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    August 27, 2014

     

    “It is long past time for the government to take responsibility to fix what they have broken, clean up our river, and help us out rather than kicking us while we are down.” -- Grassy Narrows Chief Roger Fobister Sr.

    For almost a decade, Amnesty International has stood with the people of Grassy Narrows in their long struggle to determine for themselves the fate of the forest and waters on which they depend. This campaign--  led by the people of Grassy Narrow, and supported by a wide range of social justice and environmental organizations --  has had remarkable success with company after company announcing that they will not log at Grassy Narrows, or handle wood cut  at Grassy Narrows, unless the community gives its consent. These remarkable victories, however, have taken place against the backdrop of an ongoing, unresolved and largely unacknowledged tragedy.

    August 08, 2014
    "We lived at the side of the road, we lived badly. Several members of the community died in accidents, of disease. Nobody respected us. Now this is our victory. I am very happy, and I cry because my grandmother, my father and many members of my family did not have the opportunity I have today to enjoy our land. I'm grateful to everyone" --  Aparicia Gonzalez, an Indigenous Enxet woman from the Sawhoyamaxa community in Paraguay

    This week, as the United Nations marks the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (August 9th), we want to take a moment to celebrate two crucial recent victories in the long struggle for the recognition of the rights of Indigenous peoples.

    July 11, 2014
    Trapper Andrew Keewatin Jr. at Grassy Narrows

    Today’s Supreme Court ruling on logging at Grassy Narrows reaffirms important limitations on the power of governments in Canada to make decisions that could undermine the ability of Indigenous peoples to live off the land.

    The court case was initiated by Grassy Narrows trappers whose traplines were threatened by clearcut logging licensed by the Ontario government.

    In the original trial decision, an Ontario court concluded that – because of the terms of the Treaty and the particular history of the region – only the federal government, not the provincial government, has the authority to make decisions about development on the portion of the Grassy Narrows traditional territory called the Keewatin area.

    The Supreme Court rejected this argument, concluding instead that the powers of the Crown to “take up” Treaty lands applied to the provincial government.

    However, the Court also stated that the legal obligations and restrictions on Crown powers resulting from the Treaty must also apply to the province.

    July 10, 2014
    By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    This week, I had the honour of spending a deeply moving, and incredibly inspiring day with people of the Shoal Lake #40 First Nation on the Manitoba - Ontario border.

    Their story is one that more Canadians need to hear because it can tell us so much about the deeply flawed relationship between the federal government and First Nations. Their story is also important because the people of Shoal Lake have their own solution to some of their most pressing concerns and today, after decades of struggle, that solution is now almost within reach.

    One hundred years ago the Shoal Lake #40 community was relocated as part of the development of the city of Winnipeg's water supply system.  One of the cruel ironies of life in Shoal Lake is that while water from the lake is piped 150 km to Winnipeg to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of people in that city, the people of Shoal Lake #40 must rely on bottled water because they don't have an adequate drinking water system of their own.

    July 08, 2014

    Update: Interim Federal Health Care will be reinstated for refugees at midnight 4 November 2014.  However the government has appealed the July decision in the Federal Court of Appeal.

    Amnesty International welcomes the recent decision of the Federal Court  regarding health care for refugees. The court found that the 2012 cuts to health care for refugees through the Interim Federal Health Program constituted “cruel and unusual treatment” and violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court found that the cuts deliberately targeted refugees, a vulnerable, poor, and disadvantaged group.

    Amnesty International has previously expressed concern that changes to the Interim Federal Health Program were discriminatory and likely to result in violations of the right to health of refugees in Canada, in contravention of Canada’s international human rights obligations.

    June 26, 2014

    Amnesty International Canada and Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers) extend our congratulations to the Tsilhqot’in people in their historic victory for the rights of Indigenous peoples.

    In an unanimous decision released this morning, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the right of the Tsilhqot’in people to own, control and enjoy the benefits of approximately 2000km2 of land at the heart of their traditional territory in central British Columbia.

    Today’s decision marks the first time that a Canadian court has awarded land ownership to a particular First Nation, rather than relying solely on negotiations between Canada and First Nations to resolve outstanding title disputes. In doing so, the Court also firmly rejected the federal and provincial governments’ position that Indigenous title should be restricted to small tracts of land under continuous, intensive use.

    Responding to the decision, the Tsilhqot’in Nation said today, “The Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling ends a long history of denial and sets the stage of recognition of Aboriginal title in its full form.”

    June 19, 2014

    TORONTO (June 19, 2014) – The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL), supported by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), announced today that it plans to launch a legal challenge to the proposed new citizenship amendments – Bill C-24 – if the bill is passed by the Senate.

