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Human Rights Committee discusses the report of Canada

Human Rights Committee 

8 July 2015

The Human Rights Committee today completed its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Canada on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Laurie Wright, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Public Law Sector at the Department of Justice, presenting the report, said that all governments – federal, provincial and territorial – had worked together to produce Canada’s sixth periodic report and the response to the List of Issues.  Canada’s federal system was a complex, co-operative and co-ordinated whole.  The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was part of its constitution, and was the primary vehicle for the implementation of the Covenant.  The constitutional framework for Aboriginal rights would continue to be the cornerstone of efforts to promote and protect their rights.  Canada was granting protection to a greater proportion of asylum claimants and in a more timely fashion, following the reforms to the asylum system implemented in 2012. 

In the ensuing dialogue, Committee Experts asked numerous questions about the rights of Aboriginal peoples, and especially the status of Aboriginal women.  They also wanted to hear more about the Information Sharing Act and the respect for privacy, processing of refugee and asylum claims, refoulement and the application of the interim measures by the Committee, conditions for the withdrawal of Canadian citizenship, obligation of Canadian companies worldwide to respect human rights, conditions in Canadian prisons, and the treatment of prisoners with mental health issues.  Questions were also asked about  access to justice, civilian review of federal police forces, usage of conducted energy weapons (Tasers), and combatting domestic violence,

Ms. Wright, in closing remarks, stated that Canada’s Constitution provided for robust protection for rights and freedoms, which were widely known and exercised by citizens, free press and civil society.  The Charter of Rights and Freedoms protected the freedom of assembly, association and individual liberties.  Canada was a steadfast supporter of the United Nations and was committed to continuing dialogue with the human rights treaty bodies.  Canada took its international obligations very seriously.

Committee Chairperson Fabian Omar Salvioli, in his concluding remarks, said the State party was encouraged to continue and expand the practice of promoting concluding observations of the treaty bodies.  The final arbiter for interpreting the Covenant was the Committee and not individual States.  The issue of the Aboriginal peoples in Canada had been discussed on numerous occasions, and questions had been raised on a large number of aspects, which both the Committee and the State party took very seriously.  It was fundamental for the State party that was committed to preventing torture and cruel treatment to comply with the interim measures adopted by the Committee. 

The delegation of Canada included representatives of the Department of Justice, Portfolio Affairs and Communication, Aboriginal and External Affairs, Strategic Management and Human Rights, Trade Commissioner Services and Operations, International and Intergovernmental Relations, Human Rights Law Section, Ministry of International Relations and Francophony of the Government of Quebec, and the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public today at 3 p.m., when it will consider the fourth periodic report of Uzbekistan (CCPR/C/UBZ/4). 
Report

The sixth periodic report of Canada is available here: CCPR/C/CAN/6.

Presentation of the Report

LAURIE WRIGHT, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Public Law Sector of the Department of Justice of Canada, informed that all governments – federal, provincial and territorial – had worked together to produce Canada’s sixth periodic report and the response to the List of Issues.  Civil society and aboriginal organizations also played an important role in identifying and advancing important areas of discussions with respect to Canada’s implementation of the Covenant. 

Aboriginal people in Canada numbered about 1.4 million people, out of the total population of 35 million.  Canada’s system was marked by the shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and respect for the rule of law.  Canada was a federal state, with a federal government at the national level, 10 provincial and three territorial governments.  The modern reality of Canada’s federal system was that it was a complex, co-operative and co-ordinated whole.  Canada took a co-operative approach to implementation, allowing provinces and territories to find local solutions to local problems, while engaging in frequent consultation and collaboration between jurisdictions.  The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was a part of its constitution, and was the primary vehicle for the implementation of the Covenant.  The Charter guaranteed equality and non-discrimination; it also guaranteed the right not to be arbitrarily detained and the right to a fair trial.  In addition, the Constitution recognized and affirmed the treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples.  The courts were empowered to strike down laws that were found to be inconsistent with the constitutional guarantees. 

Regarding Canada’s relationship with Aboriginal peoples, Ms. Wright stressed that Canada was working hard to ensure constructive engagement with Aboriginal partners, and the constitutional framework for Aboriginal rights would continue to be the cornerstone of efforts to promote and protect their rights.  In 2010, Canada had endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  In June 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had released its executive summary, including its key findings and recommendations, which the Government would analyse.  Violence against Aboriginal women and girls was an issue which Canada took very seriously; it had a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities across the country.  In April 2015, the Government had begun implementing its Action Plan to Address Family Violence and Violent Crimes against Aboriginal Women and Girls.  Its three main pillars were prevention, support to victims and protection of Aboriginal women by investing in shelters and investing in law enforcement.  The Government of Canada would continue to work with provinces, territories and organizations to address that issue.

