Human Rights Watch criticizes Canada on indigenous and climate issues

OTTAWA — An international watchdog takes Canada to task in a new report on what it says are serious domestic and foreign policy challenges to human rights.

The annual report of New York-based Human Rights Watch says that while the Trudeau government made efforts to advance rights issues during its first six years in office, it failed to address Indigenous inequalities, fight climate change and oversee Canadian mining operations. overseas and help Canadians trapped in Syria.

The report notes the country’s continued efforts toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples, but documents remaining challenges, including the aftermath of the discovery last year of dozens of unmarked graves of children forced to attend former residential schools. .

“Large-scale abuses against Indigenous peoples persist across Canada with significant challenges that remain to be overcome to undo decades of structural and systemic discrimination,” the report released Thursday said.

It says insufficient access to safe drinking water continues to pose a major health threat that continues to hamper the advancement of Indigenous rights in Canada, “one of the most water-rich countries in the world.” .

The report also indicates that Canada is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in the G7 and is the world’s largest financier of fossil fuel producers.

“Canada is contributing to the climate crisis that is increasingly weighing on human rights around the world,” the report said.

“The failure of governments around the world to address climate change is already having a growing impact on marginalized populations in Canada. Warming temperatures and increasingly unpredictable weather conditions are reducing the availability of traditional First Nations food sources and increasing the difficulty and danger associated with harvesting food from the land.”

The report’s critique of Canada’s record on climate change offers an international perspective contrasting with the views of some foreign governments, including Britain, who have publicly praised Canada. Britain said it sees Canada as a valuable ally in the fight to cut greenhouse gas emissions as it prepares to host the United Nations climate change conference in Scotland in the end of last year.

By highlighting Canada’s shortcomings in the face of current challenges to Indigenous reconciliation, the report provides new ammunition for critics – notably China – whenever the government exposes human rights abuses in other countries.

The international watchdog takes Canada to task in a new report on what it says are serious domestic and foreign policy challenges on human rights.

The Chinese government routinely slams Canada’s mistreatment of indigenous peoples in the face whenever it is criticized for abuses of ethnic Muslim Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province.

Global Affairs Canada said it was unable to comment on the report on Thursday due to the breadth of issues it covered.

Farida Deif, Canadian director of Human Rights Watch, said the Trudeau government has made progress since coming to power in 2015, but some abuses have worsened while progress has stalled in other areas.

“On the home front, there are still widespread abuses against Indigenous peoples and immigration detainees,” she said.

“While internationally, this government has consistently failed to hold Canadian mining companies accountable for abuses overseas or to take meaningful action to repatriate dozens of Canadians illegally detained in life-threatening conditions in the north. -eastern Syria because of their alleged links to the Islamic State.”

Report says an ombudsman office created in 2018 to oversee the international operations of Canadian mining companies in nearly 100 countries lacks the power to independently investigate their conduct or hold them to account .

And he echoes criticism of the government for failing to repatriate Canadian nationals trapped in Kurdish-controlled refugee camps in Syria who have been linked to Islamic militant groups. While Canada managed to repatriate an orphaned four-year-old girl, it left four dozen others – many of them women and children – languishing there, he says.

The report also lambastes the government for not doing more to relax intellectual property rules that would allow fairer distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries.

“Prime Minister Trudeau has acknowledged the need for negotiations at the World Trade Organization to resolve intellectual property issues limiting the global supply of health products related to COVID-19, but Canada has not supported the proposal of India and South Africa for a derogation from certain provisions”, it says.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 13, 2022.

Teresa H. Sadler