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    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.

    September 12, 2014

    September 13th marks the 7th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a consensus global human rights instrument. The Declaration calls on all states to safeguard the traditional land and resource rights of Indigenous peoples, including legal title to lands. The Declaration also requires fair and transparent mechanisms to ensure any disputes over lands and resources are resolved in a just and timely manner.

    The rights recognition and protection called for by the Declaration is increasingly reflected in decisions by Canadian courts.

    For example, in a unanimous decision, Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in June that the Tsilhqot’in people in central BC continue to hold title to 1700 km2 of their traditional territory. Accordingly, they have the right to control how the land is used and to benefit from its resources.

    September 10, 2014

    Open Letter to the Premier of British Columbia

    Dear Premier Christy Clark,

    In Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, the Supreme Court recognized the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s ownership of title land in its traditional territory. This decision provides a crucial opportunity to re-frame the relationship between First Nations and the province of British Columbia.

    The Tsilhqot’in situation is not unique. The legal principles informing the Court’s unanimous ruling in the Tsilhqot’in case are widely applicable and should be adopted as part of a just and principled framework for the long overdue recognition of Indigenous land rights in BC.

    Toward this end, our organizations would like to draw your attention to these conclusions of the Supreme Court:

    September 09, 2014
    Am I Next - Indigenous women send messages to Canadian government

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada


    The images are haunting. The message shocking. “Am I next?”

    Holly Jarrett, cousin of Loretta Saunders, an Inuk woman murdered in Halifax, NS in February, launched the “Am I next?” social media campaign on Saturday, September 6. It plays on the word “ain,” a term of endearment in her native Inuktituk. Given the alarmingly high rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada, it is meant to draw attention to a question that Indigenous women and girls have to ask themselves—will they be the next to vanish?

    September 02, 2014

    A new Youth Media award is being added to the annual Amnesty International Media Awards that have been presented for excellence in journalism about human rights since 1995. They honour the efforts of journalists to increase Canadians' awareness and understanding of these issues.

    They are awards for coverage of human rights issues that are printed, broadcast or posted online in Canada that are within the mission of Amnesty International.

    Amnesty International’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.

    In pursuit of this vision, Amnesty International’s mission is to conduct research and take action to prevent and end grave abuses of all human rights – civil, political, social, cultural and economic. From freedom of expression and association to physical and mental integrity, from protection from discrimination to the right to housing- these rights are indivisible.

    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.

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