Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Human Rights Hold Virtual Meeting to Discuss Key Priorities in Relation to Canada’s Human Rights Obligations
November 10, 2020
Federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) ministers responsible for human rights have concluded two half-day meetings during which participating ministers had the opportunity to discuss their key priorities in relation to Canada’s international human rights obligations. The virtual meeting was co-hosted by the federal government and the Government of Nova Scotia represented by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
Current Issues: the Human Rights Dimensions of COVID-19; and Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism
Respect for human rights is fundamental to our identity and fundamental to addressing the challenges that we are confronting in Canada and around the world. Ministers discussed two issues of primary concern to Canadians: the human rights dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic and supporting an equitable recovery, as well as fostering diversity and inclusion and taking action to eliminate systemic racism.
Ministers in attendance acknowledged the disproportionate effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on vulnerable and marginalized groups, and shared information about measures implemented by federal, provincial and territorial governments to address the health, social and economic disparities highlighted during the pandemic.
Ministers agreed that this intergovernmental exchange will inform continued efforts to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on human rights. Ministers agreed that it is important that human rights principles be considered in the development of plans for a strong and equitable recovery from the pandemic for all Canadians.
Ministers acknowledged the presence of systemic racism and discrimination in Canada and pledged to work towards building a more inclusive and equitable country for all through the advancement of diversity, inclusion and anti-racism measures within all FPT governments.
Ministers also acknowledged the 2015–2024 International Decade for People of African Descent, with its theme of “Recognition, Justice and Development”, as an important framework for eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms.
Follow-Up to 2017 Ministerial Meeting, Formalization of the FPT Table and Human Rights Issues
Building upon the success of the December 2017 FPT ministerial meeting, Ministers discussed progress on commitments made and new priorities for intergovernmental collaboration on international human rights.
Ministers reaffirmed their 2017 commitment to strengthen intergovernmental collaboration to implement Canada’s international human rights obligations and public dialogue on human rights by:
- Formalizing the Forum of Ministers on Human Rights (FMHR), which will meet every two years, in order to share information, discuss matters related to Canada’s international human rights obligations, and give direction to the Senior Officials Committee Responsible for Human Rights and the Continuing Committee of Officials on Human Rights on new and ongoing collaborative work concerning the respect for, protection and fulfillment of Canada’s Human Rights obligations;
- Endorsing the Protocol for Follow-up to Recommendations from International Human Rights Bodies and the Engagement Strategy on Canada’s International Human Rights Reporting Process; and
- Enhancing public knowledge and awareness and facilitating information sharing among FPTs, through appropriate mechanisms.
Ministers discussed the latest developments in their jurisdictions related to the rights of Indigenous peoples and advancing reconciliation.
Ministers committed to continuing to promote intergovernmental collaboration and work with Indigenous organizations with respect to the rights of Indigenous peoples.
Ministers discussed Canada’s consideration of accession to additional UN human rights treaties, welcoming Canada’s adherence to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which now offers Canadians recourse to make a complaint at the international level if they believe their rights under the Convention have been violated. Ministers also discussed the consideration of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, reiterating the importance of preventing mistreatment of detainees, as well as the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Meeting of Ministers with Representatives of Indigenous Organizations
Following the November 9 FPT meeting, ministers welcomed the opportunity to meet with representatives of Indigenous organizations as a way to continue to build relationships and foster dialogue. Ministers had the opportunity to hear the views of Indigenous organizations on human rights priorities, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Indigenous communities, and particularly on Indigenous women and girls, from a human rights perspective, as well as discuss how to continue efforts to address racism against Indigenous peoples.
Ministers agreed to bring the comments received during this session back to their respective governments for consideration in the work being done to advance reconciliation.
Panel Discussion on Human Rights in Canada in Challenging Times
Ministers recognize and value the important role played by human rights commissions, Indigenous peoples and civil society organizations in advocating for the promotion and protection of human rights in Canada.
In advance of the November 10 FPT meeting, ministers welcomed the opportunity to hear the perspectives of civil society and human rights commissions on the human rights dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of ensuring an equitable recovery. They also discussed issues related to diversity, inclusion and anti-racism, as well as ways to further enhance intergovernmental collaboration in the area of human rights.
Ministers agreed to further discussions with civil society organizations and human rights commissions to inform continued intergovernmental engagement and collaboration on human rights.
* Saskatchewan could not take a position in any decisions because of the current transitional period following its election; however, it was represented at this meeting as an observer.
**Alberta was participating at the meeting as observers only and is not party to this communiqué.
* **Although it shares many of the general objectives pursued by the other governments, Quebec participated in the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Human Rights as an observer and, consequently, is not party to this communiqu é. Quebec is firmly committed to defending and promoting human rights within its territory, in the exercise of its full jurisdiction. Among other actions, the 11 international human rights instruments to which it has bound itself, the recognition of the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Groupe d’action contre le racisme and the taking of concrete measures to help vulnerable populations at this difficult time are all evidence of this commitment. Quebec will continue working with the other governments in this regard by sharing information and best practices.
“I am pleased that my provincial and territorial colleagues and I were able to gather virtually to discuss Canada’s human rights obligations. I also welcomed the opportunity to meet with representatives from Indigenous organizations, as well as individuals from human rights commissions and civil society, and I remain committed to enhancing these relationships. Meetings such as this remind us that intergovernmental engagement and collaboration is key to promoting and protecting human rights in Canada. I am encouraged by the agreement of all in attendance to formalize this Forum of Ministers on Human Rights.”
—The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage
"These were good, productive discussions on the human rights dimension of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was important to hear how governments and civil society are working to foster diversity and inclusion while taking action to eliminate systemic racism. I welcomed the opportunity to engage with representatives of Indigenous organizations to hear their views on human rights priorities, including the impacts of the pandemic on women in their communities. We know that the pandemic has magnified systemic barriers and longstanding inequalities. At the same time, we now have an opportunity to build a stronger and more resilient Canada that works for everyone. This meeting will make a positive and constructive contribution to achieving that objective.”
—The Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“More than ever, Canada must continue to show international leadership by promoting and protecting the fundamental rights of each and every person both at home and abroad. Human rights are an integral part of our foreign policy because they are an integral part of who we are as Canadians. I am encouraged by the openness shown during this meeting to discuss our own human rights challenges and successes, and the willingness across provincial, territorial and federal partners to stand up together for human rights, inclusion and respect for diversity.”
—The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs
“A number of recent events have highlighted that we still have work to do to ensure a fair, just, inclusive and safe society for all Canadians. It is a critical time to demonstrate leadership and take action to protect and promote human rights for all citizens. I want to thank my colleagues for productive discussions and I am pleased that we have formalized this table, committing to a regular collaborative relationship. Nova Scotia remains committed to fundamental change in our province which will advance human rights and address long-standing issues, such as systemic racism, to ensure Nova Scotians can thrive and live their fullest lives.”
—The Honourable Mark Furey, Attorney General and Minister of Justice – Nova Scotia
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Department of Justice Canada
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