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From the Field: Building a Career in Human Rights With Vicki Prais


Friday, September 17th at 12:00 pm (noon) EDT (presentation with Q&A to follow) 

The Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR) Board is pleased to offer a back to school event open to all students and recent graduates from Canadian University Chapters of CLAIHR. As we transition back into our academic and working lives we are provided with an opportunity to contemplate and rethink what direction we want to take our careers. We hope you will join us for an inspiring conversation with our guest Vicki Prais who has 25 years’ experience as a human rights practitioner, to explore the many ways you can apply a passion for human rights to the work that you do.

This event is free of charge.

Special thanks to the Law Union of Ontario for their support.

Please register here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/from-the-field-building-a-career-in-human-rights-with-vicki-prais-tickets-170147911985

About Vicki Prais:

Vicki is an international human rights lawyer and academic, an engaging voice who speaks and writes in an accessible and eloquent manner including through hosting a podcast series, “The Passion Factor: Get Soaked in the Human Rights World”. As an independent human rights consultant she exhibits expertise in prisoners’ rights, prison reform, dignity behind bars and torture prevetntion. 

Find her here: www.vickiprais.com

More about CLAIHR: http://claihr.ca/

By |September 9th, 2021|Current Events, News Releases|

Canada Day Statement

July 1, 2021

This Canada Day, CLAIHR believes there is no better opportunity to stand firmly in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and reflect upon the hundreds of Indigenous children whose remains have been found buried on the grounds of several former residential schools across Canada in the past few weeks. CLAIHR is deeply saddened at the deaths of these children, and the thousands of other Indigenous children who never made it home from residential schools.

CLAIHR also recognizes that these tragic deaths occurred as a result of a widespread and systematic racist government policy. Residential schools were part of Canada’s colonial strategy to eradicate Indigenous culture, language, community and spirit. CLAIHR believes that there is strong evidence to suggest that they constituted, at least, crimes against humanity and cultural genocide. They certainly rank among the gravest mass atrocities ever to be committed on this continent. These human rights violations are not just part of Canada’s history, but are firmly rooted in the present. The last residential school in Canada only closed in 1996, and the pain, suffering and intergenerational harm and trauma of residential schools continues to reverberate today.

CLAIHR urges the government of Canada and the churches involved to work with Aboriginal communities to fully implement all of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (“TRC”) Calls to Action, particularly 71 to 76, which deal with missing children, unmarked graves and residential school cemeteries. As the TRC itself noted, this work is far from complete. Many relevant documents and records on the deaths of Aboriginal children in the care of residential school authorities have not been shared or reviewed. Ongoing work is required to identify, document, maintain, commemorate and protect residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. Thus far, graves have only been discovered at a few of the dozens of residential schools that were operated across Canada.

This is, however, only the beginning. Tangible policy change is also required to remedy the decades of violence that Canada has inflicted on Indigenous peoples through human rights abuses such as the residential schools program. For example, Canada should immediately discontinue its litigation against Indigenous children who were removed from their homes, including many survivors of residential schools, in two cases being appealed from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT). The government must also resolve all long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves. In these and other respects, CLAIHR is committed to supporting Indigenous communities, where useful, in their efforts to hold the Canadian government to its obligations under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), as well as under the various international treaties it has concluded directly with First Nations across the country.

To learn more, see the resources provided by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (https://nctr.ca/records/reports/) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (http://www.trc.ca/reconciliation.html). The National Residential School Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for survivors and family: 1-866-925-4419.

This Canada Day, CLAIHR calls on all Canadians to do their part to address the human rights violations committed against Canada’s First Peoples.

By |July 1st, 2021|Uncategorized|

Screening of The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel

Thursday, June 17, 2021 at 7 pm EDT

With Intro and Q&A by Filmmaker Joel Bakan
Moderated by Audrey Macklin

We are thrilled to announce that CLAIHR’s 2021 fundraiser will be a screening of The New Corporation with introduction and Q&A by filmmaker and UBC law prof, Joel Bakan, moderated by UT law prof and CLAIHR Advisory Board member, Audrey Macklin.

Professor Bakan’s 2003 film, The Corporation, examined an institution within society. The New Corporation reveals a world now fully remade in the corporation’s image, perilously close to losing democracy. It traces the devastating consequences, connecting the dots between then and now, and inspires with stories of resistance and change from around the world. Please read more about the film here: https://thenewcorporation.movie/.

