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    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.

    February 09, 2015
    Have a Heart Day at the University of Regina

    This week, communities across Canada are speaking out for the future of First Nations children and youth.

    The annual Have a Heart Day campaign (on and around February 14th) is an opportunity for ordinary Canadians to show their support for basic principles of fairness and equity.

    The campaign was launched by our friends at the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society in response to the shocking gap in basic government services – including education, healthcare and family services – facing many First Nations children and families on reserves.

    This year’s Have a Heart Day campaign is particularly timely.

    In the coming weeks, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal will rule whether the federal government’s persistent underfunding of family services on reserves is a form of discrimination. The complaint was launched by the Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations in response to the large numbers of First Nations children being put into foster care because on reserve children’s didn’t have the resources  carry out less drastic forms of intervention.

    January 19, 2015

    Guest writer: Verity Stevenson, in a special to the Globe and Mail
     

    Ensaf Haidar stood beside the kitchen table, urging her three children to eat. Newspapers featuring her husband’s face on the front were spread in the spaces between three pizza boxes, and a banner covering most of the wall showed him as well, with several dozen signatures of those who attended a #FreeRaif vigil in Montreal.
     

    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 22, 2014

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

    I'm honoured to have contributed a chapter to a new book examining crucial issues for the human rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world. Indivisible: Indigenous Human Rights is edited by Joyce Green and published by Fernwood Books.

    In her introduction to this new book, Joyce Green writes, "Somewhere between the universality of our humanity and the particularity of our social, political, cultural, gendered and historical experiences, the lives of human beings are lived in specific, often inequitable and unjust contexts that benefit from human rights protection."

    November 20, 2014

    “Forced Confessions” Teaches About the Intangibility of the Soul
    Screening at AI Toronto Reel Awareness Human Rights Film Festival, Sunday November 23rd, 3:30pm @Carlton Cinema, 20 Carlton Street, Toronto

    article by Adriana Dragomir, Media Intern – AI Toronto Film Team

    Being forced to say words that not only misrepresent your beliefs and actions but are meant to justify torture and imprisonment for wrongdoings you never committed feels like rape, argues writer Faraj Sarkoohi early on in “Forced Confessions,” Maziar Bahari’s film about the Islamic regime of Iran’s decades-long practice of broadcasting televised coerced confessions. Sarkoohi does not take his comparisons lightly: recorded in his bedroom while making love to his wife, he was forced to match the orgasmic noises on tape while being physically tortured. The memory of pain overlaps with that of an intimate, pleasurable connection refusing the prisoner the chance at mental escape.

    November 03, 2014

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, John Packer, Director of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre at the University of Ottawa,and Roch Tassé, National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.

    A timely conference on Wednesday reminded us that as debate swirls about new national security measures in Canada, vital lessons have emerged over the past decade about protecting human rights.

    In the wake of last week’s attack in Ottawa the government is rolling out proposed changes to Canada’s security laws and practices. We don’t yet know the full extent.

    On Wednesday, a remarkable group of judges, lawyers, journalists, activists, former diplomats, academics and community leaders came together in Ottawa. We were joined by individuals whose lives have been turned upside down by human rights violations associated with national security investigations, charges, arrest and imprisonment.

    October 31, 2014

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women's Rights Campaigner

    Events being reported in the Canadian media have launched a national conversation about violence against women. It is a difficult but important conversation about why so many people—mainly but not exclusively women—continue to experience violence, and in particular sexual violence, and very often feel unwilling or unable to report it; as well as why we as a society have failed to stop it.

    In talking about allegations of sexual violence and harassment we are talking about some of our most fundamental human rights that each and every one of us possesses.

    We are talking about our basic human right to live free from rape and other violence.  We are talking about the right to equality. Despite having these rights enshrined in international human rights law and in our own domestic laws, at least one third of women globally experience violence at some point in their lives. This statistic applies whether you live in Canada or Morocco. And women in other countries, as in Canada, are unlikely to report acts of violence or harassment to the authorities.

    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.

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