenous People of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon, will receive an official apology by the Ecuadorian State.

    The historic day is 1 October, when four Ministers (Justice, Environment, Defence and Non-Renewable Natural Resources) and the Attorney General will arrive at the Amazon region to apologize for the abuses that took place during the oil operations carried out by the company CGC in their territory from 2002 to 2003.

    In those years, company staff, accompanied by soldiers and private security guards, carried out detonations, cut down trees, dug more than 400 wells, buried more than 1.4 tons of high grade explosives and polluted the environment with the noise of helicopters. The State had given the company the concession to exploit oil in their territory without consulting or informing the community beforehand.

    August 08, 2014
    "We lived at the side of the road, we lived badly. Several members of the community died in accidents, of disease. Nobody respected us. Now this is our victory. I am very happy, and I cry because my grandmother, my father and many members of my family did not have the opportunity I have today to enjoy our land. I'm grateful to everyone" --  Aparicia Gonzalez, an Indigenous Enxet woman from the Sawhoyamaxa community in Paraguay

    This week, as the United Nations marks the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (August 9th), we want to take a moment to celebrate two crucial recent victories in the long struggle for the recognition of the rights of Indigenous peoples.

    July 11, 2014
    Trapper Andrew Keewatin Jr. at Grassy Narrows

    Today’s Supreme Court ruling on logging at Grassy Narrows reaffirms important limitations on the power of governments in Canada to make decisions that could undermine the ability of Indigenous peoples to live off the land.

    The court case was initiated by Grassy Narrows trappers whose traplines were threatened by clearcut logging licensed by the Ontario government.

    In the original trial decision, an Ontario court concluded that – because of the terms of the Treaty and the particular history of the region – only the federal government, not the provincial government, has the authority to make decisions about development on the portion of the Grassy Narrows traditional territory called the Keewatin area.

    The Supreme Court rejected this argument, concluding instead that the powers of the Crown to “take up” Treaty lands applied to the provincial government.

    However, the Court also stated that the legal obligations and restrictions on Crown powers resulting from the Treaty must also apply to the province.

    July 10, 2014
    By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    This week, I had the honour of spending a deeply moving, and incredibly inspiring day with people of the Shoal Lake #40 First Nation on the Manitoba - Ontario border.

    Their story is one that more Canadians need to hear because it can tell us so much about the deeply flawed relationship between the federal government and First Nations. Their story is also important because the people of Shoal Lake have their own solution to some of their most pressing concerns and today, after decades of struggle, that solution is now almost within reach.

    One hundred years ago the Shoal Lake #40 community was relocated as part of the development of the city of Winnipeg's water supply system.  One of the cruel ironies of life in Shoal Lake is that while water from the lake is piped 150 km to Winnipeg to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of people in that city, the people of Shoal Lake #40 must rely on bottled water because they don't have an adequate drinking water system of their own.

    May 12, 2014

    by Craig Benjamin,
    Indigenous Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada

    A leading United Nations human rights expert says the situation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada has reached "crisis proportions in many respects."

    In a just released report, James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, highlights a wide range of concerns documented during his 2013 research mission to Canada.

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