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Indigenous Peoples in Canada

    March 12, 2013

    The Federal Court of Appeal has firmly rejected government efforts to shut down an important inquiry into discrimination against First Nations children.

    The case concerns the well-established fact that the federal government allocates less funding per child for family services in First Nations reserves than its provincial counterparts provide in other communities.

    In 2007, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations filed a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal began hearings into the case this year. If the Tribunal agrees that this underfunding is discriminatory, the Tribunal has the power to order the government to change its policies.

    The federal government has argued that its funding of services in First Nations communities is outside the scope of the Human Rights Act. At one point, the government succeeded in having the case thrown out by the Tribunal, but the Federal Court reversed the decision and ordered new hearings.

    February 22, 2013

    On February 25, 2013, the Government of Canada will appear before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to face 14 weeks of hearings to determine if its flawed and inequitable First Nations child and family services program is discriminatory.

    The federal government controls and funds child and family services on reserves where as the provinces and territories do so for other children. The Auditor General of Canada and other expert reports confirm that the federal government's funding and program approaches to child and family services, including the more recent enhanced funding approach, are flawed and inequitable.

    There is clear evidence linking the inequality in services to hardship among First Nations families and to the growing numbers of First Nations children in care. Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society said, "This generation of First Nations children deserve an equal chance to grow up safely at home - something the Federal Government deprived many of their parents and grandparents of during the residential school era."

    February 21, 2013

    Recent comments by the RCMP concerning the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada do a great disservice by creating uncertainty, where clarity and urgency are required. The lives of Indigenous women and girls count. These are some well-document facts and figures about violence against Aboriginal women in Canada:

    February 01, 2013

    Community hearings into the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline wrap up this week in Vancouver. As an international human rights organization with strong roots in communities across Canada, Amnesty International wanted to be part of this process to emphasize that whatever the mandate of this specific review, all decisions about resource development affecting the lands of Indigenous peoples must uphold domestic and international protections for their rights. Even more than this, we wanted to demonstrate that respect for the human rights of Indigenous peoples is matter of urgent priority for Canadian society and for the example that Canada sets for the world.

    More than 600 major resource development projects are planned across Canada in the coming decade. In northern British Columbia alone, in the region that would be crossed by the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, 100 major projects in mining, forestry and other industries are currently underway or under development. The vast majority of these projects would affect lands and waters of continued cultural, economic, political and spiritual importance to First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples

    January 29, 2013

    This week, on February 1, Amnesty International will make an oral presentation to the environmental assessment panel that is reviewing the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. We are doing so, despite significant concerns about the process, because we believe it's important to take this opportunity to continue to emphasize the need for all decisions about resource development to respect and uphold the human rights of Indigenous peoples.

    Amnesty International has worked alongside Indigenous communities across Canada and around the world. All too often, we have seen how resource development projects carried out against their wishes and without rigorous protection of their rights can lead to devastating impacts on their cultures, economies, health and well-being.

    January 29, 2013

    The community hearing phase of the Northern Gateway Pipeline environmental impact assessment wraps up this week in Vancouver. Craig Benjamin, Amnesty International Canada's Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples will be making a presentation on February 1, the final day of these hearings.

    Amnesty International takes no position either for or against oil and gas development, mining, logging and other resource development per se. However, we do call for the rigorous protection of international human rights standards in every phase of the decision-making process. Meeting these standards means that some projects must be substantially amended or rejected altogether.

    International human rights standards require governments to protect the right of Indigenous peoples to use and benefit from their traditional lands, and to be full and effective participants in all decisions affecting those lands. When it comes to projects that could have a significant impact on those lands, the standard of protection that is required is that of free, prior and informed consent.

    January 28, 2013

    An evening of dialogue with:

    Robert Morales, lead negotiator Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group

    Paul Joffe and Jennifer Preston, co-editors “Realizing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Triumph, Hope and Action”

    Moderator: Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Amnesty International

    An unprecedented push is being made to further intensify resource development in Canada. A federal legislative agenda undermines environmental oversight. And an extradordinary grassroots resurgence demands the recognition of the rights of Indigenous peoples.  This panel brings together experts and activists who have been deeply involved in the advancement of global recognition of the human rights of Indigenous peoples at the United Nations and the Inter-American system. They will lead a discussion of how these vital international standards can make a difference in the defense of Indigenous rights in Canada and the promotion of government accountability for environmental protection.

    DATE:  Tuesday, January 29th, 7-9pm

    WHERE: Cadboro Bay United Church 2625 Arbutus Rd, Victoria BC

    January 08, 2013

    Take action > Send a letter to Prime MInister Harper demanding that the Canadian government commit to upholding its legal and moral obligations to Indigenous peoples.

    Grassroots rallies across Canada under the banner 'Idle No More' have put the spotlight on a federal legislative agenda that is trampling the rights of Indigenous peoples set out in  domestic and international law.

    December 17, 2012

    The final report of the British Columbia Missing Women Inquiry will be released today, December 17th. Amnesty International continues to stand in solidarity with all the families whose sisters and daughters were murdered or who remain missing.

