United Nations Human Rights Council 46 – High-Level Segment

Speech

February 24, 2021

Greetings from Canada.

It’s an honour to address the Human Rights Council.

My congratulations to Ambassador Khan of Fiji on her election to the presidency of the council. We trust she will bring to us the much needed perspective of Small Island Developing States, including the human rights impacts of climate change and environmental degradation.

We have gathered at a time when the world is facing the most serious public health crisis of our lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated lives and livelihoods.

It has deepened inequalities in our societies and, too often, it has jeopardized basic human rights.

As the world tries to protect public health, particularly through the development and distribution of vaccines, it is our responsibility to ensure that no vulnerable communities are left behind: women, children, the elderly, refugees and displaced persons, as well as LGBTQ2+ and Indigenous persons.

This virus will not be fully eradicated until it has been eradicated everywhere.

Canada is committed to an extensive global effort to ensure that everyone, everywhere, has access to COVID-19 testing, treatments and vaccines.

Having adopted a feminist foreign policy, Canada believes gender equality must also guide our efforts to revitalize the international institutions and build a better world that is more just, equitable and inclusive.

Sadly, the pandemic has been used as a pretext by some governments to undermine the human rights they are entrusted to uphold. This is unacceptable.

This council has a responsibility to continue to closely monitor these situations and engage with people on the ground to have rights respected.

Canada is deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka, which includes threats to human rights defenders and civil society organizations, suppression of memorialization, forced cremations of religious minorities and the deterioration of the rule of law. 

The recent report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights highlights the need for this council to ensure accountability for crimes committed in Sri Lanka. Canada will continue to support measures that will support accountability, reconciliation and peace.

On Venezuela, the crimes against humanity detailed in the recent report of the UN fact-finding mission are extremely troubling.

Canada encourages the council to continue its efforts to unite the international community in targeted efforts to end the human suffering in Venezuela.

In Iran, we are concerned with ongoing reports of human rights abuses. They include restricted freedoms of expression and assembly, discrimination against unrecognized religious and ethnic groups, and violence against women and girls.

Meanwhile in China, we are seeing an erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, and a crackdown on ethnic and religious minorities.

A mounting campaign of repression and deplorable treatment cannot be ignored. We call on China to halt the human rights violations affecting Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

Canada unequivocally condemns the recent coup in Myanmar and unjust detentions of elected officials, opposition figures, civil society leaders and journalists. We are also deeply concerned by the military’s suppression of widespread public protests.

Canada also backs international efforts to help the Rohingya, as well as other conflict-affected populations in Myanmar.

Media freedom and digital access are essential to the protection and promotion of human rights.

Indeed, access to accurate and timely information is more important than ever. Journalists around the world are doing vital work by reporting facts on this health crisis. Too many have faced censorship, intimidation or violence.

Canada is also very concerned by the fact that interruptions to Internet access are being used to suppress democratic expression.

Together with the more than 40 members of the Media Freedom Coalition, Canada calls on all states to ensure free, independent, diverse media, and media pluralism.

On this note, I want to reiterate our support to the many voices of Belarusians, including journalists. Those responsible for undermining democracy and for violating human rights must be held accountable.

Human rights light the path through the tumultuous times.

From the Black Lives Matter movement, to the campaigns for LGBTQ2+ rights, we are inspired by human rights defenders and all those advocating for justice.

We all have a duty to ensure human rights are protected at home, and we must stand by those who seek to uphold their rights abroad. We look forward to doing so alongside members of this council.

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