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Overview and Key facts:

Capital: Ottawa

Land Area: 9,976,140 sq km

Head of Government: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (since 06 February 2006)

Population: 32,876,000 (2007)

Major Languages: English (official), French (official), other

Major Religion(s): Roman Catholic 42.6%, Protestant 23.3% (including United Church 9.5%, Anglican 6.8%, Baptist 2.4%, Lutheran 2%), other Christian 4.4%, Muslim 1.9%, other and unspecified 11.8%, none 16% (2001 census)

Date of Joining: 1931

Status of FOI Legislation:

The Canadian Constitution does not contain an explicit provision regarding the right to information. Section 2(b) of the Constitution Act 1982, which includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, upholds the right to freedom of speech, freedom of press and media of communication. The Supreme Court of Canada has interpreted this section to include and guarantee the right to access to information, most notably in the case of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation v New Brunswick [1996] 3 S.C.R.

Canada has a federal Access to Information Act 1983 (ATI Act), which is supported by Access to Information Rules (SOR/83-507). In 2005, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics considered how the ATI Act could be improved. The Federal Information Commissioner submitted Amendments to the ATI Act for consideration. In 2005, Gomery Commission set up to investigate a major government scandal, also considered how to strengthen the ATI Act. Chapter 10 of the Report of the Gomery Commission captures the Commission's recommendations re improving the ATI Act.

Canada also has separate freedom of informational legislation in most of its Provinces and Territories.

Status of National Human Rights Institutions:

Canadian Human Rights Commission established 1978. Have taken part in the meeting of Commonwealth Forum of national Human Rights Institutions, October 2008, Nairobi Kenya, also attended the same meeting in 2007 in Kampala, Uganda. Attended Conference of National Human Rights Institutions, February 2007, London.

News Updates:

Canadian court finds Munyaneza guilty of seven counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act

On 22 May 2009 in the case of R v Munyaneza a Canadian judge found Désiré Munyaneza guilty of all seven counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act adopted by the Canadian Parliament in 2000. This decision marks the first prosecution under this legislation in Canada.

Canada: On 28 May 2009 The Toronto Star reported that a Federal Court judge has raised concerns that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has withheld information and lied to the court in its attempt to deport terrorist suspect Mohamed Harkat.

Canada: On 26 January 2009 'CBCNews' reported that Vancouver police are recommending charges against two of the three off-duty officers involved in the brutal beating of a man outside a hotel.

Canada: On 5 October 2008 the 'Toronto Star' reported that protests against Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper were planned over his refusal to intervene in the war crimes trial of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr who is currently being held in Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

Canada: On August 1, 2008, The Vancouver Sun reported that two civil liberty groups, the B.C. Civil Liberties Associations and Pivot Legal Society have boycotted referring those claiming to have been wrongfully abused by Vancouver police to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC). The groups feel that the system is broken and the complaints require investigation by a body that is independent of the police department.

Canada: Saturday, 5 July 2008, BBC News, reported that a court in Canada ruled that the country's refugee board should re-examine the rejected asylum attempt of Mr Joshua Key, an American army deserter. This ruling may affect many other US soldiers who have refused to fight in Iraq and are sheltering in Canada.

Canada: Amnesty International released a 38-page report into detainee transfers conducted by Canada and other members of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. According to Amnesty International, transferred detainees remain "at substantial risk of torture and other ill-treatment." The human rights organization also criticizes Canada for downplaying the number of transfers that occur. It suggests that as many as 200 detainees may have been moved from Canadian custody, not including the many immediate transfers that take place during joint Canada-Afghan military operations.

Canada: Human Rights Watch joined Amnesty International in criticizing the Conservative Government's new policy to stop seeking clemency for Canadians on death row in the US.

The Canadian Federal Court cleared the way for two human rights groups to challenge Canada's policy of handing Afghan detainees into local custody where they might be tortured. The Government's arguments that the case was politically motivated and that the groups had no grounds to go to a Canadian court on behalf of detainees half a world away.

Canada: On 2 November 2007 the news service "Canadian Press" reported that a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ordered a woman from Calgary to stop spreading hate on the internet and pay a fine of $4500. A portion of her fine was reportedly to go to a man who was the subject of some of her 1000 postings made on a US-based white supremacist website. According to the report, the tribunal ordered her to "cease and desist from communicating or causing to be communicated any matter of the type contained in the messages that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt". Her postings on the hate website included comments made against Jews, gays, lesbians, Chinese, blacks, aboriginals and other non-whites.

On 4 November 2007 the news service "Canadian Press" reported that the Canadian government is denying claims made by an official in Afghanistan that detained Taliban fighters were being tortured. The initial report of torture was taken from a Montreal newspaper which claimed that its information came from a spokesperson for the Afghan national human rights agency and three accused Taliban captives. That report indicates that after Canadian soldiers hand over some detainees to Afghan detention facilities, they have had their fingernails ripped out, have been forced to stand for days without sleep, have been electrocuted and bashed with bricks. According to the Canadian Press report, the Canadian government has called the allegations "Taliban propaganda".

Canada: On 23 October 2007 the newspaper "The Toronto Star" reported that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Louise Arbour has questioned Canada's Conservative government on its commitment to human rights. Ms. Arbour who also happens to be a Canadian citizen, reportedly said that Canada is losing its strong reputation of upholding individual rights globally and losing its tradition of multilateralism on such issues. According to the report, Ms. Arbour went on to say that Canada is moving closer to the United States on human rights policy as evidenced by its rejection of the UN declaration on indigenous rights last month.

Canada: Human Rights groups in Canada urged the government to lift secrecy around the investigations in the case of three Arab-Canadians who said they were tortured abroad with the connivance of the Canadian Authorities.

