Canada

COPCAT en bref: Échec À Protéger

En mai 2017, le Bureau de l’ombud a reçu une dénonciation écrite anonyme alléguant des manquements significatifs à la protection des patients du Centre hospitalier Restigouche (« CHR ») contre les mauvais traitements et les soins inadéquats infligés par son personnel.

Notre enquête dans cette affaire nous a permis de conclure que ces allégations sont fondées.

Nous croyons que, dans de multiples cas, des patients du CHR ont subi des mauvais traitements significatifs.

Ombuds NB Échec À Protéger

Nous croyons que, dans de multiples cas, des patients du CHR ont subi des mauvais traitements significatifs.

… c’est avec confiance que nous présentons les conclusions suivantes :

Des risques pèsent continuellement sur la sécurité des patients et du personnel au CHR. Il y a un besoin urgent de prendre des mesures correctives;

De graves incidents de mauvais traitements des patients ont eu lieu au CHR;

Le CHR ne prodigue pas périodiquement des soins adéquats aux patients;  

Le manque chronique de personnel a érodé la culture et le modèle de service au CHR; et,

De sincères tentatives visant à faire évoluer la culture et à améliorer la prestation de services n’ont pas connu de succès.

Nous recommandons d’envisager une révision considérable de la mission du CHR. Avec le personnel actuel, cet établissement se voit tout simplement dans l’impossibilité d’offrir tout l’éventail des services en santé mentale visés par son mandat.

Échec À Protéger

Lire Échec À Protéger en français.

Read the report in English.

Lire les observations du Comité de l’ONU contre la torture de décembre 2018 concernant la nécessité d’un contrôle indépendant de la détention psychiatrique au Canada.

Posted by mp in Acts of abuse, Oversight bodies, Psychiatric detention, 0 comments

New OPCAT Discussion Paper! Instituting A National Preventive Mechanism In Canada

The Canada OPCAT Project today launches a major discussion paper on how the OPCAT might be implemented in Canada. Titled ‘Instituting A National Preventive Mechanism In Canada – Lessons Based on Global OPCAT Implementation’ the paper argues that a brand new institution should be established as the country’s future NPM under the instrument.

To date, the very limited publicly available information strongly suggests that Canada is considering designating an array of existing detention oversight bodies as part of a multi-body NPM.

However, as the on-going government-sponsored OPCAT consultation process in Canada has been almost entirely closed to civil society and Indigenous groups, it remains impossible at the present time to say whether this is the case for certain.    

Nonetheless, the published discussion paper strongly argues against such a potential multi-mechanism approach to OPCAT implementation in the country and contends that the optimal NPM solution would be to establish an entirely new structure.

Discussion paper
Prison by Kim Daram (2005)

The establishment of a specialized NPM would have to overcome some very tangible political and legal obstacles if it were to become a reality. Crucially, the Canadian Government and its provincial and territorial counterparts would have to develop an appetite to finance such a body.

Even so, the alternative approach of designating a combination of existing bodies at the federal, provincial and territorial levels would be arguably much more complicated politically, legally and organizationally and possibly even more expensive.

The research inevitably focuses in-depth on the existing human rights architecture in Canada as part of this wider discussion. In so doing, the discussion paper offers an analysis of the different mechanisms which could potentially play a role vis-à-vis the OPCAT, most commonly a combination of federal, provincial and territorial human rights commissions and ombudspersons offices.

The paper concludes, however, that without significant modifications to their legal statutes, mandates and operational foci, organizational structures, budgets and composition these mechanisms would be poorly placed to assume an OPCAT mandate.

In order that this discussion paper is not a mere exercise in mapping out different NPM scenarios in the Canadian context, the research also draws heavily on existing global OPCAT practice at the national level. This central focus of the research has been undertaken with a view to highlighting the potential shortcomings which frequently beset NPMs as well as to underscoring good NPM-related practice.

By drawing on this domestic analysis as well as an examination of OPCAT global practice, the key question is thereby explored of how the OPCAT might be effectively implemented in Canada in accordance with key international guidance and advice.

Even if readers disagree with the ultimate thrust of the document, its publication is primarily intended to stimulate a lively discussion in Canada on how the OPCAT might be implemented in practice. Surprisingly, to date, there has been relatively little academic research undertaken into this key question in the country. This discussion paper therefore seeks to plug this gap and explore how Canada might implement the instrument domestically.

