August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Thursday, March 4, 2010

UN Rapporteur: Pine Ridge Housing Worst in US

US spent $1 trillion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while ignoring abysmal housing on Pine Ridge and widespread homelessness in US

Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Photo 1 and 2: Lakotas testify on housing at Pine Ridge. Courtesy UN Photo 2: Homeless by railroad tracks in Texas by Brenda Norrell

Overcrowding in housing on Pine Ridge Indian land in South Dakota was described as the worst viewed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing Raquel Rolnik, during a tour of US housing. The lack of fresh food and the lack of public transportation was also included in the report on Pine Ridge.

"During the mission, the Special Rapporteur observed many families living in subsidized housing units in conditions of severe overcrowding. This was particularly the case amongst immigrant families in Los Angeles, and most strikingly on Pine Ridge Native American Reservation, where it was described as commonplace to have three to four families living in a three-bedroom house. The conditions in the houses on the Reservation were the worst seen by the Special Rapporteur during her mission, evidence of the urgent and severe need for additional subsidized housing units there," states the report.

The Special Rapporteur visited Washington DC, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Pine Ridge Reservation, Los Angeles and Pacoima, California.

Rolnik is issuing a report and making recommendations in Geneva on Friday.

March 4, 2010
Contact: Phil Wider - 212.253.1710, ext 301,
UN Expert to Report on Affordable Housing Crisis in US
NEW YORK - As part of the current session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday, March 5, Raquel Rolnik, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, will present the official report of her office’s recent U.S. mission. The report, entitled: “Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Including the Right to Development,” highlights the Special Rapporteur’s findings on the mission and her recommendations to the U.S. government.

In partnership with community groups, the U.S. mission was coordinated by the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. During her visit, which took place from October 22nd to November 8th, 2009, the Special Rapporteur visited six cities and focused on the foreclosure crisis, growing homelessness, and the severe lack of affordable housing, including the demolition of public housing and the under-funding of Section 8 based housing.

The Special Rapporteur’s final recommendations to the U.S. government include, but are not limited to, the following:

· Imposing a moratorium on the demolition and disposition of public housing until one-for-one replacement can be guaranteed;

· Including the Right to First Purchase for Section 8 buildings in the Preservation Bill;

· Extending the Protecting Tenants At Foreclosure Act beyond 2012;

· Developing alternatives to the criminalization of the homeless, e.g., where adequate shelter is not available, allowing homeless persons to shelter themselves in public areas;

· Ensuring that poor communities are not displaced as development takes place, with respect to the Choice Neighborhoods program; and

· Making empty and foreclosed properties available for sale to non-profit organizations and community land trusts.

In commenting on the significance of the final report, Tiffany M. Gardner, Director of NESRI’s Human Right to Housing Program, stated: “The Special Rapporteur’s final report highlights the myriad of housing issues local and community groups have been trying to highlight to government officials for many years. Hopefully this international attention will inspire meaningful dialogue towards workable solutions between our government and those communities that are directly impacted by these issues.”

Since the visit, national advocacy around these issues has continued. For example, NESRI and community partners across the country are producing a documentary on the U.S. mission. A trailer of the documentary, which will be previewed tomorrow at the UN in Geneva, will highlight the site visits conducted by the Special Rapporteur during the mission and will underscore the work of local community groups in combating the housing crisis and building the national human right to housing movement.

Reflecting on the ongoing impact of the mission, Becky Dennison from Los Angeles Community Action Network explained: “Most organizations and members who planned and participated in the Special Rapporteur’s visit continue to work together to promote and demand the right to housing in Los Angeles. In December 2009, on International Human Rights Day, more than 250 residents that were truly reflective of multi-cultural Los Angeles took to the streets to bring light to domestic human rights violations.”

Notes to editors
The Special Rapporteur’s presentation to the UN Human Rights Council will take place within the window of 1 – 3 pm Geneva time (7 -9 am EST) on Friday, March 5, at the "Palais des Nations" (UN main building in Geneva), room XX. The session will be webcast live at and archived about one hour after the end of the meetings.

