Canada gets a shellacking in advance report by UN Committee Against Torture
An "advance report" by the Committee Against Torture has included several criticisms of Canada in an "advanced unedited" report.
The report features numerous recommendations covering immigration reform, torture and ill treatment of Canadians abroad, information obtained via torture, security certificates, violence against women, police crowd-control methods, use of Tasers and other conducted electronic weapons, detention methods, and data collection.
At the same time, the report praises several measures taken by federal and provincial governments in recent years, including establishing a refugee-appeal division, the apology and compensation provided to Maher Arar, the Braidwood Inquiry, which examined the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in 2007, and the official apology to Dziekanski's mother by the RCMP.
The Committee against Torture--attached to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights--monitors implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by governments.
Committee is "deeply concerned" about Bill C-31
The Conservative majority on Parliament hopes to pass Bill C-31 ("Protecting Canada's Immigration Section Act") before June 29.
However, the committee calls for modifications, "in particular to its provisions regulating mandatory detention and denial of appeal rights, given the potential violation of rights protected by the Convention".
In the advance report, the committee, made up of 10 independent experts, recommends that government ensure detention is used as a "measure of last resort" and includes a "reasonable time limit". There's also a call for all refugee claimants to have access to a "full appeal hearing" before the Refugee Appeal Division.
In addition, the Committee would like an amendment to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to reduce the risk of torture by deporting people to countries where this practice occurs. "Furthermore, [Canada] should refrain from the use of diplomatic assurances as a means for returning a person to another country where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subject to torture," it adds.
There is a call to stop the transfer of prisoners to other countries “when there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to torture".
The Correctional Service of Canada also comes under scrutiny. The committee expresses concerns about the "inadequate infrastructure of detention facilities to deal with the rising and complex needs of prisoners, in particular those with mental illness".
"Incidents of inter-prisoner violence and in-custody deaths resulted from high-risk lifestyles, such as drug and alcohol abuse which, as acknowledged by the delegation, still circulate in places of detention," the report states. "The use of solitary confinement, in the forms of disciplinary and administrative segregation, [is] often extensively prolonged, even for persons with mental illness."
There is a call for a "comprehensive national plan of action, in close cooperation with aboriginal women's organizations, which includes measures to ensure impartial and timely investigation, prosecution, conviction and sanction of those responsible for disappearances and murder of aboriginal women". The committee recommends that the government "promptly implement relevant recommendations made by international bodies in that regard".
On the issue of police use of conducted-energy weapons, the committee says that "[Canada] should consider relinquishing the use of CEWs, such as 'tasers'."
There is also a call on Canada and Ontario to hold an inquiry into "all aspects" of policing and security at the G8 and G20 summits.
More accountability needed for torturers
In one section in the advance report on Canada, the committee states that "a number of individuals who are allegedly responsible for torture and other crimes under international law have been expelled, and not faced justice in their countries of origin. In that regard, the Committee notes with regret the recent initiative to publicize the names and faces of 30 individual living in Canada who had been found inadmissible to Canada on grounds they may have been responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity. If they are apprehended and deported, they may escape justice and remain unpunished."
The report mentions that Canada should "take all necessary measures with a view of ensuring the exercise of universal jurisdiction over persons responsible for acts of torture, including foreign perpetrators, who are temporarily present in Canada, in accordance with article 5 of the Convention".
In addition, there's a recommendation that Canada consider amending the State Immunity Act "to remove obstacles to redress for all victims of torture".
"The Committee recommends that the State party incorporate all the provisions of the Convention into Canadian law in order to allow persons to invoke it directly in courts, to give prominence to the Convention as well as to raise awareness of its provisions among members of the judiciary and the public at large," the report states. "In particular, the State party should take all necessary steps to ensure that provisions in the Convention that give rise to extraterritorial jurisdiction can be applied before domestic courts."
A group called Lawyers Against the War—which sought the prosecution of former U.S. president George W. Bush in Canada—applauded these conclusions in a statement issued to the media.
"Echoing a recommendation made by Lawyers against the War in their shadow report on George W. Bush, the Committee recommended that Canada, 'explicitly renounce the illegal policy of requiring residence rather than presence as the trigger for Canada’s legal duty to prosecute alleged torturers'," the group stated.
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