Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor General David Johnston (replaced Michaëlle Jean in October)
Head of government: Stephen Harper
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 33.9 million
Life expectancy: 81 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 6/6 per 1,000
Indigenous Peoples faced ongoing, systematic violations of their rights. There were fears that proposed new legislation could result in the prolonged detention of asylum-seekers. Concerns about human rights violations associated with counter-terror and security operations persisted.
A proposed bill to create a national housing strategy consistent with international human rights standards was pending at the end of the year.
In June, Parliament passed legislation to implement a free trade agreement with Colombia but this did not include a credible, independent human rights impact assessment. In October, a bill to develop national human rights standards and an associated enforcement scheme for businesses was narrowly defeated by the House of Commons.
In June a national coalition was launched, Voices/Voix, responding to government funding cuts and other measures that impeded civil society advocacy in such areas as women’s equality and the rights of Palestinians.
Indigenous Peoples’ rights
The traditional lands of the Lubicon Cree continued to be exploited for oil and gas development authorized by the Alberta provincial government without the free, prior and informed consent of the Lubicon. In September, the UN Special Rapporteur on indigenous people called for “renewed and resolute” action to protect the rights of the Lubicon.
There were continuing concerns about failure to investigate excessive use of force by police during protests over land rights in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Ontario. Progress in implementing related reforms proposed by the 2007 Ipperwash Inquiry remained slow.
A Canadian Human Rights Tribunal hearing continued into a complaint that the federal government spends substantially less on child and family services in First Nations communities than is provided in predominantly non-Indigenous communities.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights proceeded with a review of a complaint from the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group, alleging violations of Indigenous land rights on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
In November, Canada endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples’ organizations urged the government to implement the Declaration in a principled manner.
In June, as host of the G8 Summit, the government announced a global child and maternal health initiative. There was controversy about the lack of a comprehensive approach on sexual and reproductive rights.
In September, the British Columbia government announced an inquiry into the police response to cases of missing and murdered women in Vancouver, many of whom were Indigenous. There were concerns that the inquiry might not analyse the underlying factors that put these women at risk.
The federal government failed to work with Indigenous women to establish a national action plan to address the high levels of violence they face. A government funding announcement in October left substantial gaps in the protection afforded Indigenous women.
In October the federal government released an Action Plan for the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security.
Counter-terror and security
In January, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canadian officials violated the rights of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr during interrogations at Guantánamo Bay in 2003 and 2004. He had been apprehended by US forces when he was 15 years old. (See USA entry.)
Hearings by the Military Police Complaints Commission into concerns that Canadian soldiers transferred prisoners in Afghanistan to the custody of Afghan officials, despite a serious risk they would be tortured, continued throughout the year.
In June, Parliament passed the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, instituting an appeal for refused refugee claimants and introducing a safe country of origin list to be used for expediting some refugee claims.
In October, the government proposed legislation to crack down on human smuggling, which penalizes refugee claimants arriving in Canada in an “irregular” manner. The proposals included mandatory detention for one year without access to a detention review.
Policing and justice
In April, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police revised its policy, limiting the use of conducted energy devices to situations where individuals are “causing bodily harm” or “will imminently cause bodily harm.”
Aron Firman died in June, after being stunned with a Taser by members of the Ontario Provincial Police in Collingwood, Ontario. Federal Guidelines for the Use of Conducted Energy Weapons, released in October, did not set a threshold of risk for Taser use.
In June, more than 1,000 people were arrested in Toronto during protests related to the G8 and G20 Summits. The federal and Ontario governments rejected calls for a comprehensive public inquiry.