Amnesty International’s Annual Report denounces Canada’s record on Indigenous People’s rights, climate justice

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Amnesty International’s 2022/23 Annual Report criticizes Canada’s failure to protect Indigenous Peoples’ rights and promote climate justice. The report calls out the government’s failure to respect Indigenous Peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent and to protect their land and waterways.

The report also notes that Canada’s approach to climate change fails to reflect its level of responsibility as one of the world’s highest per capita greenhouse gas emitters.

Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canadian Section, called the state of Indigenous Peoples’ rights in Canada a national disgrace, adding that urgent and decisive action is needed to address the injustices.

The report highlights recent violations of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and notes that Indigenous Peoples face systemic discrimination in access to clean water, education and health care. Anti-Indigenous racism and the legacies of colonialism disproportionately harm women.

Amnesty International calls on Canada to respect Indigenous Peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent and take strong measures to mitigate the effects of climate change on vulnerable communities.

Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canadian Section (English-Speaking), said on Monday: “The state of Indigenous Peoples’ rights in Canada is a national disgrace. Despite numerous promises to address ongoing injustices, governments in Canada have failed to uphold the rights of Indigenous Peoples and respect their lands and resources. The climate crisis is exacerbating these injustices and demands urgent and decisive action from the government.”

In the report’s country profile for Canada, Amnesty International highlights recent violations of Indigenous Peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent, a principle protected by international human rights standards and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). For example, in September, the energy company Coastal GasLink (CGL) began drilling on Wet’suwet’en territory without the free, prior and informed consent of the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s Hereditary Chiefs. Months earlier, prosecutors in British Columbia laid criminal-contempt charges against 19 land defenders opposed to the construction of the CGL natural-gas pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory.

“Canada can no longer state that they are the free and democratic country that they tout to the world,” said Chief Na’Moks of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. “When Indigenous Peoples are harassed, incarcerated and removed from their lands — simply for wanting to protect who they are, clean water for survival, and food security for the future — then the truth about Canada must be told and acknowledged. Canada must take responsibility and ownership for the violation of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. They must respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and implement it to the fullest.”

Similarly, by supporting the construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, the federal and B.C. governments continue to violate the rights of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. “Canada has committed to implementing UNDRIP, but our Tsleil-Waututh members have been harassed and criminalized for peacefully opposing the Trans Mountain Pipeline project,” said Charlene Aleck, a member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s governing Council. “The pipeline and the oil it carries are major threats to the Burrard Inlet – the birthplace of our ancestors. We have denied our free, prior and informed consent for the Trans Mountain project, yet Canada continues with construction. Reconciliation will not be reached if consent is not honoured.”

Across Canada, Indigenous Peoples faced other forms of systemic discrimination and violations of their basic rights, including access to clean water, education and health care. At the end of 2022, a total of 33 long-term drinking-water advisories remained in effect across 29 Indigenous communities. In August 2022, a water shortage in the city of Iqaluit prompted the territory of Nunavut to declare a State of Emergency. And the people of Grassy Narrows First Nation continued to live with the devastating impacts of the Ontario government’s decision in the 1960s to allow a pulp and paper mill to dump around 10 metric tonnes of mercury into the English and Wabigoon rivers.

“Canada and Ontario continue to refuse to respect our laws that protect and care for our lands,” said Grassy Narrows Chief Rudy Turtle. “Even after decades of mercury, logging and damming, they won’t respect our self-determination as we defend our land and our people. It is long overdue that our decisions are respected and all of our people are compensated for the harm we have suffered.”

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