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Indigenous Peoples in Canada

    November 24, 2015

    Respect for Indigenous peoples' right of free, prior and informed (FPIC) must be a matter of urgent priority for any government committed to a respectful relationship with Indigenous peoples.

    This is part of a message to the the new Prime Minister and his Cabinet from Indigenous peoples' organizations, human rights groups, environmentalists and others.

    In an open letter sent today, 16 organizations from across Canada called on the federal government to collaborate with Indigenous Peoples’ governments and organizations to ensure that:

    October 15, 2015

    “Our people have a deep connection with this land because our ancestors told the stories and legends that are connected to that valley.”
    -- Chief Liz Logan, Treaty 8 Tribal Association, testifying before the environmental impact assessment of the proposed Site C hydroelectric dam

    The Peace River Valley in northeastern British Columbia is a unique ecosystem and one of the very few areas in the region that so far has been largely preserved from large-scale resource development. First Nations and Métis families and communities rely on the valley for hunting and fishing, gathering berries and sacred medicine, and holding ceremonies. Their ancestors are buried in this land.

    The planned $8 billion plus Site C hydroelectric dam would flood more than 80 km of the river valley, stretching west from Fort St. John. There is no dispute that construction of the dam and the flooding will have a severe impact on the First Nations and Métis families and communities who depend on the Valley. 

    September 11, 2015

    Earlier this summer, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on the federal, provincial and territorial governments to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the central framework for Canada to at long last address the racism and blatant disregard for the lives of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and families exemplified by the residential school policy.

    For organizations and individuals who have been deeply involved with the Declaration, the recommendation comes as no surprise.

    August 05, 2015

    “My culture is my identity,” says Colleen Cardinal. “This is what has been denied to me.”

    The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has helped shine a light on the horrendous and lasting harm done by tearing Indigenous children from their families, their communities, their languages and their cultures.

    Critically, as the TRC report itself highlights, the uprooting of Indigenous children was not limited to the Residential School Programme.

    For decades, Indigenous families having difficulties providing adequate care for their children - whether as a result of impoverishment, the intergenerational consequences of abuses suffered in residential schools, or other social and economic stresses -  have been denied the help they need.

    July 23, 2015

    Indigenous peoples and human rights groups say that a new United Nations report on Canada’s human rights record should be a wake-up call for all Canadians.

    The UN Human Rights Committee, which regularly reviews whether states are living up to their obligations under the binding International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,  today made more than a dozen recommendations for fundamental changes in Canadian law and policy in respect to the treatment of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

    The Committee was so concerned about issues of violence against Indigenous women and the violation of Indigenous Peoples’ land rights that it called on Canada to report back within one year on progress made to implement its recommendations on these issues.

    July 23, 2015

    The United Nations Human Rights Committee issued its Concluding Observations today following its review of Canada’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Amnesty International welcomes this review of the country’s human rights record, the last of which occurred in October 2005—nearly a decade ago.

          New UN Report goes to the heart of Canada's failure to meet its international human right obligations    

    Read response from Indigenous peoples' organizations and allies

    June 18, 2015

    “When we shared our land and water we expected it to be kept pristine, but they have failed and destroyed our culture as a result. We want that mercury cleaned up. There is no way around it because it is a sacred trust to take care of our land.” - Chief Roger Fobister Sr., Grassy Narrows First Nation

    “I believe some babies in our community continue to be born sick because of the mercury poison that is still in the river. These children did not choose this legacy of poisoning they have inherited.” - Judy DaSilva, Grassy Narrows environmental health coordinator and a mother of five.

           

    Hear Judy DaSilva Talk about the issues on CBC

    June 08, 2015

    Last week, a summary report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission described Canada’s Residential Schools as “part of a coherent policy to eliminate Aboriginal people as distinct peoples and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will.”

    The statement affirms something that is now well-established –and which was, in fact, acknowledged in Canada’s official apology to residential school survivors.

