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The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    July 06, 2017

    "We will continue to bring unrelenting opposition to a project that can only be described as an unqualified disaster." -Chief Lynette Tsakoza, Prophet River responding to Supreme Court of Canada ruling closing off one part to justice in the Site C struggle

    Whatever your feelings about British Columbia’s Site C dam, whether you think the hydro-electric megaproject is needed or if you think there are better ways to invest in the province’s future, it should be clear that an unacceptable injustice is taking place.

    The 100 km of the Peace River and its tributaries that will be flooded by Site C are part of the territory of Treaty 8, an historic Treaty between First Nations and Canada. Like other Treaties, the rights protected under Treaty 8 are recognized and affirmed in the Canadian Constitution. In other words, they are part of the highest law of the land.

    Yet, the federal and provincial governments openly admit that they approved the Site C dam without ever considering whether the “severe”, “permanent” and “irreversible” harms identified by their own environmental assessment would violate Treaty 8.

    April 24, 2017

    Almost 10 years have passed since the United Nations voted to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a global standard of human rights protection.

    There can be no doubt that the adoption of the Declaration was a landmark moment for human rights globally and a triumph for the Indigenous peoples’ movement in particular.

    Before the Declaration could be adopted, Indigenous peoples had to prevail over the reluctance, resistance and sometimes outright hostility of some states.

    In doing so, Indigenous peoples were able to advance a vital global human rights instrument, one that repudiates centuries of violence, dispossession and marginalization and closes the gaps in rights protection available to the societies, families and individuals who must contend daily with the legacy of those abuses and with new manifestations of permutations of the same racism and discrimination.

    November 28, 2016
    Jerry holding a sign saying 'Save the Arctic, It's my home'

    It’s been almost 20 years since the Supreme Court of Canada first ruled that the Constitutional protection of Indigenous rights requires governments to consult in “good faith” with Indigenous peoples so that their concerns can be “substantially” addressed before decisions are made that could affect their rights.

    While the federal, provincial and territorial governments now all accept that there is a duty to consult, their interpretation of this duty is often so narrow and impoverished that serious concerns over the impact of planned development are simply ignored. Rather than being a source of reconciliation and rights protection as intended in decisions like Delgamuukw (1997) and Haida Nation (2004), the duty to consult as applied by governments in Canada has been a source of ongoing conflict with projects like Northern Gateway and the Site C dam all ending up in court at tremendous cost to Indigenous peoples.

    October 26, 2016

    In an extraordinary victory for Indigenous rights and environmental protection, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador has agreed to measures to reduce immediate risks to Inuit health and culture from the Muskrat Falls dam.

    Following almost two weeks of protests, including a hunger strike, occupations of the dam site and a journey to Ottawa, the government met yesterday with Inuit and Innu leaders. The result was an agreement to:

    October 24, 2016
    Muskrat Falls hunger strikers at Human Rights Monument, Ottawa

    A hunger strike by three Inuit land defenders - Billy Gauthier, Jerry Kohlmeister and Delilah Saunders – is a powerful symbol of the tragic choices that will face Inuit hunters and fishers if planned flooding for the Muskrat Falls dam goes ahead.

    Flooding will release deadly methylmercury into the water system where it will accumulate in the fish, seals, duck eggs and other wild food that are central to the diet of Inuit people living around the downstream Lake Melville Estuary.

    The provincial government plans to monitor the fish and issue warnings when the mercury levels become unsafe.

    A government MP summed it up this approach in a facebook post: “Just measure MeHg [methylmercury] levels, eat less fish.”

    What this approach means for Inuit families is an impossible choice between abandoning the food that sustains them and their culture, or risking the devastating impacts of mercury poisoning.

    “I come from a very large family that couldn’t get by without country food,” Delilah Saunders explained.

    September 11, 2016

    "Keeping the Promise: Treaty Rights, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Site C dam"

    Wednesday, September 13th, 1-2:30 pm Eastern

    A legal challenge now before the Federal Court of Appeal could determine the fate of a river valley vital to the cultures, heritage and traditions of Indigenous peoples in northeast British Columbia.  Beyond the protection of the Peace River Valley, the Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations legal challenge to the Site C dam has far reaching implications because it concerns the fundamental question of the legal protections owed to Indigenous peoples when governments make decisions about large-scale resource development projects.