Ms. Wright stated that Canada was one of the top five immigrant receiving countries in the world and was recognized internationally as a leader in managed migration.  Canada had a generous and fair asylum system.  Canada was granting protection to a greater proportion of asylum claimants and in a more timely fashion, following the reforms to the asylum system implemented in 2012.  Regarding public safety and national security, all relevant officials were subject to applicable domestic and international human rights law standards, including the Canadian Charter, and to external and independent review.  Steps had been taken to enhance the accountability structure for the national police forces.  A civilian review and complaints commission had been created in 2014 to replace the existing review body.  All jurisdictions in Canada had measures in place to ensure that persons deprived of their liberty were treated with humanity, dignity and respect.  Canada was not immune to threats to its national security, as the October 2014 attacks had demonstrated.  New legislation included checks and balances to ensure the respect of the rights of Canadians while law enforcement and national security agencies were provided with additional tools and flexibility to respond to evolving threats.

Questions by Experts

An Expert referred to several reported cases of breaches of the Bill of Rights, and asked for an explanation.  Some breaches seemed to be continuing for a number of years, because of the supremacy of the Parliament.  Were rights not absolute and could they be derogated from?

Canada was one of the few countries with a human rights tribunal, the Expert noted, asking what kind of cases were referred to the tribunal and how its decisions were enforced.

Did the right to mobility apply only to the citizens and residents of Canada?

Could more information be provided on the affirmative action programme?

Questions were asked on the cases in which Canada had not abided by the views of the Committee.  One case referred to deporting a Somali citizen who had been under threat of persecution, and another included a man deported to Jamaica, who had subsequently been exposed to violence and police brutality.

Could the delegation furnish details about complaints submitted to the new civilian review commission of the police forces?  How was the independence of the commission ensured?  What was the remit of various commissioners overviewing the national security apparatus and how was the oversight implemented in practical terms?

The Committee would like to hear more about the new anti-terrorism act, which was causing suspicion because of its very wide implications.  There were fears that it could lead to very wide surveillance.  How was the act going to be applied?

Another Expert raised the issue of corporate social responsibility.  Two-thirds of the world’s mining companies were headquartered in Canada.  While Canadian companies were expected to endorse Canadian values in their activities abroad, how were those values implemented in practical terms?  Was there an effective mechanism to monitor the conduct of Canadian oil and gas companies abroad?  Was the Government considering setting up a legal framework for holding companies accountable for possible human rights abuses?

Regarding equality between men and women, an Expert asked about the impact of the gender-based analysis tools and which governments had not yet implemented those tools and why.  Women in British Columbia, for example, earned 81 per cent of what men earned; the wage gap persisted across the country.  Women remained underrepresented in leadership positions and overly represented in part-time work, the Expert noted. 

Questions were asked about access to justice, including for the Aboriginal people.  Did access to legal aid also include legal aid on civil matters?  Could concrete examples be provided when court cases dealing with Aboriginal rights took a long time because of the specificities of Aboriginal laws?

Was domestic violence considered a criminal offence?  Were there shelters for the victims of domestic violence available?  Had perpetrators been prosecuted and punished, and were there programmes in place to change their behaviour?

The delegation was asked to provide more details on cases of disappearances and murders of Aboriginal women, especially along the so-called “Highway of Tears.” Did most of those cases remain unresolved? 

Another Expert asked what criteria Canadian courts used regarding the exercise of the discretionary power of the Minister of Justice.

More information was sought on concerns regarding the application of the non-refoulement principle.  Despite recommendations to the contrary, information was allowed to be shared with a foreign country in security matters even if that could lead to torture.  What were the procedural safeguards in place?

An Expert asked the delegation for details on compensation to victims of torture and ill-treatment.

Referring to police misconduct, an Expert asked whether hearings in police stations in Canada were recorded.   How effective were Nova Scotia’s and Alberta’s serious incidents response teams?  What was the average time for a complaint to be resolved by each of the bodies?   Had any efforts been taken to look into police behaviour during the 2012 Quebec student protest?

