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Call on Governments, Businesses, and Investors to Respond to Covid-19 Environmental and Human Rights Risks

May 14, 2020

Press Release by International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) and 30+ partner organizations. This release includes information on all three of their calls to action, which are also linked below:

Statement to Governments
Statement to the Business Community
Statement to the Investor Community

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

Letter of Solidarity with the Xinka People of Guatemala

May 6, 2020

Letter: 40+ organizations call for Pan American Silver to respect the rights of the Xinka people and refrain from exerting influence over the people and government of Guatemala, despite having long-term members of its executive team serving the current administration.

By |June 26th, 2020|Sign-on Letters|

Call to Guarantee the Rights and Safety of Defenders, Social Leaders, and Communities in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic

May 4, 2020

Letter: Earth Rights International and 100 other organizations urgently implore Daniel Andrés Palacios Martínez, Director of the Colombian National Protection Unit to guarantee human rights, environmental, and land defenders are protected in the context of the current social, economic, and health emergency.

By |June 26th, 2020|Sign-on Letters|

Webinar: Responses to Homelessness in the Time of COVID19

Tuesday, August 18, 2020 12PM EDT

Register on Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_l5OIO1fuTAmSJvdI1nPyZg

Registration is Free. Recommended donation is $20.  

Please send donations to Jur-Ed Foundation ‌@ https://‌www.canadahelps.org/‌en/charities/‌jur-ed-foundation/ Donations will be applied toward legal education (including covering the costs of this webinar) and homelessness advocacy.

Lawyers who attend may use this webinar as one substantive hour towards their Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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Join Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights, Jur-Ed Foundation, and the Law Union of Ontario for a one hour webinar discussing the impact of COVID19 on homeless populations in Canada and what is being done to hold governments accountable for pandemic-related human rights violations.   

Leilani Farha, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, will discuss the recently developed National Protocol for Homeless Encampments in Canada and its potential to encourage governments to move away from criminalization and forced evictions and towards meaningful engagement with encampment residents as rights holders.   

Sanctuary Ministries’ outreach worker, Greg Cook and Goldblatt Partners lawyer, Jessica Orkin will discuss the recent lawsuit filed against the City of Toronto by a coalition of public interest groups demanding appropriate distancing and sanitation standards in shelters and a swifter, broader plan to relocate residents to vacant hotels and alternative housing.

Together these speakers and moderator Jesse Gutman, host of Jur-Ed and CLAIHR Board member, will explain the disproportionate impact of COVID19 on already vulnerable homeless people and the need for stable, long-term, and affordable housing solutions moving forward.

See below for more information on our panelists and moderator.

Leilani Farha

Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing (June 2014 – April 2020)

Leilani brought a dynamic energy to the role of UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing; energy she will need to reach her goal of prompting and facilitating an international paradigm shift in how housing is approached.

During her time as Special Rapporteur, Leilani presented reports to the UN on homelessness, the connection between the right to housing and the right to life, and the financialization of housing. She has traveled on official missions to Serbia and Kosovo, India and most recently to Chile, amongst others, to investigate and comment on the state of the right to housing.

In addition to her requisite work, Leilani has used her platform to start The Shift, a global movement to reclaim and realize the right to housing, which calls for everyone to approach housing as a human right, not a commodity.

A lawyer by training, Leilani assumed the role of Special Rapporteur in 2014, but she has been tirelessly advocating for the realization of the right to housing throughout her career. She is the current executive director of the NGO Canada Without Poverty.

In her previous role as Executive Director of the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, she was instrumental in launching a historic challenge to government inaction in the face of rising homelessness.

She has been a member of the Advisory Group on Forced Evictions for UN Habitat, and was a founding member of ESCR-Net, an international network of actors committed to economic, social and cultural rights.

Greg Cook

Outreach Worker, Sanctuary Ministries

Greg Cook is an Outreach Worker at Sanctuary Ministries in Toronto. Sanctuary is a healthy, welcoming community in which people who are poor and excluded are particularly valued. Sanctuary was the named plaintiff organization in the recent civil claim injunction against the City of Toronto to maintain proper social distancing in the Municipal shelter system.

Jessica Orkin

Partner, Goldblatt Partners

Jessica Orkin has a broad litigation practice including criminal, civil and administrative law matters, with an emphasis on constitutional, human rights, Aboriginal rights and access to information law matters.

Jessica appears at all levels of court, including the Court of Appeal for Ontario and the Supreme Court of Canada. She is also a frequent speaker at legal conferences and seminars. She has been named in Best Lawyers as a leading aboriginal law practitioner.

Jessica received her law degree from the University of Toronto. She also holds an M.Phil. degree in Development Studies from the University of Oxford, and a bachelor of arts and sciences from McMaster University. She was called to the Ontario Bar in 2006, after clerking at the Federal Court of Appeal.

Jesse Isaac Gutman

President, Jur-Ed Foundation and Board Member, CLAIHR

Jesse Gutman is a 2013 call Union-side Labour lawyer in Toronto, practicing in English and French. He is the President of the Jur-Ed Foundation and the host/producer of its podcast of the same name. Jesse was previously a high school teacher in Quebec and is a part-time Klezmer musician. He is passionate about human rights and international solidarity.

By |June 9th, 2020|Current Events|

Canadian Responses to the Syrian Refugee Crisis: Reflecting on the 1st Year

Join Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights and the OBA Foundation for Canadian Responses to the Syrian Refugee Crisis: Reflections on the First Year, a panel discussion and reception.

