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Indigenous Peoples in Canada

    November 04, 2013

    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

    November 04, 2013
    by Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    Photo:  Tsilhqot'in healer Cecil Grinder

    A proposed gold-copper mine would have “severe” and “irreversible” impacts on the rights of the Tsilhqot’in people of central British Columbia.

    This is the conclusion of an independent federal panel that examined the potential impact of the proposed “New Prosperity” mine. The environmental impact assessment also found a wide range of serious environmental impacts on the lakes, rivers and wetlands.

    Under federal environmental legislation, the actual decision about whether the project should go ahead is in the hands of cabinet. The federal government is under considerable pressure to approve the proposed “New Prosperity” mine because of the promised economic benefits to the region.

    The Tsilhqot’in people, however, have been clear that the mine is unacceptable to them.

    November 01, 2013

    “Everything around us was disappearing... The clean water, our way of life, our traditions, even the wild rice picking and blueberry picking were all disappearing” - Judy DaSilva, Grassy Narrows First Nation on the impact of clearcut logging on their traditional lands

    The province of Ontario is asking for public comments on a plan to resume clearcut logging in the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation. The people of Grassy Narrows have already said no to such logging. Amnesty International believes Ontario must listen. We’re encouraging all our members in Ontario to take this opportunity to speak out for the human rights of the people of Grassy Narrows.

    The deadline for submissions has passed. 

    Thank you to the more than 1,200 Ontarians who submitted their comment on the proposal to resume clearcut logging on the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation.

    November 01, 2013

     

    David Alward, Premier of New Brunswick
    Centennial Building
    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.

    October 28, 2013

    By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples


    It’s been called one of the most important Indigenous rights cases ever to come before Canadian courts.

    The Tsilhqot’in people in central British Columbia having been seeking court protection for their traditional territories for almost 25 years. Their case has now gone all the way to the Supreme Court where it will be heard on November 7th.

    At stake are issues of vital importance to Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples.

    Will First Nations be able to make their own decisions about lands and territories beyond the small reserves that have been imposed on them? Is there any place in contemporary Canada for the colonial doctrines, such as the doctrine of discovery, that have been used to justify the denial of Indigenous land rights?

    October 21, 2013

    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:

    October 21, 2013

    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.

    October 07, 2013

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

    Over the next week, the United Nation’s top expert on the human rights of Indigenous peoples will be meeting with government officials and First Nations, Inuit and Métis organizations, communitie,s and activists across Canada.

    In his mandate as Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya has carried out research missions to developed and developing countries around the world and published reports on the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Russian Federation, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Botswana, Namibia, Republic of the Congo, Nepal, and New Caledonia, among others.

    October 07, 2013

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

    Today, October 7th, is an important moment to reflect on Canada’s long unfulfilled promise to respect the land rights of Indigenous peoples.

    Two hundred and fifty years ago today, on October 7th, 1763, King George of England formally proclaimed that even as the British Crown asserted its control over North America, Indigenous peoples’ lands would continue to be protected for their use.

    The Royal Proclamation of 1763 set out a clear commitment that non-Indigenous peoples’ access to the lands of Indigenous peoples would only take place if the Indigenous nations “should be inclined” to sell or cede their lands to the Crown.

    The Proclamation is not merely an historic document.

    September 19, 2013

    In presenting a deeply disappointing report today at the UN Human Rights Council, outlining Canada’s response to a review of the country’s human rights record carried out in April 2013, the Canadian government has squandered a valuable opportunity to move forward in addressing important national human rights concerns and to demonstrate human rights leadership on the world stage.

    Canada was reviewed under the UN’s Universal Periodic Review process on April 26 and 30.  Other countries, including many of Canada’s closest allies, highlighted a wide range of concerns and made recommendations to Canada regarding steps to improve human rights protection in the country.

    September 12, 2013

    Six years ago – on September 13, 2007 – the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the minimum standards for the “survival, dignity and well-being” of Indigenous Peoples around the world.

