Does Canada Deserve the Public Shaming It Just Received At the UN?


During the Canadian panel of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, not only was Canada lambasted by Great Britain, Montenegro, and Mexico, they also received criticism from Egypt and Cuba for “racial profiling in law-enforcement action” and “racism and xenophobia.” North Korea complained about Canada’s record for “violations of the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, torture and other ill-treatment, racism and xenophobia.”

And Iran accused Canada of violations including “child sexual exploitation and trafficking, the right to food, discriminatory law and regulation against indigenous people and minority groups including Muslim, Arab and African communities.”

The list goes on and on with various countries standing up and accusing Canada of allowing every human rights violation under the sun in one form or another.  

Unsurprisingly, the Canadian delegation as well as a group called UN Watch brought up the hypocrisy of certain countries accusing Canada of shameful human rights practices while they have atrocious records themselves.

I don’t know of a single country that doesn’t have human rights violations and issues. But it isn’t about the violations; it is about how the country deals with them.  After the last UN review, Canada received 68 recommendations. Of those 68, the government outright rejected 14, and only partially accepted 22 others.

Canada has a reputation internationally of being a "nice" country; it used to top the list of the best countries in the world to live … so what changed?

In a post-9/11 world Canada received a security makeover in the form of policy and legislation. The most heinous, in my opinion, was bill S-7, the “Combating Terrorism Act” which allowed law enforcement to detain suspects for up to a year without filing charges or providing any legal protections. The bill was passed in 2001 right after 9/11, but then blocked from being renewed in 2007 … Right after the Boston bombing, the bill has been resubmitted before the House of Commons, and passed.

We can also look at the G-8 and G-20 summits, which had 20 000 police spraying, beating, kettling, and arresting protesters with excessive force you would have been pardoned if you believed you were seeing scenes from Egypt, China, or even a football stadium.

But those are the big ones, let’s talk about the day to day lives in Canada in which almost 2000 First Nation homes don’t have clean running water. Drugs, gangs, and child sexual exploitation are part of the daily lives. And although Canada doesn’t have an official poverty measure, based on basic needs poverty measure, between 10%-14% of Canadians live below the poverty line.

With a less than stellar record (and I barely scratched the surface) of course Canada deserves to be called out for Human Rights violations and given recommendations. Every country should be taking a good hard look at their actions and reactions.  Maybe it will be a wake up call and the Harper government will make changes (highly doubtful) to some of the policies that don’t work.  

Regardless, I’m happy that the country has a spotlight shone on it and maybe some investigating is being done. Although Canadians are just as likely to take umbrage to being called-out by some human rights violators, maybe instead of a "pot calling the kettle black," it is a case of "a pot recognizing another pot."