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
Amnesty International is carrying out a mission to northeastern British Columbia from April 27-May 8. Join our mission on Twitter at @AI_WomenRights and @Craig_Benjamin. We will be live Tweeting throughout our journey from these accounts using the hashtag #AIPeaceVisit.
Why? Because every year women from Fort St. John travel to Ottawa with a banner listing the missing and murdered women and girls in their community—and every year the banner includes more names. And because, as a wide range of people and organizations from this region have pointed out, environmental assessments and other decision-making processes around large-scale natural resource development projects need to pay more attention to their impact on people’s lives and the social fabric of the communities they live in.
Staff from Amnesty International Canada and our global movement—Indigenous Rights campaigner Craig Benjamin, Women’s Rights campaigner Jackie Hansen, and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights researcher Fernanda Doz Costa—are traveling to communities in the Peace River Valley in northeastern BC. We want to better understand the patterns of violence facing Indigenous women in this region. We also want to learn more about the experience of resource develoment in the Peace River Valley, including the impacts on Indigenous peoples in the region, and how the impacts may be different for people of different genders. Finally, we want to hear more about the steps being taken — and the steps that still need to be taken — to make sure that urgent social concerns like the safety of Indigenous women and girls are part of future plans.
The scale of resource development underway or planned in the Fort St. John region reflects a national pattern. The federal government has predicted that over 600 major natural resource development projects will get underway in the next decade. Amnesty International doesn’t take a position either for or against such development. However, we do call for rigorous protection of human rights in the decision-making process. And in our view, the current process by which such projects are reviewed and decided on doesn’t pay enough attention to the rights of Indigenous peoples or to the potential harmful impacts of projects on host communities, including specific impacts on women and girls.
Are you in Fort St. John? Join the community conversation and feast on Tuesday, April 28, from 5-8pm at Treaty 8 Tribal Association headquarters. Would you like to share information with us while we are in the region? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to set up a meeting.
Who is part of the mission?
Craig Benjamin is Amnesty International Canada’s Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He represented Amnesty in the final sessions of the UN Working Group that finalized the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and continues to work closely with Indigenous partners as part of a global campaign to promote the implementation of the Declaration.
Jackie Hansen is Amnesty International Canada’s Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner. Her work covers a wide range of human rights concerns in Canada and internationally, but is particularly focused on promoting gender equality. She works to ensure that women’s sexual and reproductive rights are protected, and to end violence against women.
Fernanda Doz Costa is the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Researcher for the Americas Division of Amnesty International’s International Secretariat. A lawyer by training, her work is currently focused on the development and coordination of Amnesty’s regional strategies on the human rights of Indigenous peoples and on sexual and reproductive rights. She is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.