This morning, the UN Human Rights Committee — the independent treaty body that monitors state implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) — released its concluding observations on Canada. CCLA had provided written submissions to the Committee in advance of the hearings. On July 7th and 8th, CCLA Executive Director and General Counsel Sukanya Pillay (accompanied by Brenda McPhail, CCLA Director, Privacy, Technology and Surveillance Project) made oral submissions in Geneva about our specific concerns.
“CCLA welcomes the observations of the UN Human Rights Committee,” said Pillay. “We presented it with serious concerns, including the range of problems with Bill C-51, such as accountability deficits, excessive and unchecked CSIS powers, information sharing without caveats, and no fly lists without due process. We also called for accountability for excessive use of police force during the G20 and Montreal student protests and for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. Further, we came out strongly on ending the overuse of segregation and solitary confinement in Canadian prisons, particularly in the case of mentally ill individuals.”
She added, “There are serious human rights concerns at play today in Canada and they must be urgently addressed.”
CCLA urged the Committee to consider Canada’s recent passing of Bill C-51 and its impact on fundamental human rights, including due process; fundamental justice; liberty and security of person; privacy and the dangers of mistaken information sharing and mass surveillance; and failures of oversight and review regarding national security agencies.
CCLA also provided argument on the following:
- Recent amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and contraventions of the principle of non-refoulement (not to remove an asylum-seeker or refugee and send them to a place where they are at risk of being harmed);
- The need to have a national inquiry into murdered and disappeared Aboriginal women;
- The overrepresentation of Aboriginal men and women in the criminal justice system;
- The need to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission;
- The need to ensure that policies promote and do not obstruct equality between men and women;
- The use of force by police, particularly during the 2012 and 2015 Quebec protests, and the kettling and arrests of the 2010 Toronto G20 protesters;
- Constraints upon protest by indigenous groups and environmental groups;
- Restrictions on protest and the shrinking of public space and impact upon freedoms of expression and association;
- Concerns about overcrowding in prisons, the overuse of administrative segregation of prisoners, the continued use of segregation and solitary confinement in federal prisons, and, in particular, CCLA argued against the use of segregation for persons with mental health issues;
- Guidelines regarding the use of CEWs (conducted energy weapons, such as tasers) by police and CCLA’s call for a higher threshold for use;
- Concerns about Canada’s failure to comply with interim measures and decisions of the Committee pursuant to the Optional Protocol’s Individual Complaints Process of the Covenant.
Note, these issues are actively being pursued by CCLA within Canada. In addition to our advocacy on all of the issues above, CCLA has:
- Launched a constitutional challenge of Bill C-51 (Anti-terrorism Act 2015);
- Launched a constitutional challenge of legislative provisions which permit solitary confinement/segregation in federal prisons;
- Launched a constitutional challenge to federal privacy law which permits the private sector to unlawfully provide personal identifying information to Government, and
- Taken up the cause of representing someone who has submitted an individual complaint to the Committee arguing against deportation because he was born and raised and has lived his entire life in Canada and considers it his own country.
In issuing its concluding observations this morning, the UN Human Rights Committee has made recommendations that closely align with CCLA’s recommendations. In particular, the Committee has called upon Canada to:
- Give full effect to the Committee’s views pursuant to the Optional Protocol and in keeping with General Comment 33 (2009);
- Ensure gender equality between men and women, particularly with respect to pay gaps;
- Conduct a national inquiry into murdered and disappeared Aboriginal women and girls and into the root causes for violence;
- To amend C-51 to make it compliant with the ICCPR and not to undermine human rights — particular comment was paid to CCLA’s submitted concerns, including new CSIS warrant provisions; lack of oversight or review mechanisms, resulting in accountability failures for national security agencies; mass surveillance and privacy rights; ensuring that the new Security of Canada Information Sharing Act does not result in further human rights abuses through information sharing errors; and calling on Canada to ensure effective due process regarding the No Fly List;
- Detention of refugees and migrants should be a measure of last resort — health care services should be provided and the principle of non-refoulement should be upheld; in particular, sections of the IRPA which result in refoulement and proposed legislation including Bill 60 which would threaten refoulement should be amended;
- Reduce overcrowding in prisons, minimize the use of administrative segregation in prisons and use disciplinary segregation only as a measure of last resort; and avoid segregation for individuals with mental health issues;
- Restore the state’s commitment to principles of freedom of association, assembly, and expression by supporting these rights; removing unnecessary restrictions, and engaging in dialogue with civil society and indigenous groups;
- Excessive use of force by police during protests must be promptly and impartially investigated, and violators must be prosecuted and punished with appropriate penalties
- Implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Additionally, the Committee made important recommendations, which CCLA supports, regarding Canada’s requirement to ensure Canadian businesses do not commit human rights abuses abroad, and that Canada must consult with indigenous groups and work to ensure their land title rights are upheld.