Select this search icon to access the amnesty.ca search form

Main menu

Facebook Share

Indigenous Peoples

    July 10, 2017

    By Alex Neve

    To be here – to see, listen, learn and feel this place – the enormity of what is at stake with the construction of the Site C Dam and why it is so crucial that it be stopped is everywhere.

    It shines through in the Valley’s beauty; serene and majestic at the same time.  My first views of the Peace River were from lookouts offering sweeping views of a magnificent valley painted with more shades of green than I knew existed, always with the curving ribbon of water flowing through.  Each panorama was unbelievably more breathtaking than the last; topped by an early morning viewing that offered a low-hanging bank of mist that hugged the curves of the valley in ways that felt both mystic and mysterious.  

    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.

    June 09, 2017
    Lolita Chavez Guatemala Indigenous defenders

    Maya-K’iche human rights defender Lolita Chavez is known to Canadians for her determined and principled stance on the right of Indigenous peoples to determine what happens in their territories. Lolita has spoken to Canadian leaders, investors and the public about the ways in which the Guatemalan government has failed to protect Indigenous peoples and how this leaves them exposed to abuses by corporate actors, such as mining, hydro-electric or logging interests. Most people in the region rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods and are concerned that these industrial activities would destroy sources of water needed for irrigation and drinking. Lolita organized a community referendum on resource development in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Quiche department and residents overwhelmingly voted ‘NO’ to any form of industrial development on their lands.

    May 26, 2017
    Alicia Keys and Indigenous Rights Activist Delilah Saunders: In Conversation

    Ahead of the Ambassador of Conscience Awards this weekend in Montreal, Alicia Keys talked with Indigenous rights activist Delilah Saunders in Teen Vogue.

    On May 27, human rights organization Amnesty International will honor music artist and activist Alicia Keys and the Indigenous rights movement in Canada with its prestigious Ambassador of Conscience Award at a ceremony in Montreal. One of six powerful activists accepting the award and standing for Canada's Indigenous people — arguably the wealthy nation's most marginalized community — is Delilah Saunders, who has committed her life to support the cause after her sister, Loretta, was murdered. At the time of her death, Loretta was writing her thesis on the history of violence against Indigenous women and girls, an ongoing crisis that went unaddressed by Canada's government until a national inquiry was opened in 2015.

    February 09, 2017

    For the overwhelming majority of Canadians, access to safe drinking water is something we take for granted. Any interruptions to the flow of clean water from our taps are rare and momentary, lasting a few hours or perhaps days at most.

    It’s an entirely different story for a shocking number of First Nations.

    As of last Fall, 110 First Nations were living under advisories to either boil their water or not drink it at all. The number is often much higher. In many cases, these advisories have been in place for years. In some instances, First Nations have lived a generation or longer without safe, reliable water.

    Prime Minister Trudeau has made a public commitment to end this water insecurity by 2020. It’s a welcome and important promise. But unfortunately it’s one that the federal government is in very real danger of breaking.

    January 17, 2017

    By Craig Benjamin

    It’s information that the Ontario government could – and should – have brought to light, but failed to do so.

    Last year, the provincial government stated that it had not been able to find any evidence to support claims by a former millworker that barrels of mercury had been buried at a site upstream from the Grassy Narrows First Nation and might now be leaching into their water system.

    Last week, however, the Toronto Star reported that members of the environmental NGO Earthroots had conducted their own soil tests at a location identified by the mill worker and found mercury levels as much as 80 times higher than normal. The findings were replicated by tests done by the Toronto Star. Scientists who reviewed the finding said there was little doubt that this was industrial mercury.

    The story is particularly concerning because it is the latest revelation of Ontario’s persistent and shocking disregard for the basic safety and well-being of the people of Grassy Narrows.

    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.

    November 24, 2016

    By Jackie Hansen, Women’s Rights Campaigner

    Annually since 1991, women’s rights activists from around the world have joined together to take action as part of the 16 Days of Activism to end Gender-based Violence campaign. Women and girls continue to experience violence directed at them because of their gender. Indigenous women and girls experience higher rates of violence than any other group of women and girls in Canada. The federal government has launched a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. This is a laudable effort and one that Indigenous womens’ organizations, Amnesty International and many others long called for, but action to end violence against Indigenous women and girls must not be delayed until the Inquiry finishes its work two years from now.

    October 28, 2016

    Christy Jordan-Fenton is a grassroots activist, educator, and author who lives with her family on a farm outside of Fort St. John, a small community in northeast British Columbia. Being raised in part by a Cree stepfather who attended residential school, and later residing with her residential school survivor mother-in-law, as well as being dedicated to Indigenous ceremonial practices, fueled Christy’s activism in support of the rights of Indigenous peoples. It also inspired her to write four children’s books about her mother-in-law’s experience at residential school. Christy uses her books as tools to educate young people about the residential school system and its legacies. Christy is also part of the grassroots effort to respect Indigenous rights by halting construction of the Site C hydroelectric dam. Amnesty International caught up with Christy in Fort St. John.

    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 27, 2016

    The mercury contamination of the waters of the Grassy Narrows First Nation – a situation now a half-century old and still unresolved – is one of the more notorious environmental disasters in Canadian history.

    Astonishingly, information obtained by the community over the last year, along with recent media reports, paints a picture of the treatment of Grassy Narrows at the hands of both the federal and provincial governments that is even worse than anyone had imagined.

    In the 1960s, the provincial government allowed a pulp mill in the northwest Ontario town of Dryden to release chemical by-products and waste, including an estimate 9 tonnes of mercury, into the English and Wabigoon river system. By the early 1970s it was discovered that natural processes had transformed the mercury into the deadly form of methyl-mercury which had accumulated in fish to such levels that commercial fishing in these waters was shut down.

    September 23, 2016

     “Ninety-five percent of my food is what I eat off of the land.” – Inuit hunter quoted in Harvard University study of potential health impacts of the Muskrat Falls dam 

    In a matter of days, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador could begin the first phase of flooding for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam. Doing so will set off a chain of events that will threaten the health and culture of downstream Inuit hunters and fishers for generations to come.

    Threats to food and culture ignored

    A 2015 peer reviewed scientific study concluded that the Muskrat Falls dam would increase levels of deadly methylmercury flowing into the downstream Lake Melville estuary by at least 25 percent and potentially by as much as 200 percent. 

    A follow-up study released earlier this year warned that  almost half of the Inuit community of Rigolet would be exposed to methylmercury levels in seals and other wild foods exceeding Canadian health guidelines, with exposure increasing by up to 1500% for some individuals.

    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.

    Pages

    rights