View a link to Special Rapporteur’s official final report at

View a short video statement by the Special Rapporteur at the conclusion of her US mission in November 2009 at

A trailer of a documentary about the UN Special Rapporteur’s Mission to the US will be screened at a side event on March 5 entitled “The Housing Rights Situation in the US.” The event will take place at Palais des Nations, Room XXVII, at 4 pm Geneva time (10 am EST). Speaking will be Special Rapporteur Raquel Rolnik and Salih Booker, Executive Director, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE). The event is organized by the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative and COHRE. The trailer will be available online tomorrow at

In addition to the trailer screening on March 5 in Geneva, the documentary will be screened in full-length during the week of April 12th at town hall meetings across the US. The town hall meetings, marking the release of the report, will be organized by local groups that participated in the mission and are members of the Campaign to Restore National Housing Rights. The documentary will also be provided to U.S. government officials. More information about the Campaign to Restore National Housing Rights and the April screenings will be available shortly at

Phil Wider
Communications Director
National Economic & Social Rights Initiative
90 John Street, Suite 308
New York, NY 10038
(212) 253.1710, extension 301

Also see: The Olympics and Homelessness:
The Olympics: Celebrating or Denigrating Our Common Humanity?

By Chris Famighetti
Intern, NESRI Human Right to Housing Program
Taraneh Ghajar Jerven’s recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, “2010 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony: What about Vancouver’s homeless?” highlights the injustices perpetrated in the run-up to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.(1) Jerven discusses the expensive development costs associated with the 2010 Olympic Games, where the original budget of $660 million was revised to over $5 billion.(2) The astronomical increase in costs for the Vancouver Olympics is especially egregious when considering that the city’s homeless population has doubled since 2003 – the same year that the city secured its Olympic bid. This rise in homelessness leaves one wondering: how can an international event that claims to celebrate peace, unity and global harmony so callously ignore the needs of the most vulnerable populations? What kind of priorities is the international community embracing in such an outright rejection of the human right to housing?
Read more:

Katrina Victims Seek to Sue Greenhouse Gas Emitters

Published on Thursday, March 4, 2010 by Agence France Presse
Photo New Orleans by Brenda Norrell

Katrina Victims Seek to Sue Greenhouse Gas Emitters

WASHINGTON - Victims of Hurricane Katrina are seeking to sue carbon gas-emitting multinationals for helping fuel global warming and boosting the devastating 2005 storm, legal documents showed.
Residents search for survivors a day after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August 2005. Victims of Hurricane Katrina are seeking to sue carbon gas-emitting multinationals for helping fuel global warming and boosting the devastating 2005 storm, legal documents showed Wednesday. (AFP)
The class action suit brought by residents from southern Mississippi, which was ravaged by hurricane-force winds and driving rains, was first filed just weeks after the August 2005 storm hit.
"The plaintiffs allege that defendants' operation of energy, fossil fuels, and chemical industries in the United States caused the emission of greenhouse gasses that contributed to global warming," say the documents seen by AFP.
The increase in global surface air and water temperatures "in turn caused a rise in sea levels and added to the ferocity of Hurricane Katrina, which combined to destroy the plaintiffs' private property, as well as public property useful to them."
More than 1,200 people died in Hurricane Katrina, which lashed the area, swamping New Orleans in Louisiana when levees gave way under the weight of the waves.
The suit, claiming compensation and punitive damages from multinational companies including Shell, ExxonMobile, BP and Chevron, has already passed several key legal hurdles, after initially being knocked back by the lowest court.
Three federal appeals court judges decided in October 2009 that the case could be heard. But in February the same court decided to re-examine whether it could be heard this time with nine judges.
Other companies named in the suit include Honeywell and American Electric Power, with the residents charging that "the defendants' greenhouse gas emissions caused saltwater, debris, sediment, hazardous substances, and other materials to enter, remain on, and damage plaintiffs' property."
They allege that companies had a duty to "avoid unreasonably endangering the environment, public health, public and private property."
The district court, which initially rejected the case, ruled that it was "a debate which simply has no place in the court."
The court argued that Congress first had to enact legislation "which sets appropriate standards by which this court can measure conduct."
Mississippi residents must now wait for the appeals court to fix a new hearing, in principle within the next three months.
A decision would then be due by the end of 2010, and both sides could also then take the case to the Supreme Court.
© 2010 AFP

