This page summarizes cases raised with Canada by the Special Rapporteur between May 1, 2011, (when the Special Rapporteur took up his functions) and February 28, 2017 (the date of the last public release of communications). Communications are released to the public once per year. This page also contains observations on these communications and on responses received from Canada.
Communications and observations are divided into sections based upon which observation report they originally appeared.
Each communication is referenced as urgent appeal (UA), allegation letter (AL), joint urgent appeal (JUA) and joint allegation letter (JAL) – the hyperlinks lead to these documents. This is followed by the date the communication was issued, as well as the case number and the State reply (also hyperlinked if available).
Summaries and communications are published only in the language of submission (in the case of Canada, French).
Joint allegation letter, 24/05/2012. Case no. CAN 1/2012. State Reply: 23/07/2012; 01/10/2012. Allégations de restrictions arbitraires au droit de réunion pacifique et de l‟usage disproportionné de la force contre des manifestants dans le contexte de mobilisations d‟étudiants à Montréal, Québec; et allégations de nouvelles lois portant indûment atteinte aux droits à la liberté de réunion pacifique et d‟association.
Le Rapporteur spécial remercie le Gouvernement du Canada pour les lettres qu‟il lui a été adressées, mais regrette ne pas avoir reçu, à ce jour, de réponses substantives à ces préoccupations, qui sont également reflétées dans un communiqué de presse daté du 30 mai 2012.
Le Rapporteur spécial a été informé de l’évolution de la situation de la législation en cause dans la lettre d’allégation envoyée durant la période examinée. Il invite les autorités à lui fournir plus d’informations à ce sujet, ainsi qu’à le tenir informé des mesures positives prises pour assurer le respect de la liberté d’association et de réunion pacifique au Canada. Il recommande au Gouvernement de s’assurer que la législation relative aux droits à la liberté d’association et de réunion pacifique et sa mise en oeuvre soient conformes aux meilleures pratiques détaillées dans ses rapports. Il est prêt à fournir tout appui technique dont aurait besoin le Gouvernement à cet égard.
The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of Canada for its detailed response to his communication.
The Special Rapporteur notes, inter alia, that according to the Government, “there has been no retaliation against Ms. Blackstock… [and that t]he allegations… have been and are still in the process of being addressed by domestic remedial mechanisms”. In this regard, he notes with interest the findings of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, which considered “well-founded” the allegations made that officials from the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and the Department of Justice repeatedly accessed and monitored Ms. Blackstock’s social media feeds. He further notes that the AANDC accepted these findings and that it is complying with the recommendations made by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. He looks forward to receiving further information once the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal takes a decision on the retaliation proceedings in relation to the case.
The Special Rapporteur reminds the Government of Canada of his country request sent in October 2013, to which a response is yet to be received. In this connection, OP6 of resolution 15/21 states that the “Human Rights Council… [c]alls upon States to cooperate fully with and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of his or her tasks… and to consider favourably his or her requests for visits”.
Responses to communications
The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of Canada for its detailed response to his communication. In this connection, he is grateful for the cooperation extended to the mandate, in compliance with Human Rights Council resolutions 24/5 (2013), 21/16 (2012) and 15/21 (2010).
Security considerations in the context of projects relating to natural resource exploitation
The Special Rapporteur takes note of the Government’s reply indicating that, in order, to prepare for possible public assemblies and ensure the safety of the public and the hearings into the Northern Gateway Project, National Energy Board officials studied pertinent, publicly available, information and consulted with law enforcement officials and their intelligence partners, in accordance with applicable legal standards (CAN 1/2014). He acknowledges the domestic legal review mechanisms and forums available for investigating complaints of surveillance and monitoring and the compliance of law enforcement authorities as well as intelligence officials. He recalls that the State committed to protect and promote rights set forth in international law and standards, and in that regard, looks forward to receiving further information on the outcome of the proceedings and investigations related to the case.
The Special Rapporteur is pleased that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Act “… prohibits CSIS from investigating acts of lawful advocacy, protest, or dissent [and that] CSIS may only investigate these types of acts if they are linked to threats to Canada’s national security.” However, he articulates that there should be a presumption in favour of holding peaceful assemblies and associating freely and that security considerations should not be used as a justification for unduly strict rules or interpretations that void the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. The Special Rapporteur contends that no restrictions may be placed on the exercise of those rights other than those that are strictly necessary in a democratic society and proportionate to the interest to be protected.
The Special Rapporteur reminds the Government of Canada of his willingness to undertake a country visit to Canada, as indicated in his letters from 2013, 2014 and 2015 and during his meetings with Government representatives. He takes note of the reply dated 9 April 2015 indicating the request has been forwarded to the appropriate authorities for consideration. He looks forward receiving a positive reply.
Responses to communications
The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of Canada for its detailed and substantive response received to the communication sent on 29 June 2015. He nevertheless regrets that a substantial response to his communication CAN 1/2015 is yet to be received, and urges the authorities to provide a detailed response to the questions raised in his letter, in conformity with Human Rights Council resolutions 24/5 (2013), 21/16 (2012) and 15/21 (2010).
The Special Rapporteur takes note of the Government’s response that tax incentives are not aimed at restricting freedom of expression, but rather giving a definition of what kind of organization is eligible for tax assistance. According to the Government, such limitation is necessary in order to afford overall confidence in the charitable sector – sector being supported by taxpayers – the law has to define limits to what is accepted as charitable. The Special Rapporteur also takes note that, on average, 93% of charities selected for audits are able to continue their charitable work. The Government further stresses the fact that some organizations do not benefit from the tax exemption does not impede them from exercising their activities, and from benefiting their full enjoyment of freedom of association.
The Special Rapporteur also notes with appreciation the response provided by the Government, especially the legal environment greatly supporting the freedom of association and expression in Canada. Nevertheless, the Special Rapporteur remains concerned about the overall impact on registered charitable associations, which has led to self-censorship by some of these associations, has exerted a drain on their limited resources and has led to the revocation of charitable status for others.
Regarding communication CAN 1/2015, the Special Rapporteur reiterates its concern about the compatibility of Bill C-51 with international human rights standards and, in particular, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. He advocates that when absolutely necessary, the measures provided by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are adequate to combat terrorism or handle other security considerations.
The Special Rapporteur stresses that the right to freedom of association obliges States to take, on one hand, positive measures to establish and maintain an enabling environment and on the other hand, negative measures not to obstruct the exercise of the right to freedom of association, which includes guaranteeing that association can freely carry out their activities, without discrimination (A/HRC/20/27).
The Special Rapporteur reminds the Government of Canada of his willingness to undertake a country visit to Canada, as indicated in his letters from 2013, 2014 and 2015. He looks forward to receiving a positive reply from the new administration.
For the full reports, containing communications, replies and observations for all countries, see the following links: