"Time for Consistent Action"
Human Rights Agenda for Canada, December 2013
"Time for Consistent Action"
Canadians supporting Amnesty International’s work will join thousands of others around the world to Write for Rights around Wednesday December 10. The annual activity is now the world’s largest letter-writing event. Last year, Amnesty International members in more than 80 countries wrote almost two million letters, tweets and texts. The letters aim to save lives, stop torture, free prisoners of conscience and show solidarity.
Individuals write letters based on 9 cases come from every continent and cover a wide range of different human rights issues:
A case before the Supreme Court could mark an important turning point for the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada. At stake is the right of the Tsilhqot’in Nation to own lands at the heart of its traditional territory in British Columbia.
Amnesty International and Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers) have joined together to urge the Court to seize this moment to give practical application to human rights standards affirmed in international law. This includes rights to lands and territories affirmed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Read our joint statement on the case
Want to know more?
On November 7, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada heard the crucial case of William v. British Columbia. At stake is the right of the Tsilhqot’in Nation to own lands at the heart of its traditional territory. Canadian law recognizes that Indigenous peoples may hold ongoing title to their lands that predates colonization. Yet to date no Canadian court has ever affirmed such Indigenous title.
Amnesty International and Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers) joined together, and along with First Nations and other interveners, called on the Supreme Court to reject government efforts to limit First Nations’ ownership and control of land. We urged the Court to seize this moment to give practical application to human rights standards affirmed in international law, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Background to the case
WHEN: Friday November 8 10:00 am - 12:00 pm noon
WHERE: Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, 299 Montreal Rd, Ottawa
Introduction: Leadership from the Tsilhqot'in National Government
Grand Chief Ed John, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Louise Mandell, Mandell Pinder. LLP
Will David, Paul Joffe, Robert Morales, Maria Morellato, and Jay Nelson
For the first time in almost a decade, the Supreme Court of Canada is considering the vital question of Indigenous peoples' right to own and control their traditional lands and resources. The outcome of the Tsilhqot'in title case could have far reaching implications in Canada, and possibly around the world. This forum will examine the way Canadian constitutional and international human rights law are converging in this landmark case. Speakers include prominent lawyers from the case.
Photo: Tsilhqot'in healer Cecil Grinder
Good news: the federal government has announced its decision to reject the proposed New Prosperity Mine.
In October, a scathing environmental impact assessment.concluded that the proposed mine would have “significant” long-term, and irreversible impacts on water quality in Teztan Biny or Fish Lake, on fish habitat, and on wetlands ecosystems and cause “high magnitude, “long-term” and “irreversible” harm to the Tsilhqot’in people who depend on these lands and waters.
Thank you to everyone who wrote to the federal Minister of the Environment to encourage her to act on the findings of this assessment.
For more information, please see our update.
If you would like to send a letter commending the federal government for its decision, the Minister's address is below.
Salutation: Dear Minister
David Alward, Premier of New Brunswick
P.O. Box 6000
Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1
Dear Premier Alward:
Our organizations are deeply concerned by the Province of New Brunswick’s response to anti-fracking protests at the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq Nation. We are appreciative of the efforts of all involved to allow a cooling off period following the violence of October 17. However, it is our view that this clash could have been avoided had the province acted in a manner consistent with its obligations to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples under Canadian and international law. Furthermore, we are concerned that unless the province adopts an approach consistent with these obligations, further clashes may occur.
People who have been harmed by Canadian mining, oil and gas companies overseas may soon be able to bring their cases to Canada.
Today, 23 Canadian organizations and their international allies issued a call to action to Members of Parliament, and all Canadians, to ensure that victims of Canadian corporate abuse abroad can access justice in Canada.
The call to action addresses two key barriers to justice: weak out-of-court mechanisms, and obstacles to suing in Canadian courts.
“It is time for Canada to create a mandatory extractive- sector Ombudsman and to legislate access to courts for people who are harmed by the overseas operations of Canadian oil, mining and gas companies,” said Emily Dwyer, Coordinator of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA).
