5 Priorities for Canada on #HumanRightsDay


On Indigenous rights  Key Topics: Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Girls and Women – Fix the treaty and land titles processes – improve health, education and social services – transform the international law on Indigenous peoples into Canadian law  – drop the expensive and pointless opposition for services to First Nations kids in care  — fix s. 6 of the Indian Act. 

The federal inquiry on missing and murdered women:  The Government of Canada has announced the first phase of the inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women and girls. Starting  with the views of the affected families reflects the important principle of consulting fully on the composition and mandate of the inquiry, and avoids the missteps of previous inquiries organized along a more traditional (some would say colonialist) model.

…and there is no need to await the conclusion of an inquiry to take action on these issues.

Review key aspects of the relationship with Indigenous peoples, including adequate, safe housing on reserves, safe drinking water on reserves, high quality education and health services for Indigenous peoples, and adequate transportation links for remote communities.

Recommit to the fundamentals of the historic treaties, which in many cases were no sooner signed than abandoned in favour of forcing their Indigenous signatories to go under the Indian Act regime, to which Treaties are virtually irrelevant.

Examine our policy on modern treaties, particularly the requirement that land be surrendered in order to finalize a treaty. Canada might also ask why the process of making modern treaties is taking so long, with so few results.

Review the position taken by Canada on section 35 of the Constitution, arguing that Indigenous title, while arising from Indigenous legal orders which pre-date Confederation, is subordinate to the Crown’s interest in land. Canada’s contemporary policy with respect to Indigenous peoples continues to be shaped by colonialism, whether the subject matter is land and environment or registration under the Indian Act. It is long past time for a fundamental re-think of that old stance.

Incorporate the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into Canadian law. Many changes would be required, but an organized and systematic government work will ensure that these are accomplished in an orderly and fair manner.

Drop the Government of Canada’s opposition to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. The Society alleges that Aboriginal children on-reserve receive 22 per cent fewer funds as compared to other children. The Government of Canada has been fighting the case tooth and nail, at huge expense.

Review the federal position in current litigation dealing with section 6 of the Indian Act (dealing with registration of persons under the Act) to ensure that it is consistent with the Charter and with Canada’s international commitments, settling any cases in which Canada’s position is inconsistent with either set of legal standards

On the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Key Topics: Make it a requirement that lawyers working for Justice Canada advise Parliament when there is a reasonable chance that draft legislation violates the Charter – settle the case with Edgar Schmidt accordingly – repeal ridiculous laws – drop lawsuits where the Government’s litigation position violates the Charter — reinstate the Court Challenges program – fix the Canadian Human Rights Act

Drop the Edgar Schmidt: Mr. Schmidt, a lawyer, sued the Justice Department, his former employer, for failing to notify Parliament when drafts laws were unconstitutional except in a tiny percentage of cases. The Government should issue a directive requiring Justice lawyers to inform Parliament when there are serious concerns that draft legislation would violate human rights. Ideally of course, such flawed bills should never reach the stage of moving from the Department of Justice to Parliament. But if they do, safeguards must be in place.

These measures would ensure greater respect not only for the Charter, but also for the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Department of Justice Act.

Restore the Court Challenges Program … with a twist:  A “modern” Court Challenges Program should not only have the mandate to fund court challenges that engage the Charter, but also those challenges that engage with international human rights law.

Review our litigation strategy. This should include early decisions to end appeals or positions that are not consistent with our commitments, the Charter or our values.”

The recent news that the government will restore the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) was welcome.  The Federal Court of Appeal case of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care case should be dropped for good. (The appeal dealt with the Federal Court’s earlier ruling that cuts to the IFHP for refugee claimants and others seeking Canada’s protection were so bad that they constituted “cruel and unusual treatment” under the Charter – the part of the Charter normally dealing with torture cases. This should be repealed as soon as possible and prior to the arrival of Syrian refugees.

Repeal key elements of Bill C-51 and introduce new legislation to strengthens accountability

  • Srike a committee of external experts on public security and anti-terrorism, working in tandem with the relevant government officials and legal experts.
  • Particular attention should be paid to the new disruption powers that CSIS will have, oversight of national security agencies, preventative detention (whereby people can be detained on the grounds of suspicion rather than reasonable grounds or cause), and judicial powers to authorize Charter violations committed by intelligence or national security officials.
  • Srutinize the extensive information-sharing powers concerning matters that undermine national security or interfere with critical infrastructure.As part of the related commitment in the mandate letter to “introduce new legislation that strengthens accountability,” national security and intelligence agencies should be required to report on the human rights impacts of their work on the rights of Canadians on an annual basis.