Canada: APTN Perspectives on the Environment

Photo Green Party Canada

March 1, 2010 - APTN National News will premiere Perspectives on the Environment, a week dedicated to environmental issues affecting communities across Canada. The stories, which will be featured during APTN National News March 8 to March 11 at 6:00 pm ET on APTN East/MT on APTN West/CT on APTN North/ET on APTN HD, and will culminate in an hour-long special season finale edition of APTN InFocus March 12, will focus on the major issues in every region of Canada: North, South/Central, East and West.

“APTN National News is devoted to bringing viewers the stories affecting our communities,” said Sky Bridges, Director of Marketing. “People are exposed to media coverage on environmental issues daily; Perspectives on the Environment will make specific issues and realities known and truly reveal how these problems are affecting the well-being, spirit, and future of not only Aboriginal Peoples but all Peoples.”

APTN Environmental Week Outline:

North – Peel Watershed – airdate Monday March 8th:
The Yukon’s Peel Watershed is rich in minerals and other resources, but many of the people who use the Peel Watershed say it’s worth protecting from development. APTN’s Dez Loreen will look at the resources that make the land so valuable, the traditions that make the region so rich, and the debate over how best to deal with it all.

East – Boat Harbour, Nova Scotia – airdate March 9th:
The Pictou Landing First Nation has been fighting for more than 40 years to get the Nova Scotia government and industry to clean up the harbour. The waters, which at one time featured pristine beaches, are now making people sick. Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter’s new NDP government says it’s committed to solving the Boat Harbour problem. APTN’s James Hopkin talks to the people in the Mi’kmaq community and to the 10th provincial minister to deal with the file.

South/Central – Mercury Pollution airdate March 10th:
The people of the Grassy Narrows First Nation in Ontario are battling the severe health effects of mercury exposure. The emissions that polluted the watershed where they live began decades ago and the federal government says the problem has been fixed, but young people in the community are still showing the horrific symptoms of mercury poisoning. APTN's Melissa Ridgen visited the community to find answers.

West – Deep Water Port for Super Tankers airdate March 11th:
Plans are in development for a pipeline to carry oil from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat, British Columbia, where a deep water port will provide transport to supertankers which will carry oil to US and Pacific Rim markets. The ships will navigate near Hartley Bay First Nation, one of the country’s most environmentally conscious communities. With the nearby waters being well-known for their danger, the people of Hartley Bay fear a massively destructive oil spill. APTN's Noemi LoPinto travels to the community to find out what happens next.

APTN InFocus One-Hour Season Finale airdate March 12th:
· On Friday, March 12th APTN National News will be pre-empted for a special one-hour edition (and season finale) of APTN InFocus. This special edition will feature a panel of experts who will discuss the four Perspectives on the Environment stories that aired during the week on APTN National News.
They will also examine the poor water quality in many Indigenous communities, 119 of which are under a Drinking Water Advisory.

The panel of experts will include:
Dr. John O’Connor, the physician who blew the whistle on unusually high incidence of cancer clusters near the Alberta oil patch (Fort McMurray).
Merrell-Ann S. Phare, Executive Director and Legal Counsel, Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources.
Ramsay Hart, Canada Program Coordinator, Mining Watch Canada, to deal with environmental aspects of mining

Dr. Shirley Thompson, University of Manitoba, Assistant Professor, Natural Resources Institute, will talk about the actual biological effects of industrial pollution on the human body.