Guidelines on conducted energy weapons (Tasers) were not necessarily applicable at provincial levels, the Expert noted.  The use of those weapons had been linked to death and injury in a number of cases.  Could the delegation provide information on complaints received with regard to the use of such weapons?  Were there limitations on their use on persons with disabilities?

The regulation of the no-fly list was raised by an Expert, which was covered by the new anti-terrorism law.  Did the phrase “without regard to any other law” mentioned in the law also include the Covenant?

Another Expert noted that the current List of Issues included many recommendations which had been issued previously as well.   Had Canada not thought of follow-up mechanisms regarding decisions and concluding observations of treaty bodies?

Responses by the Delegation

Responding to the question on the Canadian Bill of Rights, the delegation said that the Bill was not a constitutional measure but a statutory measure and did not have the same application as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which had a higher status.

On the application of the Covenant in Canada, it was explained that it did not have direct applicability.  The Charter was consistent with international law.  The Covenant had been used recently in a decision on religious freedom.

The delegation said that there were 800 Canadian companies operating in Latin America, Africa and Asia.  Their projects provided significant economic benefits in jobs, infrastructure and taxes; communities and countries wanted such projects.  The Government’s policy was to catch potential problems early; in that process Canada was heavily influenced by the United Nations Principles on Business and Human Rights.  Canadian companies which declined governmental mechanisms would lose the Government’s support.  Canada ensured the application of the Covenant for individuals on Canadian territory; otherwise, the question of extra-territoriality would be raised. 

Regarding refugee claims, it was explained that the Government took obligations on non-refoulement very seriously.  Canada had never deported any person where there was a substantial reason to believe that they would face threat to their life or well-being. The Charter had to be interpreted in the light of Canada’s international obligations.  Decisions by the Minister of Citizenship of Immigration were subject to a review by the Federal Court of Canada. 

The delegation stated that the Refugee Convention excluded serious non-political criminals from international protection.  Foreign nationals who had committed serious crimes might not be admitted to Canada.  Those already in Canada would go through the pre-return risk assessment. 

The delegation said that the Committee’s views were not legally binding, but Canada had accepted its views in a majority of cases.  On several occasions, Canada had disagreed with the Committee, but that had not amounted to Canada’s rejection of the provisions of the Covenant.

On the national security review, it was explained that the federal policing services were guided by the principles of integrity, honesty, professionalism and accountability.  The review body of the federal police forces had investigative powers, including the possibility to summon witnesses and conduct policy reviews, as well as policy procedures.  Civilian observers could be appointed in cases of serious incidents involving the police forces. 

Regarding information sharing, it was said that Canada was committed to protecting human rights of all individuals while combatting terrorism.  Clear authority for government institutions to share information was included in a proposed act.  Amendments to the Customs Act would allow for sharing information on travellers, for example.  Only those officials within institutions who required information to carry out their duties would be privy to the relevant information.  Individuals would be protected from arbitrary interference with their privacy.  Information sharing with foreign entities would go ahead only if there was no danger of mistreatment. 

With regard to the case of Omar Khadr, it was emphasized that robust detention monitoring mechanisms were in place in Canada.  Human rights bodies occasionally visited Canadian penitentiaries.  There was unrestricted access to legal representation in the Canadian legal system.  In May 2015, Mr. Khadr had been released on bail under strict conditions.

The delegation said that Canada believed that, when used appropriately, conducted energy weapons (Tasers) were an effective measure.  In all cases, police officers had to conduct a risk assessment before applying those weapons, and try to use other means beforehand.

The missing and murdered Aboriginal women overview of 2014 showed that Aboriginal women accounted for 16 per cent of female homicides and 11 per cent of missing female persons, which was three to four times their percentage of the general population; 92 per cent of homicides had been committed by family members, spouses or intimate partners.  There had been 292 unresolved cases as of the end of 2013.

The Government of Canada preferred to resolve issues on Aboriginal rights through negotiations rather than litigation in courts, the delegation stated.

With reference to domestic violence, it was stressed that more work was required, especially when it came to Aboriginal and immigrant women.  Domestic violence was not a specific crime under Canadian legislation; specific forms of violence were instead listed in various laws.  Some provinces and territories had specialized courts dealing with domestic violence cases.

The wage gap had declined over the previous 10 years, and women today earned 86 per cent of what men did.  The Province of Quebec was promoting the advancement of women’s rights, including through the adoption of the first plan of action.  The wage gap could partly be explained by different natures of jobs performed by women and men.  New places in crèches, for example in Quebec and Ontario, should help alleviate pressures of child raising on women, and allow them more work-life balance.  Ontario was also offering micro-financing programmes to help women start and grow their businesses.