Repeal the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, considering that the practices in question are already criminal offences in Canada.

Amend Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, by separating cyber-bullyingprohibitions from lawful access provisions, as recommended by the Canadian Bar Association’s 2014 recommendations, given that lawful access provisions raise privacy concerns and could be severed from the cyberbullying provisions. The latter provisions were a response to the online harassment and subsequent deaths of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons.

Repeal Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, which creates two classes of Canadian citizens, imposes new burdens on permanent resident, and narrows access to the courts.

Review mandatory minimum sentencing laws, including the Safe Streets and Communities Act, 2012.Extensive research in the United States and in Britain demonstrates that mandatory minimum sentencing does not work. Several mandatory minimum sentences have been found unconstitutional by Canadian courts, and they interfere inappropriately with sentencing principles, the independence of the judiciary, and the Charter.

Introduce gender identity to the Canadian Human Rights Act but only one of a series of broader reforms needed to support both the Commission and the Tribunal to do their work more effectively. Many of the key reforms recommended in 2000 by the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel remain unimplemented. The recommendations of the Panel should be revisited in order to modernize Canada’s human rights system.

Re-establish the Law Commission of Canada in order to provide the government of Canada with an arm’s length, independent and systematic review of government legislation.

On Charities, the CRA and an enabling environment  Key topics: Stop harassing progressive charities and redirect the $13.4 million to chasing real tax avoiders – update the list of charitable purposes – amend the Income Tax Act and transfer authority for registering charities to a new independent agency

Cancel the new $13.4 million program that targets progressive Canadian charitable organizations through political activity audits, and reorient those funds to ensuring that the Canada Revenue Agency has the budget and staff to investigate actual tax evasion by individuals and corporations.

Amend the Canada Revenue Agency guidelines to permit advocacy that is consistent with the organization’s mission and mandate and remove the arbitrary and punitive 10% and 20% limits on “political activities,” while retaining a full prohibition on partisan activity.

Analyze results in other jurisdictions, such as the UK, where an independent, arm’s length body called the Charity Commission, now determines charitable status;

Expand the list of charitable purposes by modernizing the list of categories so as to reflect contemporary Canadian values and priorities, beyond the current list that has essentially remained unchanged since the 17th century.

Work with the non-profit sector to establish an enabling environment by building a respectful relationship between the Canadian government and the non-profit sector, developing clear guidelines for funding and partnerships, and improving the regulatory environment. Potential steps include:

  • Re-establishing funding for women’s organizations, Indigenous organizations, migrant services groups, as well as environmental protection, international cooperation and human rights groups.
  • Providing Status of Women of Canada with the resources to champion the equality of women and re-establish Canada’s international position as a global leader in gender equality.
  • Ensuring that when groups enter into contribution agreements with the Government of Canada, that the government has a duty of fairness to such groups in its contractual dealings.

Increase the tax credit for charitable giving on a par with political donations. People engage in different ways in Canadian society and the non-profit sector is a key avenue for personal, policy and political engagement. The current tax credit does not adequately reflect the role of the charitable sector as critical to our social infrastructure and community health.

On Freedom of Expression and Information Key topics: Support freedom of expression for public servants within the bounds of professional loyalty – and fix the Access to Information Act

Review the Values and Ethics Code for public servants and comparable codes or directives at the departmental levels. Political engagement by civil servants should be permitted, consistent with jurisprudence from the courts, respecting the obligation of loyalty and the ability to engage in political activity appropriate to the public servant’s position and public visibility.

Overhaul and modernize the Access to Information system by following the recommendations of Commissioner Suzanne Legault, including giving power to the Commissioner to compel disclosure of information, and by setting clear accountability for failure by government departments to release information in a timely manner.

On Freedom of Association Key topicRepeal laws that harass unions by forcing them to publish information about who they give money to.

Repeal Bill C-377,An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, which would eliminate the requirement that labour organizations make public and itemize details of all expenditures over $5,000, a requirement that is not made of private sector organizations.

For the original article in Voices-Voix

 

 

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Categories: Civil Liberties, Democracy & Dissent

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