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    July 19, 2013

    On 19 July 2013, Amnesty International welcomed an important decision of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) in the case of Rachidi Ekanza Ezokola.  The unanimous judgment, written by Justices LeBel and Fish, brings Canada’s interpretation of the UN Refugee Convention into line with international law.

    by Anna Shea and Gloria Nafziger

    Supreme Court Ruling in Ezokola case

    Mr. Ezokola had a long career with the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In 2008 he resigned from his position at the Permanent Mission of the DRC at the UN in New York and fled to Canada with his family, seeking refugee protection.  He stated that he could no longer work for a government which he considered corrupt, violent and antidemocratic. 

    May 23, 2013

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

     

    Anne Marie Sam of the Nak'azdli First Nation stands near her great-grandfather's grave on the shores of the Nation River and points to Mt. Milligan, site of a gold and copper mine now under construction.

    Walking up the long dusty road to where the Mt Milligan gold and copper mine is now under construction, Anne Marie Sam of the Nak’azdli First Nation describes the many ways – including hunting, fishing and gathering plant medicines – that her family has lived on the land that is now consumed by the mine’s footprint.

    “This mine,” she says, “means that my children will not have the opportunity to grow up experiencing that same connection to the land.”

    The Mt. Milligan mine, located northwest of Prince George in British Columbia is expected to begin operation this year and to continue production for at least 22 more years.

    The mine affects lands, rivers and streams that are the subject of unresolved legal claims involving four First Nations, including Nak’azdli, which has never entered into a treaty with Canada.  In their traditions, the people of Naka’zdli follow a Keyoh system in which responsibility to care for specific areas of the territory are handed down with the family from one generation to the next. The Mt. Milligan mine development consumes most of Anne Marie Sam’s family Keyoh.

    The mine development was approved by environmental assessments carried out by the provincial and federal governments. The federal assessment acknowledged the importance of Indigenous peoples’ multigenerational use and traditional management of the land. Nonetheless, the assessment concluded that the mine would not cause significant harm because this use could resume some day in the future after mining ends.

    April 11, 2013

    By Jacqueline Hansen, Amnesty International's Major Campaigns and Women's Human Rights Campaigner.

    “We can start with our future, our children, teach them love instead of hate… Violence, it’s easy to teach violence and hate. Turn that around and teach love, empathy, and we wouldn’t be here today grieving.”
    – Glen Wilson, Father of CJ Morningstar Fowler, a 16-year-old member of the Gitanmaax First Nation, whose body was found outside Kamloops, British Columbia, in December 2012.
     

    April 09, 2013

    By Aubrey Harris, Coordinator for the Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty

    My Neighbour: Hamid Ghassemi-Shall

    I live in Toronto's east end, a neighbourhood known as Leslieville. It's between The Beach and Riverdale (where Degrassi was set). My neighbourhood is typically urban. There are a lot of streetcars, buses and older houses. The local elementary school is old enough to have an honour roll of former students who paid with their lives during the Great War and World War II. I didn't grow up here (I grew up in London, ON) - but I quite like this neighbourhood - and I've lived in a few around Toronto.

    April 05, 2013

    Amnesty International has confirmed that Canadian citizen Aaron Yoon is detained at a prison in Nouakchott, Mauritania.  An Amnesty International researcher interviewed him in prison during an Amnesty International mission to the country in July 2012. 

    At that time Mr. Yoon very clearly indicated that he did not want Amnesty International to take up or campaign on his case.  Amnesty International respects the wishes of prisoners with respect to what action they do or do not want the organization to take on their behalf.  As a result we have not campaigned on Mr. Yoon’s case in any way.

    Amnesty International has since confirmed that Mr. Yoon was brought to trial on terrorism-related charges in the summer of 2012 and sentenced to a two year prison sentence, beginning from the time of his arrest in December 2011.  As such he should be slated for release in December 2013.

    April 04, 2013

    April 4 is Refugee Rights Day in Canada.

    This day marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1985 Singh decision. In this decision the Supreme Court found that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the fundamental rights of refugees. The Court decided that where the Charter declares ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice;’  ‘everyone’ includes refugees.

    Today the Canadian Council for Refugees and other organizations across Canada announced the launch of a campaign designed to transform the conversation about refugees in Canada. Under the banner ‘Proud to Protect Refugees’, they are dedicated to new efforts to promote a positive vision of what we want for refugees and of the important contributions refugees make to our  communities.

    They are calling on all Canadians to show their pride in protecting refugees.