    Bill C-24, introducing sweeping changes to Canada’s citizenship laws that make citizenship harder to get and easier to lose, has passed through the House of Commons and is now being considered by the Senate.  CARL, BCCLA and Amnesty International take the position that this proposed law has dramatically negative effects on Canadian citizenship, eliminating equal citizenship rights for all, and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as international human rights. According to the organizations, the new law will take away rights from countless Canadians, creating a two-tier citizenship regime that discriminates against dual nationals and naturalized citizens.

    June 19, 2014

    View as PDF

    BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Amnesty International Canada, Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers), Chiefs of Ontario, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Grand Council of the Crees
    (Eeyou Istchee), Indigenous Rights Centre, Indigenous World Association, and KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.

    June 17, 2014

    The federal government’s decision to conditionally approve construction of the Northern Gateway Pipeline without the consent of affected First Nations violates crucial human rights protections under both Canadian and international law.

    Northern Gateway is intended to transport a daily average of 525,000 barrels of oil sands bitumen and industrial chemicals between Alberta and the British Columbia coast. The majority of First Nations whose traditional lands would be crossed by the proposed project have publicly opposed the pipeline, as have First Nations who depend on the downstream rivers and coastal waters that could be affected by construction or a future spill.

    In statement released today, 23 First Nations thatwould be affected by the project, and 8 First Nations organizations from the region, denounced the federal government's decision as a violation of their rights and laws.

    June 10, 2014

    June 10, 2014

    The Honourable Peter MacKay
    Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    Canada K1A 0A6

    RE: Implementation of existing recommendations needed to address violence against Indigenous women

    Dear Minister MacKay,

    The shocking rate of violence faced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls in Canada is nothing less than a national human rights crisis.

    Responding to the growing demand for a National Public Inquiry into this crisis, you have repeatedly stated that Canada needs action, not more studies. To support this position you have distributed a list of 40 reports that previously examined the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls or related factors that put Indigenous women and girls at risk.

    Minister MacKay, as an organization that wrote two of the reports on your list, Amnesty International strongly objects to our work being used as a justification for not calling a National Public Inquiry into violence against Indigenous women.

    June 10, 2014

    Bill C-24, the federal government’s proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act, has serious human rights flaws, says Amnesty International. The proposed legislation would give the federal government new powers to revoke Canadian citizenship in some cases when individuals are convicted of specified crimes related to terrorism and similar offences. The new provisions fall short of a range of international human rights obligations, including non-discrimination and fair hearing guarantees.  Consequently, Amnesty International is calling on the government to withdraw these new revocation provisions from the Bill. 

    June 09, 2014

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

    A few years ago I heard a young First Nations woman describing the unsafe drinking water, the poor quality school and other conditions that she faced every day growing up in her home community. “What did we do to be treated like this?” she asked.

    In most communities in Canada, government services like education, health care and family services are provided by a combination of municipal and provincial governments. However, in the case of First Nations people living on reserves these services are instead funded through the federal government.

    Critically, study after study has shown that federal funding for basic services on reserves routinely falls short of what is required to provide First Nations families with access to the same quality of services--  like education and health care -- enjoyed other communities in Canada.
    Here’s what the Auditor General of Canada had to say about the situation in 2011:

    May 23, 2014

    On May 26, 2014, Amnesty International Canada is intervening, jointly with the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR Net),  at the Ontario Court of Appeal in the case of Tanudjaja et al v Attorneys General of Ontario and Canada. The case, scheduled for three days of hearings, is being brought by a number of individuals who have experienced the severe effects of homelessness and inadequate housing. The applicants argue that their rights to life, to security of the person and to equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms have been violated. The Governments of Ontario and Canada are trying to have the case dismissed without a full hearing. The Ontario Court of Appeal will decide whether the case can proceed.

    May 22, 2014

    By Alex Neve and Ghislain Picard Opinion Editorial Published in Toronto Star May 22, 2014

    The federal government’s new report on Human Rights and the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement, quietly submitted as Parliament recessed last week, would have us believe there are no trade and investment-related human rights concerns in Colombia – and no reason to look at what is happening in areas of resource extraction. But deadly realities confronting Indigenous peoples in the South American country tell another story.

    Fifteen year old Génesis Gisselle had just got out of school two weeks ago when the phone rang. An unknown voice delivered a terrifying message: “Tell your family to take care of themselves and of you - because we are going to kill you.”

    May 20, 2014

    Amnesty International Canada and the Assembly of First Nations are expressing serious concern that the federal government has once again issued a “human rights impact assessment” about commerce with Colombia that fails to acknowledge the deadly repression faced by Indigenous peoples, Afro-descendent communities, trade unionists and others in that country. This wilful omission is particularly concerning given testimony by Indigenous leaders from Colombia about dire threats to their very survival in the context of the kind of resource development projects that the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement has served to promote.

    “This report would have parliamentarians believe there are no trade and investment-related human rights concerns in Colombia. This flies in the face of abundant, well-documented evidence to the contrary from a growing chorus of respected Colombian and international organizations,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.

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