APTN National News is part of an exciting programming schedule that promotes and celebrates Canadian content across all genres. Providing news that not only informs, but inspires, APTN National News brings viewers a more in-depth look at the issues facing Aboriginal communities in Canada and around the world.

About APTN:
September 1, 2009 marked the 10-year anniversary of the launch of the first national Aboriginal television network in the world with programming by, for and about Aboriginal Peoples to share with all Canadians and viewers around the world. APTN is available in approximately 10 million Canadian households and commercial establishments with cable, direct-to-home satellite (DTH), telco-delivered and fixed wireless television service providers. The network launched its high definition channel APTNHD in the spring of 2008. APTN does not receive government funding for operations but generates revenue through subscriber fees, advertising sales and strategic partnerships. APTN broadcasts programming with 56% offered in English, 16% in French and 28% in Aboriginal languages. For program schedule or for more information, please contact APTN at (204) 947-9331 or toll-free at 1-888-278-8862, or visit the website at


APTN National News présente en première « Perspectives on the Environment », une semaine consacrée aux problèmes environnementaux qui frappent des collectivités de tout le Canada. Les reportages seront diffusés entre les 8 et 11 mars pendant le bulletin APTN National News de 18 h, HE, sur APTN Est / HR, sur APTN Ouest / HC sur APTN Nord / HE, sur APTN HD, et ils mèneront le 12 mars à un spécial d’une heure qui marquera la fin de la saison d’APTN InFocus. Il y sera question des principaux enjeux de chacune des régions du pays, soit le Nord, le Centre-Sud, l’Est et l’Ouest.

« APTN National News s’emploie à présenter aux téléspectateurs des sujets qui touchent nos collectivités », a déclaré Sky Bridges, directeur du marketing. « Les gens sont exposés à une couverture médiatique quotidienne des questions environnementales; « Perspectives on the Environment » fera connaître des problèmes et des réalités précis, et dévoilera comment ces problèmes nuisent au bien-être, à l’esprit et à l’avenir non seulement des peuples autochtones, mais aussi de tous les peuples. »

Grandes lignes de la Semaine de l’environnement d’APTN :

Nord – Bassin versant de la Peel – diffusé le lundi 8 mars :
Le bassin versant de la Peel, au Yukon, est riche en minéraux et en autres ressources. Toutefois, bon nombre de ses utilisateurs affirment qu’il vaut la peine de le préserver du développement. Dez Loreen, de l’équipe d’APTN, étudiera les ressources qui rendent la terre aussi précieuse, les traditions qui enrichissent autant la région, et le débat au sujet de la meilleure façon de régler la situation.

Est – Boat Harbour, Nouvelle‑Écosse – diffusé le 9 mars :
La Première Nation de Pictou Landing se bat depuis plus de 40 ans pour obtenir du gouvernement de la Nouvelle‑Écosse et du secteur privé qu’ils nettoient le port. Les eaux, dont les plages étaient autrefois en parfaite condition, sont aujourd’hui porteuses de maladies. Le premier ministre de la Nouvelle‑Écosse, Darrell Dexter, qui est à la tête du nouveau gouvernement démocrate, dit qu’il entend régler le problème de Boat Harbour. James Hopkin, de l’équipe d’APTN, s’entretient avec les membres de la collectivité mi’kmaq et avec le 10e ministre provincial saisi du dossier.

Centre-Sud – Pollution au mercure – diffusé le 10 mars :
Les membres de la Première Nation de Grassy Narrows, en Ontario, luttent pour contrer les graves effets sur la santé de l’exposition au mercure. Les émissions ont commencé à polluer leur bassin versant il y a des décennies, et le gouvernement fédéral soutient que le problème a été réglé. Pourtant, les jeunes de la collectivité continuent d’afficher les horribles symptômes de l’empoisonnement au mercure. Melissa Ridgen, de l’équipe d’APTN, se rend dans la collectivité pour trouver des réponses.

