1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: Canada's human rights protection framework remains among the most robust worldwide, with solid legal, political and social bases. Overarching laws protecting human rights exist at federal, provincial and territorial levels and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is entrenched in the Canadian Constitution. The Charter applies to governments while a different legislation, the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977 provides protection from discrimination by the federal government or private companies. At the sub-federal level, Provincial and Territorial human rights laws share many similarities with the Canadian Human Rights Act, and apply many of the same principles.
The overall human rights priorities of Canada, as well as its feminist foreign policy, continue to focus on the promotion of diversity and pluralism, reworking the relationship with indigenous people domestically, continuing work on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and advancing gender equality and women's empowerment. At the same time many interest groups maintain that promises for change, despite being welcome, do not translate into tangible actions. Services (healthcare and education) for indigenous children remain constrained causing extreme over representation in foster care and hampering outcomes. The Government has not acted to comply with the terms of the 2016 Human Rights Tribunal ruling despite a boost in the federal budget for indigenous services and renewed discussions between stakeholders, to address a lack of access to potable water on First Nations Reserves, still persists. The government has promised to end long-term drinking water advisories on First Nations reserves by March 2021.
While Canada consistently ranks as one of the world’s top countries in which to live, according to the United Nations Human Development Index, when the same criteria is applied to Indigenous peoples in Canada their rank drops to sixtieth or below. For a variety of reasons, including historic mistreatment largely due to forced assimilation policies by the Government (Residential Schools), the Indigenous population in Canada still faces many social deficiencies including higher unemployment rates, lower levels of education and outcomes, and an overrepresentation in the incarceration system. Despite the persistent issues, the Government has been credited for having brought the Indigenous question to the centre of the social debate in Canada for the first time.
The Canadian Government is continuing with its Review of Laws and Policies Related to Indigenous Peoples by a Working Group of cabinet ministers. This work is to ensure that Canada “is meeting its constitutional obligations with respect to Aboriginal and treaty rights; adhering to international human rights standards, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP); and supporting the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.” The Government has publicly supported Bill C-262 that would ensure Canada’s laws conform with the UNDRIP; however, the Bill has yet to be adopted.
The independent inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) launched in 2016 continues to experience setbacks and under delivery, resulting in a delay of the outcome report. In October 2018 the Inquiry announced the closure of its public hearing procedures and it is expected that Commissioners will write a final report and submit recommendations to the Canadian government by 30 April, 2019. This report will also be presented to provincial governments and private sector interest groups, who will be expected to implement any recommendations.
The Prime Minister's Special Advisor on LGBTQ2 matters engages with LGBTQ2 organisations nationwide. Together with the ministers responsible for Global Affairs, the Special Advisor actively promotes LGBTI rights internationally including contributing to Canada’s role as 2017-2019 Co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition. In August 2018, Canada hosted the Leaving No One Behind conference, in Vancouver - the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC) Global Conference on LGBTI Human Rights and Inclusive Development.
Included in its Refugee policy, Canada has been resettling vulnerable individuals for years, including those who are part of the LGBTQ2 community. Canada relies on the UN High Commissioner, other referral organisations and private sponsors to identify individuals who are persecuted based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or HIV status.
Business and Human Rights: the Minister of International Trade Champagne announced two new initiatives on 17 January 2018: i) the creation of a Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) and, ii) a multi-stakeholder Advisory Body on Responsible business conduct (MSAB). The announced creation of the Ombudsperson would represent a meaningful step forward to create an accessible and cost effective non-binding mechanism that will reinforce internationally recognised principles and standards through promotional activities and the provision of advice to all stakeholders.
2. EU action – key focus areas: In the framework of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the EU Delegation, in cooperation with Amnesty International's Canada Chapter, organised a roundtable of human rights defenders in Canada with the EU Member States Embassies. The key priorities and progress made since the last UPR in 2013 were discussed, and these discussions were useful to inform Member States' own submissions within the UPR exercise.
The HRVP Mogherini and the Canadian Foreign Minister Freeland co-chaired a meeting of foreign ministers in Montréal on 21 and 22 September to discuss innovative ways to address crucial foreign policy challenges and to enhance dialogue and cooperation in support of democracy, human rights and global peace and security. Women foreign ministers highlighted the benefits that come from integrating a gender perspective in approaches to foreign and security policies, and the need to promote the meaningful participation of women at all levels of decision making and leadership. Women foreign ministers pledged to expand the global commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
In November 2018, the European Parliament's DROI sub-committee completed a mission to Canada where discussions with parliamentary counterparts, civil society and human rights NGOs focused on the rights of indigenous peoples. The sub-committee also met the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and with Parliamentary counterparts, where DROI highlighted the need for joint efforts in calling for the release of the jailed Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, winner of the Sakharov Prize, and whose wife was granted Canadian citizenship.