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Indigenous Peoples

    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 13, 2017

    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.

    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

    July 06, 2017

    "We will continue to bring unrelenting opposition to a project that can only be described as an unqualified disaster." -Chief Lynette Tsakoza, Prophet River responding to Supreme Court of Canada ruling closing off one part to justice in the Site C struggle

    Whatever your feelings about British Columbia’s Site C dam, whether you think the hydro-electric megaproject is needed or if you think there are better ways to invest in the province’s future, it should be clear that an unacceptable injustice is taking place.

    The 100 km of the Peace River and its tributaries that will be flooded by Site C are part of the territory of Treaty 8, an historic Treaty between First Nations and Canada. Like other Treaties, the rights protected under Treaty 8 are recognized and affirmed in the Canadian Constitution. In other words, they are part of the highest law of the land.

    Yet, the federal and provincial governments openly admit that they approved the Site C dam without ever considering whether the “severe”, “permanent” and “irreversible” harms identified by their own environmental assessment would violate Treaty 8.

    June 09, 2017
    Lolita Chavez Guatemala Indigenous defenders

    Maya-K’iche human rights defender Lolita Chavez is known to Canadians for her determined and principled stance on the right of Indigenous peoples to determine what happens in their territories. Lolita has spoken to Canadian leaders, investors and the public about the ways in which the Guatemalan government has failed to protect Indigenous peoples and how this leaves them exposed to abuses by corporate actors, such as mining, hydro-electric or logging interests. Most people in the region rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods and are concerned that these industrial activities would destroy sources of water needed for irrigation and drinking. Lolita organized a community referendum on resource development in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Quiche department and residents overwhelmingly voted ‘NO’ to any form of industrial development on their lands.

    May 29, 2017

    With the BC provincial election outcome raising new questions about whether the massive Site C dam will proceed, citizen groups are urging the Trudeau government to break its silence and commit to honouring and upholding the Treaty rights of affected First Nations.

    Helen Knott, a great-great-granddaughter of the one of the original signatories of Treaty 8, has travelled from the Prophet River First Nation to take part in a rally on Parliament Hill today.

    Rally for the Peace River Valley

    WHERE: Steps of Parliament WHEN: 12:15-12:45, Monday May 29 CONTACT: Jacob Kuehn, Media Relations, Amnesty International Canada: jkuehn@amnesty.ca / 613-744-7667 ext 236

    Speakers include:

    Helen Knott, Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Maureen Chapman Alex Neve, Amnesty International Members of Parliament

    Background

    May 26, 2017
    Alicia Keys and Indigenous Rights Activist Delilah Saunders: In Conversation

    Ahead of the Ambassador of Conscience Awards this weekend in Montreal, Alicia Keys talked with Indigenous rights activist Delilah Saunders in Teen Vogue.

    On May 27, human rights organization Amnesty International will honor music artist and activist Alicia Keys and the Indigenous rights movement in Canada with its prestigious Ambassador of Conscience Award at a ceremony in Montreal. One of six powerful activists accepting the award and standing for Canada's Indigenous people — arguably the wealthy nation's most marginalized community — is Delilah Saunders, who has committed her life to support the cause after her sister, Loretta, was murdered. At the time of her death, Loretta was writing her thesis on the history of violence against Indigenous women and girls, an ongoing crisis that went unaddressed by Canada's government until a national inquiry was opened in 2015.

    May 26, 2017

    Following today’s ruling by the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights that the Kenyan government violated the rights of the Indigenous Ogiek people when it evicted them from their land, Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said:

    “Today’s ruling is a historic victory for the Ogiek community, and gives hope to all Indigenous peoples everywhere.

    “In this one ruling, the court has both affirmed the Ogiek’s right to live freely on their ancestral land, and proved to the continent that regional justice mechanisms work.

    “But a ruling is not enough, it must be respected. The Kenyan government must now implement the ruling and let the Ogiek live freely on their ancestral land.”

