Amnesty International Report 2016/17 - The State of the World's Human Rights - Canada

Some 38,000 Syrian refugees were resettled. A national inquiry into violence against Indigenous women and girls was launched. Concerns persisted about the failure to uphold the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the face of economic development projects.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

In January, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that systemic underfunding of First Nation child protection services constituted discrimination. The government accepted the ruling but failed to bring an end to the discrimination.

In May, the government announced unconditional support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; by the end of the year it remained unclear how it would collaborate with Indigenous Peoples to implement that commitment.

In May, a provincially funded report confirmed that mercury contamination continued for the Grassy Narrows First Nation in the Province of Ontario.

In July, the government issued permits allowing construction of the Site C dam in the Province of British Columbia to proceed, despite unresolved court cases concerning obligations under a historic treaty with affected First Nations.

In October, the government of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador agreed to measures to reduce risks to Inuit health and culture from the Muskrat Falls dam, following hunger strikes and other protests.

In November, the British Columbia government acknowledged the need to address the impact of the resource sector on the safety of Indigenous women and girls.

Women’s rights

In March, the government committed to promoting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls through its international development programme.

In September, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was launched. Its mandate did not explicitly include police actions or measures to address past failures to properly investigate cases. In November, the UN CEDAW Committee called on Canada to ensure that the National Inquiry would investigate the role of policing.

In November, prosecutors in the Province of Quebec laid charges in only two of 37 complaints brought mostly by Indigenous women alleging abuse by police. The Independent Observer appointed to oversee the cases raised concerns about systemic racism. In December the Quebec government announced a public inquiry into the treatment of Indigenous Peoples by provincial bodies.

Counter-terror and security

In February, legislation was introduced to reverse 2014 Citizenship Act reforms allowing for dual nationals convicted of terrorism and other offences to be stripped of Canadian citizenship.

In February, the government withdrew an appeal against the 2015 bail decision releasing Omar Khadr – a Canadian citizen held at the US detention centre in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for 10 years beginning when he was 15 years old and transferred to a Canadian prison in 2012.

In November, the Federal Court ruled that the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service practice of indefinitely retaining metadata from phone and email logs was unlawful.

Mediation broke off in the cases of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin who were seeking redress on the basis of a 2008 judicial inquiry report documenting the role of Canadian officials in their overseas arrest, imprisonment and torture.

Justice system

Concerns mounted about extensive use of solitary confinement after the case of Adam Capay, an Indigenous man held in pre-trial solitary confinement in Ontario for over four years, became public in October.

In November, the Quebec government launched a public inquiry into surveillance of journalists by police.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Throughout the year, 38,700 Syrian refugees were resettled to Canada through government and private sponsorship.

In April, the Interim Federal Health Program for refugees and refugee claimants was fully restored, reversing cuts imposed in 2012.

In August, the Minister of Public Safety announced increased funding for immigration detention facilities.

Corporate accountability

In June, the British Columbia government allowed full operations to resume at the Mount Polley mine, despite an ongoing criminal investigation into the 2014 collapse of the mine’s tailings pond and the fact that approval of the company’s long-term water treatment plan was pending. In November, a private prosecution was launched against the provincial government and the Mount Polley Mining Corporation for violations of the Fisheries Act.

In May, the fifth annual report assessing the human rights impact of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was released. It again failed to evaluate human rights concerns linked to extractive projects’ effects on Indigenous Peoples and others.

The government failed to adopt measures to fulfil a 2015 election promise to establish a human rights Ombudsperson for the extractive sector. Canada was urged to take that step by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in March and by the CEDAW Committee in November.

Three Canadian companies faced civil lawsuits over alleged human rights abuses associated with overseas projects. A case dealing with HudBay Minerals’ Guatemalan mine was proceeding in Ontario. In October, a British Columbia court ruled that a case involving Nevsun Resources’ Eritrean mine could proceed. In November, an appeal was heard in British Columbia as to whether a case involving Tahoe Resources’ Guatemalan mine could go ahead.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

In February, a 2007 policy limiting government efforts to seek clemency on behalf of Canadians sentenced to death in foreign countries was reversed.

In March, the UN CESCR called on Canada to recognize that economic, social and cultural rights are fully justiciable.

In April, the government approved a Can$15 billion sale of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia despite human rights concerns. A 2015 commitment to accede to the UN Arms Trade Treaty was not met.

In May, the government announced plans to accede to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and launched consultations with provincial and territorial governments.

Also in May, the government introduced legislation to add gender identity and expression as a prohibited ground of discrimination in Canada’s Human Rights Act and Criminal Code hate crime laws.