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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.

Canada Newsroom



September 8, 2020 • Report

No safe haven: New report highlights Canada’s failure to prosecute individuals accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity

The recent murder of a Liberian national who had settled in Ontario has made one thing clear: Canada is failing to bring those suspected of crimes against humanity and war …

April 2, 2020 • Press Release

Governments Must Halt Dangerous and Discriminatory Detention of Migrants and Asylum Seekers

Authorities in a number of countries across the Americas, including Canada, the United States, Mexico, Curaçao, and Trinidad and Tobago, among others, are detaining migrants and asylum seekers in a dangerous and discriminatory manner based solely on their migration status, Amnesty International said today. In doing so, they are pushing people into unhygienic and unsafe environments, contrary to international human rights and public health guidelines.

April 1, 2020 • Press Release

COVID-19 Response in Canada Needs Human Rights Oversight

Amnesty International is urging governments across Canada to establish oversight committees tasked with monitoring the human rights impact of decisions, policies and laws adopted to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

March 20, 2020 • Press Release

U.S. Border Closure is Cruel, Short-sighted, and Opportunistic

Responding to the United States announcement that the country will imminently close its border with Mexico and Canada, Charanya Krishnaswami, the Advocacy Director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA, …

December 9, 2019 • Press Release

Generation Z Ranks Climate Change Highest as Vital Issue of our Time in Amnesty International Survey

Climate change leads as one of the most important issues facing the world, according to a major new survey of young people published by Amnesty International today to mark Human Rights Day.

November 17, 2019 • Press Release

Write For Rights: Amnesty International Launches Global Campaign Championing Youth Activists

Amnesty International has today launched Write for Rights, the world’s biggest human rights campaign, which this year champions children’s rights and youth activists.

September 10, 2019 • Press Release

Amnesty Chief Urges Schools to Let Children Take Part in Climate Strikes

Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Kumi Naidoo, has written a personal plea to more than 27,000 schools around the world today urging them to allow children to take part in the unprecedented wave of global climate strikes planned for September 20 and 27.

May 30, 2017 • Press Release

Alicia Keys and the Indigenous rights movement in Canada receive Amnesty International award

Celebrated global music artist and activist Alicia Keys and the inspirational movement of Indigenous Peoples fighting for their rights in Canada have been honored with the 2017 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award at an evening ceremony in Montreal, Canada.

November 1, 2016 • Report

Out of Sight Out of Mind

Decades of resource development and government policy failures have strained the social fabric of communities in northeast British Columbia (BC), Canada, and have put the lives and safety of Indigenous women and girls at great risk, Amnesty International said in a new report.

August 8, 2016 • Press Release

Massive hydroelectric dam threatens Indigenous communities in Canada

A massive hydroelectric dam now under construction in the Canadian province of British Columbia violates Canada’s commitments to uphold the human rights of Indigenous peoples, says a new brief by Amnesty International.