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Latest COVID-19 updates

    May 27, 2020
    Cracks in the “Canada Brand”: profit before people creates high-risk conditions for communities made vulnerable by the pandemic 

    Workers’ concerns ignored at Canadian meat packing plants and hundreds made sick. Amazon employees fired for speaking out about conditions on warehouse floors. Energy workers expected to continue working despite outbreaks at mine sites and an inability to physically distance. Construction workers unable to wash their hands on the job because there is no running water. Mining considered an essential service that employs workers from across the country while small communities struggle to keep away visitors. These are some of the dire stories being shared across Canada as the pandemic reveals the impact of business decisions on workers and communities. While the situation varies from community to community, and some companies have taken steps to suspend operations in order to protect workers and communities, there is growing concern that not all companies are truly respecting human rights through this crisis.

    May 26, 2020

    10 of the worst government responses

    There are no easy solutions to the COVID-19 crisis – but it’s clear what doesn’t work. This pandemic has elicited truly jaw-dropping responses from some governments, marked by opportunism, bizarre science and total contempt for human rights.

    Here’s a guide to how not to handle a pandemic - courtesy of some of the most powerful people in the world.

    May 26, 2020

    The COVID-19 pandemic has increased levels of insecurity and violence against women across Europe and, without focused government attention, risks exacerbating gender inequalities and levels of discrimination, a guide by Amnesty International, Women's Link Worldwide and the International Planned Parenthood Federation warned today.

    A Guide for Europe: Protecting the rights of women and girls in times of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath provides governments with a roadmap for taking necessary measures to protect the rights of women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, especially those experiencing intersecting and persistent forms of discrimination.

    “During this health crisis and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, women’s and girls’ rights must be respected and guaranteed,” said Viviana Waisman, President & CEO of Women’s Link Worldwide.

    “These guidelines give us the framework to demand that European states comply with their obligations and maintain their commitment to the rights and lives of women and girls during this crisis and beyond.”

    May 22, 2020

    Updated May 22, 2020

    Shocking footage of Rohingya women, men and children being rescued off rickety boats after dangerous sea voyages is still being broadcast around the world.

    According to reports, more boats – carrying hundreds more Rohingya people – are still stranded at sea and in urgent need of rescue. These vessels have nowhere to land, as countries ignore international obligations to allow safe disembarkation, using COVID-19 restrictions as a pretext.

    These policies raise the risk of repeating the dangerous mistakes of 2015, when the break-up of trafficking networks left thousands of Rohingya stranded in Southeast Asian waters, with likely hundreds losing their lives.

    Here, Amnesty International explains why the Rohingya are still risking everything to flee crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh and apartheid conditions in Myanmar.

    We also explain how countries in the region can help, and why the Rohingya shouldn’t be sent back to Myanmar.

    Who are the Rohingya people?

    May 21, 2020

    Women make up 70% of health care workers globally, putting their lives at risk caring for those infected by COVID-19. Gender-based violence rose by almost 30% in some parts of the world in the first weeks of lockdown. An estimated 47 million women around the world may not be able to access modern contraceptives as health care systems divert resources to treating COVID-19 patients.

    These are a few examples, highlighted in a new briefing released today, of how women, girls and gender-diverse people face unique challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic.

    A Feminist Action Agenda for Canada’s Global Response to COVID-19 – produced by Oxfam Canada, Amnesty International, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Inter Pares, Action Canada for Sexual and Health Rights, and the Equality Fund – states that Canada is well-placed to take a leadership role in ensuring that women’s rights and gender justice are at the heart of the global COVID-19 response.

    May 20, 2020

    Despite opposition from First Nations in northern Manitoba who are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 to their communities, this week Manitoba Hydro is replacing 700 people currently at the industry worker camp at the Keeyask dam project with up to 1,200 workers from across Canada and possibly the United States.

    The provincial government has said that Northern Manitoba remains closed to non-essential travel to halt the spread of COVID-19. However, the province deemed construction of the Keeyask dam as an essential service. The four First Nations—Tataskweyak Cree Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, and York Factory Cree Nation—have partnered with Manitoba Hydro to build and operate the dam but, despite legal obligations, Manitoba Hydro has not worked collaboratively to obtain consent to this most recent decision to expand operations and is ignoring requests by the four partner First Nations to limit work at the dam site because of public health concerns.

    May 19, 2020

    By David Griffiths, Director of the Office of the Secretary General, and Sarah Jackson, Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

    There are weeks where decades happen. These are those weeks.

    May 19, 2020

    As government representatives meet at the World Health Organization’s annual assembly to make crucial decisions regarding the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amnesty International released a report today on the dire state of the rights of health workers in the Americas. The report urges countries in the region to prioritize and protect health workers’ rights during and beyond the pandemic and calls on the United States to take swift and decisive action to guarantee continued funding to the WHO.

    May 15, 2020

    Today, in an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a coalition of Canadian civil society organizations expressed deep concern regarding the analysis contained in the Global Affairs Canada (GAC) document Final Report: Review of export permits to Saudi Arabia. The government document was published in April following the announcement that the moratorium on approving new permits for military exports to Saudi Arabia would be lifted.

