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Canada

    October 28, 2014

    By Omar Khadr, former Guatanamo Bay detainee

    Ten years ago the Canadian government established a judicial inquiry into the case of Maher Arar. That inquiry, over the course of more than two years of ground-breaking work, examined how Canada’s post-Sept. 11 security practices led to serious human rights violations, including torture.

    At that same time, 10 years ago and far away from a Canadian hearing room, I was mired in a nightmare of injustice, insidiously linked to national security. I have not yet escaped from that nightmare.

    As Canada once again grapples with concerns about terrorism, my experience stands as a cautionary reminder. Security laws and practices that are excessive, misguided or tainted by prejudice can have a devastating human toll.

    A conference Wednesday in Ottawa, convened by Amnesty International, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group and the University of Ottawa, will reflect on these past 10 years of national security and human rights. I will be watching, hoping that an avenue opens to leave my decade of injustice behind.

    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.

    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?

    September 30, 2014

    Ellen Gabriel, a Mohawk artist, educator and activist from Kanehsatà:ke, is well known in Canada as a powerful voice for rights of Indigenous peoples. Amnesty International has been honoured to work alongside Ellen on many matters of urgent concern, including the rights and safety of Indigenous women and the promotion of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    Amnesty International talked to Ellen 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 Ellen for her reflections on progress made and remaining challenges in making sure that there are No More Stolen Sisters. Here is what she had to say.

    Why do you think there has been so little coherent and concrete government response to the high levels of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in Canada?

    Because they don’t care. It profits them to keep us oppressed and to deny that colonialism has anything to do with the whole gamut of problems we have in our communities.

    September 26, 2014

    By Hilary Homes (Amnesty International Canada), Robert Fox (Oxfam Canada) and Ken Epps (Project Ploughshares)

    Long a significant advocate of global arms control, Canada will be conspicuously absent next year from arguably the most important conventional weapons conference of this generation.

    At a special ceremony taking place in New York today (Sept 25), diplomats will celebrate the fact that fifty countries have now ratified the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a landmark agreement to reduce the serious harm caused by the irresponsible and illegal trade in conventional weapons, including allies like the UK, Mexico, Germany and France. Canada has yet to sign or ratify, even though Canada voted in favour of the treaty in April last year.

    Now the landmark figure of 50 has been reached - with or without Canada - the Treaty will enter into force in 90 days time and become international law.

    September 17, 2014
    How many Indigenous women and girls have gone missing in Canada?

    The best available data, an RCMP report released earlier this year, identifies 1,017 women and girls who were murdered between 1980 and 2012—a homicide rate roughly 4.5 times higher than that of all other women in Canada. In addition, the report states that as of November 2013, at least 105 Indigenous women and girls remained missing under suspicious circumstances or for undetermined reasons.

    As explained below, the actual numbers may be even higher.

    These women were daughters, sisters, mothers and wives. They were loved and valued and they are missed by their families. Every missing or murdered Indigenous woman and girl is a tragedy. The combined numbers are nothing less than a national human rights crisis.

    Who is responsible for this violence?

    The RCMP report does not identify how many of the perpetrators are Indigenous or non-Indigenous, but we know from individual cases that attacks on Indigenous women are carried out by Indigenous and non-Indigenous men alike.

    September 12, 2014

    By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    Ten years ago, when Amnesty International released its first research report on missing and murdered Indigenous women, we did not call for a national inquiry.

    At the time, we felt that the most, if not all, the elements of what government needed to do to address the threats to Indigenous women’s lives had already been identified by frontline service providers, affected families and communities, and previous inquiries. Then, as now, what was urgently needed was the political will to consolidate all these measures into a comprehensive, coordinated national action plan.
    Ten years have now passed since that initial report. And despite the unprecedented public attention to the issue, and the fact that murders and disappearances continue to steal Indigenous women and girls from their families and communities, Canada still does not have a plan to stem this violence.

    September 09, 2014
    Am I Next - Indigenous women send messages to Canadian government

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada


    The images are haunting. The message shocking. “Am I next?”

