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Canada must advance a national framework for meeting our vital international human rights obligations

May 17, 2023 Print

Montreal – While Canada has long had a stellar reputation internationally for protecting human rights, our domestic track record is more dismal than that reputation would suggest. Time and again, decision-makers have failed to implement United Nations human rights treaties and recommendations at home on issues including the rights of Indigenous Peoples, racism, gender equality, refugees and migrants, disability, housing, law enforcement and corporate accountability.

The inaugural meeting of the Forum of Ministers on Human Rights, taking place in June in Halifax, provides an opportunity to change that. A new paper by the IRPP’s Centre of Excellence on the Canadian Federation sets out a roadmap for advancing reforms, which could shape the work of the forum and help Canada make substantial progress on protecting human rights domestically.

In the paper, human rights activist, University of Ottawa law professor, and former secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, Alex Neve, puts forward a National Framework for implementing international human rights to be adopted across federal, provincial and territorial governments. His proposals range from advancing incremental changes to adopting new legislation and include recommendations to do the following:

  • Clearly commit to ensuring that policies and actions taken by all levels of government conform to international human rights obligations.
  • Enact comprehensive legislative reform, including adopting international human rights implementation laws by federal, provincial and territorial governments.
  • Ensure an enhanced role for Indigenous governments in implementing international human rights obligations.
  • Formalize the role of municipal governments in implementing international human rights obligations.
  • Establish a dedicated secretariat equipped with long-term funding to support all aspects of the National Framework.

“There has long been a lack of clear and accountable human rights leadership in Canada and a failure to effectively coordinate efforts to uphold human rights by federal, provincial and territorial governments. If officials attending the upcoming meeting of the Forum of Ministers on Human Rights commit to a National Framework for international human rights implementation, we could at long last see considerable progress in more reliably and consistently protecting human rights across the country,” says Neve.


Closing the Implementation Gap: Federalism and Respect for International Human Rights in Canada can be downloaded from the Centre’s website (centre.irpp.org).

Media contact: Cléa Desjardins – 514-245-2139 – cdesjardins@nullirpp.org

Media Contact

Cléa Desjardins
Communications Director
514-245-2139 • cdesjardins@irpp.org

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