Canada: Greater OPCAT Transparency, No Time-Frame Commitment

Canada has publicly committed to ensuring greater transparency of its consultation process to consider ratification of the OPCAT. It declined, however, to provide a fixed time-frame for the completion of the overall process.

During today’s exchange with the UN Committee against Torture in Geneva, Global Affairs Canada formally acknowledged civil society’s concerns about the lack of transparency of the OPCAT consultation process, the latest phase of which was initiated in September 2016.

Greater transparency

Palais Wilson, Geneva by UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré.

The Deputy Director of Global Affairs Canada’s Human Rights & Indigenous Affairs Policy Division, Stéphanie Bachand, publicly stated that her agency was henceforth committed to a transparent process. Civil society and Indigenous groups would be consulted, it was observed, as soon as the federal, provincial and territorial government consultation process had been completed.

Regrettably, so far there has been only very limited OPCAT consultation in Canada with civil society, as underscored in the declassified pages of an April 2018 ministerial memorandum. It can therefore only be hoped that government OPCAT deliberations have not progressed so far as to render civil society input on this crucial issue tokenistic.

Nonetheless, during the Canadian delegation’s interventions today in Geneva detailed information was helpfully provided about the steps thus far taken in the context of the OPCAT consultation process. It was noted by Global Affairs’ Stéphanie Bachand that “a great deal of progress had been made, but more was to be done.”

When asked by the UN Committee’s Co-rapporteur on Canada, Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov, for a reasonably detailed time-frame for the conclusion of the overall OPCAT consultation process, Global Affairs Canada declined to commit to a specific date. Conversely, Stéphanie Bachand underpinned the complicated nature of the OPCAT ratification process for Canada as a federal state.

Transparency of OPCAT

Representatives of Justice Canada & Global Affairs Canada in Geneva, the latter leading on the OPCAT in Canada.

Regrettably, Canada’s federal political structure has been cited as the standard refrain in government circles for the difficulties in making OPCAT-related progress over the years.

Even so, Canada should henceforth use this week’s exchange with the UN Committee against Torture as a reason to push quickly ahead with the process and, in so doing, liaise closely with Canadian civil society and Indigenous groups.

Quite simply, Canada should not wait until the 2022 review of its eighth periodic report under the UN Convention to ratify the OPCAT, as that time is now.

The UN Committee against Torture’s Concluding observations on Canada will be published before the close of its 65th session on 7 December 2018.

Readers who wish to watch this week’s UN Committee’s examination of Canada can do so on demand at UN Web TV.