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Resource Development in Canada

    August 04, 2017

    Three years after Canada’s largest mine waste disaster, communities in the Cariboo-Central Interior of British Columbia learned that the Province will not lay any charges under the BC Environmental Management Act. Instead, residents will have to wait for the Federal government to decide whether to lay charges under the Fisheries Act. In the meantime, the Mount Polley disaster continues to put peoples’ rights at risk.

    “There has been serious trauma experienced by the communities who today are afraid to eat the salmon and other fish from the lakes, rivers and creeks contaminated by the mine disaster. Our lives and livelihoods have been put at risk and the company continues to pump waste into these already fragile watersheds,” says Kanahus Manuel, from the Secwepemc Women Warriors.

    On August 4, people and communities from Tofino to the Arctic to Labrador will participate in solidarity actions to remember the Mount Polley mine disaster and the watersheds at risk using the hashtag #SisterStreams.

    May 24, 2017

    The Mount Polley tailings pond breach on August 4, 2014 is the worst environmental mining disaster in BC’s history. The disaster shook the public’s confidence in the province’s ability to protect their human rights and the environment from harms caused by the Mount Polley tailings dam failure. In Amnesty International’s view, the disaster raises serious questions about the province`s ability to protect British Columbians’ economic, social, cultural, Indigenous and universal human rights under current mining regulations.

    In this briefing, ”A Breach of Human Rights The Human Rights Impacts of the Mount Polley Mine Disaster, British Colombia, Canada”, Amnesty International provides an overview of our findings regarding the human rights impacts of the Mount Polley disaster and our concerns about potential on-going impacts that, if left unaddressed, could result in further human rights harms. The briefing proposes recommendations to the provincial government, aimed at restoring public confidence in the province’s ability to effectively regulate the mining sector and comply with its human rights obligations.

    April 13, 2017

    On May 9th, a provincial election will be held in British Columbia. Amnesty International  is urging all candidates to make clear public commitments to closing crucial gaps in oversight, accountability, and service delivery that jeopardize the safety, health and well-being of many British Columbians and undermine human rights protection in the province.

    We need your help! We're asking all our supporters in British Columbia to help us ensure that human rights are part of this election.

    Here's how: 

    1. Learn more 

    Amnesty International has issued an open letter to all candidates in this election outlining our concerns, including:

    March 08, 2017
    The Mount Polley mine disaster of 2014 opened a Pandora’s box, revealing weak mining laws, poor oversight and enforcement, poor corporate practices, underfunded financial sureties for mine clean up, poor dam design, and eye-brow raising corporate donations.

    The chaos of BC’s mining regulatory system was laid bare.  

    Today, the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre released a new report commissioned by the Fair Mining Collaborative. Together, the two groups also issued a formal request to Premier Christy Clark and the Lieutenant Governor in Council asking the government to establish a Judicial Commission of Public Inquiry into improving BC's mining regulations. 

    November 03, 2016

    Decades of unchecked resource development and government policy failures have strained the social fabric of communities in northeast British Columbia (BC), Canada, and have put the lives and safety of Indigenous women and girls at great risk, Amnesty International said in a new report.

    The report, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, demonstrates how resource development in northeast BC has eroded the land base that provides the foundation for First Nations and Métis health and wellness in the region, while influxes of transient workers have driven up local prices for essentials such as housing. Increased rates of violent crime and diminished access to social services have placed Indigenous women and girls at increased risk of harm, while denying them the protections and support they need. Northeast BC has one of the highest violent crime rates in Canada.

    February 19, 2016

    Before and after images show destruction that has already occurred as construction of Site C dam presses ahead
     

    Indigenous activist explains the importance of halting the Site C dam

    When Helen Knott talks about the importance of the Peace Valley, she inevitably also talks about her grandmother. About time spent together out on the land, learning the stories that have been passed down through the generations. Learning the skills of how to live on the land. And trying to ensure that this knowledge can be passed on to her own son.

    “All my grandmother’s stories are connected to land,” says Helen. “It’s like that for our elders. You have to be on the land to be able to share those memories.”

    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 14, 2016

    The BC government must now make its own decision about a proposed pipeline project that it has publicly claimed to oppose.

    In a significant victory for Indigenous rights, the BC Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the provincial government "abdicated" its Constitutional obligations by giving up provincial authority to impose conditions on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. Without such authority the province could not meaningfully accommodate the rights of affected First Nations, even on issues that the BC itself had conceded were serious concerns.

    The court ruled that BC must now consult with First Nations about the potential impacts of Northern Gateway “on areas of provincial jurisdiction”  and “how those impacts are to be addressed in a manner consistent with the honour of the Crown and reconciliation.”

    The decision does not affect the project approval granted by the federal government – which is the subject of a separate as yet unresolved legal challenge.

    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. 

    August 04, 2015

    By Fiona Koza and Tara Scurr

    Today marks the first anniversary of what has been called the largest mining disaster in British Columbia’s history. In the middle of the night, on August 4, 2014, residents say they were awakened by what sounded like hundreds of jumbo jets flying overhead, a sound that continued for hours as millions of litres of tailings water rushed from Mt Polley’s mine tailings impoundment into Polley Lake, down Hazeltine Creek, and into Quesnel Lake.

    Shaken and knowing something had gone terribly wrong at the mine, those who were awake rushed to call emergency services, while others jumped in quads, boats and trucks to warn people who were camping or living along the lake. In the early hours of panic and fear, residents told Amnesty researchers they didn’t know whether the community’s children were at risk, if they should seek higher ground, or if they should stay put.

    July 27, 2015
    By Fiona Koza, Amnesty Campaigner for Business and Human Rights   Taking a trip along the Ditch Road in Likely, BC yesterday, we were unprepared for the sight of Hazeltine Creek, which was devastated as a consequence of the Mt Polley mine tailings breach almost one year ago. Twenty-five million cubic metres of mine waste mixed with water is hard to visualize, but when it spilled from Mt Polley’s mine tailings storage facility through Polley Lake and into Hazeltine Creek, it was enough to scour out a deep canyon and uproot and carry away a swath of dense forest on the way to Quesnel Lake.  
    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 21, 2015

    By Tara L. Scurr, Campaigner - Business and Human Rights 

    Today, AI Canada's Business and Human Rights research team arrived in the jaw-droppingly beautiful village of Likely, in the centre of the province of British Columbia. On August 4, 2014, Likely was the scene of one of the largest tailings pond breaches in Canadian history when the Mount Polley copper mine tailings dam burst, sending 25 million cubic metres of water and mine waste rushing into local creeks and lakes. Tiny creek beds were scoured, trees snapping like match sticks, as the waters rushed down from the dam into Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake, depositing tailings across the landscape as it went.

    We're here for the next few days to listen to people's stories about what happened that day, how the company and the government of British Columbia responded to the disaster, and how, in the 11 months since, residents are getting on with their lives.

    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.

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