Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2008 - Canada

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2008
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2008 - Canada, 28 May 2008, available at: [accessed 20 February 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 Michaëlle Jean
Head of government: Stephen Harper
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 32.9 million
Life expectancy: 80.3 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 6/6 per 1,000

Deaths following the use of electro-shock weapons by police were reported. Indigenous Peoples continued to face discrimination. There were continuing concerns about anti-terrorism legislation and the treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers.

Discrimination – Indigenous rights

The report of the public inquiry into the 1995 police killing of Dudley George released in May provided a blueprint for strengthened protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Disputes over land and resource rights continued, as did the authorities' failure to ensure they were resolved promptly and impartially. This was exemplified by the situation at Grassy Narrows in north-western Ontario, and the plight of the Lubicon Cree in northern Alberta.

The government refused to address the disparity in funding for Indigenous child protection agencies. Canada voted against adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in September and subsequently argued that the Declaration did not apply in Canada.

'War on terror'

Maher Arar, a Canadian national who was the victim of an illegal transfer (rendition) from the USA to Syria in 2002, received an official government apology and compensation from the government in January. However, many of the recommendations from the public inquiry into his case were not implemented. An inquiry into the role of Canadian officials in the cases of three Canadian citizens – Abdullah Almalki, Ahmed El-Maati and Muayyed Nureddin – detained and tortured abroad was marred by excessive secrecy.

In February the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the immigration security certificate system, used by the federal government to detain and deport people born in other countries and suspected of terrorist offences, violated the Charter of Rights because a substantial amount of evidence was withheld, preventing individuals from mounting an effective defence. Draft legislation, which proposed creating a Special Advocate, failed to address this concern.

In February, Parliament voted to allow controversial provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Act to expire. In October the government introduced a bill which would reinstate provisions allowing preventive arrest and investigatory hearings. The bill was pending before Parliament at the end of the year.

In November, the Federal Court rejected an application by the government to dismiss a court action launched by Amnesty International and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association challenging the practice of transferring battlefield detainees in Afghanistan into Afghan custody, where they faced a serious risk of torture.

The Canadian government refused to intervene on behalf of Omar Khadr, detained by US forces in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old and held for more than five years at Guantánamo Bay.

Violence against women

The authorities failed to institute a national strategy to address violence and discrimination against Indigenous women or to take steps to implement long-standing recommendations regarding women in federal prisons. Restrictions on funding to women's organizations involved in advocacy continued, resulting in closures of some groups and cutbacks.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In November, the Federal Court ruled that the Safe Third Country agreement between Canada and the USA violated the Charter of Rights and international law. The government appealed against the decision. At the end of the year legislation was before Parliament which would require the government to implement the refugee appeal provisions in the 2001 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Police and security forces

At least four people died following the use of tasers (electro-shock weapons) by police. The death of Polish national Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport after being tasered at least twice by police in October led to numerous reviews and a provincial public inquiry.

Death penalty

In October, Canada reversed a long-standing policy, stating that clemency would no longer be sought for Canadian citizens sentenced to death in democratic countries that adhere to the rule of law.

Amnesty International reports

  • Canada: Inappropriate and excessive use of tasers (AMR 20/002/2007)
  • Afghanistan: NATO countries at risk of complicity in torture (ASA 11/015/2007)
  • Canada: Amnesty International reiterates call to suspend police use of tasers following airport death (AMR 20/004/2007)
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