The situation is serious enough that Amnesty wants it to be a major campaign talking point during the federal election scheduled for 2015.
Specifically, the human rights organization states in its agenda report, “Jobs’ Security … and Human Rights For All,” that there are “serious failings in federal government laws and policies” to protect aboriginal people’s land rights as 600 major resource projects are planned over the next decade.
“Canada’s failure to ground economic development in respect for indigenous people’s rights, hesitancy to ratify treaties that enhance law and order and inconsistency in which countries attract Canada’s criticism are among the issues outlined in the new agenda,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada’s English branch, in a statement on its website.
The Canadian government is ignoring provisions in Canadian law that guarantee First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples who would be affected by major projects, to give consent before those undertakings are started.
While Canada has often promoted freedom, democracy and human rights abroad, the agenda highlights glaring inconsistencies that undercut a commitment to universal human rights.
Amnesty notes that at home in Canada, organizations that defend human rights principles have faced “systematic pressure, including targeted funding cuts and other measures.”
A spokesperson for Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford told the Canadian Broadcasting Company that the Harper government has bent over backwards to consult with First Nations on resource projects.
“Our government has taken substantial action to enhance participation of First Nations in resource development,” Alexandra Lemieux said. “For example, we recently opened the Major Projects Management Office-West, to enhance engagement between governments, industry and First Nations.”
But Neve is not convinced and wants Canadians to focus on the issue in the looming election.
“With an election on the horizon, the human rights agenda is clear,” Neve says. “The road to economic success must be based on a respect for rights of indigenous peoples, upholding economic, social and cultural rights, welcoming refugees and protecting the human rights of all.”