Press Release

The True Victims of Amazon Rainforest Devastation in Brazil

Ottawa, ON, September 30, 2019 – The urgent need to ensure the environmental protection of the Amazon rainforest and the safeguarding of the rights of Indigenous peoples in Brazil has once again come under scrutiny by the international community.

On 27 September 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights convened a high-level hearing on this pressing matter at its headquarters in Washington DC. Various civil society representatives speaking before the Inter-American Commission expressed environmental and human rights concerns in connection to the devastation of the rainforest in Brazil (watch the full hearing here – link to come).

Brazilian Indigenous human rights defender, Luiz Henrique Eloy Amado, of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon, with whom Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) President Lorraine Whitman and CEO Lynne Groulx had met in Washington DC earlier the same week. President Lorraine Whitman spoke at the meeting describing the environmental tragedy unfolding in Brazil.

NWAC President Lorraine Whitman also commented on the deplorable state of affairs in Brazil, “The extreme environmental havoc currently being wreaked in Brazil, its highly ruinous impact on the lives of Indigenous women and girls, and the seemingly startling indifference of the Brazilian Government is astounding.

The Brazilian Government is failing in its duty to Indigenous peoples by not putting an end to illegal forest burning, logging and mining practices. Some might say that the Government is turning a convenient blind-eye to these illegal transgressions, while actively undermining existing legal protections.”

She continued: “Indigenous women, girls and their wider communities are already among the most impoverished and marginalized peoples in Brazil. The on-going, wholesale environmental vandalism will only push them further into more extreme forms of poverty, social exclusion and suffering.”

“The dire impact of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest on the climate is incalculable, for reasons which need not be restated”, she added.

Lorraine Whitman also underscored that NWAC wholeheartedly endorsed the findings of leading UN human rights expert Professor Philip Alston, who, in a scathingly critical report from June this year, stated in no uncertain terms that:

“Climate change will have devastating consequences for people in poverty. Even under the best-case scenario, hundreds of millions will face food insecurity, forced migration, disease, and death. Climate change threatens the future of human rights and risks undoing the last fifty years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction.”

If the current assault on the Amazon rainforest continues undiminished in Brazil, Indigenous women and girls will be among its first and most enduring victims, stated the NWAC President.

In this regard she also drew attention to the importance of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, an influential regional human rights instrument adopted by the member states of the Organization of American States in 2016.

The American Declaration explicitly states that Indigenous peoples have the right to protection of a healthy environment. The Declaration also makes it clear that Indigenous women and girls have the right to peace and security. The unremitting environmental destruction of the Amazon rainforest is a serious breach of fundamental human rights of Indigenous peoples.

NWAC echoes the appeals of its Brazilian Indigenous human rights colleagues appearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington on 27 September.

“The Brazilian Government should take all urgent measures to bring to an immediate end the current ruin of the Amazon rainforest and at the highest political level rekindle its political commitment to respecting the human rights of Indigenous peoples”, stated the NWAC President.

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The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is founded on the collective goal to enhance, promote, and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of First Nations, Métis and Inuit women. NWAC is an aggregate of thirteen Native women’s organizations from across Canada and was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1974.

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