Race / Ethnicity / Religion
Race / Ethnicity / Religion is part of the Equality program. You can find more information about it on its main program page.
By Peter Goffin
on November 25, 2013
WHERE: Moot Court, New Chancellor Day Hall, 3644 Rue Peel
WHEN: Monday, December 2nd, 2013, 5:30 PM
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association chapter at McGill Law is co-sponsoring a December 2nd round table discussion on the Charter of Quebec Values (also known as Bill 60). The event, organized by Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), will focus on legal and civil rights issues as they pertain to international and domestic human rights instruments, citizenship and labor relations. The panel will include legal and labor relations practitioners who have litigated or actively participated in legislation and public policy on these issues.
Alexa Conradi, President of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, will be the Opening Speaker.
The panel will include:
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University
President, Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association
Executive Director, Association of English-Speaking School Boards of Québéc
For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/events/579766118745869/?source=1.
By Cara Zwibel
on September 13, 2013
By Cara Zwibel
on September 11, 2013
The CCLA is deeply disturbed by the proposed Quebec Charter of Values introduced yesterday by the Quebec government. The proposal includes a prohibition on public servants wearing overt or conspicuous religious symbols, including teachers, staff in hospitals and daycare workers. It would also require that individuals have their faces uncovered when seeking or providing a state service. The proposed changes would, in CCLA’s view, violate fundamental constitutional rights including freedom of expression, freedom of religion and the right to equality. It is difficult to believe that if the proposal were passed into law, it could survive a challenge before the courts. While governments may place reasonable restrictions on rights of expression, religion and equality, the proposed Quebec Charter fails to meet this standard.
The proposal purports to have as its purpose ensuring state neutrality, but the consequences of the proposed changes appear to do little to achieve that goal. While CCLA is a supportive of ensuring that government is neutral with respect to religion, this requires that government not prefer one religious group over others and that it not endorse religious beliefs as those of the state. Treating all public servants equally by allowing them to comply with their own religious beliefs and requirements, or simply wear something based on their cultural background, does not offend the state’s neutrality. Unless there is a compelling reason to believe that the wearing of cultural or religious symbols interferes with a public servant’s ability to do their job, there is no basis for prohibiting them from doing so. The proposed Quebec Charter is also telling for what it does not include. In particular, the large crucifix that hangs in the National Assembly would be retained as part of Quebec’s “heritage” and the ban on those in the public service wearing conspicuous religious symbols would not apply to elected officials.
In a free and democratic society like Quebec, individuals are guaranteed the right to express themselves and manifest their religious beliefs. The Quebec government’s proposal is a violation of these principles and cannot be supported. CCLA will be engaging on this issue as it moves forward.
By Peter Goffin
on September 11, 2013
The Quebec government announced yesterday that, under its proposed Charter of Values, “overt and conspicuous” religious symbols and religious garments would be banned from public service offices.
This would mean no burkas, turbans, hijabs, and other such religious wear permitted amongst those providing or receiving service in schools, courts, daycares, and other government-run workplaces.
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of CCLA’s Equality Program spoke to the Canadian Press to provide our stance on the issue. “If we want to have diversity and equality in our society, we need to have diverse leaders, we need to have diverse role models… This proposal would essentially say that’s not possible, a person has to hide aspects of their diversity and certain people won’t be able to fill those roles at all,” she said.
Read the full Canadian Press article for more of Noa’s take on the Quebec Charter of Values.
As a leading voice on rights and freedoms in Canada, we here at CCLA expressed our concerns with a religious symbols ban when it was first proposed back in August. Check out Director of CCLA’s Fundamental Freedoms Program Cara Zwibel discussing the risks of the ban with CTV News.
And read Cara’s website post on the issue.
Check back here on our blog, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook, for more updates on the religious symbols ban as they develop.
Click here to learn more about our work on freedom of religion.
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on July 4, 2013
CCLA has provided submissions to the Toronto Police Services Board, urging the Board to put a stop to the police practice of random “street checks” (also known as carding). In addition, CCLA objected to delays in the provision of data and reports on these topics to the Board, given that this information is needed for transparency and accountability with respect to police practices and concerns about racial profiling.
CCLA has been before the Toronto Police Services Board numerous times in the past year to address concerns about racial profiling, and continues to call for an end to random stops, and better tools for transparency and accountability with respect to police conduct.
To read CCLA’s latest submissions, click here.
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on June 20, 2013
World Refugee Day was established by the UN General Assembly in late 2000 and is marked each year on 20 June.
The following statement was made by António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees in honour of World Refugee Day 2013
“I have come to Jordan on this World Refugee Day to stand by the people of Syria in their time of acute need. I also want to salute Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and all the countries in the region for being generous havens that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
In all the years I have worked on behalf of refugees, this is the most worrying I have ever witnessed. The needs of these people are overwhelming; their anguish is unbearable. Today, there are over 1.6 million registered Syrian refugees. More than one million of them arrived just in the last six months, and thousands more come every day, seeking places to stay, sustenance, someone who will listen and help them heal.
Inside Syria, the scale of human suffering is beyond comprehension. The Syria we once knew is no more. In the heart of a turbulent region, the country was host to over one million Iraqi and half a million Palestinian refugees. I think of the Syrians I met over the years during many visits to see Iraqi refugees. Never could they have imagined that such violence would overtake them – that they would become refugees themselves – desperate, destitute and forsaken.
I worry that an entire nation is being left to self-destruct as it empties itself of its people. I am dismayed to hear of the trauma children face. Nightmares define their waking lives as much as they haunt their sleep. School is a distant memory.
