Canada Human Rights

Concerns: Indigenous rights, women's rights, refugees and asylum-seekers, corporate accountability

In February, Canada's human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review. The recommendation that Canada develop a national poverty elimination strategy was rejected by the federal government which asserted that this was a provincial or territorial responsibility.

Indigenous Peoples' rights

The authorities failed to ensure respect for Indigenous rights when issuing licences for mining, logging and petroleum and other resource extraction. The government continued to make baseless claims that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples does not apply in Canada. In September, a hearing opened before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal into underfunding of First Nation child and family services, compared with other communities.

  • Massive oil and gas developments continued to be carried out without the consent of the Lubicon Cree in northern Alberta, undermining their use of traditional lands and contributing to high levels of poor health and poverty.

Women's rights

The high level of violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls persisted. The Native Women's Association of Canada continued to call for a comprehensive national action plan to address the violence and the underlying discrimination that contributes to it. Despite a stated commitment to stopping the violence, the Canadian government took no steps towards establishing such a plan.

In March, the Federal Court dismissed a challenge to the practice of transferring battlefield detainees in Afghanistan into Afghan custody where they were at serious risk of torture. This decision was upheld by the Federal Court of Appeal in December.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In February, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal regarding the Safe Third Country refugee agreement between Canada and the USA which denies asylum-seekers who pass through the USA access to the Canadian refugee determination system.

At least one person died after being stunned by police Tasers during the year, bringing the number of such deaths since 2003 to at least 26.

In February, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) revised its policy on Taser deployment, limiting Taser use to situations where there is a "threat to public or officer safety".

A public inquiry into the death in 2007 of Robert Dziekanski after he was stunned by a Taser continued in British Columbia. The provincial government accepted all the recommendations in the inquiry's July interim report, including raising the threshold for police use of Tasers from the standard of "active resistance" to "causing bodily harm".

In October, the RCMP and other police forces across Canada adopted directives that officers should not aim Tasers at the chests of individuals.

Death penalty

In March, the government was ordered by the Federal Court to reverse its decision not to seek clemency for Ronald Smith, a Canadian citizen who was sentenced to death in 1983 in the USA. International justice

In May, Désiré Munyaneza, a Rwandan national, was sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by a court in Quebec. In November, the government charged a second Rwandan national, Jacques Mungwarere, with genocide.

Corporate accountability

A new corporate social responsibility strategy announced by the government in March failed to include binding human rights requirements. Legislation to develop a human rights framework for the overseas operations of Canadian companies active in the oil, gas and mining sector was pending at the end of the year.