(Photo: Tosha Mallette)

Write for human rights at Amnesty International event in Vernon

Event to support 10 human rights victims, including Ontario’s Grassy Narrows First Nation

Tosha Mallette believes that by writing a letter, you can save a life.

That’s the mission behind an Amnesty International event called Write for Rights, which invites people to the Vernon Library on Dec. 1 to become acquainted with human rights violations cases and try to affect change with pen and paper.

Amnesty International Canada has highlighted 10 global cases of human rights violations for letter-writers to focus on. Some of the cases are from far-away locations, while others are situated here in Canada. By writing letters, Tweets and emails addressed to government officials emails and signing petitions, participants can take part in an activism blitz against one or all of the injustices.

“We also give the opportunity to write directly to either the prisoner of conscience or the community that’s being affected,” said Mallette, a member of the Vernon Amnesty group since 2010. “We usually only write to government officials but on this day we send them cards of solidarity to give them some hope.”

“People can write on all 10, they can write a letter on one of them, they can sign a petition on one of them – it’s really whatever somebody wants to make it,” Mallette added.

From October to May Amnesty International Canada’s Vernon chapter holds monthly meetings in which members like Mallette write letters and sign petitions. Write for Rights is a chance for members of the public to introduce themselves to the group, or to contribute to the fight for basic freedoms for a day.

The event comes ahead of International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, a day on which Amnesty International groups around the world hold letter-writing sessions.

READ MORE: B.C.’s first independent human rights commissioner sworn in

READ MORE: Alberta babysitter drops human rights complaint against kids’ father

The closest case to home is Grassy Narrows First Nation, which has dealt with the fatal consequences of having mercury dumped into the local river system more than 50 years ago.

“They’ve had no compensation and no clean-up, and mercury poisoning can actually be damaging through genetics, so when you reproduce and have children the poisoning continues,” said Mallette. “It affects DNA. It’s incredible how damaging it can be.”

Other cases include petitions for the release of unjustly detained people around the world, such as Ibrahim Ezz El-Din, who was arrested and forcibly disappeared in Egypt on June 11.

Another petition calls for justice for José Adrián, a Mexican teenager who was arrested and tortured by police with no explanation on his way home from school, according to Amnesty.

Write for Rights takes place Sunday Dec. 1 at the Vernon Library. The drop-in event runs from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

“The library has been extremely generous in giving us space to do our work, and our meetings are always open to anybody who wants to come in and join us,” said Mallette.

Amnesty International is a non-profit global organization with a mandate to uphold the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The groups has more than seven million members worldwide.

A preview of each of the 10 highlighted cases can be found at writeathon.ca.

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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