Discussion paper Aberystwyth University

This research was originally undertaken by the Canada OPCAT Project’s Matthew Pringle in the course of 2018 as part of an LL.M. dissertation in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. It was presented to the Department of Law & Criminology at Aberystwyth University in Wales in late September 2018. The research was very well received by Aberystwyth University and in December 2018 it was formally awarded a mark of 95% as well as the Aberystwyth University Graduate School Prizes for the highest scoring dissertation and masters across the university.

However, please do not take Aberystwyth University’s word for it! Why not download the paper and make your own mind up whether a new NPM institution is the optimal solution for Canada’s challenge of implementing the OPCAT?


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Why Oversight of Detention Matters? Why in the United Kingdom? Why in Canada?

Why Oversight of Detention Matters

“Every time an independent volunteer or inspector visits a place where people are detained it increases openness and transparency. The visit creates a less closed atmosphere and gives those detained an opportunity to voice their concerns. Importantly, it reduces the likelihood that the conditions of detention will deteriorate any further and reduces the chances that the detained person will be ill-treated. NPM members listen carefully to detainees and staff, make recommendations for change and drive forward improvements in conditions, reducing still further the risk of ill-treatment. At the core of the UK NPM’s work is a human rights approach – placing the lived experience of detainees at the heart of the inspection and monitoring process and drawing on international standards and best practice to assess treatment and conditions in detention.”


John Wadham, Chair, United Kingdom’s National Preventive Mechanism, Ninth Annual Report 2017-2018, published 29 January 2019.


  • Did you know? In 2017-2018 UK NPM inspectors carried out at least 1,580 inspections across the UK.
  • Did you also know? Dedicated UK NPM volunteers made at least 66,053 monitoring visits throughout the year to prisons, young offender institutions, immigration detention facilities, police custody, court custody and to observe escorts.
  • Do you know who is undertaking these functions in Canada?

Yet if you think that all is fine in UK-based custodial settings, then please think again. The UK NPM’s 2017-2018 Annual Report paints a less-than-flattering picture of an array of detention settings in the country, as the following excerpt aptly reveals:

“… the risk of ill-treatment for those detained in settings across the UK has, if anything, increased since last year. NPM members this year continue to report concerns that detainees are not being held in safe and decent conditions. There were serious concerns about safety in a number of prisons and detention centres in England and Wales. We have discovered poor physical conditions and conditions not fit for purpose, and excessive or improper use of restraints on some of the most vulnerable detainees – including children and young people, those in mental health detention and those detained pending deportation from the UK.”

But this is exactly why the United Kingdom needs an effectively functioning National Preventive Mechanism under the OPCAT, now nearly 10-years into its existence. For very similar reasons, it is high time that Canada ratifies the OPCAT and institutes such an independent oversight mechanism too.

Unless, of course, you think that the conditions and treatment of persons held in detention in Canada are so much better than in the UK? If so, how can we really know?

Canada has been promising to ratify the OPCAT since 2006. That time is now.


Learn about the OPCAT process in Canada.

Read more about the UK National Preventive Mechanism’s Ninth Annual Report 2017-2018.

Why Oversight of Detention Matters

Find out more about the activities of the UK’s NPM.

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The UNCAT 65th Session: Important OPCAT Lessons for Canada

The UN Committee against Torture reached a remarkable milestone in its lifetime earlier this month, having successfully completed its 65th session, some 34 years after the adoption of the UN Convention. Nonetheless, it was business as usual for this body of international experts, who had another tranche of states to review in Geneva from 12 November to 7 December.

Canada numbered one of the six countries whose periodic reports were examined by the UN Committee, the others being Guatemala, Maldives, Netherlands, Peru and Viet Nam. Over the past week or two the outcome of this review of Canada has been explored in some detail on this website.

In particular, UN Committee key recommendations have been discussed in relation to the need for independent oversight of immigration detention as well as psychiatric care settings, and the urgency for Canada to push ahead with the ratification of the OPCAT. In this latter connection it will be recalled that the UN Committee urged Canada to:

“Complete the process towards accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, while introducing mechanisms to ensure the participation of civil society, Indigenous groups and other stakeholders in the entire process”

Unfortunately, to date, the process of consultation has mainly sought the opinions of the different provincial and territorial governments and not those of civil society and the country’s many Indigenous groups.

