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The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    August 14, 2017

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

    and

    Gloria Nafziger, Refugee Campaigner for Amnesty International Canada

    A federal government that has branded itself as internationally engaged and committed to human rights is expected to face tough questions this week when its record is reviewed by the United Nations top anti-racism body. How the Trudeau government responds will be a crucial test of its willingness to match lofty rhetoric with real and meaningful action.

    This week’s hearing before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is one of a series of periodic reviews where independent, expert committees examine how well states are living up to their commitments under the various international human rights treaties that they’ve ratified. There were similar reviews of Canada in 2016 before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

    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.”

    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:

    November 24, 2015

    Dear Prime Minister,

    Our organizations welcome your public commitment to a renewed relationship between the federal government and Indigenous Peoples in Canada based on the rights guaranteed in Canada’s Constitution and enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We hope that this vision of cooperation and partnership will shape your government’s actions and priorities from the outset.

    We are encouraged that, as a “top priority”, you have mandated the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to support reconciliation and implement the UN Declaration.

    In particular, our organizations believe that there is an immediate and pressing need for your government to collaborate with Indigenous Peoples to institute the crucial human rights safeguard of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) in the laws, policies and procedures of the federal government.

    October 13, 2015

    OTTAWA, Oct. 13, 2015 /CNW/ - Over ninety organizations and First Nation communities sent an open letter to federal party leaders today urging them to prioritize funding commitments to end the drinking water crises in Indigenous communities.

    The letter reads, "Despite repeated pledges from the federal government to ensure clean drinking water, there are routinely over 100 water advisories in effect in First Nation communities, with some communities living under advisories for over 10 years." Based on Health Canada and the First Nations Health Authority's latest figures, there are a total of 162 drinking water advisories in 118 First Nation communities.

    Last week, Neskantaga First Nation demanded action from federal parties on its 20-year boil-water advisory, the longest running drinking water advisory in Canada.

    The groups are calling on federal party leaders to:

    • commit to investing $470 million annually for the next 10 years in First Nations water treatment and wastewater systems

    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.

    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.

    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 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 12, 2015

    Amnesty International is urging Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) to ensure that a proposed regional Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples properly reflects the views and experiences of those whose rights are at stake. Legitimacy cannot be achieved if text is brought forward without the support of Indigenous Peoples.

    On Wednesday 11 March, the OAS concluded the second of at least four meetings planned this year in an attempt to finalize a proposed regional declaration that has been under development for almost two decades. The document provides an opportunity to strengthen regional compliance with a similar United Nations declaration adopted in 2007 and can also support the strengthening of the international human rights system in relation to the specific needs of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas.

    November 22, 2014

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

    I'm honoured to have contributed a chapter to a new book examining crucial issues for the human rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world. Indivisible: Indigenous Human Rights is edited by Joyce Green and published by Fernwood Books.

    In her introduction to this new book, Joyce Green writes, "Somewhere between the universality of our humanity and the particularity of our social, political, cultural, gendered and historical experiences, the lives of human beings are lived in specific, often inequitable and unjust contexts that benefit from human rights protection."

    October 08, 2014

    “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.

    It would be impossible to flood more than 80 km of pristine river valley without having a massive impact on local ecosystems and the people who depend on them.

    The environmental impact assessment of the proposed $8 billion Site C hydroelectric dam in Northern British Columbia is clear that flooding such a large section of the Peace River valley would “severely undermine” First Nations, Métis and non-Aboriginal use of the area for hunting, trapping, and gathering plant medicines; would make fishing unsafe for at least a generation; and would submerge burial grounds and other crucial cultural and historical sites.

    In short, the panel concluded that the project would have “significant environmental and social costs” and that these would be borne by the people least likely to benefit from the project.

    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:

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