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Indigenous Peoples

    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.

    March 31, 2015
    By Rosemary Ganley, Group 46

    Three lively community groups came together in Peterborough on March 22 to meet Father Alberto Franco, a Redemptorist priest and dedicated human rights defender from Bogota, Colombia.

    Father Franco leads the Colombian Justice and Peace Commission in a dangerous and unstable atmosphere. He is known to Amnesty International as the subject of an Urgent Action appeal two years ago. He was threatened many time and shot at once. He smiles as he admits that, at the behest of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, he now travels with guards.

    Father Franco’s work involves accompanying peasants and indigenous people in the region of Choco in northern Colombia as they strive, first to survive in a warring area, and then to return home and re-establish communities of peace. His office provides legal and social-psychological support, education and communication for exploited groups as they assert their rights to livelihood and stability.

    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.

    February 09, 2015
    Have a Heart Day at the University of Regina

    This week, communities across Canada are speaking out for the future of First Nations children and youth.

    The annual Have a Heart Day campaign (on and around February 14th) is an opportunity for ordinary Canadians to show their support for basic principles of fairness and equity.

    The campaign was launched by our friends at the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society in response to the shocking gap in basic government services – including education, healthcare and family services – facing many First Nations children and families on reserves.

    This year’s Have a Heart Day campaign is particularly timely.

    In the coming weeks, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal will rule whether the federal government’s persistent underfunding of family services on reserves is a form of discrimination. The complaint was launched by the Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations in response to the large numbers of First Nations children being put into foster care because on reserve children’s didn’t have the resources  carry out less drastic forms of intervention.

    February 06, 2015

    The worldwide movement of Amnesty International stands behind the growing calls for the immediate release of Native American activist Leonard Peltier.

    As of this month, Leonard Peltier has spent 39 years behind bars. Peltier was convicted in connection with the 1975 murder of two FBI agents, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, who were killed during a confrontation involving members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  Peltier has always maintained that although he was present during the confrontation, he did not kill the two agents. 

    Amnesty International has never taken a position on whether Peltier is innocent or guilty of this very serious crime. We have however consistently spoken out against the injustices on which his continued imprisonment rest.

    October 01, 2014

    By Lucia Hernandez, Campaigner in the Americas Program at Amnesty International.

    No one thought it would happen, but it has.

    After more than a decade of determined struggle for recognition of years of human rights abuses, members of the Indigenous People of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon, will receive an official apology by the Ecuadorian State.

    The historic day is 1 October, when four Ministers (Justice, Environment, Defence and Non-Renewable Natural Resources) and the Attorney General will arrive at the Amazon region to apologize for the abuses that took place during the oil operations carried out by the company CGC in their territory from 2002 to 2003.

    In those years, company staff, accompanied by soldiers and private security guards, carried out detonations, cut down trees, dug more than 400 wells, buried more than 1.4 tons of high grade explosives and polluted the environment with the noise of helicopters. The State had given the company the concession to exploit oil in their territory without consulting or informing the community beforehand.

    September 29, 2014

    OTTAWA - With federal political parties preparing for an election year, Amnesty International and the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) are calling on Canadians to help make ending violence against Aboriginal women and girls a priority for all politicians. Our organizations will be working with women’s organizations and other allies across Canada to ensure that all parties make tangible commitments to end violence against Indigenous women and girls in the upcoming election.

    Recently released RCMP statistics report the murder of 1017 Aboriginal women and girls between 1980 and 2012, with more than 100 others remaining missing under suspicious circumstances or for unknown reasons.

    NWAC President Michèle Audette told a press conference on Parliament Hill today. “Each woman was somebody. She was also somebody’s sister, daughter, mother, or friend and every one of them deserved to be safe from violence. They deserve more from our Government than excuses and a patchwork of underfunded and inadequate programs and services. We need solutions and actions that will make a difference in women’s lives.”

    September 24, 2014

    Indigenous peoples’ organizations and human rights groups are outraged that the federal government used a high level United Nations forum on Indigenous rights as an opportunity to continue its unprincipled attack on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    On Monday, the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples -- a high level plenary of the UN General Assembly in New York -- adopted a consensus statement reaffirming support for the UN Declaration.

    Canada was the only member state to raise objections.

    Chief Perry Bellegarde, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, said, “The World Conference was an opportunity for all states to reaffirm their commitment to working constructively with Indigenous peoples to uphold fundamental human rights standards. Alone among all the UN members, Canada instead chose to use this forum to make another unprincipled attack on those very standards.”

