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    October 15, 2014
    The Peace River in northern British Columbia

    The federal government has approved the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam  in northern British Columbia despite the severe impacts it would have on the cultures and economies of Indigenous peoples in the region.

    The Site C dam would flood more than 80 km of the Peace River Valley. A joint federal/provincial environmental assessment found the dam would cause “profound” loss of natural habitat, would “severely undermine” First Nations, Métis and non-Aboriginal use of the area, and would submerge First Nations graves and others sites of cultural significance.

    In a decision released on October 14th, federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said that the impacts of the project are “justified in the circumstances.” The Minister’s statement refers to jobs that will be created in the construction of the dam and the “clean, renewable energy” that will be produced.

    However, the joint review characterized the dam as imposing significant social and environmental costs that would be borne by the very communities least likely to share in its benefits.

    October 10, 2014

    “Today’s Supreme Court decision dismissing claims for redress by torture survivors and their families’ against foreign governments in Canadian courts benefits no-one except government officials who torture,” said Amnesty International.

    In the case of the Kazemi Estate v. Islamic Republic of Iran, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Stephan Hashemi, whose mother was tortured in Iran and later died of her injuries, could not sue the government officials who tortured her or the government of Iran.

    “The Canadian government must amend the State Immunity Act and permit victims of torture and their families to sue States and government officials who torture,” said Béatrice Vaugrante, Director General of Amnesty International Canada’s Francophone Branch. “Instead of protecting the rights of victims of torture and their families, this decision provides succour to those who torture, and it sends a signal that they may continue to do so with impunity.”

    October 09, 2014

    Ottawa, October 9, 2014 – Amnesty International is calling on Canada’s Senate to pass Bill C-279, a piece of legislation which will go a long way to protecting the fundamental human rights of transgender persons in Canada.

    In a brief submitted today to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Amnesty International called for the bill to be passed immediately and as drafted.

    “Around the world, and certainly in Canada, transgender individuals face alarmingly high levels of violence, harassment and prejudice,” said Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada. “It is a glaring human rights problem that governments everywhere have, for far too long, failed to address. Bill C-279 would provide much-needed and long-needed human rights protection to transgender individuals in Canada who face discrimination and hate crimes, in keeping with the country’s international human rights obligations.  It is imperative that the Senate do the right thing and ensure its speedy passage into law.”

    October 08, 2014

    “Our people have a deep connection with this land because our ancestors told the stories and legends that are connected to that valley.” Chief Liz Logan, Treaty 8 Tribal Association, testifying before the environmental impact assessment of the proposed Site C hydroelectric dam.

    It would be impossible to flood more than 80 km of pristine river valley without having a massive impact on local ecosystems and the people who depend on them.

    The environmental impact assessment of the proposed $8 billion Site C hydroelectric dam in Northern British Columbia is clear that flooding such a large section of the Peace River valley would “severely undermine” First Nations, Métis and non-Aboriginal use of the area for hunting, trapping, and gathering plant medicines; would make fishing unsafe for at least a generation; and would submerge burial grounds and other crucial cultural and historical sites.

    In short, the panel concluded that the project would have “significant environmental and social costs” and that these would be borne by the people least likely to benefit from the project.

    October 02, 2014

    The Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN) is an organization by and for Indigenous youth that works across issues of sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice throughout Canada and the United States. They have been mobilizing through frontline work in communities for over 10 years, addressing structural and systemic colonial violence. Follow the NYSHN  on Twitter and Facebook.

    Amnesty International talked to members of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network as part of a series of conversations with activists and leaders marking the 10th anniversary of the Stolen Sisters report on violence against Indigenous women. We asked the NYSHN for their reflections on progress made and remaining challenges in making sure that there are No More Stolen Sisters. Here is what they had to say.

    October 01, 2014

    To all members of the House of Commons and the Senate,

    Ten years ago, Amnesty International published its major report, Stolen Sisters: Discrimination and Violence against Indigenous Women in Canada. The report built on work that Indigenous women and communities had been doing for years, documenting and speaking out for the hundreds of sisters, daughters and mothers taken by violence.  At the time, all parties in the Canadian Parliament made statements affirming that urgent action was needed to stop this violence. Tragically, however, despite some positive initiatives by all levels of government, the response over the last decade has been primarily characterized by a piecemeal, inadequate and poorly coordinated government response to the dire threats facing Indigenous women and girls.

    October 01, 2014

    Bev Jacobs, a Mohawk lawyer and grandmother from Six Nations, was the lead researcher on Amnesty International’s 2004 Stolen Sisters report.  Bev went on to serve as President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Her cousin Tashina General was murdered in 2008. Bev has recently been working with Ending Violence Association British Columbia, to design and lead knowledge sharing workshops on how to build safety in Indigenous communities. 

    I spoke with Bev as part of a series of conversations with Indigenous women activists and leaders to mark the 10th anniversary of the Stolen Sisters report and the ongoing struggle to stop violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    What’s the most important thing for Canadians to understand about what’s happening to Indigenous women and girls in this country?

    September 30, 2014

    Ellen Gabriel, a Mohawk artist, educator and activist from Kanehsatà:ke, is well known in Canada as a powerful voice for rights of Indigenous peoples. Amnesty International has been honoured to work alongside Ellen on many matters of urgent concern, including the rights and safety of Indigenous women and the promotion of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    Amnesty International talked to Ellen as part of a series of conversations with activists and leaders marking the 10th anniversary of the Stolen Sisters report on violence against Indigenous women. We asked Ellen for her reflections on progress made and remaining challenges in making sure that there are No More Stolen Sisters. Here is what she had to say.

