About the Committee
INTRODUCTION TO THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights has a mandate to deal with such issues relating to human rights generally as may be referred to it by the Senate. Within this broad policy field, the committee focuses on examining, exploring and monitoring issues of human rights, including:
- Educating the public and ensuring the proper application of, and adherence to, international human rights principles and laws;
- Ensuring that federal legislation and policies are properly applied and adhere to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act;
- Encouraging and managing the balance between security and other human rights concerns in the post-9/11 context;
- Providing a forum for dialogue on human rights issues in the federal and provincial spheres; and
- Monitoring and seeking to ensure the equal treatment of members of minority groups.
On March 15, 2001, the Senate amended its rules to establish a new permanent committee, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. Since that time, it has closely monitored the implementation of Canada’s domestic and international human rights obligations and has provided through its reports, a series of recommendations for government departments and agencies. The committee has also been involved in monitoring the development of legislation and policy at the federal level with a human rights component.
Over time, the committee has frequently returned to a few particular areas for reexamination and published updates to its findings. Internationally, it has closely monitored the outcomes at the United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the implementation of the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1325 and its successor motions. The committee has also undertaken an ongoing a role in studying and highlighting issues surrounding the rights of children in Canada. It has often reviewed employment equity in the federal public service.
In 2004, the committee undertook a study into the impact of international children’s rights instruments on Canadian law. One of its primary aims was to look at the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and examine whether Canadian policy and legislation adequately reflect the provisions of international human rights instruments, and whether this country is in compliance with its obligations. The committee issued its final report on this issue in May 2006. Entitled Children: The Silenced Citizens , this final report contained 22 recommendations touching 10 different government departments. Among these recommendations was the call for a permanent Children’s Commission, the repeal section 43 of the criminal code (the use of reasonable force to discipline a child) and to allow children to have more of a participatory voice in policies affecting them. It followed up recently by tackling the difficult topic of the sexual exploitation of children in Canada in The Sexual Exploitation of Children in Canada: the Need for National Action where it reaffirmed its recommendation for the creation of an independent Children‘s Commissioner from previous reports.
Since the creation of the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2006, the committee has conducted four separate reviews of the functioning of the council and the Universal Periodic Review process.
- Canada and the United Nations Human Rights Council: Charting a New Course
- Canada’s Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations Rights Council
- Canada and the United Nations Human Rights Council: A time for Serious Re-Evaluation
- Canada and the United Nations Human Rights Council: At the Crossroads
Throughout all these reports, the committee expressed serious concerns about the workings of the international body and presented ideas for Canada to push for in order to improve the processes and procedures of the council.
SELECTED LEGISLATIVE WORK
Over several sessions, the committee conducted in-depth examinations of the division of matrimonial property on reserves in Canada and tabled two reports with recommendations for legislation. Following their publications, the government presented the Act respecting family homes situated on First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves. The committee reviewed the legislation both times and recommended changes to the bill based on the findings of its studies.
For information on the current work of the committee, you may wish to review the orders of reference the committee has received from the Senate, or review the committee proceedings. Detailed information on current work of the committee can be found on the parliamentary website at www.senate-senat.ca/ridr.asp .