Cost is $5 for students, who can register here: [removed]

For everyone else, the cost is $30, and you can register here: [removed]

***This program is eligible for up to 2.5 substantive hours of Continuing Professional Development with the Law Society of Ontario.***

About Professor Bakan:
Joel Bakan is an author, filmmaker and a professor of law at the University of British Columbia. His work examines the social, economic, and political dimensions of law, and he has published in leading legal and social science journals as well as in the popular press. He has won numerous awards for his scholarship and teaching, worked on landmark legal cases and government policy, and served frequently as a media commentator. You can read more about Professor Bakan here: http://www.joelbakan.com/.

About Professor Macklin:
Audrey Macklin is Director of the Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies and Chair in International Human Rights Law at the University of Toronto. She teaches, researches, and writes in the area of migration and citizenship law, business and human rights, and administrative law. She has published widely in domestic, international, and interdisciplinary journals and edited collections. You can read more about Professor Macklin here: http://claihr.ca/about/advisory-board/.


By |March 25th, 2021|Current Events|

Submission to Canada’s Strategy for Responsible Business Conduct: Canada must adopt mandatory legislative and administrative measures to ensure Canadian corporations do not violate human rights.

On November 13, 2020, CLAIHR filed submissions with the Responsible Business Practices division at Global Affairs Canada regarding Canada’s approach to Responsible Business Conduct abroad.

CLAIHR states that Canada’s current RBC strategy fails to fulfill Canada’s international human rights obligations. Canada cannot rely on voluntary codes of action and behavior; it must adopt legislative and administrative measures to ensure that corporations registered, headquartered, or with a principal place of business in Canada do not violate human rights in their operations outside of Canada. Canada must also ensure that victims of corporate human rights abuses have access to effective judicial and non-judicial remedies in Canada.

Read CLAIHR’s submission here.

By |November 17th, 2020|Uncategorized|

Ontario’s Bill 195, which extends Ontario’s emergency powers without oversight or a declared state of emergency, is inconsistent with international law.

Ontario’s Bill 195, “Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020”,[1] which continues the executive’s power to renew emergency measures without legislative oversight and in the absence of a declared state of emergency, is inconsistent with international law.

Ontario’s Bill 195, which came into force on July 23, 2020, (the “Act”) declares the end of the COVID-19 state of the emergency,while allowing the government to continue and/or amend emergency measures in force prior to the termination of the declared emergency. In CLAIHR’s view, this Act is inconsistent with international human rights law.

Specifically, the Act:

  1. revokes the “declaration of emergency” declared on March 17, 2020; [2]
  2. grants Cabinet the power to renew and amend emergency orders that override and/or limit civil and political rights for 30-days at a time, for up to a year, without the legislature’s consent or oversight;
  3. does not restrict or place any conditions upon Cabinet’s power to renew an order in accordance with international legal and constitutionally required principles of necessity, proportionality, and minimal impairment; and,
  4. enables the legislative assembly, upon the recommendation of the Premier, to extend Cabinet’s discretion to renew and amend emergency orders for additional one-year periods indefinitely.

The emergency measures continued under the Act were enacted in the context of a declared state of emergency, declared under legislation that limits Cabinet’s powers to enact emergency measures to those which are “necessary and essential in the circumstances to prevent, reduce or mitigate serious harm to persons” (among other stringent criteria).[3] The Act, however, allows Cabinet to extend such orders even where necessity no longer exists.

COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted racialized and other socioeconomically disenfranchised groups, accentuating the systemic health and economic inequities that have led to higher rates of infection, hospitalizations, and death among marginalized communities.[4] Black peoples, Indigenous Peoples, brown people, people living with disabilities, migrants, and women are some of the disproportionately impacted groups, many of whom face multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination. CLAIHR supports, and will continue to encourage the government to implement, fair and balanced government measures aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 to the extent that these are consistent with Canada’s international human rights law obligations, which, we note, are binding on the provinces.[5]  In CLAIHR’s view, the Act is inconsistent with international human rights law governing emergency powers.