    Watch the  webinar here.

    Panel discussion featuring

    September 03, 2016

    MEDIA ADVISORY

    On September 12, the Federal Court of Appeal in Montreal will hear the latest legal challenge to the massive Site C hydroelectric dam already under construction on Treaty 8 territory in northeast British Columbia.

    May 25, 2016

     

    By Craig Benjamin

    "Clean the English-Wabigoon River System. Water is sacred." Judy da Silva, Grassy Narrows First Nation

    January 07, 2016

    The province of British Columbia is pushing ahead with construction of a hydro-electric megaproject in the Peace River Valley despite unresolved legal challenges from First Nations. A camp set up by community members at an historic site in the path of BC Hydro's efforts to clear the planned reservoir has led to a temporary halt in logging. But the community members now face the risk of arrest for their actions.

    The rapidly evolving situation highlights the urgent need for the federal government to honour its Treaty commitments by suspending all federal licenses and permits for the project so that the underlying issues of Constitutionally-protected rights and due process can be addressed.

    The following is a press released issued by the community members.

     

    First Nations Prepare for Arrest to Stop Site C Dam
    Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land call on Trudeau to stop megadam in B.C.'s Peace Valley

    July 12, 2016

    by Craig Benjamin, Indigneous Rights Campaigner
     

    Imagine this: 

    Hundreds of people - First Nations, Métis and non-Indigenous - out on canoes and kayaks to celebrate  the  beauty of the  Peace River and show their determination to protect the land from the massive destruction that would be caused by the Site C dam.

    This was the scene last weekend at the 11th annual Paddle for the Peace in northeast BC. The event brought together people from throughout the province, across the country, and indeed around the world. Our colleagues from KAIROS even brought an entire busload of paddlers from Vancouver Island and the lower mainland.

    360 panorama photo -- click and drag to view the full scene

    March 02, 2016

    "My major concern with the impact of Site C is that this is my home. This is where I want to raise my children and my grandchildren. And this is where my people are from." - Helen Knott

    BY ALEX NEVE, SECRETARY GENERAL, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CANADA

    Wherever you live in this country, British Columbia’s Site C dam should concern you. At a projected cost of almost $9 billion and rising, the hydro-electric project in the Peace River Valley is one of the largest resource development projects underway anywhere in Canada. But more than that, the Site C dam shines a bright light on the fundamental injustices that – despite promise of reconciliation and a new relationship - continue to characterize the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

    A joint federal-provincial review of the Site C dam came to these telling conclusions:

    February 19, 2016

    Before and after images show destruction that has already occurred as construction of Site C dam presses ahead
     

    Indigenous activist explains the importance of halting the Site C dam

    When Helen Knott talks about the importance of the Peace Valley, she inevitably also talks about her grandmother. About time spent together out on the land, learning the stories that have been passed down through the generations. Learning the skills of how to live on the land. And trying to ensure that this knowledge can be passed on to her own son.

    “All my grandmother’s stories are connected to land,” says Helen. “It’s like that for our elders. You have to be on the land to be able to share those memories.”

    January 26, 2016
    “This is a great day for First Nations children and all Canadians who believe in justice and fairness.” Dr. Cindy Blackstock, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society

    In a landmark decision issued today, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that the federal government’s longstanding underfunding of child and family services on First Nations reserves and in the Yukon is a form of racial discrimination that must be stopped.

    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:

    November 09, 2015

    Inuit people in Labrador who depend on the Lake Melville estuary to hunt and fish are concerned about the impact of a large hydro-electric dam being built upstream. They are particularly concerned that the dam will lead to methylmercury contamination of fish and seals, rendering them unsafe to eat.

    The Inuit government of Nunatsiavut has not opposed the Muskrat Falls dam. But it has called for rigorous measures to protect the health and livelihoods of its people. These measures include a full clearing of the reservoir before flooding to reduce the amount of methylmercury produced, establishment of a downstream monitoring program designed and overseen by an independent expert advisory committee; and significant Inuit participation in high-level environmental monitoring and management decisions.