    The UN Declaration recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination and calls for the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in all decisions potentially affecting their land. The Declaration urges partnership and collaboration between states and Indigenous Peoples. It sets out the requirement of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) to protect the right of Indigenous Peoples to make decisions about whether and when development should proceed.

    Implementation of the UN Declaration remains critical as Indigenous Peoples around the world continue to face exploitation of the natural resources of their territories. FPIC and other rights affirmed in the UN Declaration provide indispensable safeguards as Indigenous Peoples struggle to overcome a history of discrimination, marginalization and
    dispossession.

    September 12, 2013

    Indigenous Peoples’, human rights, and faith organizations are calling on Canada to ensure that Indigenous Peoples can freely decide for themselves whether and when resource development projects will take place on their traditional lands and territories.

    In a statement released on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Peoples’ and civil society organizations say it is time to end the colonial practice of imposing development decisions on Indigenous peoples.

    August 22, 2013

    Toronto - Organizations representing more than one million people across Ontario are calling on Premier Kathleen Wynne to a make a clear and unequivocal commitment that the province will respect the wishes of the people of Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) that no new logging permits be issued in their traditional territory.

    The province is currently engaged in five year long talks with Grassy Narrows over the management of their traditional lands in the Whiskey Jack forest, north of Kenora. Last year, while the talks were in progress, the Ministry of Natural Resources unilaterally adopted a ten year forest management direction for Grassy Narrows Territory that included no meaningful recognition of Aboriginal and Treaty rights and perpetuated the model of industrial clear-cutting that first sparked an ongoing blockade at Grassy Narrows a decade ago.

    In June, a wide range of human rights, faith, labour and environmental organizations wrote to the Premier urging her to call an end to unwanted logging permits on Grassy Narrows lands as a good faith demonstration of the province’s commitment to a forest management approach that respects Aboriginal rights.

    July 24, 2013

    Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    Independent journalist Maggie Padlewska is the midst of a one year project to document under-reported stories in communities around the world. In May, her One Year, One World project took her to the northern British Columbia First Nation of Nak'azdli at a crucial moment for that community.

    A large gold and copper mine is under construction on lands where the Nak'azdli people hunt, fish, trap and gather berries and medicines. When Maggie visited Nak'azdli, the community, which had no say in the decision to open the mine, was holding a sacred ceremony to pray for their land and for the safety of the mine workers.

    Maggie's short video, The Farewell Ceremony, tells the powerful and moving story of a community that remains determined to protect their culture and way of life.

    May 23, 2013

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

     

    Anne Marie Sam of the Nak'azdli First Nation stands near her great-grandfather's grave on the shores of the Nation River and points to Mt. Milligan, site of a gold and copper mine now under construction.

    Walking up the long dusty road to where the Mt Milligan gold and copper mine is now under construction, Anne Marie Sam of the Nak’azdli First Nation describes the many ways – including hunting, fishing and gathering plant medicines – that her family has lived on the land that is now consumed by the mine’s footprint.

    “This mine,” she says, “means that my children will not have the opportunity to grow up experiencing that same connection to the land.”

    The Mt. Milligan mine, located northwest of Prince George in British Columbia is expected to begin operation this year and to continue production for at least 22 more years.

    The mine affects lands, rivers and streams that are the subject of unresolved legal claims involving four First Nations, including Nak’azdli, which has never entered into a treaty with Canada.  In their traditions, the people of Naka’zdli follow a Keyoh system in which responsibility to care for specific areas of the territory are handed down with the family from one generation to the next. The Mt. Milligan mine development consumes most of Anne Marie Sam’s family Keyoh.

    The mine development was approved by environmental assessments carried out by the provincial and federal governments. The federal assessment acknowledged the importance of Indigenous peoples’ multigenerational use and traditional management of the land. Nonetheless, the assessment concluded that the mine would not cause significant harm because this use could resume some day in the future after mining ends.

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