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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Think about this.
A community devastated by the massive release of mercury into the rivers on which they depend.
Credible scientific studies showing that a half century later the people are still suffering from the debilitating effects of mercury poisoning and that even their children are being harmed.
Further studies that show that the mercury is not going away and that fish from the river will continue to be unsafe for years to come unless something is done.
New allegations that an illegal toxic dump near the river could increase the mercury contamination ten-fold and leave the river unsafe for almost a century to come.
This is the story of the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwest Ontario. It’s a situation that cries out for justice.
Now consider how the federal and provincial governments have responded.
Last summer, First Nations from north-eastern British Columbia brought more than 90 kg of trout to the provincial legislature. The fish had been caught in the Crooked River, one of the places where the people of the West Moberly First Nations have camped and fished throughout their whole history. But none of it was fit to eat.
"My major concern with the impact of Site C is that this is my home. This is where I want to raise my children and my grandchildren. And this is where my people are from." - Helen Knott
BY ALEX NEVE, SECRETARY GENERAL, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CANADA
Wherever you live in this country, British Columbia’s Site C dam should concern you. At a projected cost of almost $9 billion and rising, the hydro-electric project in the Peace River Valley is one of the largest resource development projects underway anywhere in Canada. But more than that, the Site C dam shines a bright light on the fundamental injustices that – despite promise of reconciliation and a new relationship - continue to characterize the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
A joint federal-provincial review of the Site C dam came to these telling conclusions:
“Reconciliation means not having to say sorry twice,” Dr. Cindy Blackstock, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
Education. Health Care. Child protection.
For years, persistent federal government underfunding of these basic services in First Nations reserves has put children at risk. It has denied them the kinds of opportunities that other young people in Canada often take for granted. And it has stood in the way of First Nations communities healing from the terrible harms inflicted through the residential schools programme and other colonialist policies.
Now, we may be on the verge of an historic breakthrough.
Next Tuesday, January 26, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is scheduled to deliver its long-awaited decision on whether or not the federal government’s underfunding of child protections services and other family supports is a form of racial discrimination.
Respect for Indigenous peoples' right of free, prior and informed (FPIC) must be a matter of urgent priority for any government committed to a respectful relationship with Indigenous peoples.
This is part of a message to the the new Prime Minister and his Cabinet from Indigenous peoples' organizations, human rights groups, environmentalists and others.
In an open letter sent today, 16 organizations from across Canada called on the federal government to collaborate with Indigenous Peoples’ governments and organizations to ensure that:
“Our people have a deep connection with this land because our ancestors told the stories and legends that are connected to that valley.”
-- Chief Liz Logan, Treaty 8 Tribal Association, testifying before the environmental impact assessment of the proposed Site C hydroelectric dam
The Peace River Valley in northeastern British Columbia is a unique ecosystem and one of the very few areas in the region that so far has been largely preserved from large-scale resource development. First Nations and Métis families and communities rely on the valley for hunting and fishing, gathering berries and sacred medicine, and holding ceremonies. Their ancestors are buried in this land.
The planned $8 billion plus Site C hydroelectric dam would flood more than 80 km of the river valley, stretching west from Fort St. John. There is no dispute that construction of the dam and the flooding will have a severe impact on the First Nations and Métis families and communities who depend on the Valley.