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No More Stolen Sisters

    August 05, 2015

    “My culture is my identity,” says Colleen Cardinal. “This is what has been denied to me.”

    The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has helped shine a light on the horrendous and lasting harm done by tearing Indigenous children from their families, their communities, their languages and their cultures.

    Critically, as the TRC report itself highlights, the uprooting of Indigenous children was not limited to the Residential School Programme.

    For decades, Indigenous families having difficulties providing adequate care for their children - whether as a result of impoverishment, the intergenerational consequences of abuses suffered in residential schools, or other social and economic stresses -  have been denied the help they need.

    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.”

    June 19, 2015

    With the release of a new report today, the RCMP confirmed that it is no longer attempting to track murders of First Nations, Inuit and Métis women across all jurisdictions in Canada.

    National data missing





     

    In May 2014, the RCMP released a national survey of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Although there were critical gaps in the data, that report marked the first national report of its kind, and included data from the RCMP and other police services across the country.

    May 07, 2015

    In almost two weeks of travel in the Peace River region and up to Fort Nelson, British Columbia, we've had the privilege of spending time with many inspiring activists and leaders. And we've been moved, and often angered by stories of abuse and indifference that have been shared with us by families of missing and murdered women and by women and girls who have experienced horrific violence in their own lives.

    But one of the richest experiences of this visit was the opportunity earlier this week to travel with elders from the Doig River First Nation to K'iht saa?dze, the area they're trying to protect for future generations as a tribal park.

    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.

    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 15, 2015

    By Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen

    Last month, federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt disclosed previously unreleased RCMP statistics about the numbers of murders committed by Indigenous men. The Minister appears to believe that these figures support the federal government’s current approach to the issue, including the ongoing refusal to hold a public inquiry or initiate a comprehensive, coordinated national action plan.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Responding to the letter from Commission Paulson, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), stated, “We are absolutely shocked and appalled that the RCMP would hastily release these serious statistics without providing a full, publicly accessible report detailing how they are collecting and compiling this information.”

    March 06, 2015

    By Jackie Hansen and Craig Benjamin

    Today, a UN expert committee—the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) — released a strongly worded report stating that Canada was responsible for “grave violations” of human rights due its “protracted failure” to do enough to prevent violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    March 01, 2015

    By Jackie Hansen and Craig Benjamin

    Last week, the National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls brought together family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, national Aboriginal organizations (NAOs), and representatives from the federal, provincial and territorial governments to Ottawa to discuss the need for action to combat the staggeringly high rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls. Provinces, territories, and all NAOs are on record as supporting an independent inquiry into the issue.

    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.

    January 05, 2015

    By: Alex Neve and Béatrice Vaugrante Published on Fri Jan 02 2015 in the Toronto Star

    No doubt about it, 2014 has been a tough year for human rights. As we look ahead into 2015, with a federal election sometime in the next 10 months, it is time to turn things around. That means addressing serious concerns in Canada and championing improvements around the world.

    Every year has its share of human rights heartbreak, but 2014 was particularly heavy. The wrenching catastrophe that has displaced half of all Syrians worsened. Tragedies in the Central African Republic and South Sudan claimed more victims. Another cycle of rocket attacks and reprisals in Israel and Gaza was marked by an exceptionally fierce Israeli military assault on Gaza. Unexpected and devastating conflicts erupted in Ukraine and northern Iraq.

    November 28, 2014

    Lorelei Williams is the founder of Butterflies and Spirit, a group of Indigenous women who have used dance to raise awareness of missing and murdered Women.

    We interviewed Lorelei as part of a series of conversations with Indigenous women activists marking the 10th anniversary of our 2004 Stolen Sisters report.

    1.      What was the idea behind Butterflies in Spirit?

    On October 4th 2011, I was at a vigil for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women. I was there by myself. Molly Dixon had gotten up to speak about her daughter Angeline Pete who recently went missing in May 2011. When she spoke I couldn’t help but cry. Someone saw me crying, they came over, gave me a big hug, and a poster. This poster had newspaper clippings glued all over it. I noticed people trying to read what was on my poster. I didn’t even know what was on my poster, I just knew it had to do with missing and murdered women. A thought came to me about how I could get my missing Aunt Belinda Williams' picture out there.

    November 27, 2014

    By Cindy Ko and Adotei Akwei from Amnesty International USA

    It is time for the Obama administration to ensure implementation of standardized sexual assault policies aimed at helping ensure that Indigenous survivors of sexual violence  can access medical treatment and support services. Indigenous women face disproportionately high levels of rape and sexual violence.

    The Department of Justice (DOJ) compiled statistics that show over one in three Native American and Alaska Native women will be raped during their lifetimes. They are also 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the USA in general.

    In order to achieve justice, survivors frequently have to navigate a maze of tribal, state and federal law. These complex jurisdictional rules undermine equality before the law and often allow perpetrators to evade justice. At all levels, law enforcement and justice systems are failing to ensure justice for Indigenous survivors of sexual violence – their cases may not be investigated, vital evidence may not be collected via a “rape kit” and their cases may never be prosecuted.

    October 02, 2014

    The Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN) is an organization by and for Indigenous youth that works across issues of sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice throughout Canada and the United States. They have been mobilizing through frontline work in communities for over 10 years, addressing structural and systemic colonial violence. Follow the NYSHN  on Twitter and Facebook.

    Amnesty International talked to members of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network as part of a series of conversations with activists and leaders marking the 10th anniversary of the Stolen Sisters report on violence against Indigenous women. We asked the NYSHN for their reflections on progress made and remaining challenges in making sure that there are No More Stolen Sisters. Here is what they had to say.

    October 01, 2014

    Bev Jacobs, a Mohawk lawyer and grandmother from Six Nations, was the lead researcher on Amnesty International’s 2004 Stolen Sisters report.  Bev went on to serve as President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Her cousin Tashina General was murdered in 2008. Bev has recently been working with Ending Violence Association British Columbia, to design and lead knowledge sharing workshops on how to build safety in Indigenous communities. 

    I spoke with Bev as part of a series of conversations with Indigenous women activists and leaders to mark the 10th anniversary of the Stolen Sisters report and the ongoing struggle to stop violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    What’s the most important thing for Canadians to understand about what’s happening to Indigenous women and girls in this country?

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