    September 12, 2014

    September 13th marks the 7th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a consensus global human rights instrument. The Declaration calls on all states to safeguard the traditional land and resource rights of Indigenous peoples, including legal title to lands. The Declaration also requires fair and transparent mechanisms to ensure any disputes over lands and resources are resolved in a just and timely manner.

    The rights recognition and protection called for by the Declaration is increasingly reflected in decisions by Canadian courts.

    For example, in a unanimous decision, Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in June that the Tsilhqot’in people in central BC continue to hold title to 1700 km2 of their traditional territory. Accordingly, they have the right to control how the land is used and to benefit from its resources.

    September 10, 2014

    Open Letter to the Premier of British Columbia

    Dear Premier Christy Clark,

    In Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, the Supreme Court recognized the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s ownership of title land in its traditional territory. This decision provides a crucial opportunity to re-frame the relationship between First Nations and the province of British Columbia.

    The Tsilhqot’in situation is not unique. The legal principles informing the Court’s unanimous ruling in the Tsilhqot’in case are widely applicable and should be adopted as part of a just and principled framework for the long overdue recognition of Indigenous land rights in BC.

    Toward this end, our organizations would like to draw your attention to these conclusions of the Supreme Court:

    August 08, 2014
    "We lived at the side of the road, we lived badly. Several members of the community died in accidents, of disease. Nobody respected us. Now this is our victory. I am very happy, and I cry because my grandmother, my father and many members of my family did not have the opportunity I have today to enjoy our land. I'm grateful to everyone" --  Aparicia Gonzalez, an Indigenous Enxet woman from the Sawhoyamaxa community in Paraguay

    This week, as the United Nations marks the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (August 9th), we want to take a moment to celebrate two crucial recent victories in the long struggle for the recognition of the rights of Indigenous peoples.

    August 07, 2014

    Posted at 0001 BST 8 August 2014

    Murder and abduction attempts, intimidation and attacks, as well as ongoing daily discrimination, are among the litany of abuses Indigenous Peoples across the Americas face simply for defending their human rights, said Amnesty International in a new report today. 

    Indigenous Peoples’ Long Struggle to Defend their Rights in the Americas is being published ahead of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (9 August). It highlights the many inequalities and human rights violations faced by Indigenous Peoples across the American continent. 

    “Indigenous Peoples in the Americas continue to face a litany of abuse. Entire communities are being denied access to their ancestral lands, while others face violent repression and abuse for peacefully protesting to demand their human rights,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    The report notes that, compared with other citizens, Indigenous women and men are more likely to be underpaid, have lower levels of education, die in child-birth and have a lower life expectancy. 

    July 11, 2014
    Trapper Andrew Keewatin Jr. at Grassy Narrows

    Today’s Supreme Court ruling on logging at Grassy Narrows reaffirms important limitations on the power of governments in Canada to make decisions that could undermine the ability of Indigenous peoples to live off the land.

    The court case was initiated by Grassy Narrows trappers whose traplines were threatened by clearcut logging licensed by the Ontario government.

    In the original trial decision, an Ontario court concluded that – because of the terms of the Treaty and the particular history of the region – only the federal government, not the provincial government, has the authority to make decisions about development on the portion of the Grassy Narrows traditional territory called the Keewatin area.

    The Supreme Court rejected this argument, concluding instead that the powers of the Crown to “take up” Treaty lands applied to the provincial government.

    However, the Court also stated that the legal obligations and restrictions on Crown powers resulting from the Treaty must also apply to the province.

    July 10, 2014
    By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    This week, I had the honour of spending a deeply moving, and incredibly inspiring day with people of the Shoal Lake #40 First Nation on the Manitoba - Ontario border.

    Their story is one that more Canadians need to hear because it can tell us so much about the deeply flawed relationship between the federal government and First Nations. Their story is also important because the people of Shoal Lake have their own solution to some of their most pressing concerns and today, after decades of struggle, that solution is now almost within reach.

    One hundred years ago the Shoal Lake #40 community was relocated as part of the development of the city of Winnipeg's water supply system.  One of the cruel ironies of life in Shoal Lake is that while water from the lake is piped 150 km to Winnipeg to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of people in that city, the people of Shoal Lake #40 must rely on bottled water because they don't have an adequate drinking water system of their own.

    June 19, 2014

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    BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Amnesty International Canada, Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers), Chiefs of Ontario, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Grand Council of the Crees
    (Eeyou Istchee), Indigenous Rights Centre, Indigenous World Association, and KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.

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