Wednesday, December 19, 2012

UN/Amnesty Report: Human Rights abuses in Canada

Three mandatory United Nations reviews conducted in 2012 all found “very serious human rights challenges facing Indigenous peoples” in Canada, says an Amnesty International report released Wednesday.

“By every measure, be it respect for treaty and land rights, levels of poverty, average life spans, violence against women and girls, dramatically disproportionate levels of arrest and incarceration or access to government services such as housing, health care, education, water and child protection, Indigenous peoples across Canada continue to face a grave human rights crisis,” the report says....
In addition to the rights of Aboriginal peoples, Wednesday’s report says Canada needs improvement in seven other areas: women’s human rights, corporate accountability and trade policy, the rights of refugees and migrants, Canadians subject to human rights violations abroad, economic, social and cultural rights, the shrinking space for advocacy and dissent, and engagement with the multilateral human rights system. (From "Canada rejects UN human rights criticism detailed in Amnesty International report" by Allison Cross, National Post, December 19, 2012, below)
Except for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the court cases brought to induce its application, Canada does not talk much about human rights abuses, unless it refers to a country where a dictator is in charge.
It is not surprising that Foreign Affairs Minister thinks the UN should be spending its time and money examining what he considers the more important human rights abuses in OTHER countries, and take their spotlight off the Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.
However, the history of the treatment of and conditions under which the Indigenous peoples in Canada attempt to eke out their survival, is nothing short of both tragic and abysmal. As a country, Canada and Canadians should be ashamed of our record. We have what most objective observers would call, if they permitted themselves 'full disclosure'...an object lesson in apartheid...covering every province and territory with reserves in all regions.
As the report documents, there is indisputable evidence of the facts in so many glaring areas:
  • respect for treaty and land rights,
  • levels of poverty,
  • average life spans,
  • violence against women and girls,
  • dramatically disproportionate levels of arrest and incarceration or
  • access to government services such as housing, health care, education, water and child protection
And this is a moral failure, a legal failure and a racial failure and most of all a refusal to acknowledge the Canadian Shadow; it is by all accounts darkest side of our national cultural consciousness, and it neither started, nor will end under the current government.
This is a situation that has been part of the "home secrets" of our national life and for Baird to attempt to point the UN light onto other countries is just another exercise in deliberate denial. Families, as we know too well, that perpetrate their unpleasant and unwelcome secrets (alcoholism, domestic violence, fraud, tax evasion) can only exacerbate the impact of their own denials, because those "elephants" in the room will inevitably bite them in the ass! So too, in national affairs!
"Out-of-sight-out-of-mind" may be an appropriate caution from the State police when leading the young children out of Sandy Hook elementary school last Friday, because their classmates were lying in their own blood on the classroom floor.
However, it is not appropriate in the case of the relationship between the people of Canada and our Indigenous brothers and sisters.
We need a national government willing to face the ugly facts of our attitudes, policies and practices to those in the Indigenous communities. And then to extend that courage, confidence and compassion to all of our people who are suffering at home and abroad.
This report points to the blind eye, deaf ear, closed mind and stone wall that this Harper government turns to a human dilemma...everywhere, all the time, repeatedly, admittedly and with so much impunity. Even the headline in the National Post points to support for the government position of shoving the issue off the front pages.
How can Canada play a credible, effective and influential role in the multiple conflicts facing the world community with this tumor festering inside its own boundaries?
A similar question can be legitimately asked about the current government's denial of their responsibilty for addressing global warming and climate change in any meaningful way?
Canada rejects UN human rights criticism detailed in Amnesty International report

By Allison Cross, National Post, December 19, 2012
Canada is again rejecting criticism of its human rights record after the release of a report that highlights the longstanding issues facing Aboriginal peoples.
Three mandatory United Nations reviews conducted in 2012 all found “very serious human rights challenges facing Indigenous peoples” in Canada, says an Amnesty International report released Wednesday.
“By every measure, be it respect for treaty and land rights, levels of poverty, average life spans, violence against women and girls, dramatically disproportionate levels of arrest and incarceration or access to government services such as housing, health care, education, water and child protection, Indigenous peoples across Canada continue to face a grave human rights crisis,” the report says.
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs minister John Baird said it was odd the UN was using its resources to evaluate Canada.
“We find it strange that the United Nations Special Rapporteurs are devoting their scarce resources to countries like Canada, instead of countries like Iran and Syria where citizens do not enjoy rights and are subject to serious human rights violations at the hands of those regimes,” Rick Roth said....
In addition to the rights of Aboriginal peoples, Wednesday’s report says Canada needs improvement in seven other areas: women’s human rights, corporate accountability and trade policy, the rights of refugees and migrants, Canadians subject to human rights violations abroad, economic, social and cultural rights, the shrinking space for advocacy and dissent, and engagement with the multilateral human rights system.

Amnesty International recommends that Canada develop a national action plan to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“Concerted action is needed,” Alex Neve, Secretary General of the English branch of Amnesty International Canada, said in a written statement.
“It will take leadership, and long overdue cooperation and coordination among federal, provincial and territorial governments. But it cannot wait any longer. Canadians whose rights are affected need assurance that Canada will meet the country’s international obligations.”
The office of John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, did not respond to requests for an interview by deadline.
The report also chastises the government for its reactions to past visits from UN experts and independent committees, wherein politicians rejected advice and “insulted” those giving it out.
“In all instances, the suggestion was that because Canada’s record is not as bad as that of many countries, Canada’s record should not be internationally scrutinized,” the report says.
In May, a United Nations envoy who specializes in the right to food blasted Canada for failing to deal with the issue of food insecurity — criticism the federal government dismissed.
Critics questioned why envoy Olivier De Schutter bothered to visit a wealthy, democratic nation like Canada, given the number of other countries in the world coping with extreme hunger.
The envoy also highlighted the lack of appropriate food on remote First Nations reserves. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq called De Schutter’s advice “ill-informed and “patronizing,” referencing the fact that he didn’t visit Canada’s north.
In October, the federal government rejected UN claims that Bill C-10, an omnibus crime bill that included tougher penalties for youth, was too harsh for children. Earlier this month, Canada joined other Western nations in rejecting a UN telecommunications treaty amid concerns it would give governments teeth to control the internet.





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