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Indigenous Peoples in Canada

    April 10, 2014

    Downplaying the human rights of Indigenous peoples will only exacerbate conflict over pipeline development in British Columbia.

    In a joint submission tabled with the Prime Minister’s office last month, 11 human rights and Indigenous peoples’ organizations, including the BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, and Union of BC Indian Chiefs, caution that development of energy infrastructure such as pipelines can have far-reaching effects on Indigenous rights protected under the Canadian Constitution and international law.

    The joint submission responds to two reports currently being reviewed by the federal cabinet: the report of the Prime Minister’s special representative on West Coast energy infrastructure, Douglas Eyford and the report of the environmental assessment panel for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

    While these two reports acknowledge that Indigenous peoples’ rights are at stake in decisions about whether or not to approve pipelines and other projects, neither adequately addresses the legal framework for safeguarding these rights and neither accommodates a human rights-based approach.

    April 07, 2014

    Ontario Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti has announced that – for at least one year - the province will not license new logging on the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwestern Ontario.

    The Minister's statement follows the latest announcement by a major company that it wants nothing to do with wood logged without the consent of the people of Grassy Narrows. EACOM, which owns sawmills throughout the region, announced in March that it would not process wood from Grassy Narrows.

    The people of Grassy Narrows have long called for a moratorium on industrial development on their territory, to protect the land for traditional uses and to allow the community the opportunity to make its own decisions about how the land should be used.

    There has been no clear cut logging at Grassy Narrows since 2008, as the result of previous decisions by major corporations not to log or handle wood from Grassy Narrows.

    March 07, 2014

    By Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen, Campaigners

    Earlier today, Amnesty International Canada released a press statement expressing deep disappointment over the recommendations in the final report of the Special Parliamentary Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. Indigenous peoples' organizations, human rights groups, and federal opposition political parties also condemned the report as promoting the status quo and failing to make comprehensive, concrete, time bound recommendations to prevent violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    “Indigenous women and girls – and indeed all Canadians – deserve better from our Parliament,” said Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada (English Speaking). “Government ministers keep saying that they want action, not just talk, on violence against Indigenous women. But when given the opportunity to make a commitment to meaningful action, the government keeps endorsing the status quo.”

    March 07, 2014

    For the second time in a little more than two years, a Parliamentary Committee has ignored the need for concrete and comprehensive action to address the shockingly high levels of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

    The report of the Special Committee on Violence against Indigenous Women released in Parliament today, acknowledges that First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls face much higher rates of violence than all other women in Canada.

    However, the report, prepared by the majority Conservative members of the Committee, fails to call for the critical steps that must be taken to bring this crisis to an end.

    Like the report released by the Parliamentary Committee on the Status of Women in December 2011, the report endorses existing government initiatives while vaguely calling for “further examination” of other issues. No indication was given about how or when the Committee members think such “examination” should take place. Concrete proposals for action presented by Indigenous women’s organizations and families of missing and murdered women are ignored.

    February 27, 2014

    In a decision released on February 26, federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq rejected the proposed New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine, stating that the significant environmental impacts of the proposed mine could not be justified.

          “The Panel is convinced that the Tsilhqot’in cultural attachment to Fish Lake (Teztan Biny) and the Nabas areas is so profound that they cannot reasonably be expected to accept the conversion of that area into the proposed New Prosperity mine.”   -Federal Environmental Review Panel

    The Tsilhqot'in people have consistently opposed plans to mine near Teztan Biny or Fish Lake which is part of their traditional territory in central British Columbia.

    February 27, 2014

    Amnesty International is joining the Tsilhqot'in people and their many other allies and supporters in celebrating the Government of Canada's decision to reject a proposed gold-copper mine on their traditional territory.

    This is the second time that the federal government has rejected plans by Taseko Mines to open a mine near Teztan Biny or Fish Lake in central British Columbia.

    The Tsilhqot'in people have consistently opposed plans to mine near Teztan Biny, calling the proposed New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine the wrong mine at the wrong place.

    In late October, a federally-appointed environmental assessment panel concluded that the proposed mine would have “severe” and “irreversible” impacts on the culture and traditional practices of the Tsilhqot’in people. The panel also found a wide range of serious environmental impacts on the lakes, rivers and wetlands of the area.

    In a decision released on February 26, federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said that the significant environmental impacts of the proposed mine could not be justified.

    January 31, 2014
    Amnesty members in Regina taking part in the annual Have a Heart Day campaign.

    Every child has the right grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy, and be proud of who they are.

    It’s hard to imagine anyone disagreeing.

    Yet year after year, First Nations children are denied these basic rights.

    For most children in Canada, health care, education and family services are funding through the provincial or territorial governments. But for First Nations children on reserves, these same services are funded by the federal government.

