A Canadian human rights group has told the UN that the troubles faced by the country’s indigenous population are one of Canada’s most pressing social issues. The organization also criticized the government approach to anti-terrorism legislation.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission made the submission to the
UN Human Rights Committee, which is currently conducting a review
into how Canada is complying with the International Covenant on
Political and Civil Rights. The decree came into force in 1976
and among other things, champions one’s “right of
self-determination” and forces its signatories to respect
all people’s within its territories, regardless of race, color or
“The concerns are many, including the rights of indigenous
peoples, corporate accountability for human rights, refugee and
migrant rights, national security and counter-terrorism measures,
and freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Alex
Neve, the secretary general of the Canadian branch of Amnesty International. “These all need to
be addressed,” he added in an article published on the
Review of Canada by the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva
begins today! (Photo by Alex Neve) pic.twitter.com/IY2cGnYlsV
— Russ Diabo (@RussDiabo) July 6,
The human rights group said indigenous women and girls in Canada
are at least four and a half times more likely to be on the
receiving end of violence than other females in the country.
Amnesty International is calling on the UN Human Rights Committee
to instigate a public inquiry into the violence against
indigenous women, which would also lead to a national action plan
to try and address the issue.
“Within Canada the rights of refugees and migrants have been
eroded through a series of punitive and restrictive measures.
This includes cuts to federally funded health care for refugees
and no access to health care for migrants without legal
status,” Amnesty International added.
This is the first time in a decade that Canada is being
investigated by the UN panel, while it will also be seen as an
examination of the ruling Conservative Party. Stephan Harper’s
government has been lukewarm to probes from human rights
organizations, and there have been some high profile clashes with
special rapporteurs on issues concerning the mistreatment and
torture of indigenous women.
The UN has been demanding that Canada hold an inquiry into
violence against indigenous women for seven years. According to a
report by the Royal Canadian Police released last year, violence
against native women claimed 1,017 victims between 1980 and 2012,
and 164 are still missing.
Their plight was highlighted by the case of Cindy Gladue. She was
stabbed by a trucker in Edmonton in 2011 who had hired her as a
The key suspect, Bradley Barton, was found not guilty by an
all-male, all-white jury in March, which resulted in outrage
among activists and a national letter-writing campaign.
“Canada’s inaction in regard to missing and murdered
indigenous women is getting increasing international attention,
and this latest from the UN Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) calling it a ‘grave
violation of human rights’ cannot be ignored,” the assembly
of First Nations chief, Perry Bellegarde, said in a statement in
The ruling government also came in for criticism for its
anti-terrorism laws, with Amnesty International saying they
should be reviewed as there are not enough checks and balances in
place against the country’s spy agency, the Canadian Security
Intelligence Service (CSIS).
In March, thousands demonstrated across the country in protests
against the proposed anti-terrorism legislation known as Bill
C-51, which would expand the powers of police and the nation’s
spy agency, especially when it comes to detaining terror
“I’m really worried about democracy, [Prime Minister Stephen]
Harper is taking it [Canada] in a really bad direction,”
protester Stuart Basden from Toronto, told the Star.