Canada: Human Rights Committee reminds the Government that its companies must respect human rights

On the 7th and 8th of July 2015, the Human Rights Committee reviewed the sixth periodic report of Canada on its implementation of the provisions of the ICCPR.

In the ensuing dialogue, the Human Rights Committee inquired why Canada did not automatically re-open cases following the Committee’s views on individual communications, in conformity with its international obligation under the first Optional Protocol. The Committee was particularly concerned with the recent practice of the Canadian government of sending individuals protected by the Committee’s interim measures back to their countries of origin, in apparent violation of the principle of non-refoulement. The Canadian delegation responded to the Committee’s concerns about corporate social responsibility by noting the clear territorial and jurisdictional limits of its obligations under the ICCPR. As a result, Canada does not recognise an extraterritorial application of the ICCPR to ensure that Canadian companies are held accountable for their human rights violations committed abroad. Such an extensive application of the Covenant would involve an extra-territorial application of Canadian law and would undermine Canada’s voluntary efforts to work collaboratively with transnational companies. On the issue of individual communications, Canada justified its refusal to re-open cases by arguing that the Committee’s views are not binding.

The Committee also raised the issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Two thirds of the world’s mining companies that are active worldwide have their headquarters in Canada. As a result, the Committee asked whether Canada was considering setting up a legal framework for holding its companies operating abroad accountable for possible human rights abuses. The Committee reminded Canada that when it provides active support to transnational corporations, the latter fall under the State party’s jurisdiction. Moreover, even if the ICCPR only applied in Canadian territory, extraterritorial activities of Canadian companies still fall under the remit of the Covenant as the corporate’s identity is granted by Canadian law.

A State cannot give a corporate identity to an entity and be absolved from any responsibility for human rights violations committed by the latter.

Responding to the delegation’s answers, the Committee reminded Canada that to respect in good faith the Individual Communication procedure under the Optional Protocol the State party must respect its interim measures. The Committee in its General Comment 33 had already affirmed this.

The Human Rights Committee also sought more information on the following issues: the application of the new anti-terrorism act, gender inequality, access to justice for all peoples including

Aboriginals, disappearances and murders of Aboriginal women, guidelines on conducted energy weapons (tasers), detention of asylum seekers and the new Electoral Act.

The Concluding Observations for which Canada should provide information on implementation within one year concerned the following areas

  • Murdered and missing indigenous women and girls (9)

  • Immigration detention, asylum-seekers and non-refoulement (12)

  • Indigenous lands and titles  (16)

For a comprehensive overview of the discussion, see the proceedings on the OHCHR website.

The next periodic report should be submitted by the State party on the 24th July 2020

Discover the interview with Human Rights Defendor, Stewat Istvanffy

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Patrick Mutzenberg, Director of the CCPR, & Stewart , the local president in Canada of the “Association Américaine des Jurists”

Patrick Mutzenberg, Director of the CCPR, & Stewart , the local president in Canada of the “Association Américaine des Jurists”

During this session, the Centre interviewed Stewart Istvanffy, the local president in Canada of the “Association Américaine des Jurists”

Rules of Procedure of the Human Rights Committee

Rules of Procedure of the Human Rights Committee CCPR/C/3/Rev.10

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CCPR NGO and NHRI Participation

Documents adopted by the Human Rights Committee (March 2012)

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