    Numerous studies - including reports by the Auditor General - confirm the Federal government provides less funding per child for services First Nations children on reserves than the provinces provide for children in their jurisdictions.

    This is despite often higher costs of delivering such services in small and remote communities, and the greater need experienced by many First Nations communities.



    The math is simple: less money plus higher costs = inadequate services for those who need them most.

    December 18, 2013

     

         "Time for Consistent Action"
    Human Rights Agenda for Canada, December 2013

    READ REPORT

    November 21, 2013
    Chief Joe Alphonse of the Tsilhqot'in Nation spoke outside the Supreme Court

    A case before the Supreme Court could mark an important turning point for the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada. At stake is the right of the Tsilhqot’in Nation to own lands at the heart of its traditional territory in British Columbia.

    Amnesty International and Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers) have joined together to urge the Court to seize this moment to give practical application to human rights standards affirmed in international law. This includes rights to lands and territories affirmed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    Read our joint statement on the case

    Want to know more?

    November 20, 2013

    On November 7, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada heard the crucial case of William v. British Columbia. At stake is the right of the Tsilhqot’in Nation to own lands at the heart of its traditional territory. Canadian law recognizes that Indigenous peoples may hold ongoing title to their lands that predates colonization. Yet to date no Canadian court has ever affirmed such Indigenous title.

    Amnesty International and Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers) joined together, and along with First Nations and other interveners, called on the Supreme Court to reject government efforts to limit First Nations’ ownership and control of land. We urged the Court to seize this moment to give practical application to human rights standards affirmed in international law, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    Background to the case

    November 04, 2013

    Photo: Tsilhqot'in healer Cecil Grinder

    Good news: the federal government has announced its decision to reject the proposed New Prosperity Mine.

    In October, a scathing environmental impact assessment.concluded that the proposed mine would have “significant” long-term, and irreversible impacts on water quality in Teztan Biny or Fish Lake, on fish habitat, and on wetlands ecosystems and cause “high magnitude, “long-term” and “irreversible” harm to the Tsilhqot’in people who depend on these lands and waters.

    Thank you to everyone who wrote to the federal Minister of the Environment to encourage her to act on the findings of this assessment.

    For more information, please see our update.

    If you would like to send a letter commending the federal government for its decision, the Minister's address is below.

    Salutation: Dear Minister

    November 04, 2013
    by Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    Photo:  Tsilhqot'in healer Cecil Grinder

    A proposed gold-copper mine would have “severe” and “irreversible” impacts on the rights of the Tsilhqot’in people of central British Columbia.

    This is the conclusion of an independent federal panel that examined the potential impact of the proposed “New Prosperity” mine. The environmental impact assessment also found a wide range of serious environmental impacts on the lakes, rivers and wetlands.

    Under federal environmental legislation, the actual decision about whether the project should go ahead is in the hands of cabinet. The federal government is under considerable pressure to approve the proposed “New Prosperity” mine because of the promised economic benefits to the region.

    The Tsilhqot’in people, however, have been clear that the mine is unacceptable to them.

    November 01, 2013

    “Everything around us was disappearing... The clean water, our way of life, our traditions, even the wild rice picking and blueberry picking were all disappearing” - Judy DaSilva, Grassy Narrows First Nation on the impact of clearcut logging on their traditional lands

    The province of Ontario is asking for public comments on a plan to resume clearcut logging in the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation. The people of Grassy Narrows have already said no to such logging. Amnesty International believes Ontario must listen. We’re encouraging all our members in Ontario to take this opportunity to speak out for the human rights of the people of Grassy Narrows.

    The deadline for submissions has passed. 

    Thank you to the more than 1,200 Ontarians who submitted their comment on the proposal to resume clearcut logging on the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation.

    November 01, 2013

     

    David Alward, Premier of New Brunswick
    Centennial Building
    P.O. Box 6000
    Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1

     Dear Premier Alward:

    Our organizations are deeply concerned by the Province of New Brunswick’s response to anti-fracking protests at the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq Nation. We are appreciative of the efforts of all involved to allow a cooling off period following the violence of October 17. However, it is our view that this clash could have been avoided had the province acted in a manner consistent with its obligations to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples under Canadian and international law. Furthermore, we are concerned that unless the province adopts an approach consistent with these obligations, further clashes may occur.

    October 28, 2013

    By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples


    It’s been called one of the most important Indigenous rights cases ever to come before Canadian courts.

    The Tsilhqot’in people in central British Columbia having been seeking court protection for their traditional territories for almost 25 years. Their case has now gone all the way to the Supreme Court where it will be heard on November 7th.

    At stake are issues of vital importance to Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples.

    Will First Nations be able to make their own decisions about lands and territories beyond the small reserves that have been imposed on them? Is there any place in contemporary Canada for the colonial doctrines, such as the doctrine of discovery, that have been used to justify the denial of Indigenous land rights?

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