UNCAT 65th session Canada Probed
Palais Wilson – Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva by UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre

Surprisingly, among the six countries examined by the UN Committee during the 65th session, only Canada and Viet Nam have yet to ratify the instrument – not a human rights comparison usually made between these two countries. Similar to Canada, the UN Committee called on Viet Nam to consider acceding to the OPCAT as well as, in the interim, to establish a national mechanism that independently, effectively and regularly monitors and inspects all places of detention in the country without prior notice (see §34-35).

Even though Canada has yet to ratify the instrument, certain of the OPCAT-related outputs of the other country reviews have possible direct relevance in the Canadian context, particularly at a moment when the country is considering how it might implement the instrument.

UNCAT 65th session concerns vis-à-vis the OPCAT

During the 65th session the UN Committee advanced recommendations in relation to all four countries under review which are States Parties to the OPCAT. As will be revealed, certain common concerns arose repeatedly.

The UN Committee’s concerns about the Guatemalan NPM were far-reaching and related primarily to the election process of the different members of the National Office for the Prevention of Torture and its general ineffective operation and performance in practice. However, other serious concerns existed, including the NPM’s alleged use as a tool to pressurize anti-corruption judges and the limited involvement of civil society in the NPM’s activities (§14). A whole raft of recommendations were directed at Guatemala in order to address such extensive concerns (§15).

The UN Committee’s concerns about the Netherlands’ NPM were also relatively sweeping, several of which had previously been voiced by other key UN human rights actors, most notably the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) during a 2015 visit to the Netherlands.

As in a small number of other states, the Dutch NPM is a multi-body mechanism, comprising four monitoring bodies. These include: its coordinating body, the Inspectorate of Security and Justice; Health Care Inspectorate; Inspectorate for Youth Care; and the Administration of Criminal Justice and Protection of Juveniles. In 2015 the SPT regretted that the four NPM bodies had not been allocated additional financial and human resources to take on the NPM mandate and adequately fulfil its related functions (§46). It also found the almost complete absence of an independent legal basis for the NPM’s activities had marred the operation of the Dutch NPM (§14-15).

During its 65th session the UN Committee echoed these sentiments, stating that it was concerned “… about consistent reports on the NPM’s lack of both resources and independence.” (§22) The Committee urged the country to address these and other shortcomings (§23).

UNCAT 65th session
Nations Unies by MPDO1605

An absence of resources and autonomy also arose in relation to Peru, where the Ombudsman was belatedly designated as the country’s NPM. It noted:

“…the Committee regrets that the national preventive mechanism does not enjoy the functional autonomy required for the normal exercise of its functions, nor does it still have the human, material and technical resources necessary for its proper functioning (Article 2).” (§14)

The country was urged to address such shortcomings (§15).

Regrettably, a shortfall in resources commonly afflicts national torture prevention bodies. In relation to the Maldives it was significant that the UN Committee also commented negatively on the financial base of the country’s NPM, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives. In so doing, it stated that the Maldives should provide it with additional financial resources “… in order to enable it to carry out more visits and better fulfil its functions as National Preventive Mechanism, including the function of conducting unannounced visits to all places of deprivation of liberty”. (§38a)

It is an incontrovertible reality that a significant number of NPMs struggle to operate effectively with the financial, human and material resources made available to them. Even NPMs located in the stronger economies of Western and Northern Europe have been found to be poorly resourced.

For Canada the challenge of securing adequate resources for its future NPM will be significant. Irrespective of whether existing human rights institutions are re-purposed as NPMs or whether new entities are established, the task of effectively implementing the OPCAT at the national level will require a significant government commitment of resources. It therefore remains important for Canada to draw on the above lessons and to ensure that its future NPM has the resources to effectively tackle the task at hand.


Read the Concluding observations on Canada’s seventh periodic report.

Read OMCT’s E-Bulletin from November-December 2018 on the 65th session of the Committee against Torture in English.

