Head of state Queen Elizabeth II, represented by
Head of government Stephen Harper
There were continuing systematic violations of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Immigration and refugee law reforms violated international human rights norms.
Indigenous Peoples’ rights
In January, hearings began before a government-appointed review panel to consider a proposal to build a pipeline connecting the Alberta oil sands and the British Columbia coast. The controversial Northern Gateway project would pass through or near the traditional lands of dozens of First Nations, many of whom have expressed public opposition.
In February, the federal government acknowledged before the CERD Committee that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples could be used when interpreting Canadian laws, but took no steps to work with Indigenous Peoples to implement the Declaration.
In February, the government introduced the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act but the Act’s regulations provide no additional resources for water infrastructure in First Nations communities.
In April, the Federal Court overturned a 2011 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling dismissing a discrimination complaint regarding public spending on child protection in First Nation communities as compared to predominantly non-Indigenous communities. The case was before the Federal Court of Appeal at the end of the year.
Legislative changes in 2012 dramatically restricted federal environmental impact assessments. The government had claimed that these assessments were crucial for fulfilling its constitutional obligations towards Indigenous Peoples.
In February and June the UN CERD Committee and Committee against Torture respectively called on Canada to develop a national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women. The federal government failed to do so.
In October, video footage was released of the ill-treatment in detention of 19-year-old Ashley Smith, who died in an Ontario provincial jail in 2007. A Coroner’s inquest into her case was continuing at the end of the year.
The report of a British Columbia inquiry into the police response to cases of missing and murdered women, many of whom were Indigenous, was released in December. Amnesty International and other organizations were critical of the inquiry’s failure to ensure the full and effective participation of affected communities.
>Counter-terror and security
The Military Police Complaints Commission released a report in June clearing individual military police officers of fault, but pointing to systemic failings with respect to the transfer of prisoners in Afghanistan to the custody of Afghan officials.
In August, a Ministerial Direction from 2011 was made public instructing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Border Services Agency, in cases involving a serious threat to public safety, to make use of foreign intelligence that may have been obtained through torture and to share information with foreign governments even if doing so would give rise to a substantial risk of torture.
In September, Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen apprehended by US forces in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15 and detained at Guantánamo Bay since, was transferred to a Canadian prison. Further to a 2011 plea deal, he had been eligible for transfer for 11 months.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
In June, legislation was passed requiring mandatory detention of asylum-seekers arriving in Canada in an irregular manner. The legislation denied access to the Refugee Appeal Division to such individuals as well as to refugee claimants coming from designated safe countries of origin.
In June, the government introduced new legislation which would strip large numbers of permanent residents with criminal records of the ability to appeal or seek humanitarian relief from deportation orders.
Also in June, the government instituted drastic cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program for refugees. Among other restrictions, refugee claimants from designated safe countries of origin would only be eligible for health care if they posed a risk to the health of others.
In September, Kimberly Rivera, whose claim for refugee status based on her desertion from the US military for reasons of conscience was rejected, was deported to the USA where she was arrested. She was confined to Fort Carson Army Base awaiting court-martial at the end of the year.
Police and security forces
Emergency legislation limiting freedom of expression and assembly was enacted in the province of Quebec in May in response to mass student demonstrations. It was suspended in September following a change of government. The government did not respond to calls for a public inquiry into police abuses during the demonstrations.
In May, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director in the province of Ontario recommended disciplinary proceedings against 36 police officers for offences associated with the policing of demonstrations at the G20 Summit in Toronto in 2010. Disciplinary hearings and court challenges were continuing at the end of the year.
In May, a mandated report was released, assessing the human rights impacts of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement which had entered into force in August 2011. The government claimed it was too early to assess the impacts.
In November, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal in a case brought against a Canadian mining company for alleged responsibility for human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lower courts had ruled that Canada was not the appropriate jurisdiction in which to hear the case.
Amnesty International visits/reports
- Canada: Summary of recommendations from Amnesty International’s briefing to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (AMR 20/003/2012)
- Canada: Briefing to the UN Committee against Torture, 48th Session (AMR 20/004/2012)
- Canada: Briefing to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: 61st Session (AMR 20/006/2012)