Human rights in Canada: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Since signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the Canadian government has attempted to make universal human rights a part of Canadian law. There are currently four key mechanisms in Canada to protect human rights: the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and provincial human rights laws and legislation.

The issue of human rights in Canada has not attracted significant controversy relative to human rights issues in other countries. Most Canadians believe the country to be a strong proponent and positive model of human rights for the rest of the world. For example, in 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act.

Canada does have to deal with some issues of human rights abuses that have attracted condemnation from international bodies, such as the United Nations. For example, some provinces still allow the use of religiously segregated schools. The treatment of Canada's First Nations people or Aboriginal Canadians and the disabled also continues to attract criticism.



Human rights concerns the private rights and power of people. This typically has broad meaning, covering all human rights protected under the law outside of the criminal law context. Civil rights primarily gravitates around issues such as discrimination, accommodation, suffrage (voting), and to a lesser extent, property rights. Human rights are primarily protected under the federal and provincial Human Rights Acts in private context, and under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms where the state is a party to the matter.[1] Controversial human rights issues in Canada include patient rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, parents' rights, children's rights, abortion rights, minority rights, majority rights, disability rights, aboriginal rights, tenant rights and economic, social and political rights.

Controversial human rights issues in Canada include patient rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, parents rights, childrens rights, rights of the unborn, minority rights, majority rights, aboriginal rights, landlord verse tenant rights and economic, social and political rights.[2]

From the 19th Century to the advent of the Canadian Bill of Rights and the first provincial Human Rights Act, the laws of Canada and the provinces did not provide much in the way of civil rights and it was typically of limited concern to the courts.

During this early period there were a number legal cases arising from discriminatory or repressive conduct. The courts typically dealt with these cases strictly as a matter of law with no explicit consideration to the social element of the matter.

The earliest cases typically turned on the question of constitutional jurisdiction of the law. In Union Colliery Co. of British Columbia v. Bryden (1899), Bryen, a shareholder in Union Colliery, accused the company of violating the provincial Mining Act which prohibited the hiring of "Chinamen". The company successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Act on the grounds that it legislated on a matter that was in federal jurisdiction. In Cunningham v. Homma (1903), the provincial law prohibiting people of Japanese decent from voting was found to be constitutional on the basis that it was a matter within the province's jurisdiction to legislate on. Similarly, in the case of Quong Wing v. R. (1914), the Saskatchewan law prohibiting the hiring of white women by businesses owned by "Chinamen" was constitutionally valid as a matter of jurisdiction.

In the 1938 decision of Reference re Alberta Statutes, the Supreme Court of Canada first recognized an implied bill of rights. The Court had struck down an Albertan law that prohibited the press from criticizing the government. In Reference re Persons of Japanese Race (1946), the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a government order to deport Canadian citizens of Japanese descent. However, in dissent, two justices invoked the implied bill of rights as a valid basis for invalidating the law.

In Noble v. Alley (1955), the Supreme Court of Canada refused to enforce a restrictive covenant prohibiting the sale of land to those of Jewish decent on the basis that it was too vague.

Beginning in 1962, the provinces began adopting Human Rights legislation: Ontario (1962), Nova Scotia (1963), Alberta (1966), New Brunswick (1967), Prince Edward Island (1968), Newfoundland (1969), British Columbia (1969), Manitoba (1970), Québec (1975)[3], and Saskatchewan (1978)[4]. In 1977, the federal government enacted the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Notable violations


First Nations in colonial period

There has long been controversy over the actions of the British and early Canadians in relation excessive hunting and desecration of Native lands. There have also been many accusations of coercion and deceit on the part of the Canadian government in the signing of land contracts.

World War I treatment of Ukrainian Canadians

Ukrainian Canadians were treated as enemy aliens during World War I.

Chinese Head Tax and Chinese Immigration Act of 1923

The Chinese head tax was a fixed fee charged for each Chinese person entering Canada. The head tax was first levied after the Canadian Government passed the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885. It was meant to discourage Chinese from entering Canada after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The head tax was ended by the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, which stopped Chinese immigration except for business people, clergy, educators, students and other categories. Immigration from most countries was controlled or restricted in some way, but only the Chinese were so completely prohibited from immigrating.

World War II treatment of Japanese Canadians

Japanese Canadians were interned during World War II, their property confiscated.

Cold War forced relocation

In the early 1950s and in the context of the Cold War, the federal government forcibly relocated 87 Inuit citizens to the High Arctic as human symbols of Canada's assertion of ownership of the region. The Inuit were told that they would be returned home to Northern Quebec after a year if they wished, but this offer was later withdrawn as it would damage Canada's claims to the High Arctic; they were forced to stay. [5]. In 1993, after extensive hearings, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples issued The High Arctic Relocation: A Report on the 1953-55 Relocation.[6] The government paid compensation but has not apologised.[7]

Residential schools

Until the mid-twentieth century, many of Canada's native communities were forced to send their children away from home to boarding schools run by religious estalishments, or, later, the predecessors to the federal department now known as Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Abuses at these schools were widespread. Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in June 2008 for previous governments' roles in their administration, and the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been set up to create a record of what happened.

Separate Schools

Some Canadian provinces, including Ontario and Alberta, continue to operate separate and publicly funded schools that discriminate by religion. In Canada these are usually Roman Catholic schools which are run parallel to the public school system that historically had been either Protestant or Roman Catholic, but which in recent years has become secular. The separate schools in Ontario, however, are fully denominational and not secular. In addition to Roman Catholic school boards, Alberta and Ontario each have one Protestant separate school district.

On November 5, 1999 the United Nations Human Rights Committee condemned Canada and Ontario for having violated the equality provisions (Article 26) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee restated its concerns on November 2, 2005, when it published its Concluding Observations regarding Canada's fifth periodic report under the Covenant. The Committee observed that Canada had failed to "adopt steps in order to eliminate discrimination on the basis of religion in the funding of schools in Ontario."

Bill 101 in Québec

Bill 101 in Québec is a collection of laws instituted in order to propagate the French language and severely restricted the use of English. In 1993, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that Quebec's sign laws broke an international covenant on civil and political rights. "A State may choose one or more official languages," the committee wrote, "but it may not exclude outside the spheres of public life, the freedom to express oneself in a certain language,."[8]

Destruction of Arctic ecosystem

The Inuit Circumpolar Council has petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, claiming violation of their human rights "resulting from global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions"[9]. This is based on the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment[10], a project of the Arctic Council and the International Arctic Science Committee.

See also


  1. ^ See s. 32 of the Charter for discussion on its application
  2. ^ Human Rights Canada
  3. ^ Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms
  4. ^ Saskatchewan Human Rights Code
  5. ^ McGrath, Melanie. The Long Exile: A Tale of Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the High Arctic. Alfred A. Knopf, 2006 (268 pages) Hardcover: ISBN 0007157967 Paperback: ISBN 0007157975
  6. ^ The High Arctic Relocation: A Report on the 1953-55 Relocation by René Dussault and George Erasmus, produced by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, published by Canadian Government Publishing, 1994 (190 pages)[1]
  7. ^ Royte, Elizabeth (2007-04-08). "Trail of Tears". The New York Times.  
  8. ^,b1c78991 CBC News Online | March 30, 2005
  9. ^ ICC press release
  10. ^ [2]


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