Rights report targets Canada over missing women, land claims

Canada's handling of aboriginal land claims, missing women and foreign captives in Afghanistan are among several issues singled out for criticism in Amnesty International's annual report on human rights.

Canada's handling of aboriginal land claims, missing women and foreign captives in Afghanistan are among several issues singled out for criticism in Amnesty International's annual report on human rights.

Although Canada is one of the least-offending of the 157 countries profiled in the 400-page report released Thursday, the organization does point out a handful of causes of concern.

A number of issues concerning aboriginal people made the list, including "the failure to ensure prompt and impartial resolution of disputes over land and resource rights." The report points to concern about plans to construct a gas pipeline through lands in Alberta claimed by the Lubicon Cree.

"The Alberta Utilities Commission ignored these concerns when it approved the project in October," said the report.

It also takes aim at a complaint over alleged funding disparities for aboriginal child protection agencies and what it says is slow progress implementing recommendations from the 2007 Ipperwash inquiry report into the 1995 police shooting of aboriginal protester Dudley George.

On the issue of women's rights, the report calls on Canada to "remedy the deficiencies in the system" with respect to missing or murdered women and takes the Conservative government to task for cutting funds to groups that advance women's rights.

'Credible' reports of Afghan torture: AI

The report knocks the country's handling of foreign captives in Afghanistan after published reports detailed accounts from Afghan prisoners who say they were tortured.

Irene Khan, the secretary general of Amnesty International, said the report looked at the behaviour of NATO troops in Afghanistan.

"We've been very concerned about the handover of prisoners to the Afghan authorities who simply don't have a system to take care of them properly," said Khan.

"There have been reports, credible reports, of torture and ill treatment of prisoners who have been handed over."

Canada was also singled out for its refusal to intervene in the detention of 22-year-old Canadian Omar Khadr at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and police use of stun guns that have been linked to the deaths of at least four Canadians in the past year.

Khadr has been detained at the prison since 2002 after he was involved in a battle with American troops in Afghanistan where he allegedly threw a hand grenade that killed a U.S. soldier.

Alex Neve, the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, said the report doesn't put Canada in the same league as notoriously abusive regimes in China, Sudan or Colombia. But he adds there are issues of real concern in Canada when it comes to human rights protection.

Internationally, the report warns that the almost tunnel-vision focus of world leaders on economic woes is abetting human-rights abuses on a horrific scale.

The report also highlights:

  • Increased food costs in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Growing ranks of the poor in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • The delay by Burma's government to deliver aid to those affected by Cyclone Nargis in April 2008.
  • Increased repression of human rights defenders, ethnic minorities, lawyers and journalists by China's government.
  • The U.S.'s extraordinary rendition program run by the CIA, in which suspected terrorists are taken to prisons in countries with no laws against torture.
  • Excessive police violence in Brazil.
  • Political persecution in Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia.

With reports from The Associated Press