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    August 27, 2014

     

    “It is long past time for the government to take responsibility to fix what they have broken, clean up our river, and help us out rather than kicking us while we are down.” -- Grassy Narrows Chief Roger Fobister Sr.

    For almost a decade, Amnesty International has stood with the people of Grassy Narrows in their long struggle to determine for themselves the fate of the forest and waters on which they depend. This campaign--  led by the people of Grassy Narrow, and supported by a wide range of social justice and environmental organizations --  has had remarkable success with company after company announcing that they will not log at Grassy Narrows, or handle wood cut  at Grassy Narrows, unless the community gives its consent. These remarkable victories, however, have taken place against the backdrop of an ongoing, unresolved and largely unacknowledged tragedy.

    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.

    June 09, 2014

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

    A few years ago I heard a young First Nations woman describing the unsafe drinking water, the poor quality school and other conditions that she faced every day growing up in her home community. “What did we do to be treated like this?” she asked.

    In most communities in Canada, government services like education, health care and family services are provided by a combination of municipal and provincial governments. However, in the case of First Nations people living on reserves these services are instead funded through the federal government.

    Critically, study after study has shown that federal funding for basic services on reserves routinely falls short of what is required to provide First Nations families with access to the same quality of services--  like education and health care -- enjoyed other communities in Canada.
    Here’s what the Auditor General of Canada had to say about the situation in 2011:

    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.

    May 07, 2014

    by Alex Neve,
    Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

    The stories mount, stories of human rights abuse and injustice: ‘mining activists shot’, ‘mine operations suspended’, ‘company accused of water pollution.’ Far too often a Canadian mining company is behind the story.  Canadian mining companies lead the mining world; but none aspire to lead the world in mining-related human rights abuses.

    There is a common theme to all the cases:  lack of an effective remedy open to the individuals and communities who suffer human rights harms associated with Canadian mining operations. 

    Victims have nowhere to turn for justice.  Not in their home country; neither in Canada.

    May 06, 2014

    By Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen

    “What we do not need now is to stop and talk and study. We need more action.” - Federal Justice Minister Peter McKay, March 2014.

    Let’s be clear: we all want action to end violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

    But we don’t need just any action. We need action that can actually stop the violence tearing First Nations, Inuit and Metis women and girls from their families. We need action that is coordinated and properly-resourced. And we need action that is based on accurate information and a clear understanding of the true extent and nature of the threats faced based by Indigenous women and girls.

    Unfortunately, that is not the kind of action that the federal government is delivering.

    April 07, 2014

    Ontario Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti has announced that – for at least one year - the province will not license new logging on the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwestern Ontario.

    The Minister's statement follows the latest announcement by a major company that it wants nothing to do with wood logged without the consent of the people of Grassy Narrows. EACOM, which owns sawmills throughout the region, announced in March that it would not process wood from Grassy Narrows.

    The people of Grassy Narrows have long called for a moratorium on industrial development on their territory, to protect the land for traditional uses and to allow the community the opportunity to make its own decisions about how the land should be used.

    There has been no clear cut logging at Grassy Narrows since 2008, as the result of previous decisions by major corporations not to log or handle wood from Grassy Narrows.

    March 07, 2014

    By Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen, Campaigners

    Earlier today, Amnesty International Canada released a press statement expressing deep disappointment over the recommendations in the final report of the Special Parliamentary Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. Indigenous peoples' organizations, human rights groups, and federal opposition political parties also condemned the report as promoting the status quo and failing to make comprehensive, concrete, time bound recommendations to prevent violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    “Indigenous women and girls – and indeed all Canadians – deserve better from our Parliament,” said Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada (English Speaking). “Government ministers keep saying that they want action, not just talk, on violence against Indigenous women. But when given the opportunity to make a commitment to meaningful action, the government keeps endorsing the status quo.”

    March 03, 2014
    Family and friends of Loretta hold signs at Grand Parad ©Jeff Harper/Metro Halifax
    By, Kim Irving Cahill, Maritimes Regional Activism Coordinator

    Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Loretta Saunders, a young Inuk women who went missing in Halifax on February 13th and whose body was found in New Brunswick on February 26th. Loretta was from Labrador, attending Saint Mary’s University in Halifax and working on her honors thesis on the subject of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

    I had the privilege of meeting several of Loretta’s family members and friends. In the days following the tragic news of her death, her family gracefully reached out to the community in gratitude and to ensure that the issue close to Loretta’s heart isn’t forgotten.  Efforts have now turned to carrying on the light of Loretta’s legacy by raising awareness, working to prevent violence against Indigenous women and by drawing attention to the higher risks they face.

    February 27, 2014

    In a decision released on February 26, federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq rejected the proposed New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine, stating that the significant environmental impacts of the proposed mine could not be justified.

          “The Panel is convinced that the Tsilhqot’in cultural attachment to Fish Lake (Teztan Biny) and the Nabas areas is so profound that they cannot reasonably be expected to accept the conversion of that area into the proposed New Prosperity mine.”   -Federal Environmental Review Panel

    The Tsilhqot'in people have consistently opposed plans to mine near Teztan Biny or Fish Lake which is part of their traditional territory in central British Columbia.

    February 27, 2014

    Amnesty International is joining the Tsilhqot'in people and their many other allies and supporters in celebrating the Government of Canada's decision to reject a proposed gold-copper mine on their traditional territory.

    This is the second time that the federal government has rejected plans by Taseko Mines to open a mine near Teztan Biny or Fish Lake in central British Columbia.

    The Tsilhqot'in people have consistently opposed plans to mine near Teztan Biny, calling the proposed New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine the wrong mine at the wrong place.

    In late October, a federally-appointed environmental assessment panel concluded that the proposed mine would have “severe” and “irreversible” impacts on the culture and traditional practices of the Tsilhqot’in people. The panel also found a wide range of serious environmental impacts on the lakes, rivers and wetlands of the area.

    In a decision released on February 26, federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said that the significant environmental impacts of the proposed mine could not be justified.

    January 31, 2014
    Amnesty members in Regina taking part in the annual Have a Heart Day campaign.

    Every child has the right grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy, and be proud of who they are.

    It’s hard to imagine anyone disagreeing.

    Yet year after year, First Nations children are denied these basic rights.

    For most children in Canada, health care, education and family services are funding through the provincial or territorial governments. But for First Nations children on reserves, these same services are funded by the federal government.

    Numerous studies - including reports by the Auditor General - confirm the Federal government provides less funding per child for services First Nations children on reserves than the provinces provide for children in their jurisdictions.

    This is despite often higher costs of delivering such services in small and remote communities, and the greater need experienced by many First Nations communities.



    The math is simple: less money plus higher costs = inadequate services for those who need them most.

    January 21, 2014
    Stephen Harper and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Jan 19 (PMO photo)

    Op-ed by Alex Neve (Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada), Béatrice Vaugrante (Directrice Générale, Amnistie internationale Canada francophone) and Yonatan Gher (Executive Director, Amnesty International Israel)

    Many eyes were watching closely during this visit. There would have been no better time to show that Canada is a principled human rights champion. But that was not to be.

    There was considerable fanfare and red carpet during Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s trip to Israel this week.

    After nearly eight years in office, the prime minister visited the country with which he has forged closer links than almost any other. The spectacle was breathtaking, with a delegation of over 200 people, including six cabinet ministers and other government MPs. With that sort of political heft, the opportunity to press important issues was considerable. 

    How disappointing, though not surprising, that Israel’s numerous human rights shortcomings did not make that list.

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