Regarding the access of justice to Aboriginals, Ontario had developed a strategy to make that access easier.  In British Columbia, publicly funded legal services were available. 

On the implementation of the recommendations of the Committee, the delegation said that concluding observations were distributed to central and provincial bodies, and were available on the Government’s website.  Civil society and Aboriginal organizations were consulted on the recommendations and in the preparation of Canada’s periodic reports. Better ways to conduct consultations were continuously sought, and suggestions from the Committee in that regard were welcome.

Follow-up Questions by Experts

The delegation was asked for its opinion on the Committee’s recommendations on provisional/interim measures of protection, especially in cases of deportation.  The obligation to respect the Committee’s request was inherent in the Optional Protocol. 

Another Expert reiterated the question on the Aboriginal court programme and its results.

What regulations prevented the use of Tasers on vulnerable populations at provincial and territorial levels, an Expert inquired.

The Committee would appreciate more information on withdrawing Canadian citizenship for serious offenders, and what was being done to ensure that such individuals were not rendered stateless.

If the Canadian Government was providing support to Canadian corporations, then they should also fall under Canadian jurisdiction, an Expert noted.  Were there any policy programmes to promote Canadian companies operating outside of the country?

Could any indicators on prevention of violence against Aboriginal women and girls be provided?

Even if the Government only had territorial jurisdiction, the laws of the country were applicable on the operations of companies based in Canada.  A country could not just provide corporate identity to a company and then be unperturbed by whatever the company could do around the world.

Another Expert asked why the average time spent in immigration detention stood at one month.  Given that Canadian border services exercised power to detain immigrants, was there an oversight mechanism to ensure accountability, or an Ombudsman to whom detainees could complain?  Did Canada have provisions to protect vulnerable migrants, to ensure they were not detained in provincial facilities?

Responses by the Delegation

On citizenship and immigration issues, the delegation said that the Citizenship Act included new grounds for the revocation of citizenship of dual nationals convicted of terrorism, treason, high treason and spying offences.  That could also be done for dual nationals serving in the armed forces of a country at war with Canada.  Canada was a party to the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, so the citizenship could be revoked only if the person in question was a dual national.  Decisions by the Minister were provided in writing and were subject for review by the Federal Court of Canada.

Processing time for refugee claims was faster than before the reform process; 60 per cent of claims had been accepted in 2014.  Each individual claimant had a fair hearing before an independent board, regardless of the country they came from.  The designated country of origin regulation applied to countries as a whole and not to parts or regions of the country.  There was no statutory stay of removal for nationals from designated countries of origin.

The Information Sharing Act allowed for sharing only between the Government of Canada institutions; it did not affect international sharing mechanisms already in place. 

The delegation said that, regarding the Passenger Protection Programme, judges retained discretion to appoint amici curiae to the proceedings.

Conducted energy weapons (Tasers) were categorized as high risk deployments.  A report had to be filed every time such a weapon was used.  Since 2008, there had been an overall decrease of more than 20 per cent in the usage of such weapons; they were more used as a deterrent rather than being deployed.

Canada took special measures to promote access to justice for Aboriginal Canadians.  One hundred and seventy-three Aboriginal court workers served more than 150,000 Aboriginals every year; satisfaction ratings stood at more than 90 per cent.  The programme increased the efficiency of courts and reduced the number of administration of justice offences.

When the Human Rights Tribunal found a discrimination complaint substantiated, its decision might be made the order of a federal court, in exceptional circumstances.  In most cases, parties would apply to its decisions without court orders.

In some cases, Canada could not agree with the Committee’s views, mostly related to the removal of individuals from Canada.  No individuals had been removed if domestic processes had established that they faced harm if removed from the country.

The jurisdictional sovereignty of the State was primarily territorial, in the view of the Government.  Individuals affected by the operation of Canadian companies abroad were thus not necessarily under Canadian jurisdiction.  In 10 cases, the Canadian Government had offered good services to help facilitate dialogue between corporations and affected parties. 

The delegation said that there were efforts under way to give to Aboriginal women on reserves the same rights and privileges that women across Canada enjoyed.  The action plan on violence against Aboriginal women set concrete actions to prevent violence, protect and help victims and sensitize Aboriginal men and boys.  Shelters on reserves would continue to be funded. 