Posted by mp in OPCAT, UNCAT, 0 comments

COPCAT Shorts: Open Up OPCAT Process – UN Committee against Torture

Open UpThe Committee appreciates the information provided by the delegation regarding the consultations held with territorial and provincial Governments and within the federal Government in the framework of the review process of the potential accession of Canada to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It also welcomes the assurances of the delegation that civil society and Indigenous groups will be consulted as soon the federal, provincial and territorial government consultations are finished, but remains concerned that no fixed time frame was specified for the completion of the overall process (arts. 2, 11 and 16).

The State Party should:

Complete the process towards accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, while introducing mechanisms to ensure the participation of civil society, Indigenous groups and other stakeholders in the entire process.

UN Committee against Torture, Concluding observations on Canada’s 7th periodic report, issued 7 December 2018 (§20-21).

 

See the full Concluding observations on Canada in English.

Read an overview of the UNCAT session on Canada.

Learn more about the UNCAT’s focus on the OPCAT during the session.

Examine again Canada’s publicly stated commitment to future transparency on the OPCAT process.

In the coming days the Canada OPCAT Project will present a more in-depth analysis of Canada’s overall examination by the UN Committee against Torture and possible next steps in relation to the OPCAT.

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Deep Probe Of Canada’s OPCAT Intentions At UN

Canada’s human rights track-record to prevent acts of state and non-state abuse was deeply probed earlier today, when it reported to the UN Committee against Torture in Geneva, Switzerland.

Among the many issues discussed, the matter of Canada’s long-awaited, if not long overdue ratification of the OPCAT arose during the morning’s deliberations.

A busy meeting room at Palais Wilson, headquarters for OHCHR in Geneva, saw a 14-person Canadian delegation present its 7th periodic report to the UN Committee against Torture. In anticipation of this United Nations review some 13 civil society entities had submitted shadow-report information to the UN body of experts (available here).

Canada Probed

Palais Wilson – Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva by UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré.

During Canada’s opening 20-minute presentation Laurie Wright, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister of Justice Canada and Head of Delegation, stated that regarding the OPCAT “significant progress has been made and Canada continues to take the process seriously.”

 

She underscored the “extensive consultations” which had thus far taken place in Canada and noted Justice Canada’s legal analysis of possible accession to the instrument, including the identification of potential implementation gaps through the analysis of existing oversight bodies. Significantly, however, no fixed time-line for the process of domestic consultation was mentioned, nor was reference made to consultation with civil society.

Somewhat surprisingly, only one of the 10-member UN Committee probed Canada’s intentions to ratify the OPCAT, a task which fell to Co-rapporteur Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov. The latter explored this matter with great diligence and in considerable detail.

The Russian representative drew attention to the fact that Canada had first stated it would ratify the OPCAT as long ago as 2006 and in 2012 the UN Committee against Torture had urged Canada to accelerate the domestic consultation process. He also observed that, more recently, Canada had stated it was considering the possible ratification of the instrument and a final decision had not been made in this regard, seemingly reflecting a weakening of language in relation to the OPCAT.

Canada probed at UN

Nations Unies by MPDO1605

The UN expert therefore inquired about the nature and content of Canada’s OPCAT consultation process, the impediments which exist preventing ratification, and whether civil society and Indigenous groups had been involved in the process? He also posed the highly relevant question of how Canada was interpreting the scope of deprivation of liberty and whether social care and educational settings were being considered?

Concern was also expressed about the absence of oversight over specific detention domains, namely psychiatric care and immigration detention. In this same connection the Co-rapporteur queried Canada’s reluctance to provide for permanent arms-length oversight over immigration detention, despite the existence of an agreement with the Canadian Red Cross to monitor the country’s three Immigration Holding Centres as well as some provincial prisons. He therefore asked for information about the modalities of the Canadian Red Cross’ monitoring of immigration detention and any related reports.

Limitations to the powers of existing oversight bodies were also identified, including the Office of the Correctional Investigator. The representative also sought information about the composition of OCI delegations when visiting prison settings and whether medical professionals were included in such delegations?

Many other pressing issues were discussed during the morning’s exchange, to all of which the Canadian delegation has the opportunity to reply in the afternoon of 22 November. For Canadian human rights observers the UN Committee’s examination of Canada can be followed live at 9 am ET on UN Web TV.

Today’s session will also be available later in the day to watch on demand in both English and French.

