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    December 16, 2014

    As Canada heads towards an election sometime before October 2015, Amnesty International Canada’s annual human rights agenda, Jobs, Security … and Human Rights For All, reveals serious failings in  federal government laws and policies.  In his first address to the UN General Assembly in four years Prime Minister Harper spoke of a world “where human rights and justice are preserved”.  Amnesty International is concerned that government action far too often fails to match those words.

    “Canada’s failure to ground economic development in respect for Indigenous peoples’ rights, hesitancy to ratify treaties that enhance law and order, and inconsistency in which countries attract Canada’s criticism are among the issues outlined in the new agenda,” says Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada’s English Branch. “Economic growth, the quest for law and order and the promotion of freedom and democracy abroad must have respect for human rights at their core.”

    December 10, 2014

    Today on International Human Rights Day civil society groups have joined together in an open letter calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to put Canada back in the global effort to end torture and ill-treatment around the world.

    On the day that marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention against Torture Canada should take the final step and ratify the instrument that establishes national and international systems for inspecting detention centres. In 2006 and 2009 Canada told the UN Human Rights Council that it would consider ratifying this Optional Protocol that was adopted by the UN in 2002.

    The organizations that signed the open letter are united in calling for Canada to take this step without delay. Under the systems established by the Optional Protocol, inspections can identify and expose conditions that permit and encourage torture to take place. It seeks to pierce the shroud of secrecy that allows torture to continue in the 141 countries where it has been documented by Amnesty International in the last five years.

    December 10, 2014

    Amnesty International supporters and human rights activists from more than 100 countries around the globe are taking part in the world’s largest annual human rights event around International Human Rights Day December 10 with a two week campaign.

    Called Write for Rights, the event mobilizes supporters to put pen to paper or send electronic messages on behalf of individuals and communities suffering from brutal human rights violations including arbitrary detention and torture.

    Supporters in Canada are signing petitions, writing letters, participating in events and posting tweets calling for justice, freedom and protection from human rights violations. Some of the cases, amongst others, include:

    December 10, 2014

    Joint Press Release

    Canada missed another important opportunity to be a world leader by not committing to the resettlement of Syrian refugees at yesterday’s UN sponsored global pledging conference, said Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Syrian Canadian Council.

    Yesterday 25 countries pledged 65,000 resettlement spaces in response to the UNHCR appeal to resettle 130,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016.  Canada was not among the 25 countries.  Instead, a spokesperson indicated that the government “will make announcements about further commitments at a future date.”

    December 05, 2014

    December 2, 2014

     

    The Honourable Chris Alexander
    Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
    Ottawa, ON   K1A 1L1

    Dear Minister Alexander,

    We are writing this Open Letter to you in regards to Canada’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis.  In advance of the UNHCR pledging conference in Geneva on December 9, 2014, we are urgently calling on the Government of Canada to substantially increase its response across all fronts, including higher levels of resettlement and greater financial assistance. 

    December 02, 2014

    Amnesty International and the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) expressed dismay at the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in the case of Tanudjaja v. Canada and Ontario, released yesterday. The Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision, in which a landmark Charter case had been dismissed without a full hearing. The case was brought by homeless people who argued that the Ontario and Canadian governments’ failure to develop a housing strategy had violated their rights under the Canadian Charter. The two prominent international human rights organizations intervened in the case to urge the court to take into account Canada’s international human rights obligations to protect the rights of those who are homeless. 

    “We are astonished that two of three Justices on the panel were prepared to deny the applicants a hearing in this case simply because homelessness is caused by the interaction of a number of programs and policies – as opposed to legislation,” commented Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International. 

    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 18, 2014

    The Honourable Joe Oliver, MP, PC
    Minister of Finance
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

    Dear Minister,

    As organizations that have an interest in ensuring that everyone in Canada has equal access to income security, we are alarmed by the inclusion of sections 172 and 173 in your recently introduced omnibus Budget Bill C-43. These sections amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and are essentially Private Members Bill C-585, which was introduced earlier this year.

    Many of our organizations are health and social service agencies and legal and community advocates that work directly with refugee claimants and others with precarious immigration status. The change that would be made to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act as a result of these provisions would allow provinces to restrict access to social assistance for refugee claimants and others who have not yet been granted permanent residence.

    November 13, 2014

    On Thursday, November 20, call Senators and speak out in support of the rights of Canada’s transgender communities.

    November 20th is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s a day to honour transgender people who have lost their lives because of hatred and fear, and to re-commit ourselves to supporting the human rights of Canada’s transgender communities.

    Transgender people in Canada and around the world face extreme levels of violence and discrimination because they are transgender. Six provinces and one territory in Canada have legally established “gender identity” as a prohibited ground of discrimination in an effort to curb this violence and discrimination. Similar legislation is not yet in place at the federal level.

    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 30, 2014

    Amnesty International is disappointed in the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in the case of Febles v. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. In a 5-2 split decision, the Court found that if someone committed a serious crime in the past, he or she is forever barred from seeking refugee protection – regardless of such factors as having served a full sentence, the lengthy passage of time, or complete rehabilitation. Amnesty International, represented by Power Law LLP, had intervened in the case in March 2014.

    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.

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