On the question on the application of the victims act, it was clarified that that act was applicable to all victims of crimes, not only domestic violence.

The delegation informed that there were 627 shelters for abused women across Canada, with 12,058 available beds.  Out of those, some 40 shelters were available on reserves.

The Government of Quebec had an office of independent investigation into police actions, which would become operational in 2016, a delegate explained.

Questions by Experts

An Expert commended the State party’s efforts to expedite processing of refugee claims.  Nonetheless, the Act provided for detention for up to one year for those who entered the territory unlawfully, including children between 16 and 18.  Children should not be deprived of liberty, except as a measure of last resort and for short periods of time.  Was the Government planning to bring its practice in line with international standards, and looking into alternatives to detention?  What were measures to protect those asylum seekers from refoulement? 

The Expert asked whether migrants without legal status had access to healthcare.

Could the State party explain its conditions for establishing inadmissibility of asylum claims and deciding that it was safe to send asylum seekers back?  How was it established that some of them represented danger to the public in Canada?

A question was asked on the claims by the Aboriginal peoples to their lands. Why were the Aboriginal rights mentioned in the Constitution not translated into legally binding acts?  Were Aboriginal people consulted with regard to the projects affecting their lands?  Did they need to enter into long legal proceedings to ascertain their rights?

The Indian Act, from the nineteenth century, was described as a rigidly paternalistic act.  A number of groups were still excluded from the list of Indians on the grounds of sex.  The Expert wanted to know how that could be remedied. 

To what extent had there been consultations with the Aboriginal peoples on a number of acts, including those on fisheries and water?

Another Expert expressed concern over consistent overcrowding in Canada’s prisons, which was described as “temporary”, but had not changed in recent years.  Had any progress been made in that regard?  What steps were being taken to address the issue of double bunking?

What was the current status of the implementation of the mental health strategy in federal correctional facilities?  What steps had the State party taken to implement recommendations issued by the correctional investigator in recent years?   There had been recent reports of mistreatment of migrants with mental health issues in Canada’s prisons.  What process was employed to assess the mental health of migrants, and how were migrants with mental health problems provided for?
Turning to the issue of solitary confinement, an Expert asked about the use of segregation.  Was segregation ever imposed for disciplinary purposes?  That seemed to be disproportionately used for black and Aboriginal inmates.  Particular concern was expressed about the placement of inmates with mental health issues in segregation.  What steps were being taken to prevent the risk of suicide and self-injury in solitary confinement?

The issue of life without parole was also raised by the Expert.  What was the status of the draft legislation in that regard, and would there be a possibility of revising it in order to allow periodic reviews of the inmate’s rehabilitative progress?

A question was asked about measures taken to engage with Aboriginal communities with the view of preventing their overrepresentation in the penitentiary system.  Could data be provided on Aboriginal women in prisons?  What steps were being taken to decrease their number as serious offenders?

Another Expert asked about specific definitions of political activities, and possible limitations on freedom of assembly.  The threshold for unlawful assembly appeared to be very low, the Expert noted.  Could more recent figures in that regard be provided, especially in the context of the 2010 G20 protests and the 2011 Quebec student protests?  Why were there different provisions for Aboriginal gatherings?

Canada was one of the four States to have voted against the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the General Assembly, but had endorsed it subsequently, in 2010.  Why had the position changed, and what were the reservations in place?  How did the State party address the problem of property of Aboriginal peoples?

Regarding Aboriginal languages, the Expert said that the majority of those still spoken were endangered.  The Aboriginal Language Initiative provided funds to communities across Canada – could more information be provided on the effects of that initiative?

Why was the First Nations Governance Act not supported by chiefs of First Nations, and were there plans to amend it in consultation with First Nations?

The question of the Indian Residential Schools was brought up by another Expert.  Had the commission on the issue completed its final report, and what was the follow-up?

Questions were asked about the Electoral Act, which seemed to exclude or make it more difficult for certain groups to partake in elections. The Act was being contested in several courts across the country. 

What was being done to remove administrative impediments for registering children of Aboriginal women, regardless of the fact if the father had or had not recognized the child?

An Expert stressed the importance of interim measures by the Committee and asked the State party to consider abiding by them, without exception, in the future.

Response was asked from the delegation about the deteriorating space for the exercise of freedom of expression, which was being limited by punitive measures.

