Head of state Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor
General Michaëlle Jean
Head of government Stephen Harper
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 33.6 million
Life expectancy 80.6 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 6/6 per 1,000
Canadian officials failed to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples adequately. Concerns persisted about human rights violations associated with national security laws and practices as well as Canadian overseas mining operations.
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.
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.
Counter-terror and security
Individuals subject to immigration security certificates continued to be denied access to much of the evidence against them. The Federal Court overturned certificates against two men in October and December.
In May, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal concerning the Canadian military’s policy of handing battlefield detainees in Afghanistan over to Afghan authorities. In November, testimony by a Canadian diplomat before a Parliamentary Committee gave rise to serious concerns about failures by senior officials to take account of the risk of torture faced by transferred prisoners.
- In August, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld an earlier court ruling that the Canadian government must seek the repatriation of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was apprehended by US forces in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old and had been detained at Guantánamo Bay since 2002. An appeal was lodged with the Supreme Court of Canada against the ruling.
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.
Police and security forces
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amnesty International reports
"A place to regain who we are" – Grassy Narrows First Nation, Canada (21 June 2009)
"Pushed to the edge" – The land rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada (9 September 2009)
"Fighting for the future of our children" – Indigenous rights in the Sacred Headwaters region, British Columbia, Canada (9 September 2009)
Connecting our past to our future – The Long Point First Nation of Canada (16 September 2009)
No more stolen sisters ? The need for a comprehensive response to discrimination and violence against Indigenous women in Canada (30 September 2009)