    Holly Jarrett, cousin of Loretta Saunders, an Inuk woman murdered in Halifax, NS in February, launched the “Am I next?” social media campaign on Saturday, September 6. It plays on the word “ain,” a term of endearment in her native Inuktituk. Given the alarmingly high rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada, it is meant to draw attention to a question that Indigenous women and girls have to ask themselves—will they be the next to vanish?

    August 27, 2014

     

    “It is long past time for the government to take responsibility to fix what they have broken, clean up our river, and help us out rather than kicking us while we are down.” -- Grassy Narrows Chief Roger Fobister Sr.

    For almost a decade, Amnesty International has stood with the people of Grassy Narrows in their long struggle to determine for themselves the fate of the forest and waters on which they depend. This campaign--  led by the people of Grassy Narrow, and supported by a wide range of social justice and environmental organizations --  has had remarkable success with company after company announcing that they will not log at Grassy Narrows, or handle wood cut  at Grassy Narrows, unless the community gives its consent. These remarkable victories, however, have taken place against the backdrop of an ongoing, unresolved and largely unacknowledged tragedy.

    August 08, 2014
    "We lived at the side of the road, we lived badly. Several members of the community died in accidents, of disease. Nobody respected us. Now this is our victory. I am very happy, and I cry because my grandmother, my father and many members of my family did not have the opportunity I have today to enjoy our land. I'm grateful to everyone" --  Aparicia Gonzalez, an Indigenous Enxet woman from the Sawhoyamaxa community in Paraguay

    This week, as the United Nations marks the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (August 9th), we want to take a moment to celebrate two crucial recent victories in the long struggle for the recognition of the rights of Indigenous peoples.

    July 11, 2014
    Trapper Andrew Keewatin Jr. at Grassy Narrows

    Today’s Supreme Court ruling on logging at Grassy Narrows reaffirms important limitations on the power of governments in Canada to make decisions that could undermine the ability of Indigenous peoples to live off the land.

    The court case was initiated by Grassy Narrows trappers whose traplines were threatened by clearcut logging licensed by the Ontario government.

    In the original trial decision, an Ontario court concluded that – because of the terms of the Treaty and the particular history of the region – only the federal government, not the provincial government, has the authority to make decisions about development on the portion of the Grassy Narrows traditional territory called the Keewatin area.

    The Supreme Court rejected this argument, concluding instead that the powers of the Crown to “take up” Treaty lands applied to the provincial government.

    However, the Court also stated that the legal obligations and restrictions on Crown powers resulting from the Treaty must also apply to the province.

    July 10, 2014
    By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    This week, I had the honour of spending a deeply moving, and incredibly inspiring day with people of the Shoal Lake #40 First Nation on the Manitoba - Ontario border.

    Their story is one that more Canadians need to hear because it can tell us so much about the deeply flawed relationship between the federal government and First Nations. Their story is also important because the people of Shoal Lake have their own solution to some of their most pressing concerns and today, after decades of struggle, that solution is now almost within reach.

    One hundred years ago the Shoal Lake #40 community was relocated as part of the development of the city of Winnipeg's water supply system.  One of the cruel ironies of life in Shoal Lake is that while water from the lake is piped 150 km to Winnipeg to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of people in that city, the people of Shoal Lake #40 must rely on bottled water because they don't have an adequate drinking water system of their own.

    June 09, 2014

    By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    A few years ago I heard a young First Nations woman describing the unsafe drinking water, the poor quality school and other conditions that she faced every day growing up in her home community. “What did we do to be treated like this?” she asked.

    In most communities in Canada, government services like education, health care and family services are provided by a combination of municipal and provincial governments. However, in the case of First Nations people living on reserves these services are instead funded through the federal government.

    Critically, study after study has shown that federal funding for basic services on reserves routinely falls short of what is required to provide First Nations families with access to the same quality of services--  like education and health care -- enjoyed other communities in Canada.
    Here’s what the Auditor General of Canada had to say about the situation in 2011:

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