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Indigenous Peoples in Canada

    December 05, 2018
    Grassy Narrows First Nations youth are renowned for their activism, art, and leadership in spite of mercury burden

    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.”

    December 05, 2018

    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.”

    November 13, 2018
    TAKE ACTION to end sterilizations without consent

    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?

    June 01, 2018

    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.

    May 11, 2018

    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.

    January 23, 2018

    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.

    August 29, 2017

    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.

    July 26, 2017

    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.

    May 31, 2017

    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:

    May 31, 2017
    George Desjarlais of West Moberly First Nation at Paddle for the Peace

    By Craig Benjamin, Indigenous Rights Campaigner for Amnesty International Canada

    The leaders of the British Columbia NDP and Green parties announced yesterday that when they form the provincial government they will send the Site C megaproject to the independent BC Utilities Commission for a long overdue review.

    Such a review, which will try to determine the province's actual energy needs and whether the cost of Site C is warranted, is widely expected to be the death knell for the $9 billion plus project.

    Critically, however, the province needs to come to terms with the consequences of outgoing Premier Christy Clark's drive to push the dam to what she referred to as “the point of no return.”

    A University of British Columbia study recently concluded that stopping the project is still a better use of money than building a dam that will produce more power than is needed for decades. So far, the ecological harm to the Peace Valley is still reversible.

    May 31, 2017

    On Saturday May 27th, the inspirational Indigenous rights movement in Canada and global music artist and activist Alicia Keys were honoured with the 2017 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award at an evening ceremony in Montreal.

    The award is the organization’s highest honour for human rights work. This is the first time the award was given to a Canadian recipient and held in Canada. 

    “Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience awardees this year stand in the tradition of past winners such as Vaclav Havel and Malala Yousafzai – people who have shown exceptional leadership and courage to champion human rights, often in the face of great difficulty,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

    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.

    September 01, 2016

    On Monday morning, community members from the Treaty 8 territory in northeast BC set out on an historic a cross-country journey to focus public attention on their urgent struggle for justice for their people and for the Peace River Valley.

    When a federal-provincial environmental assessment concluded that the Site C hydro-electric dam would cause severe, permanent and irreversible harm to the culture and traditions of Indigenous peoples in the Peace Valley, the federal and provincial government should have put the project on hold and looked for alternatives. They didn’t.

    The federal and provincial governments didn’t even stop to examine whether building the dam over Indigenous opposition would be consistent with their legal obligations under Treaty 8.

    August 03, 2016

    Press Conference Comments

    Alex Neve
    Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada (English Branch)

    It is almost twelve years since Amnesty International launched our Stolen Sisters report, documenting the role of long entrenched discrimination in putting shocking numbers of Indigenous women and girls in harm’s way.

    In raising our voice, we joined the Native Women’s Association of Canada; family members of murdered and missing First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls; women and girls who had survived violence; and countless frontline organizations and allies; all of whom had been struggling for years to draw attention to the violence and demand real action to bring it to an end.

    Above all else today we honour the steadfast determination of the families who have courageously bared their pain and sorrow to Canada and, in fact, the world in pressing for justice.

    July 04, 2016

    Last week’s court decision on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline provides a crucial opportunity for the federal government to fulfil its promise to uphold the human rights of Indigenous peoples.

    On June 30, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the 2014 Cabinet decision to allow construction of the massive oil sands pipeline. The court concluded that the decision-making process fell “well-short “ of long-established legal standards for the protection of Indigenous rights in Canada.

    The court has called on the federal government to undertake a new consultation process with First Nations to address critical issues of Indigenous concern, such as the project’s impact on Indigenous land title, resource rights, and governance. The court said that these matters had been given only “brief, hurried and inadequate” consideration before the project was approved.

    Given the serious concerns that Indigenous peoples have repeatedly raised about Northern Gateway, Amnesty International is renewing our call for the federal government to respect the right of First Nations to say no to this project.

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