AN OPEN LETTER TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL SUPPORTERS
By Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada
AN OPEN LETTER TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL SUPPORTERS
By Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada
Every woman and girl has the right to live in safety without threat of violence, intimidation, or harassment.
Canadian government statistics show that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women and girls face much higher rates of violence than all other women and girls in Canada. Large gaps in government support for services to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities deny Indigenous women and girls supports they need to escape and recover from this violence.
There are roughly 15 shelters and transition houses serving 53 Inuit communities across the Arctic. Some of these shelters are extremely small and most communities are accessible only by air.
The federal department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs reports that it provides funding for only 41 shelters to serve the 634 recognized First Nations communities in Canada. According to the National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence, as of January 2018 only 38 shelters were operational.They do not provide funding to shelters in Inuit communities.
Open Letter to All Members of Parliament
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission urged all governments to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as ‘the framework for reconciliation’ in Canada. Members of Parliament have a crucial opportunity to contribute to reconciliation by supporting Bill C-262 when it comes to a vote at second reading this month.
Bill C-262 provides a framework for the federal government to collaborate with First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation in the important work of ensuring that Canada’s laws, policies and operational practices live up to the human rights commitments affirmed in the UN Declaration. As a legislative framework that integrates regular reporting to Parliament, Bill C-262 provides the means to hold this and future governments accountable for living up to the commitments that they have made to honour and respect the rights of Indigenous peoples.
The upcoming ministerial meeting on human rights demonstrates that federal, provincial and territorial governments in Canada recognize that more must be done to fulfill Canada’s domestic and international commitments to recognize, respect and fulfill human rights. As a concrete and meaningful way to better address this need, our organizations are calling on the federal, provincial and territorial governments to work collaboratively with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples as well as with African Canadians and other communities of colour, and engage with civil society to undertake a formal and systematic review of the most recent United Nations treaty body report on Canada.
Governments across Canada have an unprecedented opportunity to begin addressing long-standing deficiencies in the implementation of the country’s international human rights obligations by laying the groundwork for a coordinated approach to upholding rights across all levels of government, says Amnesty International Canada in a briefing paper submitted to federal, provincial and territorial Ministers. For the first time in 29 years, Ministers will meet to discuss cross-jurisdictional weaknesses and challenges in implementing Canada’s commitments under an array of binding international human rights instruments.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a consensus international human rights instrument elaborating standards for the survival, dignity, security and well-being of Indigenous peoples of the world. Today, MP Romeo Saganash’s private members bill on implementation of the UN Declaration, Bill C-262, will begin debate at second reading in Parliament.
Our Nations and organizations have been deeply involved in the development, promotion and implementation of the UN Declaration. As Grand Chief Abel Bosum of the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee (northern Quebec) underlines, “We are firmly convinced of the Declaration’s vital importance for achieving justice, reconciliation, healing and peace.”
UPDATED DECEMBER 11, 2017
"To our allies, we say, 'keep fighting.' And to those of you just learning about this ruinous decision, don't stand for it...Call, meet, write, email, tweet." - Chief Lynette Tsakoza, Prophet River First Nations
On December 11, BC Premier John Horgan announced that his government intends to turn its back on the human rights of Indigenous peoples in the Peace River Valley.
Before being elected as Premier, John Horgan publicly stated that "constitutional rights to practice hunting and fishing" would be "violated by this dam." As Premier, he publicly stated that this issue has never been resolved and may ultimately end up before the Supreme Court.
Despite these public statements, Premier Horgan now says construction must continue. And, he says, it's not his fault. The Premier says too much money has already been spent, making it too expensive to stop construction.
Ottawa, November 1, 2017 – The interim report released today by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls makes recommendations for immediate action, many of which were set out in previous reports.
“Minister of Indigenous-Crown Relations and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett has said repeatedly that the federal government wouldn’t wait for the Inquiry’s final report before addressing well-known gaps in protections and support for Indigenous women and girls,” said Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada. “The government must keep this promise. It is crucial that the government’s response to the Interim report clearly sets out what the government is committed to do and when.”
The interim report calls on the federal government to:
As Horgan Government Weighs Fate of the Megaproject, Treaty 8 Indigenous First Nations, Human Rights and Environmental Groups Bring a Message That Canadians and the World Expect BC to Keep Its Promise to Uphold Indigenous Rights
At 1:00 p.m. on November 2nd, representatives from Treaty 8 First Nations, human rights and environmental groups will present a literal “boat load” of petitions, postcards and solidarity messages urging the Provincial Government to protect the Peace River Valley. Across the country, more than 120,000 people have called for a halt to construction of the Site C dam. Their voices are joined by tens of thousands of solidarity messages from around the world.
The megaproject would flood more 100 km stretch of the Peace River Valley and its tributaries. If construction proceeds, Treaty 8 First Nations would lose hunting grounds, burial sites and other areas vitally significant to their culture, heritage and sustenance.
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.
It’s been a decade since the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It has been more than three decades since the process to develop this human rights instrument first began.
During this time, Canada’s position on the Declaration has changed repeatedly with the election of new governments and even with changes in Cabinet.
Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the federal government has now made numerous, welcome commitments to respect and uphold the UN Declaration.
Words alone, however, are not enough.
Concrete implementation of the Declaration is overdue. This requires the federal government to work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to carry out concrete reforms to Canada’s laws and the government’s programmes and priorities.
Critically, the commitment to uphold the Declaration, and the process for achieving this objective, need to be enshrined in national legislation so that it is not readily abandoned on the whim of politicians.
The BC Utility Commission’s interim report on the Site C megaproject – released on Wednesday – provides further proof that the federal and provincial governments acted irresponsibly when they granted approval for construction of the massively destructive dam.
“The interim BCUC report confirms what so many of us have been saying all along: there’s simply no credible rationale for the devastating harm that would be caused by the flooding of the Peace River Valley,” said Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations.
In its interim report, the BCUC said that it did not have enough information yet to offer a conclusion on the costs of continuing construction versus suspending or cancelling the project. However, the report does set out a number of concerns about how BC Hydro is forecasting future energy needs. The interim report also states that if greater capacity is actually needed in the future, alternative sources such as biomass, geothermal and solar need to be considered. The report noted that information provided by BC Hydro reflects an “implicit assumption” that Site C is the only option that would be pursued.
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.
"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.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides a crucial framework to achieve reconciliation. Such a human rights-based approach is essential to address the racism and discrimination that has caused such profound harm to Indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world. Violations include uprooting Indigenous peoples from their territories and resources, failure to honour Treaties, tearing Indigenous children from their families, and making Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people the targets of unimaginable violence.
The adoption of the UN Declaration ten years ago today – on September 13, 2007 – was a crucial victory in the evolution of international human rights law. This historic achievement was possible because Indigenous peoples persisted for more than two decades in advancing a strong and powerful vision of self-determination, decolonization and non-discrimination.