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Business and Human Rights

    September 30, 2015

    By Tara Scurr, Campaigner, Business and Human Rights  

     

    One year ago, Alex Neve and I were sitting in the Hotel Continental in Guatemala City, waiting for reporters to turn up for our press conference. We were about to launch a new Amnesty International report on mining and human rights. We’d been warned by our experienced Guatemalan media handler not to expect many reporters to show up. Imagine our delight when our press conference began and we saw that the room was packed with radio, print and TV reporters, NGOs, and human rights defenders from  communities affected by mining. It was standing room only.

    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 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.

    July 10, 2015
    A sobering look at Canada's human rights record

    By Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada 

    “This is not the Canada I once knew.” 

    Those were the words of a British member of the UN Human Rights Committee who was taking part this week in the committee’s first review of Canada’s human rights record in 10 years.

    Sir Nigel Rodley, a law professor and chair of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex, was referring to the deteriorating space for human rights advocacy, protest and dissent in Canada. He noted it was almost unbelievable that the UN committee felt compelled to raise these sorts of concerns with Canada. Sir Nigel highlighted research by the Voices coalition, which pointed to astonishing levels of fear and intimidation felt by Canadian activists and civil society groups, and referred to the disquiet expressed by the UN’s leading expert on the freedoms of assembly and association. He dismissed the Canadian government’s initial response to questions about the crackdown as “thin.”

    May 08, 2015

    By Tara Scurr, Amnesty International Canada Business and Human Rights Campaigner

    “We have faith that Amnesty International’s campaigning will inform investors in Tahoe Resources about our suffering in Guatemala.” Resident of San Rafael Las Flores

    When Alex Neve and I visited San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa province, the site of Tahoe’s Escobal mine, in September 2014, it was to present the findings of our report, Mining in Guatemala: Rights at Risk and seek feedback from local grassroots activists. We hoped that community members, activists, legal experts, investors and governments would find it useful in untangling some of the problems with Guatemala’s mining regulatory framework and outline how the government and companies are failing human rights. It was clear from our research that current mining regulations and corporate practices are stoking conflict in Guatemala, leading to serious human rights violations, and that change is desperately needed. 

    November 26, 2014

    When we meet Shahzadi Bi in September, she is busy chaining herself to a fence. It’s not just any fence, but the one that surrounds the Chief Minister’s residence in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, where Bhopal is the capital. She is among a group of protesters demanding that the minister keep his promise of providing each survivor of the 1984 gas leak – the more than 570,000 who were exposed – 500,000 Indian rupees (US$8,170) as compensation.

    Shahzadi, aged 60, lives in Blue Moon Colony, one of the 22 slums that surround the old pesticide factory formerly owned by Union Carbide India Limited. This area is blighted by water contamination, caused by chemicals from the abandoned factory site.

    The disaster overturned her and her family’s lives. “Everyone has dreams,” she says. “I too had those. My dream was not about becoming a teacher or doctor… I wished that we would provide a good education to our children… but the gas leak shattered all these dreams.”

    November 26, 2014
    Rampyari Bai is one of Bhopal’s most persistent survivors.

    Now aged 90, she began her struggle in the wake of the disaster. In 1984 she was living with her son and his wife in a shanty near the factory. Her daughter-in-law died during the gas leak.

    INDIA: ACTION FOR SURVIVORS ON 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF BHOPAL TRAGEDY

    September 19, 2014

     

    by Alex Neve, Secretary General, and Tara Scurr, Business and Human Rights Campaigner
    Amnesty International Canada

     - Guatemala City, Guatemala, 18 September, 2014

    What better way to spend the evening before launching our important new report, Mining in Guatemala: Rights at Risk?  Over dinner, we were able to catch up with the courageous community leader and human rights defender Yolanda Oquelí.  Yolanda has for several years been at the forefront of the campaign to ensure that mining does not go ahead in her community without consultation and consent. She has been a leader of the La Puya protest camp, which blockaded the road leading in to the mining site for over two years.

    August 21, 2014
    Dwellings near the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea burn after being set on fire during forced evictions in April 2009. Forced evictions have continued, and more homes were burned down in June 2014. Photo: © Private

     

    "I didn't steal gold and I didn't do anything wrong. Why are they burning my house?"

