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Canada

    February 23, 2017
    From Mitchell Bay: Quesnel Lake frozen over
    Many of us have special places in nature that we go to when we need to unwind or think.

    These places may be dark forest trails that burst open into sunlit sandy beaches, tiny, hidden lakes, or rocky outcrops over-looking mighty rivers. Mine is a wide, sunny beach on the east coast of Vancouver Island. For Christine McLean, it’s a spot on her property in Mitchell Bay on Quesnel Lake, in central British Columbia.

    Christine is a water defender from Alberta who, together with her husband, bought their dream retirement property on the pristine lake a few years ago. At the time, she had no idea what the future would hold: a mining disaster of previously unseen proportions in Canada in the hills above the lake. The Mount Polley tailings pond breach of August 4, 2014, sent 24 million cubic litres of water and toxic mine waste into surrounding waters and ultimately, into Quesnel Lake.

    February 23, 2017

    23 February 2017

    The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould
    Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
    284 Wellington Street
    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8
    mcu@justice.gc.ca

    The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
    Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
    10 Wellington, North Tower
    Gatineau, Québec K1A 0H4
    minister@aadnc-aandc.gc.ca

     

    Dear Ministers,

    When it comes to ending discrimination against children, there is no excuse for half-measures and no time for delay.

    Today marks 10 years since the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations launched an historic challenge under the Canadian Human Rights Act, a challenge aimed at compelling the federal government to finally end the longstanding, systemic underfunding of First Nations children’s services.

    February 20, 2017

    Amnesty International is deeply troubled by reports that Iqra Khalid, Member of Parliament for Mississauga – Erin Mills, and her staff have received a large number of hateful, racist, bigoted and misogynistic voice mail and email messages and threats in response to Ms. Khalid’s introduction of House of Commons Motion 103: Systemic racism and religious discrimination. 

    Motion 103 speaks to concerns about systemic racism and religious discrimination in Canada, with a particular focus on Islamophobia.  It has become the subject of a heated and divisive debate in Parliament and now faces a competing Motion which removes the specific reference to Islamophobia.

    February 15, 2017

    Increase local resources for health care services and safe houses, to enhance capacity to respond to sexual assaults. Label employee vehicles with numbered decals to decrease anonymity in the local community. Involve local Indigenous communities in the delivery of cultural competency training for resource sector workers.

    These are just a few of the many concrete, practical measures that women from the Lake Babine and Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nations have identified to address harmful impacts experienced by Indigenous women and girls with large-scale resource development projects and associated industrial camps situated on or near their territories. The recommendations are found in an important new report, Indigenous Communities and Industrial Camps: Promoting Healthy Communities in Settings of Industrial Change. 

    February 13, 2017
    Allan Lissner/FreeGrassy.net

     “I thank the grassroots people of Grassy Narrows, and our supporters who have been tireless in their work to gain justice for mercury survivors at long last.” -- Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister

    The province of Ontario has just made a public commitment to clean up the river system on which the people of Grassy Narrows depend.

    The announcement follows a meeting between Premier Kathleen Wynne and the people of Grassy Narrows last Friday.

    The province’s commitment reportedly includes a promise that the river clean up will be led by the people of Grassy Narrows themselves.

    Grassy Narrows is the site of one of the worst incidents of industrial pollution in Canada. A half century ago, an upstream pulp and paper mill was allowed to dump tonnes of mercury into the river system. The people of Grassy Narrows are still dealing with the disastrous impacts on their health and way of life.

    February 10, 2017

    After days of speculation and rumours, the first official meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump has been scheduled. To say there is much anticipation would be understatement. The meeting comes in a moment of great uncertainty for the relationship between the two countries, as the new US administration has called into question some of the very underpinnings of Canada’s deepest partnership.

    Of particularly grave concern is the fact that President Trump has rapidly undertaken to translate some of his most toxic campaign rhetoric into official policy. Some of those policies and positions blatantly undermine fundamental human rights. Others go further, directly violating of international law.  Canadians have been aghast at these developments and have taken to the streets and social media in unprecedented numbers.

    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.

    The barriers to water justice – bureaucratic and financial – are set out in an important new study released by the David Suzuki Foundation and Council of Canadians, and with advisers Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

    February 09, 2017

    OTTAWA — The federal government will not meet its commitment to end all drinking water advisories affecting First Nations communities by 2020 without significant changes to current processes, according to a new report, Glass half empty? Year 1 progress toward resolving drinking water advisories in nine First Nations in Ontario.

    Released by the David Suzuki Foundation and Council of Canadians, and with advisers Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the report assesses the federal government’s progress in nine First Nations across Ontario. With 81 active DWAs — more than any other province — Ontario provides a snapshot of Canada’s First Nations water crisis.

    “We are calling on the government to work with First Nations to make necessary changes to the way it addresses the lack of safe drinking water in First Nation communities,” said David Suzuki Foundation Ontario science projects manager Rachel Plotkin. “At present, it is not on track to meet its promise.”

    February 06, 2017
    DOWNLOAD PDF HERE

     

    Every child has the right to grow up in a safe and healthy home. 

