Canadian Human Rights Commission Under Investigation by International Body Over Anti-Black Discrimination

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June 23, 2024

To see the original press release please click here

For Immediate Release

OTTAWA, June 11, 2024 – In a landmark decision, the international body that hands out human rights accreditations has concluded that there is enough basis to review Canada’s “A” status –  an unprecedented move that puts it among the ranks of countries like Russia, Iraq, and Venezuela.

 The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) — a United Nations partner — has launched a “Special Review” of the accreditation of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). This comes as the result of a complaint by a coalition of Canadian human rights organizations, which submitted federal findings of anti-Black discrimination at theCanadian Human Rights Commission as evidence.

 Successive Justice Ministers have been aware of discrimination but have yet to make any meaningful reform. Unfortunately, we have had to resort to escalating our concerns to an international body to hold the commission accountable for years of human rights violations. Nicholas Marcus Thompson, Black Class Action Secretariat.

The international body finds there are grounds to downgrade the CHRC to “B” status, for the first time. In that case, it will no longer have independent participation rights at the UN Human Rights Council, its subsidiary bodies, and some General Assembly bodies and mechanisms. Further, it will lose the right to vote and hold governance positions at GANHRI.

The implications of this decision are very serious for Canada. It risks irreparably tarnishing its standing as a global human rights leader, as Canada has never had its status reviewed in its more than 30 years as a GANHRI member. We urge the Canadian government and the Commission to take all necessary measures to guarantee the integrity of the Commission and its critical role for Canadians. Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General for Amnesty International Canada. 

The coalition of Canadian human rights groups is calling for:

JUSTICE: The Minister of Justice and Attorney General Arif Virani to create a properly funded direct-access model to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (removing CHRC’s role as a gatekeeper with the power to dismiss claims before they reach the Tribunal)

RECOGNITION: The Canadian government to expedite the long-awaited Employment Equity Act amendments to include Black Canadians as an employment equity group.

DEVELOPMENT: To appoint a Black Equity Commissioner as an independent officer of Parliament to oversee and ensure equity across all levels of government and public service.

We have spent many years fighting, but institutions are not listening. This is why my colleagues and I are welcoming this review by an international body, in the hopes that the government will finally take this issue seriously.      Bernadeth Betchi, current CHRC employee.

BACKGROUND INFO:

 On Feb 26, 2024, a coalition of human rights organizations submitted a complaint to the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI).

 The coalition consists of: The Black Class Action Secretariat (BCAS),the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), the Canadian Black Nurses Alliance (CBNA), The Enchanté Network, the Red Coalition, the Federation of Black Canadians (FBC), 613-819 Black Hub, the Black Canadians Civil Society Coalition (BCCSC) and The Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE) 

 The group provided as evidence: the findings of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s and the Senate Human Rights Committee’s findings of anti-black discrimination.

 The complaint highlighted: violations of international human rights laws, and the Paris Principles, internationally agreed-upon minimum standards to which human rights institutions are required to adhere.

 The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) is one of the largest human rights networks worldwide, representing more than 110 National Human rights institutions. It is a recognized, and trusted partner, of the United Nations. GANHRI’s Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) is responsible for reviewing and accrediting national human rights institutions in compliance with the Paris Principles. The SCA met on March 26-28 and published its report and recommendations on June 7, 2024. It decided to initiate a review of Canada and Iraq.

Canada has been a member of GAHNRI since its inception in 1993, through the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Its last accreditation review period was from 2016-2022, with its next review slated for 2027. This unprecedented “Special Review”, which Canada has never been subject to in its member history, will investigate the five years preceding its most recent “A” status accreditation in 2023.

GANHRI members are reviewed every 5 years. As of December 2023, GANHRI is composed of 120 members: 88 “A” status accredited NHRIs and 32 “B” status accredited NHRIs.  

There are currently two levels of accreditation: Status “A” (Fully compliant with the Paris Principles): Institutions participate fully in the international and regional work and meetings of national institutions as voting members, and they can hold office in the Bureau of the International Coordinating Committee or any sub-committee the Bureau establishes. They are also able to participate in sessions of the Human Rights Council and take the floor under any agenda item, submit documentation, and take up separate seating.

Status “B” (Partially compliant with the Paris Principles): Institutions may participate as observers in the international and regional meetings of the national human rights institutions. They cannot vote or hold office with the Bureau or its sub-committees. They are not given NHRIs badges, nor may they take the floor under agenda items and submit documentation to the Human Rights Council.

Countries previously under Special Review: Burundi, Madagascar, Nigeria, Chile, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Indonesia, Jordan, Nepal, Great Britain, Panama, Venezuela, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Russia, and Iraq.

Special Review Process and Timeline: GANHRI  will conduct Canada’s Special Review in the fall of 2024, with a decision in the ensuing months. It will examine the five-year period from 2016-2022 that led to its most recent “A” status accreditation.  Suppose Canada is downgraded to “B” status. In that case, it will no longer have independent participation rights at the UN Human Rights Council, its subsidiary bodies, and some General Assembly bodies and mechanisms, and will lose the right to vote and hold governance positions at GANHRI.

ADDITIONAL FILES:

PHOTOS: Photos from the press conference can be used for publication with credit to Black Class Action Secretariat and photographer Blair Gable.

VIDEO: GANRHI Meeting https://www.instagram.com/reel/CzjpWKcJGhX/?igsh=ajk2dHlmcWVnZmd6

 

MAP: Countries subjected to Special Review  https://static.wixstatic.com/media/8e4f35_458bc54c3f894c6690c810cb81e9b376~mv2.jpg  

 

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