Canada’s voluntary Extractive-Sector CSR Counsellor has proved hopelessly ineffective since the Office was established in 2009.
By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The United Nation’s top expert on the human rights of Indigenous peoples says Canada is facing a “crisis” which must be addressed.
James Anaya visited Canada this month as part of a fact-finding mission. At a press conference to conclude his visit, the Special Rapporteur said,
“The well-being gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada has not narrowed over the last several years, treaty and aboriginals claims remain persistently unresolved, and overall there appear to be high levels of distrust among aboriginal peoples toward government at both the federal and provincial levels.”
The Special Rapporteur went on to note that while “Canada consistently ranks near the top among countries with respect to human development standards… aboriginal people live in conditions akin to those in countries that rank much lower and in which poverty abounds.”
Some of the specific examples raised by the Special rapporteur included:
By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Amnesty International is following with concern the police and government response to anti-fracking protests by the Elsipogtog Mi'kmaq Nation in New Brunswick.
Like so many disputes around the lands and resources of Indigenous peoples in Canada, this conflict could have been avoided by a rigorous commitment on the part of government to respect and uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples as set out in Canadian and international law.
Three fundamental principles must be observed.
In response to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta decision in Omar Khadr’s case on 18 October 2013, Amnesty International Canada (English Branch) Secretary General Alex Neve noted the following:
Amnesty International has, for years, pressed US authorities and Canadian authorities to recognize Omar Khadr’s status as a child soldier and to ensure that he is treated according to international legal standards meant to protect and rehabilitate child soldiers. The organization has been deeply disappointed that no steps have been taken by Canadian corrections officials to do so, despite the fact that Omar Khadr has now been in custody in Canada for over one year at two different institutions. Granting this court application could have been a significant step towards righting those wrongs. Amnesty International continues to remind the Canadian government of its obligations under international human rights standards dealing with child soldiers and calls on authorities to take immediate steps to ensure that he is treated in full conformity with those important obligations.
On 10 October 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada held a public hearing on the extremely important case of Mohamed Harkat, regarding the constitutionality of Canada’s security certificate system. A secret hearing at an undisclosed location (perhaps the first in the history of the Supreme Court of Canada) took place on 11 October.
Back in 2007, Canada’s highest court had ruled that the system was unconstitutional, and it was revised by Parliament the following year. One of the main changes to the law was the addition of “Special Advocates” – lawyers who have full access to the evidence brought by the government, but who are restricted in several ways, including in their communications with the person whose rights are at stake.
By Aubrey Harris, Coordinator for the Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty
Today, 10 October, is World Day Against the Death Penalty. This year abolitionist groups from around the world are focussed on efforts to abolish the death penalty in the Caribbean. Amnesty International released a report today also detailing one of the biggest myths of death penalty supporters - the claim of deterrence.
In Canada though we have another special reason to celebrate this October 10th. It is the first October 10th in five years in which Canadian citizen Hamid Ghassemi-Shall is not facing possible execution.
OpenMedia.ca is joining with more than 30 major organizations and over a dozen leading experts to launch the largest pro-privacy coalition in Canadian history. With Parliament set to resume, the Protect Our Privacy Coalition has banded together to ensure Canadians get effective legal measures to protect their privacy against government intrusion.
The broad-based coalition includes organizations and individuals from a wide range of political perspectives, including citizen-based groups, civil liberties groups, privacy advocates, right-leaning organizations, First Nations groups, labour groups, small businesses. LGBT groups and academic experts, all of whom have signed onto the statement:
“More than ever, Canadians need strong, genuinely transparent, and properly enforced safeguards to secure privacy rights. We call on Government to put in place effective legal measures to protect the privacy of every resident of Canada against intrusion by government entities.”
by Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada
"Perhaps the one positive thing coming out of all I have been through is to know that there are so many good people in the world, like the members of Amnesty International, willing to stand up for other people."
– Omar Khadr, Edmonton Institution, October 5, 2013