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Indigenous Peoples

    November 29, 2012

    Amnesty International Canada's Colombia campaigner Kathy Price reports on the urgent crisis facing Indigenous Women in Colombia.

    “Each sentence that you send to the government of Colombia, every letter that you send gives us strength and helps us to continue fighting for our lives. It’s like a kind of shield. The government knows you are watching what happens to us. That’s why today they are being a bit more careful. Because they know you are watching.”

    A.I. Canada campaigner Kathy Price (left) met Dora Tavera on a recent mission to Colombia. 

    This is the heartfelt, empowering message to Amnesty Canada activists from Dora Tavera, a Pijao Indigenous woman who works with the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia. She delivers it in a moving 5-minute video recorded by Amnesty International Canada during our recent observation mission to the South American country.

    October 23, 2012

    The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta has filed a potentially groundbreaking legal challenge over the failure of the federal and provincial governments to protect Indigenous land rights in the face of oilsands development on their traditional territory.

    The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) is challenging the proposed expansion of Shell’s Jackpine Mine north of Fort McMurray. The ACFN argues that the federal and provincial governments, which both have to give approval to the project, have not  taken proper account of Aboriginal and Treaty rights protected in the Canadian Constitution.

    A joint federal-provincial environmental assessment panel is scheduled to begin public hearings next Monday. The joint panel announced today that it will decide this week whether or not it will first consider the ACFN Constitutional challenge.

    October 18, 2012

    A joint review panel has determined that Amnesty International will be among a number of public interest organizations that will have the opportunity to make presentations to the upcoming environmental Impact assessment of the proposed "New Prosperity" gold and copper mine in central British Columbia.

    Amnesty International will comment on Canada's obligations under international human rights law to respect and uphold the land rights of Indigenous peoples in the licensing of resource extraction projects.

    The opportunity to present our analysis to the panel is significant for a number of reasons.

    In June, the British Columbia Court of Appeal upheld an earlier decision recognizing that the Tsilhqot'in people have Aboriginal land use rights in the territory. The Tsilhqot'in are continuing to pursue legal recognition and protection of their title or ownership of lands and resources in the territory.

    In 2010, a similar mine proposal by the same company was rejected by the federal cabinet on the basis of an environmental impact assessment that found that found that the mine would cause significant, unavoidable and irreparable harm.

    September 12, 2012

    Five years ago, on 13 September 2007, the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to provide “minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.” Although Canada formally endorsed the Declaration in 2010, the federal government has not worked with Indigenous peoples to ensure its implementation. Instead, in its efforts to promote resource development in Canada and abroad, the government has undermined vital human rights protected in the Declaration.
    Luis Evelis Andrade, Chief Counsellor of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), said, “The government of Canada has backed the expansion of Canadian corporations in Colombia without regard for the context of war and grave human rights violations in the resource-rich territory of Indigenous peoples.”

    August 08, 2012

    When the El Cercado dam opened in November 2010, its Colombian project managers trumpeted it as an engineering triumph built entirely with national know-how.

    Moreover, the project was touted as a way to help combat the effects of recurrent droughts in La Guajira, a north-eastern region.

    But for the Wiwa Indigenous Peoples native to the area’s Sierra de Santa Marta mountains, the dam’s arrival signalled a devastating change in their way of life accompanied by a series of serious human rights abuses.

    From 2002 onwards, Wiwa communities living in and near the planned construction area suffered a consistent pattern of intimidation, destruction of homes, attacks against places of cultural significance and threats and killings of their spiritual and community leaders, carried out by the security forces operating in alliance with paramilitary forces. Guerrilla groups operating in the region were also responsible for killings and threats against members of the Wiwa population.

    By the time construction on the dam began in 2006, many members of Wiwa Indigenous communities were forcibly displaced from their homes.

    December 08, 2011

    An emergency intervention by the Red Cross has focused political attention on the severe housing crisis in the northern Ontario Cree community of Attawapiskat. However, international human rights bodies have been raising concerns for years about the conditions in many Indigenous communities in Canada.

    After visiting a number of First Nations communities in 2007, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing called on Canada to "intensify measures to close the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians." Basic services are taken for granted by most Canadians. Indigenous peoples' rights to these services are not diminished by the fact of living in remote communities.

    The federal government has never engaged in a proper, comprehensive assessment of Attawapiskat’s needs and why these needs are not being met. However, when the housing crisis became a national scandal, the government's first reaction was to remove the Chief and Council's authority by placing the community under third party management. According to media reports, the government’s offer of emergency housing is conditional on accepting this third party management.

    November 02, 2011

    "Access is a very serious problem on private land. The workers of a forest company kicked me and my family off a property. We were told we were trespassing. We live in fear of arrest or harm when we attempt to continue our traditional lifestyle in our own territory. We have difficulty carrying out our ceremonies, harvesting wood, medicines, food, hunting, bathing or fishing in our own territory. These have serious consequences for the health, strength, spirituality and survival of our Hul'qumi'num people." -- Hul'qumi'num elder Luschiim

    On Friday October 28, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights heard the moving testimony of a Hul'qumi'num elder, Luschiim, who talked about being denied access to lands that are essential for ceremonies, for hunting and fishing, and for gathering foods and medicines. The situation faced by the Hul'qumi'num people of British Columbia is avoidable and it is shameful. Amnesty International is fully in agreement with the Hulquminum Treaty Group that it  represents a clear violation of well established international standards for the protection and fulfillment of human rights.

    February 08, 2011

    Thousands of Canadians have asked for the opportunity to express their views to a public review of the proposed Enbridge oil sands pipeline across central British Columbia to the Pacific Coast. This extraordinary display of public interest has caught the attention of the federal government.

    In an open letter posted to his department’s website – just as the public hearings were about to begin -- the Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, defined the export of oil sands crude to new markets in Asia as "an urgent matter of Canada’s national interest" and complained that opponents are "stacking public hearings… to ensure that delays kill good projects."
    While the Minister is careful to state that the regulatory system must be "fair, independent, and consider different viewpoints including those of Aboriginal communities," the clear implications of his letter are a) that the government had already made up its mind to support the proposed pipeline and b) that the government believes that hearing from everyone who has concerns about the pipeline will simply delay a project that would otherwise get under way much sooner.

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