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Indigenous Peoples in Canada

    April 13, 2012

    Amnesty International has joined 14 other groups, including the Vancouver February 14th Women's Memorial March Committee, the Native Women's Association, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, in announcing that our organizations are unwilling to lend credibility to the deeply flawed B.C. Missing Women Commission of Inquiry by participating in its upcoming policy review processes.

    In letters issued today, a wide range of organizations that had been invited to participate in upcoming Policy Forums and Study Commission, detailed a series of fundamental concerns about the Commission's ability to reach a fair and unbiased conclusion.

    To read the Coalition's letter, click here

    Photo: 14 organizations, including Amnesty International, have formed a coalition to express their concern and anger about the performance of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

     

    March 14, 2012

    The United Nations’ highest body for combating racism is urging Canada to take comprehensive action to end discrimination against Indigenous peoples.

    In a report released this week, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern over Canada’s failure to properly respect the land and Treaty rights of Indigenous peoples, noting "the rigidly adversarial positions taken by Canada" in land negotiations and that decisions over resource development are often made without proper consultation or the consent of the affected peoples.

    The Committee also expressed concern over a wide range of inequalities and disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada, including the high rates of violence faced by Indigenous women, the large numbers of Indigenous children being placed in state care, "excessive use of incarceration" in respect to Indigenous people in trouble with the law, persistent levels of poverty among Indigenous communities and inadequate access to employment, housing, drinking water, health and education, “as a result of structural discrimination."

    December 12, 2011

    A new report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women offers no real solutions to the widespread threats to the lives of Indigenous women in Canada.

    Last March, the Committee issued an interim report that called for a comprehensive, strategic and coordinated approach to end the vastly disproportionate rates of violence against Indigenous women. The final report tabled in Parliament today drops the call for a comprehensive response and instead focuses primarily on government initiatives that are already underway.

    Although the report discusses the housing crisis plaguing many Indigenous communities, the severe shortage of emergency shelters for Indigenous women, and the large numbers of Indigenous children being placed in foster care, the report offers no recommendations for countering these critical obstacles to Indigenous women escaping violence.

    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.

    A report released by the RCMP earlier this year marks the first time that police in Canada have attempted, at the national level, to identify how many First Nations, Inuit or Métis women and girls have been murdered or have gone missing.

    According to the report, 1,017 women and girls identified as Indigenous were murdered between 1980 and 2012—a homicide rate roughly 4.5 times higher than that of all other women in Canada.

    In addition, the report states that as of November 2013, at least 105 Indigenous women and girls remained missing under suspicious circumstances or for undetermined reasons.

    These appalling statistics are consistent with previous estimates from sources such as Statistics Canada that have long pointed to a greatly disproportionate level of violence against that First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls. The latest numbers also underline what Indigenous women and advocacy organizations have long been saying–that this violence requires a specific and concerted response from police and all levels of society.

    Dr. Cindy Blackstock, a member of the Gitxan Nation, is a prominent researcher and advocate for the rights of children. As Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, Cindy has brought a landmark discrimination case to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to challenge the federal government’s chronic underfunding of children’s services on First Nations reserves and for First Nations children in the Yukon. The closing arguments in that hearing will take place October 20-24 and will be webcast live at fnwitness.ca.

    We spoke with Cindy as part of a series of conversation with Indigenous advocates and leaders to mark the 10th anniversary of Amnesty International’s report Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence against Indigenous Women in Canada.

    All governments have a responsibility to do everything in their power to prevent violence against women. This includes provincial and territorial governments as well as municipalities. It also includes Indigenous governments and institutions such as Band Councils. All have a shared responsibility to be part of the solution to ending violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    However, the federal government has a particular responsibility to help ensure the safety and well-being of Indigenous women and girls.

    Here are some of the reasons why:

    It’s a crucial moment for human rights in Canada. And you can be part of it.

    From October 20-24, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal will hear the closing arguments in a history-making case on equity for First Nations children.

    At issue is whether the federal government has discriminated against First Nations children living on reserves, and in the Yukon, by consistently providing less money per child for family services than its provincial counterparts provide in predominantly non-Aboriginal communities.

    At stake is the ability of children’s agencies to provide urgently needed prevention programs for at risk First Nations children and to stem the unprecedented numbers of First Nations children being taken from their families and communities and put into state care.

    The human rights complaint was initiated by a national non-governmental organization, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the Caring Society, recently told Amnesty International,

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