Covering events from January - December 2002

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Adrienne Clarkson
Head of government: Jean Chrétien
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
International Criminal Court: ratified

There were concerns about police accountability and refugee protection.

Police accountability

The trial of four police officers charged with the manslaughter of Otto Vass, who was beaten to death in Toronto in August 2000, had not taken place by the end of 2002.

In June, Ramsey Whitefish, an indigenous man, was allegedly beaten by two police officers in Toronto. In September, after considerable public pressure, two police officers were charged with assault in connection with the incident.

In August the ongoing refusal of the authorities to hold an inquiry into the 1995 killing by an Ontario Provincial Police officer of Dudley George, an indigenous man involved in a land claims protest, was brought before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Before the Committee, Canadian officials asserted that the federal government did not "have the authority to conduct inquiries into allegations of misconduct by provincial officials and the province's police force." The Committee's conclusions point out that "the principal responsibility for the implementation of the Convention lies with the federal Government of Canada."


Canada's new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act came into effect on 28 June. In spite of provisions in the legislation, the government chose to suspend implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division. This effectively denied asylum-seekers the fundamental right to an appeal on the merits of their case if they received a negative decision from the Immigration and Refugee Board.

  • In January, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Manickavasagam Suresh, who had been recognized as a refugee by the Canadian authorities in 1991. The Canadian authorities had initiated proceedings to deport him to Sri Lanka because of his alleged links to an armed opposition group. There were concerns that he would be at risk of torture in Sri Lanka. The Supreme Court ruled that, barring extraordinary circumstances, deportation to torture will generally violate the principles of fundamental justice. The Court agreed that there was prima facie evidence that Suresh would face torture in Sri Lanka. The decision to deport him was being reconsidered at the end of the year.
  • In June, Mansour Ahani was forcibly returned to Iran in spite of a request from the UN Human Rights Committee to the Canadian authorities not to do so, in order to give the Committee time to review a submission on his case. Mansour Ahani was reportedly briefly detained upon his return to Iran and has not been heard from since.
Throughout the year a number of individuals, often people accused of supporting armed Islamic groups, continued to be at risk of deportation from Canada to countries where AI believed they faced a serious risk of torture.

On 5 December, Canada and the USA signed a "safe third country" agreement which, with a few exceptions, denies asylum-seekers who have passed through either country and are seeking to make a refugee claim at a border entry into the other country, any opportunity to do so. The agreement was expected to become operational early in 2003. There was concern that the agreement could lead to human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and refoulement.

Other issues

In October, Canada acceded to the Optional Protocol to the UN Women's Convention, which allows women to make individual complaints to the Committee that oversees the Convention.

There was concern that a referendum regarding the negotiation of land claims, conducted by the provincial government in British Columbia, implied a willingness to abrogate existing rights of indigenous peoples under international and national law.

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