    Today, we are joining a coalition of more than 25 Indigenous peoples' organizations, women's groups and frontline service providers to issue a joint statement of support for the families, to be released after the Inquiry report is made public.

    The report itself is estimated to be about 1500 pages long. We will join with partners and allies to respond to the report itself once we have had more time to review the content in depth.

    We are continuing to call for a comprehensive and coordinated response to violence experienced by Indigenous women across Canada.

    December 06, 2012

    Reports published this week in the Toronto Star and on indy media sites reveal that a special RCMP unit was formed in 2007 to produce intelligence updates on potential Indigenous protests "incited by development activity on traditional territory." The RCMP shared this information with other police forces, with government and with “industry partners."

    Many of the communities under surveillance by the RCMP had been subject of reports by Amnesty International and by United Nations human rights bodies. These include the Lubicon Cree in Alberta and Grassy Narrows and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug in Ontario.

    The latest revelations about surveillance of Indigenous activists raises serious concerns about the complicity of police and government in defining legitimate defense of human rights as “threats” requiring a law enforcement response – and the consequence that this has had for the rights and safety of those activists.

    December 03, 2012

    Ten years ago, on 2 December 2002, young people from the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwestern Ontario went out onto a road leading past their reserve and stopped the logging tracks carrying away trees cut on their traditional territory. Community member Judy DaSilva says of the blockade, ‘It was the last thing we could do because everything around us was disappearing. The clean water, the clean air, our way of life, our traditions, like the wild rice picking and even blueberries were disappearing.’

    The blockade catalyzed one of the most  successful campaigns in recent Canadian history for the recognition and protection of the human rights of Indigenous people rights. But the campaign is not over.

    The logging has stopped, for now. And Grassy Narrows is in high level talks with the province over the future of the forest. But there is still no guarantee that their rights will be upheld.

    November 30, 2012

    Thousands of Canadians have asked for the opportunity to express their views to a public review of the proposed Enbridge oil sands pipeline across central British Columbia to the Pacific Coast. This extraordinary display of public interest has caught the attention of the federal government.

    In an open letter posted to his department’s website – just as the public hearings were about to begin -- the Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, defined the export of oil sands crude to new markets in Asia as "an urgent matter of Canada’s national interest" and complained that opponents are "stacking public hearings… to ensure that delays kill good projects."
    While the Minister is careful to state that the regulatory system must be "fair, independent, and consider different viewpoints including those of Aboriginal communities," the clear implications of his letter are a) that the government had already made up its mind to support the proposed pipeline and b) that the government believes that hearing from everyone who has concerns about the pipeline will simply delay a project that would otherwise get under way much sooner.

    November 21, 2012
    ‘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. It's all connected to the land.’ - Judy DaSilva, Grass Narrows

    It has been called one of the worst environmental disasters in Canadian history. Between 1962 and 1970, a mill in Dryden, Ontario dumped more than 9 metric tons of untreated inorganic mercury into the English and Wabigoon Rivers in Northwestern Ontario.

    These waters had been a source of both food and jobs for the people of Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) and neighbouring First Nations. Community members had worked as guides and as staff in the many commercial fishing lodges. When the mercury dumping was discovered, the commercial fishery was closed, cutting the people off from their most important source of income.

    Even worse, it was discovered that many of the residents had greatly elevated levels of mercury in their bodies and were exhibiting signs of the neurological degeneration associated with mercury poisoning.

    October 23, 2012

    The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta has filed a potentially groundbreaking legal challenge over the failure of the federal and provincial governments to protect Indigenous land rights in the face of oilsands development on their traditional territory.

    The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) is challenging the proposed expansion of Shell’s Jackpine Mine north of Fort McMurray. The ACFN argues that the federal and provincial governments, which both have to give approval to the project, have not  taken proper account of Aboriginal and Treaty rights protected in the Canadian Constitution.

    A joint federal-provincial environmental assessment panel is scheduled to begin public hearings next Monday. The joint panel announced today that it will decide this week whether or not it will first consider the ACFN Constitutional challenge.

    October 18, 2012

    A joint review panel has determined that Amnesty International will be among a number of public interest organizations that will have the opportunity to make presentations to the upcoming environmental Impact assessment of the proposed "New Prosperity" gold and copper mine in central British Columbia.

    Amnesty International will comment on Canada's obligations under international human rights law to respect and uphold the land rights of Indigenous peoples in the licensing of resource extraction projects.

    The opportunity to present our analysis to the panel is significant for a number of reasons.

    In June, the British Columbia Court of Appeal upheld an earlier decision recognizing that the Tsilhqot'in people have Aboriginal land use rights in the territory. The Tsilhqot'in are continuing to pursue legal recognition and protection of their title or ownership of lands and resources in the territory.

    In 2010, a similar mine proposal by the same company was rejected by the federal cabinet on the basis of an environmental impact assessment that found that found that the mine would cause significant, unavoidable and irreparable harm.

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