    By Tara Scurr
    Business & Human Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International

    On June 6, during an early morning raid, state police forces burned more than 200 homes and structures to the ground in the village of Wingima. The homes, located near the Porgera gold mine in central Papua New Guinea, belong mostly to mine workers and artisanal miners and their families. The mine is majority-owned and operated by Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold Corporation.

    "I didn't steal gold and I didn't do anything wrong. Why are they burning my house?"

    August 19, 2014
    A woman, who suffers from burns she says are caused by toxic waste, protests outside the law courts in Abidjan.

    Residents of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, continue to suffer ill-health, eight years after multi-national oil-trader Trafigura dumped toxic waste in their communities. The dumping caused a human and environmental disaster yet residents still do not have answers to their questions about health and safety. Read Amnesty International's public statement. For full details of the Trafigura toxic waste dumping case, please see Injustice Incorporated: Advancing the Right to Remedy for Corporate Abuses of Human Rights. 

    April 24, 2014

    Caption:A Bangladeshi mourner and relative of a victim of the Rana Plaza building collapse weeps as she takes part in a protest marking the first anniversary of the disaster at the site where the building once stood in Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka on April 24, 2014. The Rana Plaza building collapsed on April 24, 2013, killing 1138 workers in the world's worst garment factory disaster. Western fashion brands faced pressure to increase help for victims as mass protests marked the anniversary. Thousands of people, some wearing funeral shrouds, staged demonstrations at the site of the now-infamous Rana Plaza factory complex.AFP PHOTO / Munir uz ZAMAN (Photo credit should read MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

    By Joe Westby, Corporate Campaigner at Amnesty International

    April 14, 2014
    Open for Justice logo

    MPs are in their home ridings this week and next, so now is the perfect time to phone your MP and ask him or her to ensure that Canada is "Open for Justice". We know that some people have experience speaking with their MP, and others do not, so we have put together a handy kit to help you. Our Open for Justice kits contain a campaign backgrounder, a Q&A, tips on setting up a meeting with your MP, talking points for your meeting, and a pledge for your MP to sign. You can download your kit from the "resources" section on our Open for Justice website www.amnesty.ca/openforjustice

    Several Amnesty members and groups have already met with their MPs to discuss this important issue and two MPs have signed the pledge: MP John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood) and Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands). Will your MP be next? And we have an exciting new announcement. The next three Amnesty members who are successful in getting their MPs to sign the pledge will win an Amnesty prize! So don't delay - phone or meet with your MP today!

     

    April 09, 2014
    Police forced evictions in villages within the Porgera gold mine Special Mining Lease (SML) April - July 2009, Porgera, Papua New Guinea.

    By Audrey Gaughran
    Director of Global Issues, Amnesty International

    For more than five years now Amnesty International has been working on a project on the right to effective remedy in cases of corporate-related human rights abuses.  We have focused on cases where poor communities have confronted powerful multinational companies (MNCs) in an effort to seek justice. The project has included wide-ranging research as well as support to strategic litigation in several countries. Last month (March) we published a book, Injustice Incorporated, based on our research and practical legal work. The book highlights several obstacles to access to justice – one of which is the political power of MNCs, and the structures that underpin this power. These structures include the role of international financial institutions (IFIs) in laying the foundations for undue corporate influence on the governments and regulators in developing countries.

    November 04, 2013
    by Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    Photo:  Tsilhqot'in healer Cecil Grinder

    A proposed gold-copper mine would have “severe” and “irreversible” impacts on the rights of the Tsilhqot’in people of central British Columbia.

    This is the conclusion of an independent federal panel that examined the potential impact of the proposed “New Prosperity” mine. The environmental impact assessment also found a wide range of serious environmental impacts on the lakes, rivers and wetlands.

    Under federal environmental legislation, the actual decision about whether the project should go ahead is in the hands of cabinet. The federal government is under considerable pressure to approve the proposed “New Prosperity” mine because of the promised economic benefits to the region.

    The Tsilhqot’in people, however, have been clear that the mine is unacceptable to them.

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