The Canada OPCAT Project will continue to publish updates about Canada’s examination by the UN Committee against Torture, so please return tomorrow for further information. Alternatively, you can receive live updates on Twitter. See you soon!

Posted by mp in OPCAT, Ratification, UNCAT, 0 comments

Critical Moment For Canada During UN Review

At a critical moment when Canada’s human rights record will be laid bare before the UN Committee against Torture in Geneva, it is high time for the country to finally put words into action and to ratify the OPCAT.

For over 12 years Canada has repeatedly garnered international praise for stating it would consider ratifying the instrument, but doing precious little in practice during this time to make this intention a human rights reality.

In the meantime scores of other countries have done so, and successfully put in place National Preventive Mechanisms.

Far too often Canada’s federal structure has been used as an excuse for inaction vis-a-vis OPCAT ratification. Yet political structure has not prevented other federal states from doing so, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Germany, Mexico and Switzerland.

Critical moment UNCATDuring the reviews of Canada by the UN Committee against Torture in 2005 and 2012 the country was twice called on to consider ratification of the OPCAT. In 2012 the UN Committee urged Canada “… to accelerate the current domestic discussions and to ratify (the OPCAT) as soon as possible.”

Six years on, there is no clear sign that OPCAT ratification is on the near horizon.

For this week’s UN Committee examination of Canada, 13 civil society entities have submitted shadow-reports for the consideration of this expert body (all shadow-reports can be read here). Of these submissions, six civil society actors have advanced information on the OPCAT, making key recommendations (please see the examples below).

This time around, Canada needs to use this critical moment to reflect on these key recommendations and to make good on its repeatedly verbalized intention to consider OPCAT ratification.

UN Web TV will broadcast the UN Committee’s examination of Canada live on 21-22 November. Interested persons can tune-in in real time at 4 am ET on 21 November and 9 am ET on 22 November. Alternatively, readers can watch audio-visual recordings of the process on demand afterwards.

The Canada OPCAT Project will issue updates on the UN review process as the week unfolds. Please watch this space!

***

The Canada OPCAT Project’s shadow-report can be read here.

Critical moment for CanadaAmnesty International’s recommendation to Canada: “Reconfirm that Canada intends to accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, provide a public report on the progress of consultations with provincial and territorial governments, and seek to accelerate those consultations towards a successful outcome.”

 

Critical moment for Canada

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has urged: “That Canada ratify the OPCAT and ensure that it provides the NPM with an appropriate legislative mandate and adequate resources to effectively carry out its work.”

 

 

 

Critical moment for Canada

L’ACAT Canada et la FIACAT invitent le Comité contre la torture à recommander au Canada, en partenariat avec les gouvernements des provinces et des territoires, de : (1) Respecter sa promesse de ratifier, dans les plus brefs délais, le Protocole facultatif à la Convention contre la torture (OPCAT); (2) Assurer la mise en place à tous les niveaux de mécanismes de suivi et de contrôle de tous les lieux privatifs de liberté en conformité avec l’ensemble des exigences définies par l’OPCAT et mettre en place un processus public de suivi de la mise en œuvre des recommandations de ces instances.”

Critical moment for Canada

ICLMG’s shadow-report: “We recommend that CAT urge Canada, once again, to ratify the Optional Protocol as soon as possible.”

 

Critical moment for CanadaThe APT’s shadow-report has called on the Canadian authorities to: “Accelerate the current consultation process with all relevant stakeholders on the implications of OPCAT ratification. Based on those consultations, ratify the OPCAT and designate or establish one or several NPMs, ensuring that those mechanisms are independent and granted with the legal mandate and necessary financial and human resources to effectively carry out their work, in accordance with the OPCAT.”

Posted by mp in OPCAT, Ratification, UNCAT, 0 comments

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

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Canada’s OPCAT Progress To Come Under Renewed UN Scrutiny

With just a few days to spare before the guillotine falls, the Canada OPCAT Project today submitted its shadow-briefing paper to the United Nations Committee against Torture in Geneva in anticipation of its examination of Canada in late November 2018.

In its short paper the Canada OPCAT Project focuses exclusively on the state of ratification of the OPCAT in the country as an issue. In doing so, it advances various suggested questions which the UN Committee against Torture may wish to put to the Canadian delegation. For the more eager readers, the Canada OPCAT Project’s shadow report can be downloaded in full at the bottom of this page.