    Quite simply, the residential school policy had at its heart an insidious agenda to eradicate First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples as distinct cultures, societies and nation. And the tragic effects of the harm that was done --  including the terrible deprivations and abuses inflicted on so many of the girls and boys who were torn from their families and communities to attend these schools, as well as the loss of language, community cohesion and cultural knowledge and skills -- continue to be felt today.

    June 02, 2015

    Full implementation of the recommendations released today by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is essential to provide justice for residential schools survivors and their communities and to ensure that Canada lives up to its international human rights obligations.

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established as part of a legal settlement with survivors of the government-funded and church-run Indian Residential Schools. For over a century, more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forcibly taken from their families and communities to attend these schools. The Commission estimates than more than 6,000 children died in these schools while countless others endured hardship, deprivation and abuse.

    May 07, 2015

    In almost two weeks of travel in the Peace River region and up to Fort Nelson, British Columbia, we've had the privilege of spending time with many inspiring activists and leaders. And we've been moved, and often angered by stories of abuse and indifference that have been shared with us by families of missing and murdered women and by women and girls who have experienced horrific violence in their own lives.

    But one of the richest experiences of this visit was the opportunity earlier this week to travel with elders from the Doig River First Nation to K'iht saa?dze, the area they're trying to protect for future generations as a tribal park.

    May 03, 2015

    A significant gulf in average wages between women and men. A severe shortage of affordable housing and quality childcare. An economic development model that depends on fly-in workers, labour camps and long shifts away from home that strain family life. Serious problems of drug dependency and alcohol abuse affecting all communities. And persistent gaps in basic services and supports for families, especially single parents.

    One of the fastest growing economies in Canada has drawn young workers and families from across the country to live and work in Fort St. John, BC. It has also created perfect storm conditions both to fuel violence and to deny adequate protection to those at risk.

    Add to this the unresolved legacy of past violations of Indigenous peoples' rights and continued discrimination facing First Nations and Metis persons, and it's not surprising that that we have heard so many moving and indeed shocking stories of sexual assaults and other violent attacks, murders and disappearance of Indigenous women and girls.

    April 23, 2015

    Never am I seen as strong, as proud, as resilient, never as I am
    Finally given the stars laid to gaze at them on back roads and in ditches on ghostly stretches of forgotten pebbled pathways your vastness swallows me. Do I fall in your line of sight? Do you see me now?
    Because I get this feeling that your eyes they curve around me
    —Exerpt from “Your eyes,” a poem by Helen Knott, an Indigenous woman from Fort St. John, BC

    April 15, 2015

    By Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen

    Last month, federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt disclosed previously unreleased RCMP statistics about the numbers of murders committed by Indigenous men. The Minister appears to believe that these figures support the federal government’s current approach to the issue, including the ongoing refusal to hold a public inquiry or initiate a comprehensive, coordinated national action plan.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Responding to the letter from Commission Paulson, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), stated, “We are absolutely shocked and appalled that the RCMP would hastily release these serious statistics without providing a full, publicly accessible report detailing how they are collecting and compiling this information.”

    April 14, 2015

    Amnesty international is urging Canadian Parliamentarians to support Bill C-641, a private member’s bill to help implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    Adoption of Bill C-641 would commit Parliament to “take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent” with the UN Declaration.

    The Declaration, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007, consolidates existing international human rights protections into a framework of minimum standards for the “survival, dignity and well-being” of Indigenous peoples around the world.

    February 19, 2015

    By Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen

    The shocking levels of violence faced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls requires nothing less than a comprehensive, coordinated national response to ensure effective, unbiased police investigations, to support the families of those who have been murdered or gone missing, and to address the factors putting Indigenous women in harm’s way in the first place.

    To get there, we need an independent public inquiry to ensure that the policies and programmes that make up a national action plan are based on a clear, unbiased understanding of the issues, and help hold government accountable for acting on the recommendations brought forward by affected families, communities and Indigenous peoples’ organizations.

    Next week, a national roundtable on missing and murdered Indigenous women will focus public attention on the need for action.

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