    Sometimes families need a little help to make sure their children are getting the care they need. Our government has set up agencies to provide that help. 

    But the agencies can’t do their jobs if the government doesn’t provide enough money.

    For many years, the agencies supporting families in First Nations communities have had to work with much less money than organizations supporting families in other communities. At the same time, the needs of First Nations families are often greater because of the hardships caused by a long history of government policies that have hurt their communities.

    One terrible result is that support agencies are taking very large numbers of First Nations children away from their families. This is because the agencies don`t have enough money to provide families the support they need. One study found that in some provinces, more than 1 in 10 First Nations children had been taken away from their families.

    February 03, 2017

    Adolfo Garcia (pictured, second from the left), is a quiet, serious middle-aged farmer from Guatemala. Once the Guatemalan government began issuing mining licenses in Santa Rosa, he dedicated his life to protecting the land and water for future generations of farmers and residents of his small town in south-east Guatemala.

    Adolfo has since experienced terrible injustice and violence. During a peaceful protest in 2013, Adolfo, his son, and five other men were shot and gravely injured outside a silver mine owned by Canadian company, Tahoe Resources. Adolfo’s then-teenaged son, Luis Fernando, was shot in the face, requiring extensive and painful reconstructive surgeries to enable him to breathe again. Adolfo and his wife nearly lost their family home to pay for the operations. 

    February 02, 2017

    With Prof. Homa Hoodfar, Mohamed Fahmy and other ex-prisoners of conscience.

    Friday, February 3, 2017, 6:30 to 8:30 PM

    University of Toronto Earth Sciences Building Auditorium,

    5 Bancroft Avenue, Toronto

    Launching a campaign for the release of Saeed Malekpour, a Canadian permanent resident unjustly locked in Iranian prisons for over 8 years. 

    Saeed Malekpour is an Iranian-born computer programmer who immigrated to Victoria B.C. and was arrested while on a trip to Iran in 2008. Initially sentenced to death on charges of “spreading corruption on earth,” he is now condemned to life in prison and has already served over eight years, and endured torture and solitary confinement. Malekpour’s indictment was based on confessions obtained under torture and he has been deprived of a fair trial. 

    January 31, 2017

    The Honourable Ralph Goodale

    Minister of Public Safety

    269 Laurier Avenue West

    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P8

     

    January 30, 2017

    Dear Minister Goodale,

    We are writing to you about the urgent need for Canada to revise the Ministerial Directives on torture issued by the previous government to conform to the unconditional ban on torture in international law.

    Doing so now would send an important signal to Canadians and to the international community that Canada will under no circumstances use information from a foreign country that was likely obtained under torture, or share information that could likely lead to an individual being tortured.

    As you know, in 2011 the government introduced a ministerial directive that allows, under exceptional circumstances, for information garnered under torture by a foreign country to be transmitted to and used by Canadian security agencies. The same directive also provided guidelines for instances when Canadian agencies could share information with countries that are know to engage in human rights abuses, even if doing so would likely result in torture.

    January 31, 2017

    In a precedent-setting ruling for human rights defenders, British Columbia’s Court of Appeal has ruled that a lawsuit against Tahoe Resources for the violent repression of a peaceful protest in Guatemala in 2013 may advance in Canada. The decision is a victory for seven Guatemalan men who suffered multiple gunshot wounds when they were allegedly shot by company security forces while peacefully protesting outside the entrance to the Escobal silver mine.

    “The ruling sends a clear message that Canadian companies operating abroad can and should be held accountable for allegations of human rights abuses in their operations overseas,” said Tara Scurr, Amnesty International Canada’s Business and Human Rights Campaigner. “For the first time in BC, a parent company will be called to answer for claims that human rights abuses were committed at one of its overseas operations. This is great news for corporate accountability in Canada”.

    January 30, 2017

    In an Open Letter to Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Amnesty International’s Canadian and US Sections, representing close to 2 million people in the two countries, have today called on the Canadian government immediately and urgently to rescind designation of the United States as a “safe third country” for the purposes of refugee determination.

    The designation, pursuant to an agreement reached between the two countries in 2002, took effect in December 2004.  Its effect is to deny access to the Canadian refugee determination system for most refugee claimants who pass through the United States before continuing to Canada.  They are instead required to make their claims for protection in the United States.  The designation of the United States as a “safe third country” had been overturned by a Federal Court judge in 2007, but that was reversed on procedural grounds by the Federal Court of Appeal in 2008.

    January 30, 2017

    Following last night’s deadly shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Québec City, Béatrice Vaugrante, Director General of Amnesty International Canada-Francophone, said: 

    “Amnesty International strongly condemns this act targeting Muslims, demonstrating a total disregard for life and a religion-based hatred.

    “We send our condolences to the families of the victims and the wider community of this mosque. It is crucial that the police investigation be conducted promptly and justice delivered. The Muslim community in the province of Québec needs to be assured that it has access to security, like all citizens.

    “Hate speech and Islamophobia are unacceptable and nurture violence. Let us show together, especially at the highest political level, that solidarity prevails and that respect for the rights of all people to live in security without discrimination is of the utmost importance to us.”

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