Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor General David Johnston
Head of government: Justin Trudeau (replaced Stephen Harper in November)

Sweeping reforms to national security laws raised human rights concerns. Following a change of government, the process to develop a long-demanded public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls was launched and commitments were made to address a range of other human rights concerns.


In June, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its calls to action based on six years of hearing. It included a finding that Canada's residential school system for Aboriginal children constituted "cultural genocide" and set out extensive recommendations to help restore Indigenous communities and prevent further harm to Indigenous children.

In July, construction of the Site C dam in British Columbia began without addressing its impact on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In July, the UN Human Rights Committee called on Canada to report back within one year on progress made in addressing violence against Indigenous women and girls and protecting Indigenous land rights.

An appeal against the decision to allow the Northern Gateway Pipeline project to proceed in northern British Columbia, despite opposition from many Indigenous Peoples who depend on lands and waters potentially impacted by the project, was pending at the end of the year.

A Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling in a case started in 2008 alleging discrimination in federal government underfunding of child protection in First Nations Indigenous communities had been pending for 14 months at the end of the year.


In March, the CEDAW Committee concluded that the Canadian police and justice system had failed to effectively protect Indigenous women from violence, hold offenders to account and ensure redress for victims.

In December, following the change of government, a process to launch a public inquiry into violence against Indigenous women and girls was initiated; the inquiry was expected to begin in 2016.


In May, Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen held at Guantánamo Bay for 10 years beginning when he was 15 years old and repatriated to Canada in 2012 under a prisoner transfer agreement, was released on bail pending an appeal against his conviction in the USA. Also in May, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Omar Khadr must be treated as a minor within the Canadian corrections system.

In June the 2015 Anti-terrorism Act became law. It expands the authority of Canadian government agencies to share information about individuals without adequate safeguards and allows the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to take measures to reduce security threats, even if such measures would violate rights. The new law creates a criminal offence of advocating or promoting the commission of "terrorism offences in general" which undermines the right to freedom of expression. A legal challenge to the new law was pending at the end of the year and the new government made a commitment to revise some of its provisions.

A legal challenge to Citizenship Act reforms passed in 2014 allowing dual nationals convicted of terrorism and other offences to be stripped of Canadian citizenship remained pending. The new government promised to repeal the 2014 reforms.


In September, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police laid criminal charges for torture against a Syrian military intelligence officer in the case of Canadian citizen Maher Arar who was illegally imprisoned in Syria in 2002-2003 after being subject to rendition from the USA. The charges were the first ever brought in Canada for torture outside the country.

Two lawsuits challenging the widespread use of solitary confinement remained pending.


In October, reports emerged that government officials suspended processing Syrian refugee cases for several weeks during the summer and were screening cases to prioritize refugees from ethnic and religious minorities as well as refugees who have run businesses and who speak English or French fluently. In November, the new government announced a plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015 towards a total of 25,000 by early 2016. At the end of the year, approximately 6,000 Syrian refugees had arrived in Canada.

In July the UN Human Rights Committee called on Canada to report back within a year on a range of human rights concerns facing immigrants and refugees.

In July, the Federal Court overturned the "designated country of origin" list under which refugee claimants from "safe" countries were denied the right to appeal refused refugee claims.

In August, Cameroonian national Michael Mvogo was deported from Canada, 13 months after the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had called for him to be released from indefinite detention.

In November, the new government announced that cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program for refugees and refugee claimants would be reversed and health coverage restored.


In February, a joint investigation was launched by federal and provincial agencies into whether Imperial Metals breached any laws when the tailings dam at its Mount Polley mine collapsed in 2014. The disaster spilled 24 million cubic metres of mining waste water into fish-bearing waterways.

In May, the fourth annual report to Parliament assessing the human rights effects of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was released. It again failed to consider human rights concerns, including serious abuses facing Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendant communities and others in areas of resource extraction investment in Colombia.

In October, Canada was one of 12 countries to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major new free trade deal, which did not include human rights safeguards.

By the end of the year, five lawsuits were pending before Canadian courts seeking to establish Canadian parent company liability for human rights harms committed in mining operations in Eritrea and Guatemala.


Draft legislation which would have added gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination in Canada's Human Rights Act and hate crimes laws did not pass the Senate before Parliament was recessed in advance of federal elections.

Despite repeated calls, the government did not ratify the Arms Trade Treaty or the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture.

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