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Indigenous Peoples

    June 15, 2019

    Young people from Grassy Narrows are travelling to Toronto for a massive rally on June 20th to focus attention to urgency of addressing the crisis of mercury poisoning facing their First Nation.

    Amnesty International is urging its members and supporters to do all they can to help this vital and timely campaign.

    The people of Grassy Narrows are living with the devastating consequences of a half century of mercury contamination of their rivers and lakes. The harm they’ve experienced, including erosion of culture, loss of livelihoods, and one of the worst community health crises anywhere in Canada, has been made so much worse by decades of government denial and inaction. 

    Last month, federal Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan visited Grassy Narrows but failed to deliver on a long promised treatment centre for mercury survivors. 

    This stalling and inaction is all the more shocking in light of the fact that two of the United Nations independent human rights advisors, the expert of health and the expert on toxic wastes, have now both urged Canada to take action on the mercury crisis.

    June 14, 2019

    Quebec Native Women was founded in 1974 to fight sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act. Forty-five years later, this discrimination persists. Amnesty International spoke with Quebec Native Women’s Legal and Policy analyst Éloïse Décoste to learn more about steps her organization is taking to end sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act once and for all. Here’s what she had to say.

    TAKE ACTION NOW For people who aren’t familiar with the issue, can you please tell me how the Indian Act discriminates against Indigenous women?

    The Indian Act determines who is consider an Indian in the eyes of the government. Historically, an Indian* would be defined as a man, his wife, and his children. When an Indian woman married a man without Indian status, she lost her own status and could not pass her status on to her children. This was the situation until 1985.

    April 23, 2019

    Canada is on the brink of a breakthrough to protect the rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. But urgent action is needed to ensure that this historic opportunity isn’t lost.

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples “the framework for reconciliation.” Last year, the House of Commons passed Bill C-262, a private members bill requiring the federal government to finally move ahead with the work of implementing the Declaration.

    Good news: On May 16, the Senate voted to move the Bill to Committee for study. This is the next step on the path to a final vote. Public support for the Declaration and Bill C-262 is clearly having an effect. Thank you to everyone who has sent emails or made phone calls!

    Unfortunately, however, passage of the Bill is still far from certain. Time is running out in this session of Parliament. And private members bills are particularly vulnerable to delaying tactics. If Bill C-262 isn’t passed by the Senate before this session of Parliament concludes, this crucial opportunity to advance the work of reconciliation will be lost.

    January 30, 2019

    “...resource extraction and other major development projects in or near indigenous territories [are] one of the most significant sources of abuse of the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide. In its prevailing form, the model for advancing with natural resource extraction within the territories of indigenous peoples appears to run counter to the selfdetermination of indigenous peoples in the political, social and economic spheres.”
    - former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, 2011.

      Selective approaches to free, prior and informed consent foster conflict when we need reconciliation

    The governments of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and BC Premier John Horgan have both made welcome and important commitments to upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples, including implementing the key international human rights instrument protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    August 23, 2018

    by Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen

    A new report describes the devastating impact that decades of hydroelectric development have had for First Nations in north-eastern Manitoba, including allegations of sexual assault and other violence by workers brought into the communities to build the dams.

    The publication of this report underlines just how important it is that the voices of Indigenous peoples – especially Indigenous women – are heard and listened to when decisions are made about large dams and other resource development projects.

    August 16, 2018
    UN Declaration booklets published by the Coalition

    In recent months, the federal government and a number of provinces and territories have made significant, welcome commitments to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    The House of Commons has now passed Bill C-262, which would establish a legislative framework requiring the federal government to work collaboratively with Indigenous peoples to fully implement the Declaration. Bill C-262 will be debated in the Senate this Fall.

    With these important developments, the UN Declaration has become the subject of a welcome focus of public policy discussion. Unfortunately, opposition by the previous governing party left a legacy of confusion and misinformation about the Declaration and these misrepresentations continue to be repeated.

    July 26, 2018

    The BC government has launched an Environmental Assessment Revitalization process as part of its commitment to reshape the way BC makes decisions about natural resource projects, industrial activities and more.

    YOU have an opportunity to help shape the future of environmental assessments in BC by providing your input.

    BC’s current environmental assessment law is failing British Columbians and the lands and waters we rely on. Amnesty International has joined 23 other environmental, social justice and community groups in putting forward a shared vision of what future environmental assessments should look like.

