"...Covenant rights should be enforceable within provinces and territories through legislation or policy measures and through the establishment of independent, transparent and effective monitoring and adjudication mechanisms. (UN Committee Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 2006)

Universal Periodic Review of Canada (UPR) 2009

In February 2009 Canada’s human rights record as a whole was assessed by the UN Human Rights Council under the new Universal Periodic Review procedure.

Civil Society Submissions and Initiatives

The gap between Canada’s human rights obligations and their implementation domestically was identified as a key issue of concern by groups across the country. A submission on the “implementation gap” endorsed by almost 50 NGOs, was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Social Rights Advocacy Centre, a CURA community partner.

49 NGOs and Aboriginal organizations from across Canada made submissions in advance of the UPR on a range of topics. A number of these submissions focused on social and economic rights concerns. For example:

CURA researchers also contributed to the organization of meetings with community groups in 5 cities across the country to discuss the UPR process, to document the most pressing human rights concerns, and to engage with government representatives. As a result, CURA researchers assisted in drafting a summary report documenting these issues, which was provided to all members of the Human Rights Council.

NGO briefing document on key human rights concerns and recommendations to the Government of Canada. En français.

Letter to Prime Minister Harper regarding the implementation gap, 23 February 2009; Response, 3 August 2009

NGO press release immediately following the UPR, February 2009

Reaffirming Canada’s Commitments to Human Rights, a short article by Bruce Porter and Leilani Farha on the Universal Periodic Review and the role of Parliamentarians in ensuring rights are implemented in Canada, in Poverty and Parliament, Spring 2009 - a newsletter published by Canada Without Poverty that is distributed to all Parliamentarians. 

The Review: Recommendations and Canada’s Responses

During the oral review of Canada, many countries made recommendations regarding ways in which Canada could improve its human rights record. In June 2009, Canada appeared before the Human Rights Council and replied to each recommendation indicating which of those it would accept and which it would not.

Key recommendations made by the Human Rights Council members in the area of social rights and Canada’s responses include:

  • Human Rights Implementation Mechanisms
  • Housing and homelessness
  • Poverty
  • Access to Effective Remedies for Violations of Rights
  • Ratification of International Human Rights Instruments including the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Read the Report of the Working group on the Universal Period Review - Canada

See also: Addendum to UPR report: Views on conclusions and/or recommendations, voluntary commitments and replies presented by Canada

See the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights page about Canada's 2009 Universal Periodic Review

Parliamentary Initiatives on the UPR

The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights hosted hearings on the UPR immediately following the February review. CURA community partners, the Social Rights Advocacy Centre and Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation made oral submissions to the Committee.

The Senate Committee on Human Rights adopted a short report which recommended:

  • the Government of Canada develop procedures in preparation for its next Universal Periodic Review,
  • make these procedures public and engage civil society and Aboriginal organizations, parliamentarians, and the Canadian public with respect to Canada’s human rights obligations
  • the Government of Canada table in Parliament its submissions and  responses to the UPR of the United Nations Human Rights Council, as well as any of the Council’s reports regarding Canada’s review.

The Parliamentary Sub-Committee on International Human Rights also held hearings into the UPR where CURA community research partner, the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation made an oral submission. The Sub-Committee adopted a motion that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development recommend to Parliament and the Government of Canada to undertake the following:

  • invite to a meeting to take place at the earliest opportunity but no later than June 10, 2010, the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for human rights, to review the Universal Periodic Review recommendations; and
  • invite bodies such as the Continuing Committee of Officials on Human Rights and the federal Deputy Ministers Committee to work closely with Indigenous peoples and representative organizations, and civil society groups, to support and facilitate the ministerial meeting and decision making process; and
  • invite parliamentary and legislative committees that so wish to actively review the UPR recommendations in sessions that are open to the public; and
  • work with Indigenous peoples and representative organizations and civil society to immediately launch an accessible and timely process of dialogue and consultation about the UPR recommendations.

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