UNCAT Meeting on Canada: Civil Society Views Solicited

With just a month to go before the UN Committee against Torture’s examination of Canada in Geneva, civil society’s views were recently solicited in the run-up to this important UNCAT meeting.

On 17 October 2018 the Department of Canadian Heritage convened a meeting in Ottawa of the country’s principal civil society and Indigenous groups to discuss various crucial questions surrounding the implementation of the UN Convention against Torture in Canada.

UNCAT meeting

John G. Diefenbaker Building – Old Ottawa City Hall by Jamie MacCaffrey.

In its invitation to civil society and Indigenous groups the Department of Canadian Heritage wrote: “In preparation for this appearance, federal, provincial and territorial governments are seeking the views of Canadian civil society organizations and Indigenous representatives on Canada’s implementation of the CAT.” The UNCAT meeting was held in Old Ottawa City Hall in the heart of the nation’s capital (please see left).

Approximately 15  civil society and Indigenous group representatives attended the meeting, who were joined by an array of government actors from different federal, provincial and territorial spheres (both in person and by teleconference). A diversity of human rights subject matter was discussed during the exchange, including issues such as Canada’s implementation of the Convention, policing, non-refoulement and the rights of migrants, corrections, national security, and violence by private actors, particularly against Indigenous women. The agenda of the meeting can be found at the bottom of this news article in French and English.

As highlighted previously on the Canada OPCAT Project website, the UN Committee is timetabled to examine Canada at 10 am Geneva-time on 21 November, while Canada’s replies to the UN Committee will be heard from 3 pm onwards on 22 November.

 

Focus on the OPCAT

The question of Canada ratifying the OPCAT was also discussed and throughout the exchange several civil society groups made verbal reference to the instrument. A representative from Global Affairs Canada underscored that, while the ratification of the OPCAT was a priority of some importance for Canada, the process of putting in place an NPM was a complex exercise and certain financial considerations had also to be taken into account.

Even so, it was made known that Global Affairs Canada had also been in contact with various OPCAT-focused entities internationally. These included actors in countries where the OPCAT had or was in the process of being implemented, including New Zealand and Australia.

It was highly noteworthy that, in addition to the Canada OPCAT Project’s briefing-paper, several Canadian civil society organizations have highlighted the recommendation of OPCAT ratification in their written shadow-reports to the UN Committee. These include ACAT Canada/FIACAT, Amnesty International Canada, Canadian Human Rights Commission and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG).

In its shadow-report Amnesty International Canada expressed concern that, despite the May 2016 statement by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs that the OPCAT would no longer be optional for Canada: “More than two years later accession has not yet occurred, and there has been no public update regarding progress.” It therefore recommended that Canada should reconfirm that it intends to accede to the OPCAT, provide a public report on the progress of consultations with provincial and territorial governments, and accelerate those consultations towards a successful outcome.

ACAT Canada/FIACAT similarly urged Canada in their shadow-report to: “Respecter sa promesse de ratifier, dans le plus brefs délais, le Protocole facultatif à la Convention contre la torture (OPCAT)”, a view point also shared by the ICLMG. ACAT Canada/FIACAT also stressed the inadequacies of existing monitoring bodies as well as gaps in oversight coverage in the pages of its detailed report.

In its shadow-report the Canadian Human Rights Commission made the following key point: “In a geographical large, complex federal state such as Canada, it is imperative that the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) be carefully designed with appropriate legislative authorities and coordination mechanisms. It is also imperative that it be provided adequate resources to effectively carry out its work.”

It is hoped that the opinions of civil society and Indigenous groups on the OPCAT as well on a myriad of other human rights issues under the UN Convention against Torture are taken into consideration in Canadian government circles. It also hoped that the latter act positively on the outputs of the UN Committee against Torture’s examination of Canada in Geneva in late November 2018.

UN Web TV will broadcast the UN Committee’s examination of Canada live on 21-22 November. Interested persons will therefore be able to tune-in in real time or alternatively watch audio-visual recordings of the process on demand afterwards.

 

Agenda:

EN Agenda_CAT engagement

FR Ordre du jour_Séance d’engagement CCT