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Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Canada

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 24 May 2012
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Canada, 24 May 2012, available at: [accessed 18 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor General David Johnston
Head of government: Stephen Harper
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 34.3 million
Life expectancy: 81 years
Under-5 mortality: 6.1 per 1,000

There were continuing systematic violations of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Limited progress was made in addressing concerns about human rights violations associated with counter-terror and policing operations.

Indigenous Peoples' rights

In March, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal dismissed a discrimination complaint alleging that the amount spent by the federal government on child protection in First Nation communities was substantially less than that provided by provincial governments in predominantly non-Indigenous communities. The Tribunal ruled that the federal and provincial governments could not be compared to each other for the purposes of a discrimination complaint. An appeal was pending at the end of the year.

In April, a leaking pipeline spilled an estimated 4.5 million litres of crude oil onto the traditional territory of the Lubicon Cree in northern Alberta, the largest spill in the province since 1975. In August, the province allowed the pipeline to resume operation without meaningful consultation with the Lubicon People. International human rights bodies have long expressed concern over the failure to respect Lubicon land rights.

In August, a federal audit concluded that 39 per cent of water systems in First Nation communities have major deficiencies, with 73 per cent of drinking water systems and 65 per cent of waste water systems constituting medium or high risk to health. An earlier government study had linked the breakdown of First Nation water systems to inadequate government resources.

In October, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held a hearing into a complaint brought by the Hul-qumi'num Treaty Group, alleging violations of Indigenous land rights on Vancouver Island in the province of British Columbia. A ruling was expected in 2012.

There was little progress in implementing the findings of the Ipperwash Inquiry, set up to examine the fatal police shooting in 1995 of an unarmed Indigenous man during a protest in Ontario. Incidents at the Tyendinaga Mohawk community in Ontario in 2008, in which provincial police pointed high-powered rifles at unarmed protesters and bystanders, and the failure to conduct an impartial review of these incidents, underscored the urgent need for implementation of the Ipperwash findings.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission, mandated to document and raise awareness of the abuses against First Nations, Métis and Inuit children, and broader harms caused by Canada's historic residential school system, held sessions throughout the year.

Women's rights

In July, the federal Minister responsible for the Status of Women stated publicly that the government did not intend to establish a national action plan to address the high levels of violence faced by Indigenous women.

In October, in British Columbia a provincial inquiry was opened into the police response to the cases of missing and murdered women, many of whom were Indigenous, in Vancouver. Before the inquiry began, 17 of the 20 organizations granted intervener status withdrew because of concerns over fairness.

Counter-terror and security

Hearings by the Military Police Complaints Commission into concerns that Canadian soldiers transferred prisoners in Afghanistan to the custody of Afghan officials, despite a serious risk they would be tortured, concluded in February. The Commission's report had not been issued by the end of the year.

In October, information was made public indicating that Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers had no information implicating Abdullah Almalki in criminal activities and viewed him only to be an "Arab running around" in October 2001 when they sent information to Syrian authorities linking him to terrorism. He was imprisoned and tortured in Syria between May 2002 and March 2004. A public inquiry concluded in 2008 that the actions of Canadian officials in his and two other men's cases contributed to the human rights violations they experienced. The government failed to apologize or provide them with compensation. A lawsuit brought by the three men in 2008 was pending at the end of 2011.

Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen apprehended by US forces in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15 years old and detained at Guantánamo Bay since October 2002, became eligible to be transferred to serve the remainder of his sentence in Canada on 1 November. He had been sentenced to an eight-year prison term in October 2010 following a plea agreement. The Canadian government had not reached a decision on his transfer application by the end of 2011.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In June, the government reintroduced proposed legislation that would penalize asylum-seekers arriving in Canada in an irregular manner, such as when a human smuggler arranges their travel in a group by sea. The proposals include lengthy mandatory detention without timely review of the grounds of detention and other measures that violate international norms.

Police and security forces

In April, RCMP officers in Prince George, British Columbia, used a Taser against an 11-year-old boy. The RCMP announced in September that the officers involved would not be disciplined or charged.

In June, the Toronto Police Services released an internal review of policing of the G8 and G20 Summits in 2010, during which more than 1,000 people were arrested. The Toronto Police Services Board's independent civilian review of some aspects of the policing operation was continuing at the end of 2011. The provincial and federal governments rejected calls for a public inquiry.

International justice

In October, the government failed to arrest former US President George W. Bush when he travelled to British Columbia, despite clear evidence that he was responsible for crimes under international law, including torture.

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