By George Harvey, LGBTI Coordinator
Last week’s court decision on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline provides a crucial opportunity for the federal government to fulfil its promise to uphold the human rights of Indigenous peoples.
On June 30, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the 2014 Cabinet decision to allow construction of the massive oil sands pipeline. The court concluded that the decision-making process fell “well-short “ of long-established legal standards for the protection of Indigenous rights in Canada.
The court has called on the federal government to undertake a new consultation process with First Nations to address critical issues of Indigenous concern, such as the project’s impact on Indigenous land title, resource rights, and governance. The court said that these matters had been given only “brief, hurried and inadequate” consideration before the project was approved.
Given the serious concerns that Indigenous peoples have repeatedly raised about Northern Gateway, Amnesty International is renewing our call for the federal government to respect the right of First Nations to say no to this project.
By: Margaret Huang, Alex Neve, Perseo Quiroz and Béatrice Vaugrante
Prime Minister Trudeau is about to host his US and Mexican counterparts, President Obama and President Peña Nieto, at the “Three Amigos” North American Leaders’ Summit. It is the tenth such Summit since George Bush, Vicente Fox and Paul Martin first gathered in Texas in 2005.
Past Summits have been dominated by trade, given that the initial linkage among our three nations came through the North American Free Trade Agreement. Security related matters, particularly with respect to border control and cross-border traffic, have also figured prominently; through the Security and Prosperity Partnership.
But a partnership built around trade, investment and security, without corresponding attention to human rights, has left a lop-sided North American relationship.
By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Think about this.
A community devastated by the massive release of mercury into the rivers on which they depend.
Credible scientific studies showing that a half century later the people are still suffering from the debilitating effects of mercury poisoning and that even their children are being harmed.
Further studies that show that the mercury is not going away and that fish from the river will continue to be unsafe for years to come unless something is done.
New allegations that an illegal toxic dump near the river could increase the mercury contamination ten-fold and leave the river unsafe for almost a century to come.
This is the story of the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwest Ontario. It’s a situation that cries out for justice.
Now consider how the federal and provincial governments have responded.
I’m not at home, I’m a refugee. I left my rights behind.
In the world today we need to ensure that no rights are ever left behind.
By Craig Benjamin
The president of Royal Society of Canada – a national association of Canada scholars – has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to urge the government to "step back" from the Site C hydro-electric project. It's reported that this is the first time in decades that the Royal Society has taken a public position in opposition to a specific project.
The letter states that government approval of the Site C dam – despite numerous serious concerns identified in the environmental impact assessment process – "goes against the Canadian government emphasis on evidence-based decision-making."
The letter also condemns the failure to uphold the Treaty rights of First Nations in the Peace River region, stating, "That is not the blueprint for Canada in the twenty-first century, especially given Canada's recent decision to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Work on the Site C project should be discontinued for this reason alone."
By Craig Benjamin
"Clean the English-Wabigoon River System. Water is sacred." Judy da Silva, Grassy Narrows First Nation
Sixty-six percent (66%) of Canadian respondents say our government should do more to help refugees fleeing war or persecution. Younger Canadians are much more likely to think that their government should do more to help refugees (76% agree). This is the arresting result of an international survey, the Canadian portion of which was conducted from March 7 to 24, 2016, only days after the Government of Canada met its objective to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees between November 2015 and the end of February 2016. The survey was carried out by internationally renowned strategy consultancy GlobeScan and polled more than 27,000 people in 27 countries.
Has Canada done enough?
By Alexander Kennedy, LGBTI Coordinator
In June 2005, I sat in the gallery of the House of Commons the night the Civil Marriage Act was passed. It was a moment of joy, the culmination of years of work by LGBTI activists, and yet in the midst of the celebrations I found myself wondering when trans people would get our moment, the recognition that our rights matter too.
This morning, more than a decade later, I sat in the gallery of the House of Commons as the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-16 to extend human rights protections to trans people in Canada, surrounded by some of the many trans activists who have worked long and hard to make this day a reality.
Guest Blogger: Michelle Robidoux from the War Resisters Support Campaign
Twelve years ago this month, a campaign was launched in Canada to assist U.S. conscientious objectors to the Iraq War in gaining asylum here. Canadians massively rejected the war, and in 2003, the Canadian government made the decision not to participate in it. The many thousands of Vietnam War resisters – both deserters and draft resisters – who were welcomed to Canada 40 years earlier were concrete evidence of Canadians' support for freedom of conscience.
But unlike their predecessors, the Iraq War resisters experienced systematic obstacles to being allowed to stay. Between 2008 and 2012, three of these conscientious objectors were deported by the Canadian government to the United States, where they were arrested, court-martialed and jailed. Each of them was harshly punished, with jail terms of 12 to 15 months and felony convictions.
by Alex Neve
Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada
How is it that a government minister beat us to a perfect campaign slogan!
“The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture will not be optional anymore for Canada.”
It has always been an unwieldy name for a United Nations treaty that deals with something so incredibly important: preventing torture around the world. How fitting and powerful therefore to hear Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion use those very words to make it clear that Canada is now going to get on board and join the Optional Protocol. His tremendous announcement, at an Amnesty International parliamentary reception co-hosted by 10 Members of Parliament and Senators, elicited immediate and sustained applause.
Today is the 104th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. On this day in 1912, some 1,514 people perished in the frigid waters of the Atlantic. That is tragedy enough but 468 of those 1,514 people drowned entirely needlessly. There were exactly 468 empty seats in the lifeboats launched from the Titanic.
Perhaps it is not so easy to count the avoidable deaths in today’s refugee crisis. But a clear analogy can be drawn. The wealthy States of 2016 represent a lifeboat for the forcibly displaced. How many lives are lost every day, as a result of States’ failure to respond adequately to the current refugee crisis? Many States have the capacity, but lack the leadership to accept and protect more refugees, leaving empty seats in the lifeboats. The developing world shoulders a disproportionate share of the responsibility to protect refugees. Wealthier states can and must do more.
“We are inspired and deeply honoured to have the support of so many individuals in our fight to stop the proposed Site C Dam." - Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations
West Moberly is one of the First Nations in the Treaty 8 region of northeastern BC that vigorously objected to the Site C dam through the environmental assessment review process. The report of that independent review set out a clear case against the dam, including the irreversible harm that it will cause to one of the few remaining areas where West Moberly and other First Nations can exercise their rights, the destruction of hundreds of cultural sites, and the province's failure to properly other, less harmful alternatives.
A poison pen letter has been circulating through e-mail and social media for several years now, which falsely claims that refugees receive significantly more income assistance than Canadian pensioners. Readers of the missive are invited to share the author’s outrage. But the provocative claims have been disproven by the Government of Canada and by the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR).
For example, the Cholokian family will not receive any government assistance from Canada or from their new home province, British Columbia. They came to Canada as privately sponsored refugees. Mania, her spouse Asved, and their two sons arrived on December 31, 2015. The family fled Syria because of escalating violence and spent three years as refugees in Lebanon.
“Refugees come to Canada in different ways, but no matter the category, refugees receive very limited income assistance from the government,” states the CCR. So here are the facts:
Last summer, First Nations from north-eastern British Columbia brought more than 90 kg of trout to the provincial legislature. The fish had been caught in the Crooked River, one of the places where the people of the West Moberly First Nations have camped and fished throughout their whole history. But none of it was fit to eat.