Posts Tagged ‘AI Canada’

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

Yolanda Oquelí – Guatemalan Human Rights Defender in video testimony

February 24, 2014

This video with testimony by Yolanda Oquelí, human rights defender from Guatemala, was posted last year by AI Canada and recently re-issued in French by AI France.

Since March 2013, activists and members of the local community have held an ongoing protest against the mine development by Radius Gold, a company based in Vancouver, Canada, and its wholly owned Guatemalan subsidiary, Exploración Mineras de Guatemala (EXMIGUA).  Some community members claim that they were not consulted about the opening of the mine and fear it will pollute their water supply and damage land in San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc municipalities. On the evening of 13 June events took a sinister turn. Outspoken anti-mining activist Yolanda Oquelí was driving home from taking part in this ongoing protest when two gunmen on a motorbike cut across in front of her car and fired four shots. Yolanda was hit and a bullet lodged close to her liver. She recovered, continues to be subject to threats.
In February 2011, protesters in north-western Guatemala’s San Marcos region were attacked after speaking out against the local Marlin Mine, owned by Canadian company Goldcorp Inc. Community activist Aniceto López, was taken to the local mayor’s office, where officials allegedly beat him and threatened to kill him if he failed to stop speaking out against the mine.

[In July 2010, another grassroots activist in San Marcos, Deodora Hernández, was shot at close range in her own home by two unknown men. She had spoken out to defend her community’s right to water amidst fears that mining had polluted the local water supply]

When James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples visited Guatemala in June 2010, he received allegations that the Guatemalan government had repeatedly granted licences for the exploration of natural resources in indigenous territories without consulting with local indigenous peoples – or receiving their free, prior and informed consent.

Surveillance of indigenous human rights defender Cindy Blackstock in Canada

June 1, 2013

AI Canada informs that a report released on May 28 2013 in Canada by the federal Privacy Commissioner highlights a troubling pattern of invasive and unwarranted government surveillance of Canadian human rights defender Cindy Amnesty-InternationaBlackstock. Dr. Blackstock is the Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, a prominent non-governmental organization promoting equitable access to education, health care and other services for First Nations children. Government documents obtained by Dr. Blackstock show that two federal departments monitored her personal Facebook page, tracked people who posted to her page, and sent staff to take notes on her public presentations, all in an attempt to find information that might help the government fight a discrimination complaint that Dr. Blackstock’s organization is pursuing before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. The Privacy Commissioner concluded that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Department of Justice went too far in their online monitoring of Dr. Blackstock. Read the rest of this entry »