Here in Jordan, over 500,000 registered Syrian refugees live in safety now. The Zaatari Refugee Camp has become Jordan’s fifth largest city and the second largest refugee camp in the world. There is hardly a town or a city in Jordan that is not host to Syrians. It is much the same in Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. This hospitality is a remarkable demonstration of humanity against a backdrop of depravity.
With no clear political resolution in sight, this civil war is in real danger of sliding into a regional conflict. It is no longer fantasy to foresee an explosion in the Middle East that the world would not be able to cope with.
We will continue to do everything we can to aid and alleviate the suffering of Syrians. But the cascade of death and destruction is spreading fast, and I repeat my call on those with political responsibilities to overcome their divisions and come together to do everything in their power to stop this war.”
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on April 25, 2013
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has filed submissions with the Toronto Police Services Board to address racial profiling, and has set out the Association’s position on “street checks.” In its submissions, CCLA states that police stops, demands and recording of a person’s identity without an investigative or legitimate policing purpose (“community engagement” does not qualify as a legitimate purpose) is an unjustified and unconstitutional violation of individuals’ fundamental rights. CCLA also demands that if individuals are stopped and questioned by police, they should be provided with a copy of information recorded about them (subject to reasonable exclusions). The receipt proposed by the Toronto Police Service (in Form 306) does not sastisfy this. CCLA has addressed the Board previously on the issue of racial profiling, street checks, and Form 306.
To read CCLA’s submissions, click here.
By Sukanya Pillay
on March 25, 2013
This morning in Geneva, CCLA addressed State Delegations at a pre-session of the Universal Periodic Review (“UPR”), organized by the organization UPR-Info. CCLA’s intervention was to update States on our concerns about Canada’s ongoing human rights record, in anticipation of Canada’s Second Universal Periodic Review. Canada, like all member States of the United Nations, participates in the Universal Periodic Review process, in which States make recommendations to each other on steps to further adherence to international law commitments, and the State Under Review (in this case, Canada) has the option to “accept” or “reject” recommendations, and to undertake “voluntary commitments”. The purpose of the 2nd UPR of Canada incorporates examining progress on Canada’s commitments made during the first UPR in 2009.
Nathalie Des Rosiers, CCLA General Counsel and Executive Director, addressed the State delegations this morning on behalf of CCLA. She was part of a delegation of Canadian NGOs who took the floor during the Pre-Session this morning.
Later in the day, CCLA participated in a “working lunch” at the Canadian Permanent Mission to the UN, with other Canadian NGOs.
To read CCLA’s statement to the UPR Pre-Session click here: STATEMENT OF CCLA – UPR 2013 Pre-Session
For background information on the upcoming Second UPR of Canada click here: http://ccla.org/2012/10/09/ccla-submits-ngo-report-regarding-2nd-universal-periodic-review-of-canada/. To read a copy of CCLA’s WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS to the UPR Process please click here: click here.
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on March 18, 2013
CCLA welcomes the decision released today by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Pham, affirming the central role that the principle of individualized sentencing should play: that the personal circumstances of an offender are relevant in determining their sentence. The central question on appeal was whether a judge should exercise his or her discretion to take collateral immigration consequences into account in the sentencing process, namely the loss of a right to appeal a deportation order. Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a permanent resident sentenced to a term of imprisonment of two years or more loses the right to appeal a removal order issued against him or her.
Mr. Pham, a Vietnamese citizen and permanent resident of Canada, was charged and convicted with unlawfully producing marijuana and possessing it for the purposes of trafficking. At his sentencing hearing, he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment triggering a loss of appeal rights against a removal order issued against him. Neither the Crown nor Mr. Pham’s counsel had raised this issue before the sentencing judge. On appeal, however, the Crown conceded that it would have agreed to a sentence of two years less one day. Despite this, the majority of the Alberta Court of Appeal denied Mr. Pham’s appeal to have his sentence reduced by one day. The Supreme Court reversed this decision, allowing the appeal and reducing Mr. Pham’s sentence from two years to two years less a day. The Court noted that collateral immigration consequences may be just as relevant in sentencing as the collateral consequences of other legislation or of circumstances specific to the offender.
CCLA appeared before the Court to argue that the collateral immigration consequences of a sentence should be considered at sentencing and that the criminal law should be flexible enough to allow the judiciary to fashion appropriate and individualized responses to criminal conduct on a case-by-case basis. CCLA also argued that the failure to consider the collateral immigration consequences of a sentence for a non-citizen could be a violation of the right to equality under the Charter. The Supreme Court affirmed, similarly, that “if the personal circumstances of the offender are different, different sentences will be justified.”
CCLA thanks Matthew S. Estabrooks and D. Lynne Watt of Gowlings Ottawa for their excellent work in this case.
For the Supreme Court’s decision, click here.
For CCLA’s factum in the case, click here.
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on March 11, 2013
CCLA welcomes the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal in the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (FNCS) v. Canada decision released today. The complaint by FNCS alleges that the federal government has discriminated against First Nations children on reserve by under-funding child welfare services provided to them. The federal government argued that their funding of these services could not be discriminatory, as they did not provide comparable funding to any other children in Canada. FNCS, the Assembly of First Nations, Chiefs of Ontario, Amnesty International, and the Canadian Human Rights Commission were parties in the case. These parties disagreed with the government’s position. CCLA intervened to ensure that a purposive understanding of equality was maintained in line with equality jurisprudence. The Federal Court of Appeal supported such a conclusion. The human rights complaint on the merits is proceeding at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
CCLA was represented at the Federal Court of Appeal by Chris Wayland and Steven Tanner of McCarthys.
To read the decision, click here.
To read CCLA”s factum click here
For more on the human rights complaint, the history of the complaint, its progress, legal documents and more, click here.