UN Human Rights Panel Raps Canada Over Provisions In Anti-Terror Law

By @diplomatist10 on
Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride demonstrate their lances during their show on day 3 of the Calgary Stampede rodeo in Calgary, Alberta, July 6, 2014. REUTERS/Todd Korol (CANADA - Tags: SPORT ANIMALS SOCIETY)
IN PHOTO: Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride demonstrate their lances during their show on day 3 of the Calgary Stampede rodeo in Calgary, Alberta, July 6, 2014. Reuters/Todd Korol

The United Nations has taken exception to Canada’s anti-terror legislation and warned the country against back tracking from many key areas of human rights. The UN Human Rights Committee, in its report on Canada said the federal government’s amendments to the Security Intelligence Act have vested Canada’s security services “a broad mandate and powers” for surveillance without invoking ample legal safeguards.

Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada hailed the report as “a timely set of concerns and recommendations.” The UN panel, while technically accepting Canada’s need to take measures to combat terrorism , expressed “concern” that the federal government has not increased mechanisms for information-sharing about the individuals coming under its net, for factually veriying whether the information is accurate.

Lack of Oversight

“The (Human Rights) Committee is concerned about the lack of adequate and effective oversight mechanisms to review activities of security and intelligence agencies and the lack of resources and power of existing mechanisms to monitor such activities,” it said.

The committee also expressed concerns about excessive use of force by Canadian law enforcement officers during mass arrests in the guise of quelling protests at federal and provincial levels. Such incidents have happened in many indigenous land-related protests, G20 protests in 2010 and student protests at Quebec in 2012. The human rights panel was also aghast at expanding gender inequality in Canada and offered some recommendations to improve the lives of aboriginal Canadians.

Harassment of NGOs

The report also urged Canada to rein in Canadian companies operating abroad, especially in the mining sector with “effective, independent mechanism” to investigate human rights abuses by them. The UN panel rapped the federal government for its attempts at gagging civil rights groups by arbitrary methods like terminating their charitable status.

Winding up its observations, though not legally binding on Canada, the UN panel urged Canada that it must ensure that the anti-terror law C-51, does not induce a negative impact on fundamental human rights. It also urged Canada to make sure that the law provides adequate legal safeguards in information sharing to pre-empt abuses. Johanna Quinney, spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson reacted that Canada is the best country in the world. "We are proud of our human rights record at home and abroad.”

Meanwhile, Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression filed a joint lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of bill C-51. They said many provisions like powers to police for preventive detention of terror suspects and allowing the public safety minister to add people to Canada's "no-fly list," and enhanced the powers to the spy agency, the CSIS were causing concern.

(For feedback/comments, contact the writer at k.kumar@ibtimes.com.au)