In January 2018, the government of Canada committed to creating a Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by Canadian extractives and garment sector enterprises. Today, it announced an Ombudsperson has been hired, however, without the necessary investigatory powers to do the job. In today's announcement, the government promised that those powers would be incorporated into the role after further study.
After15 months of delays, and after years of courageous testimony from human rights defenders about the terrible abuses they suffered in the context of Canadian mines, actions speak louder than words. We are deeply disappointed by today's announcement and vow to carry on Amnesty's campaign for a fully independent Ombudsperson with investigatory powers.
On April 3rd, the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre (DEWC) in Vancouver released Red Women Rising: Indigenous Women Survivors in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, a report based on the lived experience, leadership, and expertise of Indigenous survivors, which “urgently shifts the lens from pathologizing poverty towards amplifying resistance to and healing from all forms of gendered colonial violence.”
Amnesty International had the privilege of speaking with three of the women involved in producing the report: Carol Martin, Priscillia Tait (Gitxsan/Wetsuweten), and Harsha Walia. Here’s what they shared with us.READ THE REPORT
What motivated you create this report?
Water defenders living in the shadow of the Mount Polley mine say their fight to protect the waters in and around Quesnel Lake is not over, despite Imperial Metals’ announcement that it will suspend operations at the mine in May, 2019 until global copper prices improve. This is why:
In collaboration with the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, we are launching a daily tweet-your-MP campaign that will continue until an effective ombudsperson is in place with the #Power2Investigate. Please join us!
We’re in a stand-off. Signs show that an ombudsperson may be appointed soon, but we are worried about the government delivering on its promise of real investigatory powers.
We need everyone’s voice to help convince the Government of Canada to stand strong and to keep its promise to respect international human rights!
It all comes down to the #Power2Investigate. Companies alleged to have committed human rights abuses are unlikely to voluntarily participate in a robust investigation needed to hold them accountable. Canada must immediately appoint an effective ombudspersonwith the #Power2Investigate.
Join us online for a daily twitter storm!
“...resource extraction and other major development projects in or near indigenous territories [are] one of the most significant sources of abuse of the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide. In its prevailing form, the model for advancing with natural resource extraction within the territories of indigenous peoples appears to run counter to the selfdetermination of indigenous peoples in the political, social and economic spheres.”
- former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, 2011.
The governments of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and BC Premier John Horgan have both made welcome and important commitments to upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples, including implementing the key international human rights instrument protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In 2014, three Eritrean men filed a claim against Nevsun seeking accountability for disturbing human rights abuses -including allegations of torture and forced labour - during the construction of the company’s gold and copper mine in Bisha, Eritrea. According to documents filed in the BC court, the company had prior knowledge of the country’s National Service Program and understood the likelihood that its business relationships would involve the use of conscripted labour. The United Nations has said that the widespread use of forced labour in the country may constitute a crime against humanity.
The plaintiffs are asking Canadian courts to hold Nevsun accountable for benefitting from violations of their human rights. Bringing these crimes to justice is vital because impunity only fuels the belief that those responsible for corporate crimes are untouchable.
The Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) encourages refugee claimants to cross the border unsafely and irregularly, putting lives at risk. With the arrival of winter, it’s important to take action now.
The STCA requires that refugee claimants who arrive in Canada or the US request protection in the first country in which they arrive. However, it does not bar refugee claimants from seeking protection in Canada if they do not enter Canada at an official border crossing.
In response to the harsh, xenophobic immigration polices of President Donald Trump’s administration, many refugee claimants have turned to Canada for protection. Because they would be sent back to the United States if they make a claim for refugee protection at an official border crossing, many have resorted to crossing the border between official border posts. During the winter months, this is particularly dangerous: people have had amputations due to frostbite, and at least one woman believed to have been attempting to cross the border has died.
Have a Heart Day is an annual appeal for all First Nations kids to have the opportunity to have a healthy and safe childhood. Lead by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, Have a Heart Day calls on the federal government to end the widespread and systemic underfunding of basic services that First Nations children and families need and deserve, from safe, quality schools to culturally-appropriate family supports and services.
Individual actions and community events take place on and around February 14th (Valentines Day). Last year at least 70 Have a Heart Day events were held across Canada and more than 10,000 Valentine`s cards and messages were sent to Parliamentarians to show that Canadians care about fairness and justice for First Nations children.
Amnesty International is proud that our members have supported this appeal each year through events and individual letter-writing. Here's how you can get involved.
January 17th marks the one year anniversary of the Canadian government's announcement to create an independent Ombudsperson that would enable people harmed by Canadian companies overseas to have access to justice in Canada.
We celebrated the announcement, thrilled that Canada would finally be "Open for Justice". Yet one whole year has passed, and the Ombudsperson is still not in place! Equally concerning is whether or not the office will be granted the powers it needs to be effective. The Canadian government did promise a year ago that Canada's Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise would be independent, transparent, and have the power and tools necessary to conduct effective investigations. But we are still waiting to see whether they follow through on their word.
We need your help!
On Friday, March 8th, mark International Women’s Day by celebrating women human rights defenders and taking action to end gender-based discrimination and violence.
DROP PROJECT DRAGONFLY
Google publicly exited the search engine market in China in 2010, citing restrictions to freedom of expression online. Since then, the Chinese government has strengthened its controls over the internet and intensified its crackdown on freedom of expression.
Indicating a reversal in strategy, Google is now preparing to re-enter the Chinese search engine market, and is developing a new, search engine app codenamed “Dragonfly” that would facilitate China’s online censorship and surveillance. This would represent an alarming capitulation by Google on human rights, and a dark day for internet freedom as it would legitimize China’s model of internet repression for other governments and set a precedent for tech companies compromising human rights in exchange for access to new markets.
It has been reported in the media that Google is now planning to drop its Dragonfly project. While this is amazing news, it isn't confirmed yet, so we intend to keep the pressure on until it it official.
On Saturday, January 19th, be part of a global movement expressing outrage at ongoing gender-based rights violations and demonstrate solidarity with women human rights defenders by taking part in a Women’s March in your community.
“You look at the lake, it looks good, it looks clean, the fish look all right. How to believe that something like that could turn against you?” – the late Steve Fobister Sr., former Chief of the Grassy Narrows First Nation, quoted in the Toronto Star
“Steve always wanted the government to admit that he had been poisoned by mercury. Now we take up his fight to honour him.” – the family of Steve Fobister, Sr.
In October, Steve Fobister Sr., a leader and spokesperson for the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwestern Ontario, died after a long struggle with mercury poisoning. He was only 66. His family and friends are clear that the struggle he helped lead is far from over.
For more than five decades, the people of Grassy Narrows have been forced to live with the devastating consequences of a government policy that allowed massive amounts of mercury to be dumped into their river system. It’s no coincidence that Grassy Narrows, whose traditions and economy revolve around fishing, faces the worst community health crisis in Canada.
Last Fall, the BC government was able to convince a provincial judge to allow construction of the Site C dam to continue even though a fundamental Treaty rights challenge is still before the courts.
The United Nations’ top anti-racism body has now responded to the injunction decision by calling on the federal and provincial governments to immediately suspend construction of Site C. The letter from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is absolutely clear that, despite the injunction decision, a halt to construction is absolutely necessary to prevent permanent harm to the human rights of Indigenous peoples in the Peace River region.
The Committee also called on the federal and provincial governments to seek independent, expert advice on how to fulfill their human rights obligations, including the right of free, prior and informed consent.