Indigenous Peoples in Canada
All eyes have been on Wet’suwet’en territory over the past week. The situation is changing rapidly, and solidarity actions have been taking place across the country to highlight the disturbing human rights violations.
This weekend, here are three ways you demonstrate solidarity:Donate to the RAVEN Trust fund in support of the Wet’suwet’en’s legal actions. Find a solidarity rally near you and let governments know that they need to respect the law and Indigenous rights. Check out the Wet’suwet’en Supporter Toolkit for other creative solidarity actions, educational materials and more!
Proposed legislation crucial to reconciliation is being threatened by partisan stalling tactics in the Senate.
Conservative Senators yesterday prevented Bill C-262 being sent to Committee for review.
“This is a shameful moment for Canada,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “It’s profoundly troubling that a crucial opportunity to now move ahead with the urgent work of reconciliation could be jeopardized by Conservative Senators resorting to procedural dirty tricks.”
Passage of Bill C-262 would establish a legislative framework for future governments to work collaboratively with Indigenous peoples to interpret and apply the global human rights standards set out in the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
March 21, 2019
OTTAWA – Whether it’s the devastating legacy of mercury contamination at Grassy Narrows, ongoing pollution from the Mount Polley mining disaster, or the looming threat of the Site C dam construction, Amnesty International says government decisions that ignore the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples must be recognized as a form of environmental racism.
“It’s no coincidence that three of our highest priority human rights cases in Canada all revolve around contamination and threats to the rivers and lakes on which Indigenous peoples depend for their livelihoods and ways of life,” says Tara Scurr, business and human rights campaigner with Amnesty International Canada. “Far too often, governments in Canada have demonstrated that they place little value on the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples and the revitalization of their cultures and traditions. That’s why we are marking World Water Day by renewing our commitment to support the Indigenous water defenders leading these crucial and inspiring human rights struggles.”
By Rachel LaFortune, a legal fellow with Amnesty International Canada
A shorter version of this article originally appeared on The Georgia Straight.
When governments rely on court-granted injunctions to define the “rule of law” in respect to Indigenous land occupations, they risk breaching their Constitutional and international human rights obligations and undermining the profound public interest in meaningful reconciliation.
Case in point: the injunction currently being enforced against Wet’suwet’en land and water defenders in British Columbia.
When the BC Supreme Court granted Coastal Gaslink a temporary injunction against named and unnamed individuals “occupying, obstructing, blocking, physically impeding or delaying access” to a bridge and service road on Wet’suwet’en territory, the court set in motion events that led to the high-profile, forcible arrest and removal of land defenders on Jan. 7.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan can’t ignore recommendations of United Nations anti-racism committee
A new statement from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) has underlined the urgency of immediately suspending construction of the Site C dam.
“The UN’s top anti-racism body has recognized that continued construction of the Site C dam is a serious threat to fundamental human rights,” said Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations. “This latest statement from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination makes it clear that the federal and provincial governments have no claim to being human rights champions so long as they continue to ignore the impacts of Site C on our Treaty rights.”
Today Grassy Narrows released a ground-breaking new report by renowned mercury expert Dr. Donna Mergler. The authoritative report is the first study to link higher rates of health and wellbeing challenges in Grassy Narrows’ children with exposure to mercury, a potent neurotoxin, from local fish. Grassy Narrows has long asserted that the mercury poisoning of the English and Wabigoon rivers in Northwestern Ontario continues to impact new generations of their children, and are in Ottawa to call upon Prime Minister Trudeau to take action.
The report finds that the “health and well-being of children and youth have been affected directly by prenatal exposure to mercury and indirectly by the intergenerational consequences of mercury contamination of the fish resources in their community.”
A new study released today documents the very cost of ignoring the mercury crisis at Grassy Narrows.
Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, said, “The latest community health study on the Grassy Narrows First Nation is an indictment of the appalling history of government inaction and indifference. The young people in this study were born and grew up after the federal and provincial governments had already washed their hands of the mercury crisis at Grassy Narrows. Imagine the difference it could have made if, instead of denying that mercury was even a threat, these governments had shouldered their responsibilities and worked with the community from the outset to ensure that young people could practice their rights and traditions in a safe and healthy environment.”
Canadian and international media are reporting on the ongoing practice of coerced of forced sterilizations of Indigenous women in Canada. Here’s what you need to know.
What is forced sterilization and coerced sterilization?
In the coming weeks, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador will make a decision that could have profound consequences for the health and safety of Inuit people for generations to come.
The Muskrat Falls dam is nearly complete but a crucial concern remains unaddressed. The best and most reliable studies of the downstream impacts of the dam warn that filling the reservoir will generate dangerous levels of methyl mercury which will then contaminate the fish and seals on which Inuit people on Lake Melville depend.
Scientists from Harvard University have called for all vegetation and topsoil to be removed from the reservoir area - a recommendation that has been taken up by the majority of members of a provincial advisory body.
There are outstanding questions about how this can be done. What is clear is that the province must not gamble with the lives of Inuit people. The ability of Inuit people to live off the fish and seals of Lake Melville must be protected. The Muskrat Falls dam must not be completed until these concerns have been properly addressed.
UPDATE: The federal government has decided not to oppose the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations while they seek an injunction to suspend construction of the Site C dam in British Columbia while important, unresolved Treaty rights concerns are before the courts. We're urging Premier John Horgan to follow this example. You can learn more about this vital test case for Indigenous rights at a new website launched with coalition partners: www.witnessforthepeace.ca
The federal government ignored a direct question about the Site C dam and Treaty rights violations during a review of Canada’s human rights record earlier today at the United Nations in Geneva.
In a strongly worded open letter to British Columbia Premier John Horgan, Amnesty International is urging the province not to fail the Indigenous peoples of the Peace River Valley a second time. The organization characterizes the Premier’s approval and rationale for the continued construction of the Site C dam as an abdication of his government’s fundamental responsibility to uphold the human rights of all without discrimination. Now that the Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations have launched a new legal challenge to the dam, Amnesty is calling on the province to ensure that its response is consistent with BC’s human rights obligations, including by ensuring irreversible construction activities are deferred or suspended until the legal challenge is resolved.
Amnesty International urges the Canadian government to act on all the recommendations made for Canada by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination (CERD).
The United Nations' top anti-racism body has strongly condemned the continued construction of the Site C dam as a clear violation of Treaty rights and Canada's international human rights obligations and has called for its immediate suspension.
The UN committee said that it was unacceptable for governments in Canada to force Indigenous peoples to pursue long and costly legal challenges as the only way to uphold rights that the government is obligated to protect. It also noted that federal government support for the Site C dam contradicts the government's public commitments to uphold Indigenous rights, including the right to free, prior and informed consent.
The committee is an independent, expert body with a mandate to promote compliance with the legally binding UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Amnesty International is standing with the Inuit people of Clyde River in celebrating a Supreme Court ruling that represents a victory not only for this community and its future, but an important opportunity to bring Canadian law in line with international human rights standards.
The case is about a decision by the National Energy Board of Canada (NEB) to allow a group of multinational corporations to carry out oil and gas exploration off Baffin Island. The Hamlet of Clyde River and the Nammautaq Hunters and Trappers Organization alleged that the government regulatory body failed to properly involve community members in the decision-making process and did not giver adequate attention to Inuit concerns over the impact of seismic testing on the marine animals on which their food, economy and culture depend.
In a unanimous decision released today, the Supreme Court overturned the approval for seismic testing, finding that the “significantly flawed” decision-making process did not meet the standard of consultation required by the Constitutional protection of Inuit rights.
In reaction to yesterday’s announcement by the British Columbia NDP and Green parties that, if they form an alliance government, they would send the Site C megaproject for review by the independent BC Utilities Commission, Amnesty International Canada’s Indigenous Rights Campaigner, Craig Benjamin, said: