Canada

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

Posted by mp

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

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).

Posted by mp

UNCAT Rapporteurs Assigned for Canada

The Canada OPCAT Project has learned which UN Committee against Torture members will act as the rapporteurs for Canada’s examination under the UN Convention against Torture in November in Geneva. These two members will lead the Committee’s examination of Canada and closely scrutinize state compliance with the anti-torture instrument.

AI France

Amnesty International France vintage campaign action

As this information has not yet been made public, interested persons are invited to contact the Canada OPCAT Project for further information (we have been asked not to publicize this information for the moment). Nonetheless, given the small ten-person composition of the UN Committee and the linguistic make-up of Canada, interested parties may well be able to surmise the possible candidates.

The UN Committee will examine Canada at 10 am (Geneva-time) on 21 November, while Canada’s replies will be heard from 3 pm onwards on 22 November. The Committee’s provisional agenda and program of work are available here.

As noted in a recently issued update, the deadline for civil society contributions to the upcoming examination of Canada is no later than 15 October 2018. More information about the overall process of how to submit a shadow-report can be found in this earlier article.

The Geneva-based civil society entity, the Convention against Torture Initiative, has also produced the following in-depth guidance paper on the overall reporting process to the this treaty body.

Alternatively, you would be very welcome welcome to contact us for further advice. But please do not forget to mention the OPCAT in your submissions! As Amnesty International France might say (see above): Utilisez votre arme pour l’OPCAT!

Posted by mp in OPCAT, UNCAT

ATIP OPCAT Request – Time’s Up!

The time is officially up for Justice Canada! Regrettably, the Canada OPCAT Project has yet to obtain a response from the Department of Justice concerning an OPCAT-related request under the Access to Information Act, known as a so-called ATIP request.   

On 5 June 2018 the Canada OPCAT Project made the ATIP request to obtain a copy of a Justice Canada legal analysis of Canada’s potential accession to the OPCAT. The document was referred to in Department of Justice correspondence also obtained through an ATIP request.

ATIP RequestSeveral weeks later on 28 June 2018 the Department of Justice responded to this initial ATIP request, stating the following:

“Pursuant to paragraph 9(1)(b) of the Access to Information Act, I hereby notify you that an additional 60 days are required to comply with your request because consultations that cannot be reasonably completed within the original time limit are necessary. It may be possible, however, to reply sooner should we complete the processing of your request prior to that time.”   

As this request for information relates to Canada’s publicly stated intention to ratify a key UN human rights instrument (hardly a sensitive issue), this failure to respond within the stipulated time-frame comes as even more surprising.

Nonetheless, with the annual holiday season soon coming to an end, it is very much hoped that a response will be elicited from Justice Canada and that its OPCAT legal analysis will be made available to the project.

Although the Canada OPCAT Project has yet to see a copy of the legal analysis, it is reported to highlight, among other issues, concerns about gaps in the coverage of places of detention by existing independent monitoring bodies. Police and immigration detention facilities are said to be particularly problematic in this respect. Until the report is made available, however, this information cannot be confirmed.

Posted by mp in OPCAT, Ratification

Canada/Ireland – Time To Ratify OPCAT

As the discussion continues on if and when Canada will ratify the OPCAT, attention falls on the same OPCAT process in Ireland.

On 2 October 2007 Ireland signed the OPCAT. More than a decade later, however, the country has yet to ratify the instrument. The highly-respected NGO, Irish Penal Reform Trust, has produced the following animation, arguing why the country should move forward to ratify this important anti-torture instrument.

Canadian readers may find parallels with their own country, even though Canada has not yet signed the OPCAT. You can make your own mind up!

Posted by mp in OPCAT, Ratification

Canada UNCAT Shadow-Reports Due Soon… Don’t Leave It Too Late!

Canada’s track-record to prevent acts of torture and other ill-treatment is set to come under international scrutiny once again in just over two months’ time. The UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT) is due to meet for its 65th session in Geneva, Switzerland from 12 November to 7 December 2018, during which it will examine Canada’s seventh periodic report under the UN Convention.

UNCAT shadow-reportsCivil society actors who are intent on submitting alternative- or shadow-reports to the UN Committee of experts should act sooner rather than later!

Although no specific date is as yet known for the Geneva review, Canadian CSOs and NHRIs should submit information in an electronic format no later than 15 October 2018.

According to OHCHR’s website, to date no Canadian (or other) CSOs or NHRIs have yet submitted information on Canada (unlike for several of the other countries which will be examined during this same session).

The procedure for doing so can be found as follows in English. If afterwards you still remain unsure as to how all this works, please do contact us. We would be very happy to assist you.

If your organization plans to submit a shadow-report, please do not forget to mention Canada’s stated intention to ratify the OPCAT … and its lack of progress to do so. Please contact us for any advice in this connection. Alternatively, read the following section of this website for more information.

General information about the UN Committee against Torture can be found as follows in French and English. OHCHR has also produced this short video animation about the UN Committee.

Posted by mp in UNCAT