    In the view of the civil society coalition, the government’s analysis is unsatisfactory and demonstrates a weak commitment to Canada’s obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).  They also expressed concern that the Final Report contains an insufficiently robust analysis with regards to the undermining of peace and security, international humanitarian and international human rights law, gender-based violence, the “substantial risk” test and diversion.

    May 14, 2020

    Amnesty International is calling on King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia to release several notable women’s rights defenders, two years after they were detained.

    On 15 May 2018, a number of prominent Saudi women’s human rights activists were arrested. They had been peacefully advocating for years for the right of women in the kingdom to drive, as well as broader reforms related to the repressive male guardianship system.

    In the days and weeks that followed, more of their fellow peaceful activists were detained as part of the Saudi authorities’ crackdown and smear campaign.

    “It is heartbreaking that two years have now passed with these brave women still behind bars, especially as during this time Saudi women have been enjoying some of the newfound rights they had fought so hard for,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director.

    “In prison, many suffered mental and physical anguish – including torture, sexual abuse and solitary confinement. Scores of others, though released, still face trial based on charges relating to their peaceful activism.

    May 14, 2020

    The inhumane treatment of refugees and migrants threatens to stall progress on tackling COVID-19, Amnesty International said today, warning that overcrowded camps and detention centres will become new epicentres unless urgent action is taken. The organization said that lockdowns and movement restrictions have exacerbated dire living conditions, leaving millions of people at risk of starvation and illness.

    The organization is calling for concerted global action to ensure hundreds of thousands of people on the move are provided with adequate access to food, water, sanitation and healthcare to ensure their survival as countries prepare to come out of lockdown.

    “It is impossible to properly contain this virus when so many people worldwide are living in desperately overcrowded, unsanitary camps and detention centres. At a time when we need compassion and cooperation more than ever some governments have instead doubled down on discrimination and abuse – preventing deliveries of food and water, locking people up, or sending them back to war and persecution,” said Iain Byrne, Head of Amnesty International’s Refugee and Migrant Rights team.

    May 13, 2020

    The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating existing gender inequalities as lockdowns lead to higher rates of gender-based violence, less access to sexual and reproductive health services, increased unpaid care work, and much more. Not all women, girls, and gender diverse people are experiencing the pandemic in the same way. Women with disabilities, refugee and migrant women, Indigenous and minority women, LBTI women, women experiencing discrimination based on work and women living in poverty face heightened risks of discrimination, violence, and other rights violations. A pandemic is not an excuse to violate women’s rights!

    Read on to learn more, and join us for a virtual town hall on gender rights and COVID-19 on Tuesday, May 26! Register here >>

    May 13, 2020

    The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

    Prime Minister of Canada

    80 Wellington Street

    Ottawa, Ontario

    K1A 0A2

     

    13 May 2020

    Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

    Re: Demonstrating Global Leadership on Refugees and Migrants in light of COVID-19

    We write this Open Letter to you, amidst the unprecedented challenges governments everywhere face in responding to the COVID-19 crisis, to express our firm conviction that Canada can, and must, provide much needed global leadership when it comes to providing meaningful human rights protection for migrants and refugees around the world. We write as Canadians, permanent residents and refugees living in Canada who have had opportunities to serve in roles or positions internationally in which we have engaged substantially in concerns about refugee protection globally. We have witnessed and appreciated the value of Canadian leadership in the past and stress how urgently needed it is at this time.

    May 04, 2020

    Responding to news that South China Morning Post journalist Tashny Sukumaran is being investigated by the Malaysian Royal Police for reporting on the mass arrests of migrant workers and refugees in Kuala Lumpur on 1 May, Preethi Bhardwaj, Interim Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia, said:

    “Authorities must drop the alarming investigation against Tashny Sukumaran immediately. Journalists who report on human rights abuses related to the pandemic should be able to carry out their work without fear of persecution. During a pandemic, authorities should have more important priorities than prosecuting reporters for articles they don’t like.”

    “The Malaysian government has repeatedly used laws including the Penal Code and the Communications and Multimedia Act to curb criticism of the government since the start of the pandemic. Amnesty International Malaysia has long criticised the use of these laws, which are open to arbitrary use by the authorities, to silence journalists, government critics, and human rights defenders. These provisions must go,” Bhardwaj said.

    May 04, 2020
    Warning comes as Government plans to introduce COVID-19 tracking app Move could ‘open the door to pervasive state surveillance and privacy infringement’ - Kate Allen

    UK Government plans to introduce a COVID-19 tracing app with a potentially centralized contract tracing system are deeply concerning and may mean that people’s right to privacy could become “another casualty” of coronavirus, Amnesty International UK warned today.

    Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK Director, said:

    “We’re extremely concerned that the Government may be planning to route private data through a central database, opening the door to pervasive state surveillance and privacy infringement, with potentially discriminatory effects.

    “Ministers should instead be examining decentralized, privacy-preserving models such as those many European governments are pursuing.

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