The world's most famous human-rights organization is taking aim at a B.C. Hydro megaproject today.
As part of its Write for Rights campaign, Amnesty International is including the $8.8-billion Site C dam in its list of 10 government acts of repression worth highlighting on International Human Rights Day.
The goal is to inundate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with letters and messages to convince him to order a halt to construction of the project. It will flood 83 kilometres of the Peace River and 20 kilometres of its tributaries depriving First Nations of traditional territories.
In August, Amnesty International published a report about how the project violates indigenous legal rights, attracting widespread media attention.
"Government officials in British Columbia say that they have 'consulted' with Indigenous peoples about Site C," the organization stated when it released the report. "But consultation is not supposed to be a hollow exercise: its purpose is to protect the underlying rights set out in Treaties, the Canadian Constitution, and in international human rights law. The rights have not been protected. In fact, they've been largely ignored."
Last year, 3.7 million messages, including 35,000 from Canada, were sent from more than 200 countries as part of Write for Rights. Dozens of events are taking place in B.C. (You can find them here.)
In addition to the Site C project, Amnesty International is drawing attention to U.S. president Barack Obama's refusal to pardon whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
The group is also focusing on China's jailing of economics professor Ilham Toti for speaking up for minority rights in Xinjiang, Iran's imprisonment of women's-rights activist Narges Mohammadi, and Egypt's incarceration of photographer Shawkan.
“The fact that a human rights case in Canada has been selected for this campaign alongside top-priority cases in countries including Egypt, Iran, the United States and China is significant,” Amnesty International Caada secretary general Alex Neve said in a news release. “It speaks to the seriousness of the human rights concerns related to construction of the Site C dam and also to the level of international scrutiny which the Trudeau government will bear if it fails to change course on this issue.”
Amnesty International issued a second report in November pointing out how indigenous women and girls are being placed at rish through extensive resource development in the Peace River region.
That's because these projects attract large numbers of young and mostly male temporary workers. Young men, the report notes, "are statistically more likely to be perpetrators of violent crime".
"These concerns are further compounded by patterns of drug and alcohol abuse among some resource industry workers which can fuel violence," it states. "Misogyny and racist attitudes toward Indigenous peoples, largely unaddressed in public life, have also made Indigenous women and girls more likely to be targets of violence."
Magnifying the problem is women's "lack of access to adequate government supports and services to reduce the risk of violence".
"Amnesty International has also found law enforcement resources in the northeast, including the number of officers, as well as officer training and orientation, to be inadequate to meet urgent community needs."
The Site C dam construction began in earnest after the Trudeau government awarded federal permits.
That's what's prompted such heavy criticism of the prime minister, even though the B.C. government initiated the project.
On Tuesday (December 13), Amnesty International will issue a report card on the Trudeau government's record on human rights after its first year in office.