    July 26, 2018

    “A B.C. government, led by me, will officially adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples…I will work with you to align the actions of my government with the Declaration.” – NDP leader John Horgan, prior to the 2017 provincial election

    “It is well established that statements by elected representatives do not fetter decision makers, nor do political speeches constitute legally enforceable promises against the Crown.” – the Government of British Columbia’s written submission to the Site C injunction hearing

    BC Premier John Horgan has said many fine words about upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples. He made these promises while running for office and he has repeatedly affirmed them since becoming Premier. But in the most significant test to date of the veracity and integrity of these commitments -- the arguments now being made in front of the crucially important Site C injunction hearing -- Premier Horgan’s government has done the very opposite of what it promised.

    April 26, 2018

    "People shouldn’t have to go to court to claim their rights" – federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, speaking at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, April 2018

    In the coming weeks, two governments that have repeatedly promised to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples will be in court to defend a massively destructive resource development project that they approved without ever once considering whether it would violate Canada’s Treaty obligations to the affected First Nations.

    The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations are asking the court to halt construction of the Site C dam which would flood more than 100 km of the Peace River Valley and its tributaries. 

    The environmental assessment of the project found that its impacts on First Nations cultural sites and way of life would be serve, permanent and irreversible. The United Nations’ top anti-racism body, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, has called for a halt to the project as a violation of the rights of Indigenous peoples.

    February 16, 2018

    AN OPEN LETTER TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL SUPPORTERS

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

    October 27, 2017

    One of the first acts of the recently elected provincial government of British Columbia was to order an independent review of the economic case for and against the massive Site C hydro-electric project. After releasing an interim report in September, the BC Utilities Commission held a series of public meetings across the province. The final report is due November 1 after which the decision on the fate of the project - and the Peace River Valley - will rest with the provincial government.

    Gary Ockenden, the Vice President of Amnesty International Canada shared this note from a hearing that he attended:

    The Chair and three Commissioners of the BC Utilities Commission came to Nelson, BC on September 26th and held a public hearing on the Site C project. I was fortunate enough to get a five minute slot to present to them as a BC ratepayer.

    September 22, 2017

    By: Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada

    On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the UN General Assembly that Canada is prepared to learn “the difficult lessons” of its long history of mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples and, as a result, other countries have much to learn from Canada’s example.

    “We know that the world expects Canada to strictly adhere to international human rights standards including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – and that’s what we expect of ourselves too,” is how he framed the imperative. 

    Ironically, the prime minister’s presentation to the General Assembly came less than a month after the UN’s top anti-racism body sharply rebuked his government for dodging its responsibilities to Indigenous Peoples, even as immediate action is urgently needed.

    Read Alex's full OPED in the Ottawa Citizen.

    September 13, 2017

    "The tragic and brutal story of what happened to us, especially at the hands of governments is well-known.... But today, with the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations General Assembly, we see the opportunity for a new beginning, for another kind of relationship with States in North America and indeed throughout the world." - Statement to the United Nations made 10 years ago by Indigenous representatives from North America when the UN Declaration was adopted. 

     

    The adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was a landmark moment in the advancement of global human rights protections.

    For decades, Indigenous peoples had been working within the United Nations and regional human rights bodies such as the Inter-American Commission in an effort to ensure that existing, universal human rights standards were understood and applied in ways that would make a real difference in addressing the many profound abuses faced by Indigenous peoples around the world.

    September 12, 2017

    "Let them drink the water we have to drink" - Loydi Macedo, Indigenous community of Cuninico, Peru

    Today, as we mark the 10th anniversary of the global adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Amnesty International is releasing a devastating new report documenting the callous failure of government authorities in Peru to address the urgent health needs of Indigenous peoples in that country who live in the midst of intensive mining and oil and gas development.

    The human rights concerns set out in this report – the refusal to listen to Indigenous women’s concerns about the safety of the water on which they depend, the reluctance to investigate and hold companies responsible for the contamination of Indigenous lands and waters, and the failure to provide culturally-appropriate health care to those in greatest need – are all too familiar.

    July 10, 2017

    By Alex Neve

    To be here – to see, listen, learn and feel this place – the enormity of what is at stake with the construction of the Site C Dam and why it is so crucial that it be stopped is everywhere.

    It shines through in the Valley’s beauty; serene and majestic at the same time.  My first views of the Peace River were from lookouts offering sweeping views of a magnificent valley painted with more shades of green than I knew existed, always with the curving ribbon of water flowing through.  Each panorama was unbelievably more breathtaking than the last; topped by an early morning viewing that offered a low-hanging bank of mist that hugged the curves of the valley in ways that felt both mystic and mysterious.  

    The Peace River

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