SUMMARY OF AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S SUBMISSIONS TO THE UN COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
Canada underwent the seventh review of its compliance to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in November 2018, for which Amnesty International provided written submissions.
Amnesty International’s submissions primarily emphasized concerns about a variety of ways in which Canadian action or inaction risks complicity in torture or other ill-treatment. Our submissions highlighted key issues including Canada’s inadequate efforts to protect Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people from violence and forced sterilization, prisoner transfers and diplomatic assurances that would return individuals to countries where there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be subject to torture, the policing of indigenous protests resulting in the infliction of ill-treatment during protests such as the Indigenous land protest at Tyendinaga, the barriers faced by victims of torture inflicted outside Canada to obtaining civil redress and remedies due to the State Immunity Act, Canada’s failure to adopt the Article 3 universal prohibition against refoulement into its domestic law, and solitary confinement. Also of key concern was Canada’s approach to refugee protection and the complicity in torture or other ill-treatment arising from said approach, particularly in light of the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States (for more information, see Amnesty International’s ongoing challenge against the federal government regarding the STCA), concerns with immigration detention, and immigration security certificates.
We also recommended that Canada reconfirm its intention to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, provide information on the progress of consultations with provincial and territorial governments, and accelerate said consultations.
Amnesty International also put forward a supplementary submission on violence against Indigenous women and girls, where we took the position that such violence, when perpetrated by non-state actors, is inflicted with the consent and acquiescence of the state due to the state’s failure to take measures to prevent said violence and provide remedies, referring to articles 1 and 16 of the Convention against Torture.
OUTCOMES OF THE REVIEW
In its concluding observations, the Committee against Torture expressed a number of concerns regarding Canada’s failure to fulfill its international obligations with respect to torture and ill-treatment, including the following issues:
- Ongoing reports of deplorable conditions in police stations and other detention facilities, arbitrary practices including sleep deprivation and abusive strip searches, and the increases in incarcerated persons, particularly the overrepresentation of racialized persons in prisons;
- The ongoing use of prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement in the form of disciplinary and administrative segregation;
- The lack of investigation on deaths in police custody (including the death of Mr. Michael Ryan and Mr. Matthew Ryan Hines);
- The fact that the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act does not fully comply with the principle of non-refoulement, and so in some circumstances allows individuals to be returned to another country where there are substantial grounds to believe they may be at risk of torture;
- Diplomatic assurances that allow for persons to be returned to another country where there are substantial grounds to believe they may be at risk for torture;
- The impact of the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States on potential asylum seekers arriving from the U.S. who fear deportation to unsafe circumstances;
- Mandatory immigration detention for arriving non-citizens with an undefined time limit for said detention, an absence of an effective mechanism to review the lawfulness of the detention, and inadequate medical care in immigration detention facilities;
- Failure to provide adequate redress for the torture and ill-treatment of Canadians detained abroad, including failure to review state immunity legislation to allow for adequate redress for victims of torture occurring outside Canada;
- The obstruction of the state against the efforts to obtain redress of Mr. Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Canadian who states that he was unlawfully imprisoned and tortured in Sudan, and the absence of prosecutions in the detention and mistreatment of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati, and Muayyed Nureddin;
- The issuance of security certificates that allow individuals to be detained in proceedings that deny them access to the full evidence against them, and the lack of updated information on the cases of Mahjoub, Jaballah, and Harkat;
- The ongoing reports of disproportionate gender-based violence, particularly against Indigenous women and girls, and the lack of information on investigations, prosecutions, and convictions provided by the state.
The Committee highlighted four urgent issues for Canada to report on within one year of the 2018 review: the forced sterilization of Indigenous women and girls, diplomatic assurances, security certificates, and adequate redress for the torture and ill-treatment of Canadians detained abroad.
Amnesty International welcomed the Committee’s concluding observations. Concerned about Canada’s lack of progress in implementing the Committee’s recommendations, we currently await Canada’s interim response to the Committee’s review.
“UN committee on torture urges Canada to stop sterilizations of Indigenous women” (7 December 2018)