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Indigenous Peoples in Canada

    August 29, 2017

    Amnesty International urges the Canadian government to act on all the recommendations made for Canada by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination (CERD).

    The United Nations' top anti-racism body has strongly condemned the continued construction of the Site C dam as a clear violation of Treaty rights and Canada's international human rights obligations and has called for its immediate suspension.

    The UN committee said that it was unacceptable for governments in Canada to force Indigenous peoples to pursue long and costly legal challenges as the only way to uphold rights that the government is obligated to protect. It also noted that federal government support for the Site C dam contradicts the government's public commitments to uphold Indigenous rights, including the right to free, prior and informed consent.

    The committee is an independent, expert body with a mandate to promote compliance with the legally binding UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

    July 26, 2017

    Amnesty International is standing with the Inuit people of Clyde River in celebrating a Supreme Court ruling that represents a victory not only for this community and its future, but an important opportunity to bring Canadian law in line with international human rights standards.

    The case is about a decision by the National Energy Board of Canada (NEB) to allow a group of multinational corporations to carry out oil and gas exploration off Baffin Island. The Hamlet of Clyde River and the Nammautaq Hunters and Trappers Organization alleged that the government regulatory body failed to properly involve community members in the decision-making process and did not giver adequate attention to Inuit concerns over the impact of seismic testing on the marine animals on which their food, economy and culture depend.

    In a unanimous decision released today, the Supreme Court overturned the approval for seismic testing, finding that the “significantly flawed” decision-making process did not meet the standard of consultation required by the Constitutional protection of Inuit rights.

    May 31, 2017

    In reaction to yesterday’s announcement by the British Columbia NDP and Green parties that, if they form an alliance government, they would send the Site C megaproject for review by the independent BC Utilities Commission, Amnesty International Canada’s Indigenous Rights Campaigner, Craig Benjamin, said:

    May 31, 2017
    George Desjarlais of West Moberly First Nation at Paddle for the Peace

    By Craig Benjamin, Indigenous Rights Campaigner for Amnesty International Canada

    The leaders of the British Columbia NDP and Green parties announced yesterday that when they form the provincial government they will send the Site C megaproject to the independent BC Utilities Commission for a long overdue review.

    Such a review, which will try to determine the province's actual energy needs and whether the cost of Site C is warranted, is widely expected to be the death knell for the $9 billion plus project.

    Critically, however, the province needs to come to terms with the consequences of outgoing Premier Christy Clark's drive to push the dam to what she referred to as “the point of no return.”

    A University of British Columbia study recently concluded that stopping the project is still a better use of money than building a dam that will produce more power than is needed for decades. So far, the ecological harm to the Peace Valley is still reversible.

    May 31, 2017

    On Saturday May 27th, the inspirational Indigenous rights movement in Canada and global music artist and activist Alicia Keys were honoured with the 2017 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award at an evening ceremony in Montreal.

    The award is the organization’s highest honour for human rights work. This is the first time the award was given to a Canadian recipient and held in Canada. 

    “Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience awardees this year stand in the tradition of past winners such as Vaclav Havel and Malala Yousafzai – people who have shown exceptional leadership and courage to champion human rights, often in the face of great difficulty,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

    January 24, 2017

    This week's Federal Court of Appeal decision leaves unanswered the critical question of whether the construction of the Site C hydro-electric dam in northeast British Columbia violates the Constitutionally-protected Treaty rights of the First Nations who live in and depend on the Peace River Valley.

    The court accepted the federal government’s argument that, because the Canadian Environmental Act doesn’t explicitly require consideration of Treaty rights, it was “reasonable” to approve the project without first determining whether it would cause unjustifiable harm to the exercise of these rights.

    If the decision stands, it has the potential to set a dangerous precedent for rights protection in Canada as it effectively allows the terms of an individual piece of legislation to trump wider Constitutional rights protections.

