Canada’s record on racial discrimination under scrutiny at UN – World

Canada will appear before a United Nations committee in Geneva on Monday to defend its record on fighting racial discrimination.

A delegation — led by the Department of Canadian Heritage — will face two days of questioning by a panel of independent experts tasked with monitoring the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Canada formally adopted in 1970.

All 178 state parties to the convention are required to undergo periodic reviews outlining efforts made to implement the accord. But dozens of Canadian civil society groups have also submitted alternative reports prior to the UN session arguing that Canada is not living up to its obligations.

The convention “solemnly affirms the necessity of speedily eliminating racial discrimination throughout the world in all its forms and manifestations.”

It was 2012 when Canada last went before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

“We see that in many areas there has been no improvement and in some areas it’s gotten worse,” says Emily Harris, advocacy director at Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto.

In this March 16, 2016, file photo, a United Nations flag flies outside of the European headquarters of the UN in Geneva where the meetings will take place over two days. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

In its concluding observations at the time, the 18-member panel noted its concern about the “disproportionately high rates” of incarceration of Indigenous people, and recommended that Canada reduce the “excessive use” of this practice.

Harris says that hasn’t happened. ”Currently in the federal prison system Indigenous men account for 22 per cent of the population, and Indigenous women represent 31 per cent of the overall population,” she says. “But in Canada as a whole, Indigenous people only make up about four per cent of the population.”

Five years ago the committee also recommended Canada do more to ”eliminate violence against Aboriginal women in all its forms,” including through better funding of emergency shelters. 

”The federal government has reported that it currently funds 41 shelters to serve women and girls in First Nations communities,” says one of the alternative reports jointly submitted to CERD by the National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence and Quebec Native Women Inc.

“By the federal government’s calculation, the 41 shelters are accessible to…

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