Take the Refugees Welcome Here Pledge!
What do dance, apps, films, standing on a bridge, and a feminist New Year's celebration have in common?
On International Women's Day, they were some of the many ways that Amnesty International activists across Canada celebrated achievements in the global struggle for gender equality and took actions to help create a more just and equal world.
On March 7 the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) issued a brief news release reporting the death of a person held for immigration related reasons at the Toronto East Detention Centre. The name of the person and circumstances surrounding the death are not known.
This death once again shines a spotlight on what has been described as the ‘legal black hole’ of Canada’s immigration detention regime. At least 13 people are known to have died in the custody of CBSA and its predecessor since 2000. Reports of a death or mistreatment of individuals while in immigration detention are alarming as there is no independent agency with a mandate for the oversight of CBSA. CBSA is the only major Canadian law enforcement agency which has no independent oversight.
“You have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land,” writes Warsan Shire, a Somali-British poet.
On Friday, March 4, 2016, a Turkish court sentenced two Syrian nationals found guilty in the smuggling of 3 year old Alan Kurdi and his family. The photograph of Alan’s lifeless body on a beach in Turkey became the catalyst for an outpouring of sympathy for Syrian refugees in Canada and beyond. Alan’s father, Abdullah must live with the devastating result of joining his family on a tiny boat in the hope they would all find safety. His wife and two sons, as well as two other people, perished on that journey. Far from abating, the number of refugees attempting dangerous maritime crossings continues to grow.
Refugees are fleeing desperate situations and will do whatever they must to save their lives. Often they have no choice but to turn to smugglers to help them escape.
"My major concern with the impact of Site C is that this is my home. This is where I want to raise my children and my grandchildren. And this is where my people are from." - Helen Knott
BY ALEX NEVE, SECRETARY GENERAL, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CANADA
Wherever you live in this country, British Columbia’s Site C dam should concern you. At a projected cost of almost $9 billion and rising, the hydro-electric project in the Peace River Valley is one of the largest resource development projects underway anywhere in Canada. But more than that, the Site C dam shines a bright light on the fundamental injustices that – despite promise of reconciliation and a new relationship - continue to characterize the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
A joint federal-provincial review of the Site C dam came to these telling conclusions:
“I will get it past the point of no return.” - BC Premier Christy Clark on the Site C dam
Efforts to defend the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Peace Valley of British Columbia took a worrying turn today.
A BC Court has ordered a group called the Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land to leave their culture camp at an historic site on the Peace River.
Since January 1 of this year, the culture camp has been the only thing standing in the way of BC Hydro’s plans to log the valley floor in preparation of construction of the Site C dam.
It’s expected that BC Hydro will now move quickly to clear cut large areas of old growth and other unique forest habitat of critical importance to the cultures and way of life of Indigenous peoples of Indigenous peoples in the region.
Before and after images show destruction that has already occurred as construction of Site C dam presses ahead
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.”
"Mohammad" arrived at the Canada-US at Fort Erie in early January. He is a 16 year old boy from Syria who came to Canada looking for protection. It is reported that he was immediately detained and held in isolation in an immigration holding centre in Toronto for three weeks. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has ordered that he be deported back to the United States. According to the Canada-US ‘Safe Third Country Agreement’ a refugee must make a refugee claim in the first country in which they arrive; either Canada or the United States. There is an exception to this agreement for unaccompanied minors, but the Canadian officials decided the exception did not apply in Mohammad’s case.
By journalist and former prisoner of conscience Mohamed Fahmy @MFFahmy11 with Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Alex Neve @AlexNeveAmnesty
Held in an Egyptian jail for more than a year, Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy felt let down by Ottawa’s efforts to help him. Here he offers 12 ways the government can do better:
In solitary confinement in a freezing Egyptian jail cell, with no sunlight or fresh air, my one hope was that the Canadian government was doing everything possible at the highest levels to advocate for my rights and for my release.
I was let down.
I am safely home now. But around the world there are other Canadian citizens, permanent residents and men and women with close Canadian connections who face dire conditions in foreign jails. They are unjustly imprisoned, held incommunicado, subjected to unfair trials, at risk of torture or under sentence of death.
They too want to believe the Canadian government will spare no effort on their behalf.
In a landmark decision issued today, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that the federal government’s longstanding underfunding of child and family services on First Nations reserves and in the Yukon is a form of racial discrimination that must be stopped.
“Reconciliation means not having to say sorry twice,” Dr. Cindy Blackstock, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
Education. Health Care. Child protection.
For years, persistent federal government underfunding of these basic services in First Nations reserves has put children at risk. It has denied them the kinds of opportunities that other young people in Canada often take for granted. And it has stood in the way of First Nations communities healing from the terrible harms inflicted through the residential schools programme and other colonialist policies.
Now, we may be on the verge of an historic breakthrough.
Next Tuesday, January 26, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is scheduled to deliver its long-awaited decision on whether or not the federal government’s underfunding of child protections services and other family supports is a form of racial discrimination.
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.
The province of British Columbia is pushing ahead with construction of a hydro-electric megaproject in the Peace River Valley despite unresolved legal challenges from First Nations. A camp set up by community members at an historic site in the path of BC Hydro's efforts to clear the planned reservoir has led to a temporary halt in logging. But the community members now face the risk of arrest for their actions.
The rapidly evolving situation highlights the urgent need for the federal government to honour its Treaty commitments by suspending all federal licenses and permits for the project so that the underlying issues of Constitutionally-protected rights and due process can be addressed.
The following is a press released issued by the community members.
First Nations Prepare for Arrest to Stop Site C Dam
Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land call on Trudeau to stop megadam in B.C.'s Peace Valley
by Alex Neve and Béatrice Vaugrante
After a dark decade for human rights in Canada, Justin Trudeau has an opportunity to restore our standing. Here's how he can do it.
There have been encouraging signs of a sorely needed new approach to human rights from Justin Trudeau’s government in the last few weeks of 2015. The crucial question now is whether that change will become sustained and meaningful in 2016.
Over the past decade Canada’s global standing and domestic record on the human rights front has taken a big hit. Over those years, our reputation deteriorated, long-standing concerns went unaddressed and setbacks piled up. The pent-up expectation but also the very real opportunity for change is considerable.
By Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.
Every day, federal and provincial governments make decisions about resource development projects. Some are relatively benign decisions, with few or no impacts on First Nations rights. Others carry the potential for massive and irreversible impacts on the rights of First Nations.
British Columbia’s planned Site C hydroelectric dam falls into the latter category. It will have devastating impacts on the rights and territories of Treaty 8 First Nations in B.C. Approval for Site C means approval for flooding the last pristine stretch of the Peace River valley west of Fort St. John, turning it into a massive reservoir.