Canada’s approach to advancing human rights
The promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of Canadian efforts abroad. As part of this commitment, Canada champions the values of:
- inclusive and accountable governance
- peaceful pluralism and respect for diversity
- human rights including the rights of women and refugees
What Canada is doing for human rights
Canada has been a consistently strong voice for the protection of human rights and the advancement of democratic values. This started with our central role in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1947-1948 to our work at the United Nations today.
We are party to seven major international human rights conventions, as well as many others, and encourage all countries which have not made these commitments to do so.
We take our international human rights obligations seriously, including those articulated in the:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights
The human rights treaty bodies of the United Nations are a vital aspect of a strong and effective international human rights system. We are also committed to maintaining a constructive dialogue with the UN and other international bodies to which we belong.
We focus our efforts on key issues, such as:
- Canada helping women and girls around the world: Gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls, and the promotion and protection of their human rights are key Canadian values, which Canada is committed to promoting
- Children and youth: Children’s rights are a top concern of our foreign policy; priorities include ending sexual exploitation, early and forced marriage, and protecting children in armed conflict
- International Indigenous affairs: We are involved in several initiatives to promote the rights of indigenous peoples in Canada and abroad
- Freedom of religion or belief: The promotion and protection of human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, is an important part of Canada’s constructive engagement in the world
- The human rights of LGBTI persons: Canada advocates for an end to laws, violence, and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex
- Human rights defenders: The Government of Canada recognizes the key role played by individuals who put themselves at risk to protect and promote human rights and strengthen the rule of law
- Refugees and migrants: Canada proudly upholds its commitments, respects its obligations, and champions at home and abroad the human rights of people who are displaced, persecuted, and in need of protection
- Persons with disabilities: Canada is committed to supporting the rights of persons with disabilities through both its multilateral activities and international development assistance activities
- Climate change and human rights: Canada recognizes that climate change is a shared global problem with significant impacts on the economy, development, and security
- Pluralism and Diversity: Our policies are guided by the belief that economic prosperity, responsible governance and social well-being are all enhanced by efforts to build inclusive and pluralistic societies that respect diversity
- Internet freedom: Canada is committed to the principle that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online
How Canada promotes human rights
All countries have a duty to promote and protect human rights under International law and the United Nations Charter. We work with other states to help them meet their human rights commitments, including through:
- direct support for the development of democratic institutions and practices
- international development assistance
- legal and administrative training
- the provision of technical assistance
Who we work with to improve human rights worldwide
Taking part in multilateral fora like the United Nations is an effective way to advance human rights. Canada was instrumental in the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Today, we are recognized as a world leader for our efforts to promote and protect human rights through:
- Canada and the United Nations (UN)
- Canada and the Commonwealth
- Canada and La Francophonie
- Canada and the Organization of American States (OAS)
- Canada and the G7
- Canada and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
Canada actively participates as an observer at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and is fully engaged in the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee. The Committee is the key multilateral institutions mandated specifically to consider human rights issues.
Canada has also been a leading proponent of the Universal Periodic Review. This evaluates the human rights performance of all 193 UN member States on a periodic basis. Canada was last reviewed in 2013 and is tentatively scheduled for its next review in 2018.
Crafting Canadian policy
To develop our international human rights policy, the Government of Canada undertakes a number of activities, including:
- consulting Canadian citizens
- consulting domestic organizations
- engaging in dialogue with non-governmental organizations
- engaging in dialogue with our counterparts abroad
We also closely follow the work of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Human Rights and International Development and the Senate Committee on Human Rights.
Canadian ministers and officials regularly discuss human rights issues with their foreign counterparts at all levels.
- UN Charter
- Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
- Senate Committee on Human Rights
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- Canada’s human rights treaties
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