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Indigenous Peoples in Canada

    January 29, 2013

    The community hearing phase of the Northern Gateway Pipeline environmental impact assessment wraps up this week in Vancouver. Craig Benjamin, Amnesty International Canada's Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples will be making a presentation on February 1, the final day of these hearings.

    Amnesty International takes no position either for or against oil and gas development, mining, logging and other resource development per se. However, we do call for the rigorous protection of international human rights standards in every phase of the decision-making process. Meeting these standards means that some projects must be substantially amended or rejected altogether.

    International human rights standards require governments to protect the right of Indigenous peoples to use and benefit from their traditional lands, and to be full and effective participants in all decisions affecting those lands. When it comes to projects that could have a significant impact on those lands, the standard of protection that is required is that of free, prior and informed consent.

    January 28, 2013

    An evening of dialogue with:

    Robert Morales, lead negotiator Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group

    Paul Joffe and Jennifer Preston, co-editors “Realizing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Triumph, Hope and Action”

    Moderator: Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Amnesty International

    An unprecedented push is being made to further intensify resource development in Canada. A federal legislative agenda undermines environmental oversight. And an extradordinary grassroots resurgence demands the recognition of the rights of Indigenous peoples.  This panel brings together experts and activists who have been deeply involved in the advancement of global recognition of the human rights of Indigenous peoples at the United Nations and the Inter-American system. They will lead a discussion of how these vital international standards can make a difference in the defense of Indigenous rights in Canada and the promotion of government accountability for environmental protection.

    DATE:  Tuesday, January 29th, 7-9pm

    WHERE: Cadboro Bay United Church 2625 Arbutus Rd, Victoria BC

    January 08, 2013

    Take action > Send a letter to Prime MInister Harper demanding that the Canadian government commit to upholding its legal and moral obligations to Indigenous peoples.

    Grassroots rallies across Canada under the banner 'Idle No More' have put the spotlight on a federal legislative agenda that is trampling the rights of Indigenous peoples set out in  domestic and international law.

    December 17, 2012

    The final report of the British Columbia Missing Women Inquiry will be released today, December 17th. Amnesty International continues to stand in solidarity with all the families whose sisters and daughters were murdered or who remain missing.

    Today, we are joining a coalition of more than 25 Indigenous peoples' organizations, women's groups and frontline service providers to issue a joint statement of support for the families, to be released after the Inquiry report is made public.

    The report itself is estimated to be about 1500 pages long. We will join with partners and allies to respond to the report itself once we have had more time to review the content in depth.

    We are continuing to call for a comprehensive and coordinated response to violence experienced by Indigenous women across Canada.

    December 06, 2012

    Reports published this week in the Toronto Star and on indy media sites reveal that a special RCMP unit was formed in 2007 to produce intelligence updates on potential Indigenous protests "incited by development activity on traditional territory." The RCMP shared this information with other police forces, with government and with “industry partners."

    Many of the communities under surveillance by the RCMP had been subject of reports by Amnesty International and by United Nations human rights bodies. These include the Lubicon Cree in Alberta and Grassy Narrows and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug in Ontario.

    The latest revelations about surveillance of Indigenous activists raises serious concerns about the complicity of police and government in defining legitimate defense of human rights as “threats” requiring a law enforcement response – and the consequence that this has had for the rights and safety of those activists.

    December 03, 2012

    Ten years ago, on 2 December 2002, young people from the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwestern Ontario went out onto a road leading past their reserve and stopped the logging tracks carrying away trees cut on their traditional territory. Community member Judy DaSilva says of the blockade, ‘It was the last thing we could do because everything around us was disappearing. The clean water, the clean air, our way of life, our traditions, like the wild rice picking and even blueberries were disappearing.’

    The blockade catalyzed one of the most  successful campaigns in recent Canadian history for the recognition and protection of the human rights of Indigenous people rights. But the campaign is not over.

    The logging has stopped, for now. And Grassy Narrows is in high level talks with the province over the future of the forest. But there is still no guarantee that their rights will be upheld.

    November 30, 2012

    Thousands of Canadians have asked for the opportunity to express their views to a public review of the proposed Enbridge oil sands pipeline across central British Columbia to the Pacific Coast. This extraordinary display of public interest has caught the attention of the federal government.

    In an open letter posted to his department’s website – just as the public hearings were about to begin -- the Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, defined the export of oil sands crude to new markets in Asia as "an urgent matter of Canada’s national interest" and complained that opponents are "stacking public hearings… to ensure that delays kill good projects."
    While the Minister is careful to state that the regulatory system must be "fair, independent, and consider different viewpoints including those of Aboriginal communities," the clear implications of his letter are a) that the government had already made up its mind to support the proposed pipeline and b) that the government believes that hearing from everyone who has concerns about the pipeline will simply delay a project that would otherwise get under way much sooner.

    November 21, 2012
    ‘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. It's all connected to the land.’ - Judy DaSilva, Grass Narrows

    It has been called one of the worst environmental disasters in Canadian history. Between 1962 and 1970, a mill in Dryden, Ontario dumped more than 9 metric tons of untreated inorganic mercury into the English and Wabigoon Rivers in Northwestern Ontario.

    These waters had been a source of both food and jobs for the people of Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) and neighbouring First Nations. Community members had worked as guides and as staff in the many commercial fishing lodges. When the mercury dumping was discovered, the commercial fishery was closed, cutting the people off from their most important source of income.