The UN Committee against Torture is timetabled to examine Canada at 10 am Geneva-time (4 am ET) on 21 November, while Canada’s replies to the UN Committee of experts will be heard from 3 pm onwards (9 am ET) on 22 November. The Committee’s provisional agenda and program of work are available here, where all submitted shadow papers and reports will be listed in due course (the submission deadline for which is 15 October).

Palais Wilson

Palais Wilson, Geneva, Switzerland by CCPR_Centre.

The proposed questions highlighted in the Canada OPCAT Project’s briefing include the following:

  • As stated in paragraph 5 of Canada’s seventh periodic report, could the delegation please detail any ‘extensive consultations’ which Canada has so far undertaken on the question of the ratification of the OPCAT?
  • Could the delegation cite specific examples of consultation with Canadian civil society in this same regard? If not, when does Canada envisage conducting in-depth consultations with civil society?
  • Could the delegation provide a more detailed time-line and end-date for the completion of the process of considering the ratification of the OPCAT?
  • Could the Canadian delegation please explain the specific roles allotted to the Department of Justice and Global Affairs Canada respectively in relation to the OPCAT ratification process?
  • Is the Department of Justice planning to make public its legal analysis on Canada’s accession to the OPCAT? If not, could the Canadian delegation please specify why this information should not be placed in the public domain (in an non-redacted format) for the purposes of discussion?
  • Has Canada considered contacting the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture with a view to seeking its advice on the ratification of the OPCAT?

It is therefore hoped that the two assigned Co-Rapporteurs for Canada as well as the other eight UN Committee members will closely quiz the Canadian delegation about Canada’s repeatedly stated intention to consider the ratification of the OPCAT and that they will try to seek concrete answers to at least some of the above unanswered questions.

Palais Wilson

UN Conference Room at Palais Wilson, Geneva by Niklas Plutte (2010).

As noted on previous occasions on this website, written civil society contributions to the examination of Canada’s seventh periodic report under the UN Convention against Torture come as highly welcome. Such alternative information infinitely helps support the crucial work of the UN Committee members as they subject the track-records of countries to much-needed international scrutiny.

Canada will be one of six countries whose periodic reports will be examined by the UN Committee against Torture in Geneva from 12 November to 7 December. The other States Parties include Guatemala, Maldives, Netherlands, Peru and Vietnam. A link to the live broadcast of the UN Committee’s examination of Canada on 21-22 November will be posted on this website in the coming weeks.

Persons interested in receiving a copy of the Canada OPCAT Project’s full submission to the UN Committee against Torture can download the document immediately below or contact the website directly for an emailed copy.

COPCAT Project Shadow Briefing Paper to UNCAT 12 October 2018

Posted by mp in OPCAT, UNCAT, 1 comment

Canada Makes Renewed UPR OPCAT Pledge

During its UPR process Canada has once again publicly stated before the international community that it will consider ratifying the OPCAT.

During the examination of Canada’s UPR Report during the Human Rights Council’s 39th Session in Geneva on 21 September 2018 Canada reiterated its intention in this respect. It should be noted, however, that Canada already made this same commitment during its candidacy for membership of the Human Rights Council as long ago as 2006.

UPR Canada

Image copyright of OHCHR

In Geneva the Canadian Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Rosemary McCarney, informed the Human Rights Council that Canada accepted the recommendation to consider the ratification of three international instruments, namely the OPCAT, International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Readers may recall that in May 2018 the UPR of Canada took place in Geneva, the outcome document of which is available in English and French. During Canada’s UPR some 27 different countries advanced recommendations that the country should either ratify the OPCAT or consider its ratification. During this review Canada repeated its position that it was “… considering becoming a party to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, as well as options to implement that instrument.”

While it remains positive that Canada has reiterated its commitment to the OPCAT as a human rights instrument, tangible progress needs to be seen on the ground in Canada in making this intention a reality.

An on-demand video of Canada’s full consideration by the Human Rights Council on 21 September is available by clicking on the image below. The segment on Canada’s acceptance of the potential ratification of international human rights instruments can be found from 6 minutes 15 seconds onwards.

Canada UPR

Ambassador Rosemary McCarney before the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 21 September 2018 (copyright UN Web TV).

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