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Indigenous Peoples

    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.

    August 09, 2016

    A massive hydro-electric dam now under construction in the Canadian province of British Columbia violates Canada’s commitments to uphold the human rights of Indigenous peoples, says a new brief by Amnesty International released on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. 

    The release of the brief marks the beginning of a global campaign by the organization to halt the construction of the Site C dam, which will deprive Indigenous peoples in the Peace River Valley region of access to lands and waters vital to their culture and livelihoods.

    “Construction of the Site C dam illustrates the persistent gap between rhetoric and reality when it comes to the rights of Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.  “Rights protected under an historic treaty, the Canadian Constitution and international human rights standards have been pushed aside in the name of a development project that has no clear purpose or rationale and does not have the consent of the Indigenous people who will suffer the consequences of its construction.”

    August 03, 2016

    Press Conference Comments

    Alex Neve
    Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada (English Branch)

    It is almost twelve years since Amnesty International launched our Stolen Sisters report, documenting the role of long entrenched discrimination in putting shocking numbers of Indigenous women and girls in harm’s way.

    In raising our voice, we joined the Native Women’s Association of Canada; family members of murdered and missing First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls; women and girls who had survived violence; and countless frontline organizations and allies; all of whom had been struggling for years to draw attention to the violence and demand real action to bring it to an end.

    Above all else today we honour the steadfast determination of the families who have courageously bared their pain and sorrow to Canada and, in fact, the world in pressing for justice.

    July 29, 2016

    A permit issued this week by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans violates the rights of Indigenous peoples by allowing continued construction of a destructive and unjustified hydro-electric megaproject that does not have their free, prior and informed consent.

    “The federal government had the opportunity to do the right thing and at least insist that First Nations legal challenges be given a fair hearing before construction of the Site C dam continues,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “Instead, in taking this step the government has broken its promise to respect Canada’s Treaties with Indigenous peoples and uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

    July 20, 2016

    July 20, 2016—As organizations and human rights experts, we are deeply concerned by the draft Terms of Reference for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada, which have been posted on media websites today.

    The TOR provide the framework for the National Inquiry and establish the authority of its Commissioners. In our view, the draft TOR risks a weak National Inquiry that lacks clear authority to delve into some of the most crucial factors in this human rights crisis. Our organizations are particularly concerned that the draft TOR provides no explicit mandate to report on, or make recommendations regarding, policing and justice system failures and inadequacies.

    July 12, 2016

    by Craig Benjamin, Indigneous Rights Campaigner
     

    Imagine this: 

    Hundreds of people - First Nations, Métis and non-Indigenous - out on canoes and kayaks to celebrate  the  beauty of the  Peace River and show their determination to protect the land from the massive destruction that would be caused by the Site C dam.

    This was the scene last weekend at the 11th annual Paddle for the Peace in northeast BC. The event brought together people from throughout the province, across the country, and indeed around the world. Our colleagues from KAIROS even brought an entire busload of paddlers from Vancouver Island and the lower mainland.

    360 panorama photo -- click and drag to view the full scene

    June 21, 2016

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

    Think about this.

    A community devastated by the massive release of mercury into the rivers on which they depend.

    Credible scientific studies showing that a half century later the people are still suffering from the debilitating effects of mercury poisoning and that even their children are being harmed.

    Further studies that show that the mercury is not going away and that fish from the river will continue to be unsafe for years to come unless something is done.

    New allegations that an illegal toxic dump near the river could increase the mercury contamination ten-fold and leave the river unsafe for almost a century to come.

    This is the story of the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwest Ontario. It’s a situation that cries out for justice.

    Now consider how the federal and provincial governments have responded.

    May 25, 2016

     

    By Craig Benjamin

    "Clean the English-Wabigoon River System. Water is sacred." Judy da Silva, Grassy Narrows First Nation

    May 12, 2016

    Amnesty International strongly welcomes Canada's recent statement of unconditional support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

    On May 10, federal Minister of Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennett told the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues that Canada is "now a full supporter of the Declaration, without qualification."

    The Minister went on to describe implementation of the Declaration as "breathing new life into section 35" - the provision of the Canadian Constitution affirming Aboriginal and Treaty rights - "and recognizing it now as a full box of rights for Indigenous peoples in Canada." 

    May 04, 2016

    In many ways, Canada waged war against Indigenous peoples through Law, and many of today’s laws reflect that intent. ... The full adoption and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will not undo the War of Law, but it will begin to address that war’s legacies.

    Senator Murray Sinclair, Truth and Reconciliation Chair, April 2016

    The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a global human rights instrument setting out minimum standards for the “survival, dignity and well-being” of Indigenous peoples around the world.

    In its Calls to Action, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission named the UN Declaration as “the framework” for Canadians to come together to redress the terrible harms that have been inflicted on Indigenous peoples throughout Canada’s history.

    April 19, 2016

    The latest scientific study of the potential impacts of a large hydro-electric dam now under construction in Labrador once again underlines the profound failure of the federal and provincial governments to properly safeguard the human rights of Inuit hunters and fishers who rely on downstream waters for their subsistence, health, and culture.

    Construction of the Muskrat Falls dam is underway. As is the case with all large dams, the flooding will result in the formation of methylmercury as vegetation decomposes.

    Methylmercury is one of the most dangerous environmental contaminants. It  accumulates in the food chain, reaching higher and higher concentrations in top predators such as seals and large fish. Consumed by humans, methylmercury can lead to a wide range of debilitating health effects, including neurological degeneration, and cognitive impairment among infants and children.

    March 08, 2016

    The catalogue of failures in the investigation into the death of a prominent Indigenous leader last week exposes the Honduran government’s absolute lack of willingness to protect human rights defenders in the country, said Amnesty International after a visit to the Central American country.

    “Authorities in Honduras are saying one thing and doing another. They have told us they are committed to finding those responsible for Berta Cáceres’ death yet they have failed to follow the most basic lines of investigation, including the fact that Berta had been receiving serious death threats related to her human rights work for a very long time,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “This shocking lack of action is sending the dangerous message that anyone can kill those who dare to confront the most powerful in society and get away with it. That authorities seem to be willing to trade lives for money.”

    February 19, 2016

    Before and after images show destruction that has already occurred as construction of Site C dam presses ahead
     

    Indigenous activist explains the importance of halting the Site C dam

    When Helen Knott talks about the importance of the Peace Valley, she inevitably also talks about her grandmother. About time spent together out on the land, learning the stories that have been passed down through the generations. Learning the skills of how to live on the land. And trying to ensure that this knowledge can be passed on to her own son.

    “All my grandmother’s stories are connected to land,” says Helen. “It’s like that for our elders. You have to be on the land to be able to share those memories.”

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