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Resource Development in Canada

    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. 

    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.”

    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 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.

    October 15, 2014
    The Peace River in northern British Columbia

    The federal government has approved the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam  in northern British Columbia despite the severe impacts it would have on the cultures and economies of Indigenous peoples in the region.

    The Site C dam would flood more than 80 km of the Peace River Valley. A joint federal/provincial environmental assessment found the dam would cause “profound” loss of natural habitat, would “severely undermine” First Nations, Métis and non-Aboriginal use of the area, and would submerge First Nations graves and others sites of cultural significance.

    In a decision released on October 14th, federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said that the impacts of the project are “justified in the circumstances.” The Minister’s statement refers to jobs that will be created in the construction of the dam and the “clean, renewable energy” that will be produced.

    However, the joint review characterized the dam as imposing significant social and environmental costs that would be borne by the very communities least likely to share in its benefits.

    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.

    May 12, 2014

    by Craig Benjamin,
    Indigenous Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada

    A leading United Nations human rights expert says the situation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada has reached "crisis proportions in many respects."

    In a just released report, James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, highlights a wide range of concerns documented during his 2013 research mission to Canada.

    April 07, 2014

    Ontario Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti has announced that – for at least one year - the province will not license new logging on the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwestern Ontario.

    The Minister's statement follows the latest announcement by a major company that it wants nothing to do with wood logged without the consent of the people of Grassy Narrows. EACOM, which owns sawmills throughout the region, announced in March that it would not process wood from Grassy Narrows.

    The people of Grassy Narrows have long called for a moratorium on industrial development on their territory, to protect the land for traditional uses and to allow the community the opportunity to make its own decisions about how the land should be used.

    There has been no clear cut logging at Grassy Narrows since 2008, as the result of previous decisions by major corporations not to log or handle wood from Grassy Narrows.

    February 27, 2014

    In a decision released on February 26, federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq rejected the proposed New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine, stating that the significant environmental impacts of the proposed mine could not be justified.

          “The Panel is convinced that the Tsilhqot’in cultural attachment to Fish Lake (Teztan Biny) and the Nabas areas is so profound that they cannot reasonably be expected to accept the conversion of that area into the proposed New Prosperity mine.”   -Federal Environmental Review Panel

    The Tsilhqot'in people have consistently opposed plans to mine near Teztan Biny or Fish Lake which is part of their traditional territory in central British Columbia.

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