Covering events from January - December 2004

Indigenous women and girls continued to suffer a disproportionately high incidence of violence. There were continuing concerns about the use by police of Taser guns.

Violence against Indigenous women

Indigenous women and girls, who have long been socially and economically marginalized in Canada, continued to suffer a disproportionately high incidence of violence. The authorities failed to implement measures to reduce the marginalization of these women and ensure that police understand and are accountable to Indigenous peoples. AI urged the authorities to institute comprehensive plans of action to ensure that Indigenous women and girls receive the protection needed.

Police abuses

Six men died in separate incidents after they were subdued by police using a Taser gun. Autopsies were pending in some cases. The authorities announced reviews of the use of Taser guns, but failed to suspend their use until an independent study was carried out.

In June in Ontario, the public inquiry opened into the 1995 killing of Dudley George, an unarmed Indigenous man shot by police during a land rights protest.

In October the public inquiry into the 1990 freezing to death in Saskatchewan of Neil Stonechild, a 17-year-old Indigenous youth, concluded that there had been a police role in his death. The Saskatchewan provincial government subsequently announced that a new process for investigating complaints against the police would be established.

There was no response to AI's call for an inquiry into allegations of racially motivated violence against Albert Duterville, a prisoner at Port-Cartier penitentiary.

Security and human rights

A public inquiry opened in June into Canada's role in the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen of Syrian origin who was deported from the USA to Syria in 2002, where he was detained without charge or trial for a year and allegedly tortured. The role of Canadian authorities in the cases of at least three other Canadian citizens who alleged they were tortured while in detention abroad remained unclarified.

Six men remained in detention pending deportation, pursuant to security certificates issued under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. In five of the cases the individuals faced a serious risk of torture if deported. Under security certificate proceedings, detainees only have access to summaries of the evidence against them and have no opportunity to challenge key witnesses.

Refugee protection

The Canada/USA "safe-third country" deal was implemented in December. Under the deal, most refugee claimants passing through the USA on their way to Canada will be required to make refugee claims in the USA. AI was concerned that asylum-seekers turned away from Canada will face arbitrary and harsh detention in the USA in contravention of international standards, and that many women fearing gender-specific forms of persecution will face refoulement.

The government continued to fail to enact the provisions under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that would provide asylum-seekers with a full appeal against a decision denying them refugee status.

Impunity and justice

In June the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled, in the case of Bouzari v Iran, that Canada's state immunity laws protect a foreign government from civil suits in Canadian courts for damages for torture suffered abroad.

Other concerns

There were no further negotiations regarding the long outstanding land claim of the Lubicon Cree in northern Alberta. The failure to reach a just resolution continued to contribute to violations of the rights of the Lubicon.

AI country visits

In October AI's Secretary General met federal government officials to discuss a range of issues, including violence against Indigenous women.

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