2017 (4): Canada’s year of real human rights action?

January 23, 2017

Alex Neve and Beatrice Vaugrante (Amnesty International Canada) wrote in the Ottawa Citizen (23 January 2017) a piece entitled: “Why 2017 must be Canada’s year of human rights action”.

Referring to Trump’s election and a number of human rights ‘anniversaries’ they say that there “is no better way to mark 2017’s many anniversaries, and keep a clear Canadian identity, than to make it a year devoted to advancing a strong human rights agenda, at home and abroad. That is the theme of Amnesty International’s most recent Human Rights Agenda for Canada, released today: A Year to Get It Right.”

The need is certainly great….a deeply troubling current of populism, racism, xenophobia and misogyny that has dominated election and referendum campaigns in numerous countries, most notoriously in the United States. The world collectively holds its breath in worried apprehension about the human rights implications of Trump’s presidency. And what of Canada?

Important Canadian government policy changes last year point to a renewed commitment to human rights; not consistently, but certainly sorely needed after years of diminished world standing. That is particularly so when it comes to gender equality, refugee protection and diversity. We have significantly re-engaged with the UN human rights system, including support for institutions that we once helped established, such as the International Criminal Court.

On the home front, the government’s talk of a new relationship with Indigenous peoples is welcome. It has laid the ground for the long-overdue National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which faces challenges and misgivings but is nonetheless underway. However, it is disappointingly evident that inspirational words and gestures are not translating into the concrete measures needed to truly address the decades of human rights abuse at the heart of Canada’s legacy of colonialism. Nowhere is that more obvious than when major resource development projects – be it pipelines, mines or hydroelectricity – are at stake. This is well-evidenced in the continued federal support for British Columbia’s Site C Dam despite a scathing environmental impact assessment, vocal opposition from First Nations, and the government’s own acknowledgement that its Treaty obligations have been sidelined.  …..

It adds up to a year of considerable human rights responsibility and expectation for Canada. Responsibility: to make sure that 2017 is a turning point for Indigenous rights in Canada. No more excuses.  Governments, institutions and Canadian society more broadly must sincerely commit to profound action to ensure that violations against Indigenous peoples will at long last be brought to an end and justice done for those who have borne the burden of this terrible history.

Expectation: to stand up for human rights around the world.  There will be much pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to appease new counterparts, south of the border and elsewhere, who have come to power having fuelled discrimination and division. But there can be no room to waiver. Respect for human rights must be at the heart of what Canada seeks to advance around the world, as never before. 2017 must be a year for human rights.  

Alex Neve is Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada’s English Branch. Béatrice Vaugrante is Director General of Amnesty International Canada’s Francophone Branch.

Source: Why 2017 must be Canada’s year of real human rights action | Ottawa Citizen

2 Responses to “2017 (4): Canada’s year of real human rights action?”


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