December 12, 2017 – Gatineau, QC – Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat
For the first time in nearly 30 years, federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) ministers responsible for human rights met to discuss key priorities of FPT governments in relation to Canada's international human rights obligations.
The meeting opened with a welcome from an Anishinabeg Elder from Kitigan Zibi.
The meeting began with a presentation on Canada's international role, its human rights treaty obligations and their importance to FPT governments. Ministers heard how Canada's implementation is monitored by international bodies and Ministers in attendance reaffirmed their commitment to human rights.
Ministers discussed Canada's possible accession to three United Nations' (UN) treaties. Ministers reiterated their commitment to upholding the rights of persons with disabilities and agreed to complete their consideration of Canada's accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (OP-CRPD). They highlighted the importance of preventing mistreatment of detainees and committed to consider Canada becoming a party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OP-CAT). Ministers also agreed to pursue discussions on the possibility of Canada becoming a party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED). This convention is aimed at preventing secret detention by the state and ensuring that no detained person is left unprotected.
Ministers discussed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration). Ministers shared approaches to advancing human rights and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on FPT governments to fully adopt and implement the UN Declaration as the framework for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. In May 2016, the Government of Canada announced unqualified support for the UN Declaration and a commitment to its full and effective implementation in accordance with the Canadian Constitution. Ministers agreed to ongoing intergovernmental discussions about the UN Declaration.
Ministers affirmed support for holding future FPT Human Rights Ministerial meetings. They agreed to enhance FPT collaboration through a senior level mechanism. They also agreed to modernize the mandate of the intergovernmental Continuing Committee of Officials on Human Rights. This entails developing a protocol for following up on the recommendations that Canada receives from international human rights bodies and a stakeholder engagement strategy.
Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights, and highlighted the importance of these rights. Ministers agreed to promote human rights principles in developing social policy.
Ministers shared information about some of their key human rights initiatives including policy, programs and legislation respecting children's rights, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ2, anti-racism, gender equality, criminal justice and corrections, education, and other matters.
On the occasion of this historic meeting, Ministers also heard from leaders of the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council, who shared their perspectives on human rights issues of importance to them.
Ministers met with a wide range of civil society and Indigenous representatives to hear their views on Canada's human rights priorities.
They met with the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Chair of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA) to discuss the role that commissions play in supporting implementation of Canada's international human rights obligations.
“I would like to thank all of the ministers responsible for human rights for being here. I leave here today knowing that everyone who participated is committed to enhancing and protecting human rights in Canada and to advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in order to fulfill the promise of section 35 of our Constitution. I look forward to continuing these conversations at future meetings.”
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“Human rights are central to our identity and success as a country. As Canadians, we must ensure that the protection of our human rights is ever-advancing. This meeting marks a key milestone for strengthening intergovernmental collaboration and public dialogue on human rights. We acknowledge and appreciate the perspectives and recommendations shared with us by national human rights institutions, civil society and Indigenous organizations, and we look forward to engaging with them, and with all Canadians, on the protection and promotion of these rights into the future.”
Minister of Canadian Heritage
“On behalf of the Provinces and Territories, I would like to thank the Government of Canada for bringing us together to engage and share critical dialogue about our international and domestic human rights obligations. This meeting has started discussions around strategies, challenges and achievement in the advancement of human rights initiatives. I look forward to continued dialogue and communication with my federal, provincial and territorial colleagues, as we work on a collaborative intergovernmental effort to ensure a fair and just society for all.”
Attorney General of British Columbia
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Office of the Minister of Justice Canada
Department of Justice Canada
Simon Ross, Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage
Media Relations Office