Ouest – Port en eau profonde pour gros navires-citernes – diffusé le 11 mars :
Des projets en cours d’élaboration visent la construction d’un pipeline qui acheminera le pétrole depuis les sables bitumineux de l’Alberta jusqu’à Kitimat, en Colombie‑Britannique, où un port en eau profonde permettra le transport du pétrole par gros navires-citernes vers les marchés des États-Unis et de la côte du Pacifique. Les navires passeront près de la Première Nation de Hartley Bay, une des collectivités les plus sensibilisées à l’environnement au pays. Puisque la dangerosité des eaux environnantes est bien connue, les gens de Hartley Bay craignent un déversement de pétrole très destructeur. Noemi LoPinto, de l’équipe d’APTN, visite la collectivité pour connaître la suite des choses.

Spécial d’une heure – Dernière de la saison d’APTN InFocus – diffusé le 12 mars :
· Le vendredi 12 mars, APTN National News cédera la place à une émission spéciale d’une heure (dernière de la saison) d’APTN InFocus. Cette émission spéciale fera appel à un groupe d’experts qui discutera des quatre reportages diffusés au cours de la semaine pendant le bulletin APTN National News, sous le thème « Perspectives on the Environment ». En outre, il se penchera sur la mauvaise qualité de l’eau au sein de nombreuses collectivités autochtones, dont 119 doivent observer un avis d’ébullition de l’eau.

Le groupe d’experts sera formé de :
John O’Connor, le médecin qui a dénoncé le nombre anormalement élevé de grappes de cas de cancer près des champs de pétrole de l’Alberta (Fort McMurray).
Merrell-Ann S. Phare, directrice générale et conseillère juridique, Centre autochtone de ressources environnementales.
Ramsay Hart, coordonnateur du programme Canada, Mines Alerte Canada, traitera des aspects environnementaux de l’exploitation minière.

Shirley Thompson, professeure adjointe au Natural Resources Institute de l’Université du Manitoba, parlera des effets biologiques actuels de la pollution industrielle sur le corps humain.

APTN National News s’inscrit dans une grille de programmation emballante qui privilégie et célèbre un contenu canadien de tous genres. En leur transmettant des nouvelles qui informent et inspirent, APTN National News amène les téléspectateurs à poser un regard plus approfondi sur les difficultés auxquelles les collectivités autochtones du Canada et du reste du monde sont confrontées.

À propos d’APTN
Le 1er septembre 2009 a marqué le 10e anniversaire de l’entrée en ondes d’APTN, le premier réseau national de télévision autochtone au monde. Conçues par et pour les Autochtones et au sujet de ces derniers, ses émissions s’adressent à tous les Canadiens et aux téléspectateurs du monde entier. APTN est capté dans quelque 10 millions de foyers et d’établissements commerciaux au Canada, grâce à la télévision par câble, à la diffusion directe, à la téléphonie et à la technologie sans fil. Le Réseau a inauguré son canal à haute définition APTN HD au printemps 2008. Les revenus d’APTN, qui ne reçoit aucun financement d’exploitation du gouvernement, proviennent des frais d’adhésion, de la vente de publicité et de partenariats stratégiques. Sa programmation est diffusée à 56 % en anglais, à 16 % en français et à 28 % dans des langues autochtones. Pour obtenir l’horaire de programmation ou des renseignements supplémentaires, veuillez communiquer avec APTN au 204-947-9331 ou, sans frais, au 1-888-278-8862, ou encore visitez le

Paul Barnsley
Executive Producer - Investigative News
Aboriginal Peoples Television Network
339 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 2C3

P: 204.947.9331 ext. 327
F: 204.946.0767
C: 204.223.5614
Toll Free: 1.888.278.8862
Canada's 4th National Broadcaster