    Even worse, it was discovered that many of the residents had greatly elevated levels of mercury in their bodies and were exhibiting signs of the neurological degeneration associated with mercury poisoning.

    October 23, 2012

    The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta has filed a potentially groundbreaking legal challenge over the failure of the federal and provincial governments to protect Indigenous land rights in the face of oilsands development on their traditional territory.

    The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) is challenging the proposed expansion of Shell’s Jackpine Mine north of Fort McMurray. The ACFN argues that the federal and provincial governments, which both have to give approval to the project, have not  taken proper account of Aboriginal and Treaty rights protected in the Canadian Constitution.

    A joint federal-provincial environmental assessment panel is scheduled to begin public hearings next Monday. The joint panel announced today that it will decide this week whether or not it will first consider the ACFN Constitutional challenge.

    October 18, 2012

    A joint review panel has determined that Amnesty International will be among a number of public interest organizations that will have the opportunity to make presentations to the upcoming environmental Impact assessment of the proposed "New Prosperity" gold and copper mine in central British Columbia.

    Amnesty International will comment on Canada's obligations under international human rights law to respect and uphold the land rights of Indigenous peoples in the licensing of resource extraction projects.

    The opportunity to present our analysis to the panel is significant for a number of reasons.

    In June, the British Columbia Court of Appeal upheld an earlier decision recognizing that the Tsilhqot'in people have Aboriginal land use rights in the territory. The Tsilhqot'in are continuing to pursue legal recognition and protection of their title or ownership of lands and resources in the territory.

    In 2010, a similar mine proposal by the same company was rejected by the federal cabinet on the basis of an environmental impact assessment that found that found that the mine would cause significant, unavoidable and irreparable harm.

    May 22, 2012

    When it comes to child welfare services in First Nations communities, the federal government spends 22 percent less per child than its provincial counterparts provide in other communities. This is despite often greater needs and the higher costs of delivering services in small and remote communities. The federal underfunding of First Nations children’s services has created a crisis situation in which First Nations children are much more likely to be put into foster care because the supports necessary to meet their needs in their own homes and communities simply aren’t available.

    The federal government’s longstanding failure to close the funding gap led the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society to file a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act in 2007. Five years later, there still hasn’t been a hearing into the evidence.

    May 22, 2012

    It’s been five years since a landmark provincial inquiry released its report into policing and Aboriginal land protests in Ontario. The Ontario Provincial Police claim that all the Ipperwash Inquiry’s recommendations directed to them have been addressed. For its part, the province appears satisfied that the OPP’s work is done.

    This week, however, a prominent United Nations human rights body meeting in Geneva is questioning this claim.

    The Ipperwash Inquiry was a response to longstanding concerns over how police and the provincial government responded to the 1995 occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park. Dudley George, an unarmed protester, had been shot and killed by a police sniper after the OPP moved to break up the occupation.

    During the Inquiry, the OPP pointed to a policy framework that it had adopted after the killing of Dudley George. The Framework for Police Preparedness for Aboriginal Critical Incidents states that the OPP will "make every effort prior to understand the issues and to protect the rights of all involved parties..." and will "promote and develop strategies that minimize the use of force to the fullest extent possible."

    May 11, 2012

    Do you see how I see?

    Many ghosts in the afterglow of sunset nights
    Nature's beauty lost by the loss of human rights
    Daughters deserted, mothers are murdered: the women of First Nations
    The afterglow is filled with all of our relations

    These words begin a powerful performance written by artists Khodi Dill and Theresa Point. The video Stop the Silence is being released today as part of a new online initiative to raise awareness of violence against Indigenous women and to raise funds for a gathering of affected families and ensure that they get the supports they need in their struggle for justice.

    The Embracing the Families initiative is a collaboration between Beverley Jacobs, a highly respected advocate for the rights of Indigenous women and long-time partner of Amnesty International, and Mix 3 Productions, an Aboriginal owned media company based in Vancouver.

    April 13, 2012

    Amnesty International has joined 14 other groups, including the Vancouver February 14th Women's Memorial March Committee, the Native Women's Association, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, in announcing that our organizations are unwilling to lend credibility to the deeply flawed B.C. Missing Women Commission of Inquiry by participating in its upcoming policy review processes.

    In letters issued today, a wide range of organizations that had been invited to participate in upcoming Policy Forums and Study Commission, detailed a series of fundamental concerns about the Commission's ability to reach a fair and unbiased conclusion.

    To read the Coalition's letter, click here

    Photo: 14 organizations, including Amnesty International, have formed a coalition to express their concern and anger about the performance of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

     

    March 14, 2012

    The United Nations’ highest body for combating racism is urging Canada to take comprehensive action to end discrimination against Indigenous peoples.

    In a report released this week, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern over Canada’s failure to properly respect the land and Treaty rights of Indigenous peoples, noting "the rigidly adversarial positions taken by Canada" in land negotiations and that decisions over resource development are often made without proper consultation or the consent of the affected peoples.

    The Committee also expressed concern over a wide range of inequalities and disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada, including the high rates of violence faced by Indigenous women, the large numbers of Indigenous children being placed in state care, "excessive use of incarceration" in respect to Indigenous people in trouble with the law, persistent levels of poverty among Indigenous communities and inadequate access to employment, housing, drinking water, health and education, “as a result of structural discrimination."

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