In the context of an emergency, international law permits governments to curtail civil and political rights only where strictly required by a public emergency threatening the nation’s survival. However, emergency orders must be legally prescribed and states of emergency must be limited in duration and scope. Measures must be the least intrusive to achieve stated public health goals and include safeguards such as sunset or review clauses. Any extraordinary powers used by States in an emergency must be transparent. In the absence of a state of emergency, any restrictions to civil and political rights must be necessary to the protection of public health, proportional to the threat, minimally impairing, and non-discriminatory.[6] Such restrictions must be in accordance with the principles of legality and rule of law. For social and economic rights, states must continue to respect, protect, and fulfill the core content of the rights during situations of emergencies.[7] 

Unfortunately, the Act misses the mark. By authorizing the executive, in the absence of legislative input and oversight, to renew emergency orders without reference to the principles of necessity, proportionality, and minimal impairment, the Act allows rights-infringing measures that may have been necessary and proportionate at the height of the pandemic to be continued where no longer necessary or minimally impairing, and this in the absence of a definitive limitation on duration. These failures also constitute a failure of the democratic process itself, in the absence of public participation and scrutiny over extensions and proposed amendments.

We note that among the emergency measures continued by the Act are measures that expand the police’s power to card and override hard won collective workplace rights and protections for care workers.[8]  Carding disproportionately impacts Black communities, and Black men, in particular, and care work is disproportionately performed by women, many of whom are immigrant, migrant, and/or racialized workers.[9] CLAIHR is concerned that the potentially indefinite continuation of such measures will accentuate the structural racial discrimination and economic disadvantage experienced by such groups. We remind the government that international law also protects the right to just and favourable conditions of work, an adequate standard of living, and physical and mental health, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex and gender.[10]

CLAIHR calls on the Ontario government to amend the Act to comply with the principles of international law and limit the executive’s authority to renew emergency orders to circumstances in which renewal is necessary and essential to prevent, reduce or mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The Act must not be used to illegally and indefinitely expand unjustifiable and extraordinary State powers. Any extension of the emergency order must comply with international human rights law principles of transparency, necessity, proportionality, and be the least intrusive. No emergency orders can suspend non-derogable rights.[11] In line with these principles, the government must justify its actions—explaining why the action is necessary, least intrusive, and proportional.

Further, CLAIHR calls on the government to amend the Act to clearly limit the legislative assembly’s authority to extend the executive’s power to renew and/or amend emergency orders without regular legislative oversight. The Act’s requirement for Ministers or Premier to report every 30 days is inadequate to determine whether the powers need to continue, including whether the ‘crisis’ or ‘public health emergency’ still exists and whether this legislative power continues to be the best tool to use to respond to emergency. The government should add a sunset clause or review mechanism to determine whether the measures need to continue and whether the measures taken are consistent with human rights principles and the rule of law.

In conclusion, CLAIHR continues to support measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.  However, this Act provides the province with broad powers to limit civil and political rights indefinitely and without democratic participation, in a manner that is inconsistent with international law. CLAIHR encourages the Ontario government to amend the Act to ensure its public health protecting measures comply with protect Ontarian’s human rights and comply with international law.

About CLAIHR

CLAIHR is a non-governmental organization of lawyers, law students, legal academics, and other jurists, founded in 1992 to promote human rights law from a Canadian perspective through education, research, and advocacy.


[1] Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, SO 2020, c 17.

[2] Declaration of Emergency,O. Reg. 50/20, (Mar. 17, 2020). This revocation means that currently there is no longer a legal state of emergency in Ontario.

[3] Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, RSO 1990, c E 9, s 7.0.2(2) (“EMCPA”).

[5]  In accordance with ICCPR, supra note 3 atart. 50.

[6] UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 999, p. 171, art. 4 available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b3aa0.html> (“ICCPR”); UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), CCPR General Comment No. 29: Article 4: Derogations during a State of Emergency, 31 August 2001, CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.11, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/453883fd1f.html>; UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, Emergency Measures and Covid-19: Guidance,  27 April 2020, available at <https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Events/EmergencyMeasures_COVID19.pdf>.

[7] UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, Emergency Measures and Covid-19: Guidance,  27 April 2020, available at <https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Events/EmergencyMeasures_COVID19.pdf>.

[8] Ontario Regulations 114/20, 77/20, 118/20, 157/20, among others.

