John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Awards

The John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award, presented annually by the Minister of Foreign Affairs on behalf of the Government of Canada, recognizes individuals or groups who show exceptional courage and leadership in defending human rights and freedom internationally.

This non-monetary award is presented as part of Canada’s larger commitment to promoting freedom around the world.

Previous Awards

2014 - Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage; Carl Bildt, former prime minister and foreign minister of Sweden; and William Hague, the U.K.'s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. For more information, please see 2014 John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Awards.

2013 - Retired Cardinal Joseph Zen, SDB, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong (China).

2012 - Shahbaz Bhatti (in memoriam), former federal minister for minorities (Pakistan) & Susana Trimarco, activist and founder of the Fundacion Maria de los Angeles (Argentina).

2011 - Asma Jahangir (Pakistan) and the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (South Korea).


The Diefenbaker Award was created in 2010 by then foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon. The award was named in recognition of former prime minister John Diefenbaker, who, during his time in office, championed human rights both in Canada and internationally. His determination to secure rights for all led to the passage of the Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960.

Nominees are identified by Canada’s global network of diplomatic missions and through consultations with key government partners. Candidates are considered on the basis of their human rights contributions, and shortlisted candidates are recommended to the Minister of Foreign Affairs who makes the final selection.