OTTAWA – Canada has made progress improving its human rights record in the last year, Amnesty International says, but has “stumbled” or “failed” in a number of areas – including indigenous rights, Justin Trudeau’s cornerstone commitment.
Alex Neve, the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, says Trudeau’s Liberal government has demonstrated leadership in areas such as transgender rights and fighting the death penalty around the world.
But Canada loses points from Amnesty for approving a multibillion-dollar sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and for granting permits for Site C, a controversial dam and hydroelectric proposal in B.C.
Neve calls the decision to abandon the Northern Gateway pipeline a victory for indigenous rights, but says the government has moved ahead with Site C and other projects “without indigenous consent.”
When she was regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in 2012, Jody Wilson-Raybould – now Trudeau’s justice minister – said Site C ran “roughshod”over aboriginal rights and title.
The Fisheries Department says it approved permits for the project in July following “extensive First Nations consultations,” noting the approval came with 40 separate conditions.
Neve describes a disconnect between the prime minister’s aspirational statements about a new relationship with indigenous peoples in Canada and what’s happening on the ground.
“We are worried indigenous rights are not being adequately protected in the face of a strong push to move forward with a resource development agenda in Canada,” he said.