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Human Rights Agenda for Canada 2016

    Amnesty International has drawn frequent attention in recent years to mounting concern that Canada’s domestic human rights record and global human rights standing were both in serious and deeply troubling decline.

    Our Human Rights Agenda for Canada, issued as a new government comes to power in Ottawa following the 2015 federal election , highlights the opportunities and the urgency of reversing that decline and also of moving ahead with long-needed reforms to advance stronger human rights protection nationally and internationally. 

    Over the past decade domestic concerns have included such glaring shortcomings as:

    • the entrenched refusal to establish a public inquiry leading to a comprehensive national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women
    • punitive legal and policy changes that dramatically curtail the rights of refugees
    • resistance to strengthening the human rights accountability of Canadian companies 
    • national security reforms that violate human rights norms

    Internationally, Canada’s diminished role as a human rights champion has been evident in the failure to:

    • sign on to important UN human rights treaties
    • polarizing positions taken with respect to human rights issues associated with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict
    • dramatically diminished attention to Africa 
    • backing away from full support for a strong women’s human rights framework

    Following his October 2015 federal election victory, Prime Minister Trudeau has repeatedly said in comments directed at both Canadian and international audiences that Canada “is back”, signaling an intention to pursue a different approach to global issues and a different commitment to human rights. In that regard, Amnesty International has welcomed many of the expectations expressly laid out in the mandate letters that the Prime Minister has provided to his new Cabinet, some of which are confirmed in the recent Speech from the Throne, detailing goals regarding a range of important national and international human rights issues.

    Defending Rights for All, Amnesty International’s Human Rights Agenda for Canada, takes note of the pressing human rights challenges the new government faces on many fronts and the many opportunities for action to bring an immediate halt to ongoing violations, reverse legal and policy changes that have eroded human rights protections and move forward with a bold and long overdue agenda for national and international human rights reform. The agenda’s focus is on the federal government, recognizing of course that other levels of government in Canada also bear important responsibilities for protecting human rights and need to pursue reform agendas in many areas.