    September 01, 2016

    On Monday morning, community members from the Treaty 8 territory in northeast BC set out on an historic a cross-country journey to focus public attention on their urgent struggle for justice for their people and for the Peace River Valley.

    When a federal-provincial environmental assessment concluded that the Site C hydro-electric dam would cause severe, permanent and irreversible harm to the culture and traditions of Indigenous peoples in the Peace Valley, the federal and provincial government should have put the project on hold and looked for alternatives. They didn’t.

    The federal and provincial governments didn’t even stop to examine whether building the dam over Indigenous opposition would be consistent with their legal obligations under Treaty 8.

    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 04, 2016

    Last week’s court decision on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline provides a crucial opportunity for the federal government to fulfil its promise to uphold the human rights of Indigenous peoples.

    On June 30, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the 2014 Cabinet decision to allow construction of the massive oil sands pipeline. The court concluded that the decision-making process fell “well-short “ of long-established legal standards for the protection of Indigenous rights in Canada.

    The court has called on the federal government to undertake a new consultation process with First Nations to address critical issues of Indigenous concern, such as the project’s impact on Indigenous land title, resource rights, and governance. The court said that these matters had been given only “brief, hurried and inadequate” consideration before the project was approved.

    Given the serious concerns that Indigenous peoples have repeatedly raised about Northern Gateway, Amnesty International is renewing our call for the federal government to respect the right of First Nations to say no to this project.

    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.

    March 22, 2016
    TAKE ACTION ON THE SITE C DAM

     

    Last summer, First Nations from north-eastern British Columbia brought more than 90 kg of trout to the provincial legislature. The fish had been caught in the Crooked River, one of the places where the people of the West Moberly First Nations have camped and fished throughout their whole history. But none of it was fit to eat.

    March 02, 2016

    "My major concern with the impact of Site C is that this is my home. This is where I want to raise my children and my grandchildren. And this is where my people are from." - Helen Knott

    BY ALEX NEVE, SECRETARY GENERAL, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CANADA

    Wherever you live in this country, British Columbia’s Site C dam should concern you. At a projected cost of almost $9 billion and rising, the hydro-electric project in the Peace River Valley is one of the largest resource development projects underway anywhere in Canada. But more than that, the Site C dam shines a bright light on the fundamental injustices that – despite promise of reconciliation and a new relationship - continue to characterize the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

    A joint federal-provincial review of the Site C dam came to these telling conclusions:

    February 23, 2016

    Indigenous peoples’ organizations and human rights groups are calling on the federal government to acknowledge the serious concerns of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples in Canada and to make clear commitments to action as the country’s record is reviewed before a UN human rights body this week.

    The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UNCESCR) is reviewing Canada’s compliance with its obligations under this human rights treaty on February 24 and 25 in Geneva.

    February 11, 2016

    Organizations from across Canada are urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take immediate action to halt construction of the Site C dam in north-eastern British Columbia

    In an open letter released today, more than 25 organizations, including Amnesty International, the David Suzuki Foundation, and Sierra Club BC, denounced the project for violation of rights protected under Treaty 8, the Canadian Constitution, and international human rights law.

    Although promoted by the government of BC as a “clean” source of renewable energy, the joint federal-provincial environmental impact assessment panel concluded that the Site C dam would severely and permanently undermine Indigenous peoples’ use of the land and destroy important cultural sites and a unique ecosystem.

    January 20, 2016

    “Reconciliation means not having to say sorry twice,” Dr. Cindy Blackstock, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society

    Education. Health Care. Child protection.

    For years, persistent federal government underfunding of these basic services in First Nations reserves has put  children at risk. It has denied them the kinds of opportunities that other young people in Canada often take for granted. And it has stood in the way of First Nations communities healing from the terrible harms inflicted through the residential schools programme and other colonialist policies.

    Now, we may be on the verge of an historic breakthrough.

    Next Tuesday, January 26, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is scheduled to deliver its long-awaited decision on whether or not the federal government’s underfunding of child protections services and other family supports is a form of racial discrimination.

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