Responses by the Delegation

On the life without parole legislation, the delegation said that parole was restricted for some individuals sentenced for serious offences, but the drafts had not yet been voted on in either parliamentary chamber.

Canada had one of the finest electoral systems in the world, which protected the integrity of the federal electoral process.  The new rules were meant to further enhance integrity of the process.  The new identification rules were meant to reduce the possibility of fraud; all voters needed to present either a government-issued ID or two other pieces of authorized identification containing their photo and address.  The provisions allowed electors enough flexibility, in the view of the Government.
The delegation said that Canada recognized that Aboriginal persons were overrepresented in all parts of the penal system, as victims as well as offenders.  In 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada had asked that special historic circumstances of the Aboriginals be taken into consideration when passing on sentences.  A recent recidivism study had shown a decrease of persons reoffending following the application of a targeted programme. 

Regarding the health care provided to refugees and migrants, the delegation stated that the matter was currently before a court.  Changes made in 2012 were consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in the view of the Government.

Canada ensured that asylum seekers, even if smuggled into the country, would receive fair hearings.  Efforts had been made to break the chain of human smuggling.  Designated foreign nationals were subject to arrest and detention so that the authorities could establish their identity and conditions.  Children below 16 were exempt from mandatory detention; for 17 and 18-year olds, detention would be the measure of last resort.   The average duration of detention was 23 days.  Individuals would be detained only when that was necessary; reasonable alternatives were to be considered first. 

The Government issued security certificates only if the information necessary for the case could not be disclosed.  The security certificate regime was subject to numerous safeguards; each such certificate was signed by two Ministers and then forwarded to a court.

On the issue of double bunking, the delegation responded that the construction of new units was underway.  The new living units were near completion and additional staff members were hired when necessary. 

Regarding solitary confinement, it was explained that segregated inmates had all other rights, except for socializing with other inmates.  Disciplinary segregation was a possibility that could last up to 30 days for one offence or 45 days for multiple offences.

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was an aspirational document in line with Canada’s Constitution, the delegation said.  Canada continued to firmly believe that indigenous peoples needed to be more involved in making decisions that were of direct consequence for them. 

The delegation said that the Government had in place a nutritional programme for the northern territories, specifically addressing the more pressing food security issues there.

With respect to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the full report was expected by the end of 2015, but the executive summary had been issued in June 2015.  The Government was looking at the multiple and far-reaching recommendations provided for in the summary.  The full report would be carefully studied once released.

On the likelihood of Aboriginal children being brought into care, the delegation assured that cases were looked at on an individual, case-by-case basis. 

There were 90 Aboriginal languages still spoken in Canada, of which three languages counted for two-thirds of all speakers.  The Aboriginal Language Initiative funded over 70 diverse projects every year.  It mobilized communities to take action and was the sole federal funding addressing the linguistic diversity of indigenous peoples in Canada.

The Canadian Red Cross Society had access to all federal penitentiary facilities and to some provincial facilities and could conduct confidential interviews.  Eighty-seven per cent of women inmates who had been sent to solitary confinement would spend less than 30 days there.

Follow-up Question

An Expert asked for an update on the efforts taken to address the issue of homelessness.

Concluding Remarks

LAURIE WRIGHT, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Public Law Sector at the Department of Justice, stated that Canada’s Constitution provided for robust protection for rights and freedoms, which were widely known and exercised by citizens, free press and civil society.  The Charter of Rights and Freedoms protected the freedom of assembly, association and individual liberties.  The judiciary was robust and independent.  Canada was a steadfast supporter of the United Nations and was committed to continuing dialogue with the human rights treaty bodies.  Canada took its international obligations very seriously.  The delegation appreciated comments by the Committee and the contribution made by civil society to the process.

FABIAN OMAR SALVIOLI, Chairperson of the Committee, said that the debate on the application of the Covenant had been interesting.  The State party was encouraged to continue, and even expand, the practice of promoting concluding observations of the treaty bodies. The final arbiter for interpreting the Covenant was the Committee and not individual States.  Activities of mining companies could affect many rights of local populations.  The issue of the Aboriginal peoples in Canada had been discussed on numerous occasions.  Questions had been raised on a large number of aspects, which both the Committee and the State party took very seriously.  The use of certain kinds of weapons had raised concerns among the members of the Committee.  It was fundamental for the State party committed to preventing torture and cruel treatment to comply with the interim measures adopted by the Committee.  The work of civil society as a whole needed to be protected and promoted. 

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