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    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 15, 2015

    By Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen

    Last month, federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt disclosed previously unreleased RCMP statistics about the numbers of murders committed by Indigenous men. The Minister appears to believe that these figures support the federal government’s current approach to the issue, including the ongoing refusal to hold a public inquiry or initiate a comprehensive, coordinated national action plan.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Responding to the letter from Commission Paulson, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), stated, “We are absolutely shocked and appalled that the RCMP would hastily release these serious statistics without providing a full, publicly accessible report detailing how they are collecting and compiling this information.”

    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 Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AlexNeveAmnesty

    How best to describe the rushed hearings the House of Commons’ Public Safety Committee held over the past few weeks examining Bill C-51, the government’s anti-terrorism law reforms?  Circus, farce and disgrace all come to mind.  I know, I was there on Amnesty International’s behalf earlier this month.

    Having “heard” from the experts, today the Committee turns its attention to the text of the Bill itself.  Indications are that the government is only open to a handful of tweaking amendments, so expectations are low.

    Concern about these sweeping reforms grows daily. Experts representing the perspectives of Indigenous peoples, human rights and civil liberties groups, Muslim Canadians, environmental organizations, the legal community, the country’s privacy watchdog, immigrants and refugees, the labour movement, former judges and politicians and others have enumerated numerous shortcomings. 

    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.

    March 13, 2015

    by Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.

    It’s worth repeating, Bill C-51 is important, very important. Rarely does legislation touch so directly on two of the most fundamental imperatives of government: to protect our security and uphold our rights. How crucial therefore to be sure that it is carefully and thoughtfully studied, with input from groups and experts who can offer analysis, highlight shortcomings and make recommendations for improvement.

    March 10, 2015

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada. Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexNeveAmnesty

    Want to feel more secure?  Bill C-51, which is being examined by a Parliamentary committee in  three weeks of truncated hearings, offers up criminal offences that infringe free expression, unprecedented intrusive intelligence powers, breathtakingly vast definitions of security, unbridled sharing of information and stunning levels of secrecy; all while doing nothing to enhance review, oversight and accountability of Canada’s national security agencies. 

    The message is that human rights have to give way to keep terrorism at bay.  The relationship between the two is seen as a zero-sum game.  More safety means fewer rights.  Stronger regard for rights leads to greater insecurity.

    It is time to turn that around.  Human rights do not stand in the way of security that is universal, durable and inclusive.  Human rights are in fact the very key.

    March 09, 2015

    By Alex Neve, Amnesty International Canada’s Secretary General. Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexNeveAmnesty.

    Most of us never give it a second thought; our nationality.  We were born with it or may have gained a second or third nationality by moving to another country, through our ancestry or by marriage.  We are usually proud of it.  We enjoy, need and may boast about it when we travel.  But we don’t often think about what it would be like not to have it or to lose it.

    Nationality is fundamental. It provides our identity in both a legal and cultural sense.  It is also the source of so many other rights: to vote, to participate and serve in government, to travel freely; and to be able to access education, medical care and employment. It establishes that there is a government to whom we can turn for support and protection.  It is essential.  That is why the right to a nationality is enshrined in article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    March 06, 2015

    By Jackie Hansen and Craig Benjamin

    Today, a UN expert committee—the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) — released a strongly worded report stating that Canada was responsible for “grave violations” of human rights due its “protracted failure” to do enough to prevent violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    March 01, 2015

    By Jackie Hansen and Craig Benjamin

    Last week, the National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls brought together family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, national Aboriginal organizations (NAOs), and representatives from the federal, provincial and territorial governments to Ottawa to discuss the need for action to combat the staggeringly high rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls. Provinces, territories, and all NAOs are on record as supporting an independent inquiry into the issue.

    February 23, 2015
    by Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. This article was orginally published in Slaw, Canada's online legal magazine. Human rights violations are always most likely to occur when no one is watching over the police, soldiers and guards who have the power and potential to commit abuses. That is certainly even more the case when secrecy is prevalent; which obviously describes the world of national security investigations and operations. That is why human rights organizations, experts and bodies – national and international – have long stressed that effective review and oversight must be central to the imperative of ensuring that human rights protection is not sacrificed in any country’s rush to uphold national security.
    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.

    January 19, 2015

    Guest writer: Verity Stevenson, in a special to the Globe and Mail
     

    Ensaf Haidar stood beside the kitchen table, urging her three children to eat. Newspapers featuring her husband’s face on the front were spread in the spaces between three pizza boxes, and a banner covering most of the wall showed him as well, with several dozen signatures of those who attended a #FreeRaif vigil in Montreal.
     

    January 05, 2015

    By: Alex Neve and Béatrice Vaugrante Published on Fri Jan 02 2015 in the Toronto Star

    No doubt about it, 2014 has been a tough year for human rights. As we look ahead into 2015, with a federal election sometime in the next 10 months, it is time to turn things around. That means addressing serious concerns in Canada and championing improvements around the world.

    Every year has its share of human rights heartbreak, but 2014 was particularly heavy. The wrenching catastrophe that has displaced half of all Syrians worsened. Tragedies in the Central African Republic and South Sudan claimed more victims. Another cycle of rocket attacks and reprisals in Israel and Gaza was marked by an exceptionally fierce Israeli military assault on Gaza. Unexpected and devastating conflicts erupted in Ukraine and northern Iraq.

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