    The Ogiek, who live mostly in Kenya’s Mau and Mt Elgon forests, are a hunter-gatherer community. They have fought for a long time in the national courts, and now at the African Court, to live on their land of their ancestors, but the government has routinely subjected them to arbitrarily evictions citing the need to conserve the environment, claims the court rejected.

    February 23, 2017

    23 February 2017

    The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould
    Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
    284 Wellington Street
    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8
    mcu@justice.gc.ca

    The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
    Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
    10 Wellington, North Tower
    Gatineau, Québec K1A 0H4
    minister@aadnc-aandc.gc.ca

     

    Dear Ministers,

    When it comes to ending discrimination against children, there is no excuse for half-measures and no time for delay.

    Today marks 10 years since the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations launched an historic challenge under the Canadian Human Rights Act, a challenge aimed at compelling the federal government to finally end the longstanding, systemic underfunding of First Nations children’s services.

    February 09, 2017

    For the overwhelming majority of Canadians, access to safe drinking water is something we take for granted. Any interruptions to the flow of clean water from our taps are rare and momentary, lasting a few hours or perhaps days at most.

    It’s an entirely different story for a shocking number of First Nations.

    As of last Fall, 110 First Nations were living under advisories to either boil their water or not drink it at all. The number is often much higher. In many cases, these advisories have been in place for years. In some instances, First Nations have lived a generation or longer without safe, reliable water.

    Prime Minister Trudeau has made a public commitment to end this water insecurity by 2020. It’s a welcome and important promise. But unfortunately it’s one that the federal government is in very real danger of breaking.

    The barriers to water justice – bureaucratic and financial – are set out in an important new study released by the David Suzuki Foundation and Council of Canadians, and with advisers Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

    February 09, 2017

    OTTAWA — The federal government will not meet its commitment to end all drinking water advisories affecting First Nations communities by 2020 without significant changes to current processes, according to a new report, Glass half empty? Year 1 progress toward resolving drinking water advisories in nine First Nations in Ontario.

    Released by the David Suzuki Foundation and Council of Canadians, and with advisers Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the report assesses the federal government’s progress in nine First Nations across Ontario. With 81 active DWAs — more than any other province — Ontario provides a snapshot of Canada’s First Nations water crisis.

    “We are calling on the government to work with First Nations to make necessary changes to the way it addresses the lack of safe drinking water in First Nation communities,” said David Suzuki Foundation Ontario science projects manager Rachel Plotkin. “At present, it is not on track to meet its promise.”

    January 24, 2017

    This week's Federal Court of Appeal decision leaves unanswered the critical question of whether the construction of the Site C hydro-electric dam in northeast British Columbia violates the Constitutionally-protected Treaty rights of the First Nations who live in and depend on the Peace River Valley.

    The court accepted the federal government’s argument that, because the Canadian Environmental Act doesn’t explicitly require consideration of Treaty rights, it was “reasonable” to approve the project without first determining whether it would cause unjustifiable harm to the exercise of these rights.

    If the decision stands, it has the potential to set a dangerous precedent for rights protection in Canada as it effectively allows the terms of an individual piece of legislation to trump wider Constitutional rights protections.

    January 17, 2017

    By Craig Benjamin

    It’s information that the Ontario government could – and should – have brought to light, but failed to do so.

    Last year, the provincial government stated that it had not been able to find any evidence to support claims by a former millworker that barrels of mercury had been buried at a site upstream from the Grassy Narrows First Nation and might now be leaching into their water system.

    Last week, however, the Toronto Star reported that members of the environmental NGO Earthroots had conducted their own soil tests at a location identified by the mill worker and found mercury levels as much as 80 times higher than normal. The findings were replicated by tests done by the Toronto Star. Scientists who reviewed the finding said there was little doubt that this was industrial mercury.

    The story is particularly concerning because it is the latest revelation of Ontario’s persistent and shocking disregard for the basic safety and well-being of the people of Grassy Narrows.

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