Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1986

Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a federal
parliamentary form of government. Representatives in the
multiparty political system are elected by universal suffrage
at local. Provincial, and Federal levels. Government
responsibilities are defined by a national Constitution
subject to interpretation by an independent judiciary.
Federal and Provincial election mandates last a maximum of 5
years. Elections are completely free and often result in a
changeover of poyer to opposition parties.
Canada has an open economic system that encourages private
ownership, investment, and entrepreneur ship.
National and local law enforcement are carried out by Federal,
Provincial, and municipal police forces. Canada's armed
forces are under the authority of the elected civilian
government and have no role in domestic law enforcement except
in extreme circumstances under the War Measures Act (last
invoked in 1970 during the terrorist kidnapings in Quebec).
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, added to Canada's revised
Constitution in 1982, guarantees fundamental individual rights
and freedoms to everyone in Canada. Government and private
organizations work actively to ensure that these rights are
respected in practice at all levels of society. Canada is a
leader in actively promoting respect for human rights around
the world.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
a. Political Killing
There were no politically motivated killings in 1986.
However, police arrested a number of Canadian Sikhs for
alleged involvement in terrorist activities, and authorities
believe that Armenian terrorists also remain active in Canada.
b. Disappearance
Secret arrest, clandestine detention, and politically
motivated disappearances did not occur.
c. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
These abuses are prohibited by law, and none was reported
during 1986. Prison conditions are generally good.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Canadian law prohibits arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, and
this prohibition is respected in practice.
The Federal Government may enforce the War Measures Act and
the Official Secrets Act in exceptional circumstances to
override certain constitutional guarantees. In the event of
war or peacetime crisis, the War Measures Act of 1914,
augmented by a 1981 Federal Cabinet order, permits the Federal
Parliament to declare a state of national emergency with
suspension of certain basic civil liberties. The 1939
Official Secrets Act prohibits the private possession,
distribution, and publication of information deemed
prejudicial to the interests of the state and provides that
individuals under suspicion may be arrested
without a warrant.
Canada prohibits the use of any form of forced labor.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
In criminal trials Canadian law provides for a presumption of
innocence of the defendant until proven guilty, as well as the
right to a public trial and full rights to counsel. Free
counsel is provided to indigents. The Official Secrets Act
allows for trials under its provisions to be held in secret
with certain presumptions in favor of the state. Prosecutions
under this statute are extremely rare, and convictions hard to
maintain on appeal .
f . Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
Federal and Provincial Governments do not interfere with the
basic rights of individuals except when there is a reasonable
basis for presuming that an individual is involved in criminal
activity. Police officials face judicial penalties if they
abuse a person's privacy without first obtaining a search
warrant .
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Freedom of speech and press are guaranteed by the Constitution
and respected in practice. Laws prohibiting certain forms of
hate literature and pornography, provincial film censorship
boards, and legislation which specifically protects language
and cultural rights are the sole exceptions to these
freedoms. Two persons were convicted in 1985 under provincial
statutes prohibiting promotion of race hatred. Both cases
generated widespread publicity, and the convictions remain
under appeal to higher courts.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of assembly is guaranteed.
Workers in both the public and private sectors have the right
to organize, associate freely, bargain collectively, and
strike. In practice, certain groups of essential public
sector employees have limited collective bargaining rights and
are not allowed to strike. All labor unions have full access
to mediation, arbitration, and the judicial system. In 1985
and 1986 the International Labor Organization censured four
provinces for restricting the bargaining rights of public
sector workers. The offending legislation has been removed in
the province of Ontario, but no action to change legislation
has yet been taken by the Governments of Alberta, British
Columbia, or Newfoundland.
c. Freedom of Religion
There is complete freedom of religion.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
There are no restrictions on movement within or outside
Canada, including the right of emigration and repatriation.
Canada is a haven for many refugees and displaced persons.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Canada is governed by Federal and Provincial Governments that
are genuinely elected by the Canadian people through universal
suffrage. Legislative elections must be held at least every 5
years and voter participation rates are high. The Governor
General is Queen Elizabeth II 's representative as Head of
State. Power is exercised in practice by the Prime Minister
and the Cabinet, who usually are elected members of the
282-seat House of Commons. Three politically diverse parties
are represented in the Commons, and several others function at
the Provincial level. All Provinces and Territories have
similar freely elected legislatures.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigations of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
Canada actively promotes human rights in international forums,
and the Federal Government encourages nongovernmental
organizations to pursue investigations of human rights abuses
throughout the world. The Canadian Human Rights Commission
and its Provincial counterparts investigate and resolve
complaints of discrimination in public and private sector
activities under governmental jurisdiction.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Language, or Social Status
Article 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees
equal benefits and protection of the law regardless of race,
national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age, or
mental or physical disability. Those rights are respected in
Food, shelter, health care, and education are available to all
inhabitants regardless of race, religion, sex, ethnic
background, or political opinion.
Women participate freely in Canadian society. Women's rights
are overseen by a Federal Cabinet minister responsible for the
status of women and by the Federal and Provincial human rights
commissions .
Labor standards vary from province to province, but all
guarantee a sufficient minimum wage and limit the standard
workweek to 40 or 48 hours. Federal and Provincial
legislation ensure that working conditions are not hazardous
for employees. Child labor legislation also differs among the
provinces. The Federal Government generally prohibits those
under 17 years of age from working for the Federal Government
while school is in session. Provinces generally prohibit
those under age 15 or 16 from working without parental consent,
working in any hazardous employment, or working at night.