CCLA welcomes Foreign Minister Dion’s announcement yesterday that Canada will begin the process of joining the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). Joining means Canada will allow independent inspections of detention centres. This is an important step in ensuring accountability because behind closed doors is where torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment can occur.
Joining the OPCAT is something CCLA has consistently advocated for in national and international fora. In 2012, we appeared before the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva to urge Canada to live up to its legal commitments. In 2015, we advocated for Canada to sign the OPCAT before the UN Human UN Human Rights Committee. In both instances, CCLA’s concerns were well reflected in the concluding observations presented to the Government of Canada.
By ratifying the Optional Protocol, it not only demonstrates Canadian opposition to torture around the world, but also reflects a willingness to finally confront how we treat our own prisoners at home. In 2015, CCLA launched a constitutional challenge to the overuse of segregation in Canadian prisons in response to placing prisoners in solitary confinement, failing safeguards, an absence of adequate oversight, and the wholly inadequate response of the Correctional Service of Canada to the Ashley Smith inquest recommendations. We have also spoken out against the mistreatment of individuals held in detention by the Canada Border Services Agency.
The government has promised to begin consultations with provincial and territorial stakeholders as the first step towards signing the Optional Protocol. CCLA will continue to monitor events and hold the government to this important commitment.