NationTalk – 24 civil society groups attending the third ever meeting of Federal, Provincial, Territory Ministers responsible for human rights “condemned the obstructive attitude of some governments” in advancing international human rights obligations. Groups had pressed governments to commit to nation-wide law reform that will legally require governments to adopt a collaborative, accountable, consistent, transparent, well-coordinated approach to effectively implementing international human rights obligations in Canada. No commitment was made. Two governments boycotted the meeting:
- The government of Quebec opposed included references to “systemic” racism in the final communiqué, a position that blatantly ignores the undeniable reality of deeply-rooted systemic racism in the province and across Canada, and thus reaffirms systemic racism as a nationwide reality.]
- The government of Alberta considers that the province is not bound to report on or engage with international instruments or mechanisms to which it is not a Party, a position that contravenes international law which makes it clear that federalism is no excuse or justification for failing to comply with international obligations.
In 2017, meeting for the first time in 29 years, ministers made several commitments to strengthen their collaboration in protecting human rights across Canada:
- Ministers had taken account of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call on federal, provincial and territorial governments to “fully adopt and implement” the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is a shocking and unacceptable omission to see no reference to the Declaration in the final communiqué from this week’s meeting.
- During the past eight months of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, no government has applied – equitably or otherwise – an explicit economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights framework to analyze the problems laid bare, or to structure solutions.
A widely-endorsed proposal in April 2020 from 302 civil society groups, Indigenous peoples’ organizations and a broad spectrum of subject matter experts to federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to institute meaningful human rights oversight of their COVID-19 responses has not been taken up by any government in the country.
At the current meeting, Ministers discussed the human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and agreed that it is “important that human rights principles be considered in the development of plans for a strong and equitable recovery from the pandemic for all Canadians” but in no way acknowledged or even referenced social and economic rights. The proposal for human rights oversight of COVID-19 responses was not addressed.