“A sobering look at Canada’s human-rights record” Globe and Mail, op-ed, July 10, 2015
Alex Neve, Secretary-General, Amnesty International Canada
“Report slams Canada’s human rights record” The Toronto Star, July 24, 2015
Donovan Vincent, staff reporter
“UN report details failings in Canada’s human-rights record” Globe and Mail, July 24
Stephanie Levitz, Ottawa bureau
“Canada should heed UN’s human rights warning” The Toronto Star, op-ed, July 24
Renu J. Mandhame, University of Toronto, international human rights program
As a signatory to the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Canada is subject to periodic reviews of its human rights record. One recently concluded, the first in 10 years, was conducted by a committee drawn from countries around the world, including Britain’s Sir Nigel Rodley, a law professor and chair of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex. “This is not the Canada I once knew,” was his comment after six hours of back-and-forth over two days between the UN committee and a sizeable Canadian contingent from various federal departments and the province of Quebec.
Canada is not among the worst violators in the world of course, and reviews include all countries who are a party to the covenant. Signatories are obliged to protect all rights, and there’s an expectation that a country with the resources like ours would set a high example for others to follow. That is not the picture that emerged.
The July 23rd final report raises concerns about discrimination under the federal Indian Act, makes many references to the Anti-Terrorism Act Bill C-5l, points to a failure to recognize and protect aboriginal land rights, and decry’s the direction Canada is taking with cuts to health care for refugees. Canada still appears dismissive of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and, our representatives were clear that we have no human-rights responsibilities for Canadian mining companies operating abroad.
The list goes on: ignoring requests from the UN to delay troubling cases of deportation pending thorough examinations, making no commitment for human-rights talks with governments across Canada for the first time since 1988 in order to ensure implementation of international obligations, an unwillingness to hold a public inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women, homelessness, torture, pay equity, prison conditions, police conduct, Canadian Revenue Agency investigations of political activity of charities, and more. It was difficult to find a serious social issue that had not come up. Some research pointed to high levels of fear and intimidation Canadian activists felt on the freedoms of assembly and association.
The government’s response through Foreign Affairs is to say, “We are proud of our human-rights record at home and abroad.”
Don’t laugh. They mean it.