Canada: On 22 August 2007 the newspaper, "The Toronto Star" reported that Canada was one of seven countries blocking the creation of a universal declaration of human rights for indigenous people. The charter has reportedly been under discussion for approximately 20 years and was approved last summer by the UN Human Rights Council despite Canada's objections. According to the report, there are six specific issues that Canada's Department of Indian and Northern Affairs cites as problematic for Canada, including the possibility that it will give aboriginal groups claim over land already ceded by treaty and that it fails to state clearly that provincial and federal laws are paramount on issues of overriding national importance. Aboriginal rights groups have called on Canada to support the charter before any more damage is done to the country's reputation as a human rights defender. The other countries blocking the charter are Colombia, Guyana, Suriname, Russia, Australia and New Zealand. (22/08/07)

Canada: On 22 July 2007 the newspaper 'The Vancouver Sun' reported that the Conservative Government might extend the six-month time period that Indian band councils have to install the infrastructure necessary to process newly allowed anti-discrimination complaints by natives. Proposed changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act will repeal the exemption that prevents aboriginal peoples from lodging human rights complaints against Federal and First Nation Governments over actions authorized by the Indian Act. This exemption was condemned by the United Nations, human rights groups and civil society within Australia. Experts who testified at spring Commons aboriginal affairs committees say that Indian bands will not be ready to process claims within six months because they lack funds. (22/07/07)

Canada: On 5 July 2007 '' reported that the Human Rights Commissioner of Ontario stated that discrimination based on colour, disability, gender and other grounds occurs in Ontario even though it has human rights protections. According to the report, there is a backlog of 1,262 discrimination cases waiting to be investigated by the Human Rights Tribunal. Experts assessed that the tribunal would need 40 more investigators and Can $3.2 million to be able to investigate the cases. (05/07/07)

Canada: On 3 July 2007 the 'Anglican Journal' reported that church leaders in the Philippines and South Africa called on the Canadian Government to adopt legislation to ensure that Canadian mining companies respect international human rights standards. Church leaders want the Government to adopt the recommendations of a report released last March and prepared by an Advisory group representing mining companies and civil society. (03/07/07)

Canada: On 28 June 2007 'The National Union of Public and General Employees' reported that the Manitoba Labour Board gave migrant workers the right to bargain collectively and unionise. This decision is in step with a Supreme Court ruling that collective bargaining is guaranteed by the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Groups are pressuring the Ontario Government to lift its ban on agricultural worker unionisation. (28/06/07)

Canada: On 27 June 2007 'ABC News' reported that human rights groups believe that proposed Northern Territories legislation that requires health checks for all indigenous children in the region could breach domestic legislation. The plan could violate domestic anti-discrimination laws by subjecting one race to the checks and not the rest of the population. Human rights groups are waiting for a High Court challenge or United Nations criticisms. (27/06/07)

Canada/UNHRC: On 20 June 2007 online newsmagazine '' reported that the United Nations Human Rights Council finalised its working procedures. In a 46 to 1 vote, the Council accepted Universal Periodic Review of nations' human rights records, eliminated the Belarus and Cuba country mandates, and agreed upon many other working procedures. Canada was the only nation to vote against the procedures - Canadian leaders objected to the elimination of the two country mandates as well as the decision to target Palestinian territories for regular special attention. (20/06/07)

Canada: On 20 June 2007 '' reported that Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice has accused Liberals of stalling native access to human rights legislation. Liberals, as well as many native groups, say that Prentice's proposed legislation should run through a consultation period with native groups before it is passed. The Native Women's Association of Canada stated that they do not agree with Prentice's methods or legislation. (20/06/07)

Canada: On 14 June 2007 the newspaper 'Hamilton Spectator' reported that Amnesty International has noted renewed commitment toward the rights of Omar Khadr. Khadr is a Canadian jailed in Guantanomo Bay as an enemy combatant for his work with Al-quaida, including the killing of a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15 years old. Human rights workers noted the difference between advocating for human rights and endorsing the acts of an individual. (14/06/07)

Canada: On 24 May 2007, BBC News reports indicated that a teenage boy was shot and killed in a school in Toronto, reportedly in one of the poorer neighbourhoods of the city. (24/05/07)

Canada: Opposition parties have called on the Canadian defence minister to resign after allegations surfaced that prisoners handed to Afghan authorities by Canadian troops were tortured. On Tuesday 24 April the BBC reported that at least 30 detainees told Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper that they had been tortured while in Afghani detention. (24/04/07)

Canada: The United States military has charged Canadian national Omar Khadr with murder, the BBC reported on Tuesday 24 April. Mr Khadr is due to stand trial in a special military tribunal process, which Amnesty International has described as 'shabby show trials.' Mr Khadr has been imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay since 2002, when he was arrested in Afghanistan at the age of fifteen. (24/04/07)


Joint Letter to HRC Members on Sri Lanka

Statement on Human Rights Defenders

United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules)

Re Inhuman conditions in prison SC order 24.4.15

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010 and the FCR Rules - Points for consideration

Hear the Message, Don't Shoot the Messenger - Curbing Voices of Dissent in the Name of Regulation


Breaking the silence"- CHRI's Press note on Sri Lanka's RTI

CHRI's critique of Tanzania's ATI Bill 2015

Tanzania's ATI Act 2015 (Bill)

CHRI celebrates the release and repatriation of Khan Zaman

Incidence of rape-torture-death in Prisons

Acquittal of Accused Pac Personnel in the 1987 Hashimpura Killings

Call for Proposals - Crime Victimisation Survey

Call for Quotations Website Maintenance


Call for implementation of UNSC resolution on humanitarian access for Syrians


JointLetter BRICS Summit Fortaleza


VAW statement - item 3 - 11 June 2014

Upcoming UPR review for Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho Granada and Guyana


Humanrights Initiative

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