By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) - Canada’s treatment of its Indigenous peoples is a “national disgrace,” Amnesty International said Tuesday.
“Despite numerous promises to address the ongoing injustices, governments in Canada have failed to uphold the rights of Indigenous Peoples and respect their lands and resources,” the human rights organization said in a scathing annual report.
The report cites numerous instances of failure to obtain Indigenous consent to use their land for purposes such as drilling for natural gas.
That is a flagrant violation of a principle protected by international human rights standards, it said.
The report gives the example of drilling for gas on Wet’suwet’en land in British Columbia without the approval of the tribe’s hereditary chiefs and then compounding the offense by laying criminal-contempt charges against 19 Indigenous protesters.
“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,” said the report.
There are 33 long-term do-not-drink-the-water advisories in 29 Indigenous communities, Amnesty International pointed out.
“Canada’s record on Indigenous Peoples’ rights is dismal,” said France-Isabelle Langlois, Executive Director of Amnesty International Canada Francophone. “Nothing has been done to resolve the fundamental issues and to give back control of their territory to Indigenous Peoples. Finally respecting Indigenous Peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent is essential.”
The report demanded immediate and specific actions to remedy the situation.
“Concrete action by Canadian governments is crucial, especially since the climate crisis exacerbates threats to Indigenous cultures, heritage and ancestral know-how that would be devastating to see disappear,” added Langlois.
The report was also critical of the “appalling” legacy of Indian Residential Schools which 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend beginning in the 1820s.
The goal was to stamp out Indigenous culture and it led to the deaths of an estimated 4,500 children through abuse and malnutrition.