    February 21, 2013

    Recent comments by the RCMP concerning the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada do a great disservice by creating uncertainty, where clarity and urgency are required. The lives of Indigenous women and girls count. These are some well-document facts and figures about violence against Aboriginal women in Canada:

    February 07, 2013

    Amnesty International members across Canada have responded enthusiastically to the call to “Have a Heart” for First Nations children.

    “Have a Heart” is an annual campaign organized by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada that takes place on and around Valentine’s Day, February 14th.

    The campaign’s message is simple: First Nations children have the right grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy, and be proud of their cultures. And getting involved can be as easy as sending a card or letter with this message to the Prime Minister or your Member of Parliament.

    Amnesty members across Canada are already writing letters, on their own, with family and friends, and in larger public events.

    January 29, 2013

    The community hearing phase of the Northern Gateway Pipeline environmental impact assessment wraps up this week in Vancouver. Craig Benjamin, Amnesty International Canada's Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples will be making a presentation on February 1, the final day of these hearings.

    Amnesty International takes no position either for or against oil and gas development, mining, logging and other resource development per se. However, we do call for the rigorous protection of international human rights standards in every phase of the decision-making process. Meeting these standards means that some projects must be substantially amended or rejected altogether.

    International human rights standards require governments to protect the right of Indigenous peoples to use and benefit from their traditional lands, and to be full and effective participants in all decisions affecting those lands. When it comes to projects that could have a significant impact on those lands, the standard of protection that is required is that of free, prior and informed consent.

    January 08, 2013

    Take action > Send a letter to Prime MInister Harper demanding that the Canadian government commit to upholding its legal and moral obligations to Indigenous peoples.

    Grassroots rallies across Canada under the banner 'Idle No More' have put the spotlight on a federal legislative agenda that is trampling the rights of Indigenous peoples set out in  domestic and international law.

    Dr. Cindy Blackstock, a member of the Gitxan Nation, is a prominent researcher and advocate for the rights of children. As Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, Cindy has brought a landmark discrimination case to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to challenge the federal government’s chronic underfunding of children’s services on First Nations reserves and for First Nations children in the Yukon. The closing arguments in that hearing will take place October 20-24 and will be webcast live at fnwitness.ca.

    We spoke with Cindy as part of a series of conversation with Indigenous advocates and leaders to mark the 10th anniversary of Amnesty International’s report Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence against Indigenous Women in Canada.

    All governments have a responsibility to do everything in their power to prevent violence against women. This includes provincial and territorial governments as well as municipalities. It also includes Indigenous governments and institutions such as Band Councils. All have a shared responsibility to be part of the solution to ending violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    However, the federal government has a particular responsibility to help ensure the safety and well-being of Indigenous women and girls.

    Here are some of the reasons why:

    It’s a crucial moment for human rights in Canada. And you can be part of it.

    From October 20-24, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal will hear the closing arguments in a history-making case on equity for First Nations children.

    At issue is whether the federal government has discriminated against First Nations children living on reserves, and in the Yukon, by consistently providing less money per child for family services than its provincial counterparts provide in predominantly non-Aboriginal communities.

    At stake is the ability of children’s agencies to provide urgently needed prevention programs for at risk First Nations children and to stem the unprecedented numbers of First Nations children being taken from their families and communities and put into state care.

    The human rights complaint was initiated by a national non-governmental organization, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the Caring Society, recently told Amnesty International,

    First Nations children have the right grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy, and be proud of their cultures

    It’s an obvious truth but it’s far from being a reality.

    As the Auditor General of Canada and many others have noted, the Federal government provides less funding per child for many services for First Nations children on reserves than the Provinces provide for children in their jurisdictions. This is despite often higher costs of delivering such services in small and remote communities, and the greater need experienced by many First Nations communities.

    The result of the denial of basic rights that most people in Canada take for granted.

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

    On Tuesday morning Bridget Tolley did what no mother wants to do—search for her missing daughter. Laura Spence and her friend Nicole Whiteduck were last seen on Sunday morning in Kitigan Zibi, a community north of Ottawa.

    Tolley is the co-founder of the grassroots organization Families of Sisters in Spirit—one of Amnesty International’s key partners in the Stolen Sisters campaign to end violence against Indigenous women in Canada. She provides support to Indigenous families across Canada whose daughters, sisters, mothers, and aunties have gone missing or been murdered. And while she understands very well the pain of losing a loved one—her mother was killed in 2001 by a police cruiser—until this week she had not experienced what many of the families she works with have gone through when a loved one vanishes.

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