[9] See Fay Faraday, Canadian Women’s Foundation, et al, Resetting Normal: Women, Decent Work, and Canada’s Fractured Care Economy (July 2020), available at <https://canadianwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/ResettingNormal-Women-Decent-Work-and-Care-EN.pdf>.

[10] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, art. 7; International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, art. 1, 2, 5; Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

[11] See e.g. ICCPR, s. 4(2) laying out rights where no derogation is permitted in time of public emergency.

By |October 26th, 2020|Our Work|

Canadian Unions and Civil Society Organizations Support Bolivian Mineworkers Union Demands for Fair Treatment from Canadian Company

(Ottawa) Canadian unions and civil society organizations sent a letter today to Canadian mining company Orvana Minerals, condemning the company’s actions in firing the entire workforce at its Don Mario Mine Complex in Bolivia in February of this year. The company is the sole owner of Empresa Minera Paititi (EMIPA), which operates the gold mine in eastern Bolivia that, up until February, supported 130 unionized mine workers and their families.

The letter condemns the company for apparently taking advantage of the Bolivian political crisis to fire its entire workforce, in the middle of a global pandemic. Organizations were troubled to hear that this campaign of intimidation and threats against the union began in October 2019 as the political crisis began to unfold in Bolivia, and just days after the company had ratified an agreement with the union guaranteeing “labour security”. 

The organizations request that the company immediately “commence dialogue in good faith with the Paititi union, in order to repair the harms that have been committed against the workforce at the Don Mario operations, and to afford them the rights guaranteed to them by Bolivian law and by the collective agreement that your company ratified in October 2019.” 

The organizations also demand the “immediate and just re-incorporation of the entire productive workforce at EMIPA.

The organizations signing the letter are: 

UNIONS

British Columbia General Employees Union (BCGEU)

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 

CWA-Canada, The Media Union

National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)

Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC)

United Steelworkers (USW) Canada

CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS 

Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR)

Christian Peacemaker Teams – Colombia

Comité por los derechos humanos en América Latina (CDHAL)

Common Frontiers, Canada 

Foundation for Development and Education

MiningWatch Canada 

Toronto Association for Peace & Solidarity

The original letter sent to the company can be found attached to the original post here: https://miningwatch.ca/news/2020/10/20/canadian-unions-and-civil-society-organizations-support-bolivian-mineworkers-union

By |October 23rd, 2020|Sign-on Letters, Uncategorized|

Letter to the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Implementation of the Resolution on Police Violence and Structural Racism

August 3, 2020

Letter: 144 families of victims of police violence and over 360 civil society organizations wrote to the UN High Commissioner with recommendations to ensure the effective implementation of Human Rights Council resolution (A/HRC/43/L.50) on the promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and of people of African descent against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers. Effective implementation will require a transparent and inclusive process for producing the report that maximizes meaningful participation and engagement from directly impacted communities and other relevant stakeholders.

By |August 6th, 2020|Sign-on Letters|

OCDC Put On Legal Notice By Indigenous Prisoners

July 30, 2020

Legal Notice: “Counsel for the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project (CPEP) delivered a legal notice to the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) demanding the jail respects its legal responsibilities to accommodate the spiritual and cultural needs of incarcerated Indigenous persons within two weeks. The legal notice is endorsed by more than 70 civil society organizations including the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and 6 prominent advocates for Indigenous justice. It comes only a few days after prisoners ended the second prisoner hunger strike at the provincial jail in as many months.”

By |July 30th, 2020|Sign-on Letters|

Letter to Canadian Government: Decriminalize Simple Drug Possession Immediately

May 13, 2020 | Updated June 25, 2020

Letter: The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Pivot Legal Society and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, joined by more than 160 organizations, call on key ministers in the federal government to immediately decriminalize the possession of illicit drugs in response to the twin crises of opioid overdoses and the COVID-19 pandemic.

By |July 24th, 2020|Sign-on Letters|

Request for a UNHRC Special Session on Police Violence in the United States

June 8, 2020

Coalition Letter: endorsed by the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, and Philando Castile and over 600 rights groups led by the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Human Rights Network, demanded the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) swiftly convene a special session to investigate the escalating situation of police violence and repression of protests in the United States.

Subsequently, the UNHRC held an Urgent Debate on “the current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and the violence against peaceful protests” on June 17, 2020, which resulted in this Resolution.

By |June 27th, 2020|Sign-on Letters|