In honour of Human Rights Day, Amnesty International MUN and Amnesty International St. John’s are hosting Write for Rights, an afternoon of letter writing and live music at Jumping Bean on Elizabeth Avenue on Sunday December 10th.
Write for Rights is an annual letter writing event that Amnesty supporters all over the world participate in on Human Rights Day.Each year Amnesty International releases a small number of cases of individuals and communities around the globe who are enduring human rights abuses. The organization encourages people to write letters advocating for the subjects of the cases and provides the addresses of state authorities along with tips about how to write the most effective letter.
“For people who want to get involved in activism it can be so hard to know what you can do and this is one of the things Amnesty International does that’s very tangible … it’s an easy beginning for people who are starting to get into activism,” said Gobhina Nagarajah, a member of Amnesty International St. John’s.
This year there are eleven cases, including a Canadian case that deals with the Site C hydroelectric dam on Peace River in B.C. Amnesty International are standing with Indigenous peoples in the area who are calling for construction of the dam to stop. For many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians this case will bring to mind the struggle to stop construction of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam in Labrador.
Amnesty writes, “Canada’s constitution protects the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Yet Canada’s environmental laws don’t require governments to even consider these rights when deciding what projects are given approval… Ask Canada to learn from its mistakes and ensure that human rights are protected in future decisions.”
The goal of Write for Rights is to flood decision-making bodies with letters and persuade them to protect this year’s selected individuals and communities. According to Amnesty, these letter-writing campaigns have led to positive changes in about one-third of the cases.
“When a government or agency receives thousands of letters about one person or one specific issue all at once they can’t ignore it, especially when you have a big organization like Amnesty International also advocating for that person or issue,” said Nagarajah.
For some cases Amnesty also provides mailing information for individuals facing human rights violations so letter-writers can contact them personally to show their support.
“Often times when we hear from [the subject of a Write for Rights case], they say they received these letters and it gave them a little bit of hope or it was inspiring for them,” said Nagarajah.
Nagarajah says she hopes lots of young people and youth activists come out to Sunday’s event and get involved with this year’s letter writing campaign. Musicians Adrian House, Mackenzie Burgess, Scotty Conway, Neil Conway and Carissa Abbott will be playing sets throughout the afternoon, and members of the local chapters of Amnesty International will be there to answer questions and help with letter writing.