    Why do you think there has been so little coherent and concrete government response to the high levels of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in Canada?

    Because they don’t care. It profits them to keep us oppressed and to deny that colonialism has anything to do with the whole gamut of problems we have in our communities.

    September 29, 2014

    OTTAWA - With federal political parties preparing for an election year, Amnesty International and the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) are calling on Canadians to help make ending violence against Aboriginal women and girls a priority for all politicians. Our organizations will be working with women’s organizations and other allies across Canada to ensure that all parties make tangible commitments to end violence against Indigenous women and girls in the upcoming election.

    Recently released RCMP statistics report the murder of 1017 Aboriginal women and girls between 1980 and 2012, with more than 100 others remaining missing under suspicious circumstances or for unknown reasons.

    NWAC President Michèle Audette told a press conference on Parliament Hill today. “Each woman was somebody. She was also somebody’s sister, daughter, mother, or friend and every one of them deserved to be safe from violence. They deserve more from our Government than excuses and a patchwork of underfunded and inadequate programs and services. We need solutions and actions that will make a difference in women’s lives.”

    September 26, 2014

    By Hilary Homes (Amnesty International Canada), Robert Fox (Oxfam Canada) and Ken Epps (Project Ploughshares)

    Long a significant advocate of global arms control, Canada will be conspicuously absent next year from arguably the most important conventional weapons conference of this generation.

    At a special ceremony taking place in New York today (Sept 25), diplomats will celebrate the fact that fifty countries have now ratified the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a landmark agreement to reduce the serious harm caused by the irresponsible and illegal trade in conventional weapons, including allies like the UK, Mexico, Germany and France. Canada has yet to sign or ratify, even though Canada voted in favour of the treaty in April last year.

    Now the landmark figure of 50 has been reached - with or without Canada - the Treaty will enter into force in 90 days time and become international law.

    September 25, 2014

    “It’s been hard, because it’s not easy to bear being spat at in the face, being pushed and shoved, the tear gas, the tussles with the police, and we women having to throw ourselves on the ground. That is tough. It’s tough and it’s not easy to bear it, but we do it because we believe in our struggle and in asserting our rights.” 

    Yolanda Oqueli, a leader from San Jose del Golfo in Guatemala, shared those words with me last year, describing her community’s ongoing struggle to compel the Guatemalan government to respect their rights in the context of a Canadian-initiated mining project.

    Canada has a large stake in Guatemala’s mining sector, accounting for 88 per cent of all current mining operations. The country’s mining production was valued at over US $600 million in 2012.

    How could anything be wrong with Canada playing such a huge role in the country’s growing mining sector, one could wonder?  It is all about human rights.

    September 24, 2014

    Indigenous peoples’ organizations and human rights groups are outraged that the federal government used a high level United Nations forum on Indigenous rights as an opportunity to continue its unprincipled attack on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    On Monday, the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples -- a high level plenary of the UN General Assembly in New York -- adopted a consensus statement reaffirming support for the UN Declaration.

    Canada was the only member state to raise objections.

    Chief Perry Bellegarde, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, said, “The World Conference was an opportunity for all states to reaffirm their commitment to working constructively with Indigenous peoples to uphold fundamental human rights standards. Alone among all the UN members, Canada instead chose to use this forum to make another unprincipled attack on those very standards.”

    September 17, 2014
    How many Indigenous women and girls have gone missing in Canada?

    The best available data, an RCMP report released earlier this year, identifies 1,017 women and girls who 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.

    As explained below, the actual numbers may be even higher.

    These women were daughters, sisters, mothers and wives. They were loved and valued and they are missed by their families. Every missing or murdered Indigenous woman and girl is a tragedy. The combined numbers are nothing less than a national human rights crisis.

    Who is responsible for this violence?

    The RCMP report does not identify how many of the perpetrators are Indigenous or non-Indigenous, but we know from individual cases that attacks on Indigenous women are carried out by Indigenous and non-Indigenous men alike.

    September 16, 2014
    Given the scale of the violence, the federal government’s response is piecemeal and inadequate. Recognition of the importance of supporting the families of missing and murdered women is welcomed. The federal plan fails to address the need for an independent National Public Inquiry. More is needed to tackle economic marginalization of Indigenous women, support frontline services on and off reserve, and ensure effective and unbiased police response.

    The widespread violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in Canada requires a comprehensive and concerted effort by all levels of government to address the discrimination, marginalization and impoverishment that puts Indigenous women and girls in harm’s way or denies them the chance to escape this violence.

    September 12, 2014

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

    Ten years ago, when Amnesty International released its first research report on missing and murdered Indigenous women, we did not call for a national inquiry.

    At the time, we felt that the most, if not all, the elements of what government needed to do to address the threats to Indigenous women’s lives had already been identified by frontline service providers, affected families and communities, and previous inquiries. Then, as now, what was urgently needed was the political will to consolidate all these measures into a comprehensive, coordinated national action plan.
    Ten years have now passed since that initial report. And despite the unprecedented public attention to the issue, and the fact that murders and disappearances continue to steal Indigenous women and girls from their families and communities, Canada still does not have a plan to stem this violence.


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