Date: Thursday, November 24, 2016
Time: 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM
Location: Ontario Bar Association, 20 Toronto Street, Toronto

Register here.

Speakers include:

Mario Calla, Executive Director, COSTI Immigrant Services 

Mario J. Calla, BA, MSW, has been the Executive Director of COSTI Immigrant Services since 1987. COSTI is a community service agency that has been providing a broad range of services to immigrants and refugees in the greater Toronto area for the past 64 years. It provides educational, social, and employment services to help all immigrants in the Toronto area attain self-sufficiency in Canadian society.  COSTI has been active in working to help bring and settle Syrian refugees.

Louis Century, Goldblatt Partners

Louis Century is an Associate at Goldblatt Partners has has helped the firm to privately sponsor a Syrian refugee family.  Before joining the firm, he clerked for Justice Richard Wagner at the Supreme Court of Canada.  Louis has held positions at the International Criminal Court working for a defence team, at the Canadian Council for Refugees as a research fellow, and at the Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights working on constitutional appeals. Louis has also conducted refugee status determinations for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Nairobi.  Louis has also recently joined an advisory group that will be exploring next steps for the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program.

Jacqueline Swaisland, Waldman & Associates

Jacqueline Swaisland is an immigration lawyer and a co-founder and the Toronto coordinator of the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program, a national program that trains lawyers to assist groups to privately sponsor refugees.  The organization has trained over 1300 lawyers in 11 cities who are committed to assisting sponsor groups to fill out private sponsorship applications for refugees for free.  In recognition of her outstanding work with refugees, she was recognized with a CARLA award by the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

Moderator: Marco Oved

Marco Chown Oved is a reporter on the Star’s foreign desk, with a focus on Europe and Africa.  Oved joined the Star’s city desk in 2012, covering everything from crime to politics, but has taken particular interest in stories involving abuse of power and corruption. Before joining the Star, Oved was a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press in Abidjan, Ivory Coast and worked for Radio France Internationale in Paris.

In 2014, Oved was named the R. James Travers international corresponding fellow and traveled to Burkina Faso, Ghana and Peru to investigate the links between Canadian foreign aid and mining. The resulting articles were nominated for a Canadian Association of Journalists investigative award.

By |October 19th, 2016|Past Events|

April 29, 2016: Join CLAIHR For an Evening of Theatre and Discussion

Join CLAIHR and Nightwood Theatre at the Tarragon Theatre on April 29, 2016 for an evening performance of Refuge, followed by a discussion about the play and Canada’s refugee system with CLAIHR’s Juda Strawczynski and Heather Cohen, and Refuge’s director Kelly Thornton.

CLAIHR Refuge Theatre Night April 29th

 

Tickets can be purchased here.

By |April 12th, 2016|Past Events|

Excluded from Justice? Immigration Detainees in Canada

By Petra Molnar and Stephanie J Silverman

Petra Molnar is a JD Candidate 2016, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, and will be an articling fellow at the Barbara Schlifer Clinic. Stephanie J Silverman is the 2015 Bora Laskin Fellow in Human Rights Research and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Ottawa.

The migrants’ rights community was rocked by two recent deaths in the Toronto area at two separate immigration detention facilities. These deaths have been shrouded in secrecy and few details have emerged other than brief biographical sketches of the deceased. What we have learned is that the first man was found unconscious and not breathing in his cell in the Toronto East Detention Centre after an apparent suicide. Guards at the Maplehurst Correctional Facility in Milton found the second man six days later in his cell with no vital signs. Both men were awaiting deportation from Canada. An official total of 14 detainees have died while in the custody of Canadian immigration officials since 2000.

Our recent research[1] into the Canadian detention system has found a growing system of incarceration ensnaring more categories of non-citizens than ever before. International human rights law stipulates that immigration detention is a measure of last resort that is non-punitive, non-arbitrary, conducted with regard to due process, and must not sweep up asylum seekers or other vulnerable people. However, although immigration detainees in Canada are entitled to monthly reviews of the reasons for their detentions, there is no express outer time limit, and rights to habeas corpus are extremely limited.[2]

Canadian Immigration Detention System

As we explain in our article, there are three official immigration holding centres (IHCs) in Canada. The Government also subcontracts beds in medium-security provincial jails, such as the aforementioned Toronto East and Maplehurst. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) can detain a person if they suspect that: the person poses a danger to the public, are unlikely to appear for an examination, cannot prove their identity, or are part of an irregular arrival. A member of the Immigration Division (ID) of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) reviews the grounds for detention after 48 hours, then within the next 7 days, and then every subsequent period of 30 days, as per Section 57(1) and 57(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The CBSA claims that 74 per cent of detainees are released within 48 hours, and that 90–95 per cent of asylum applicants are released into the community.[3] However, in 2013–2014, detainees were held on average for more than 3 weeks; as of summer 2015, 38 detainees had been held for between 1 and 2 years, 16 for anywhere between 2 and 5 years, and 4 for more than 5 years. Likewise, in summer 2014, reports showed at least 145 migrants had been detained for more than 6 months.[4]

The legal and policy construction of Canadian immigration detention is a haphazard bricolage of legislation, court rulings, informal norms, and guidance manuals that are all infused with discretion and lack of oversight. This regime has been mostly reactive with little forethought to the potentially tragic effects of this system. Prolonged periods of detention inflict lifelong psychological, physical, emotional, and social damage. Detention often exacerbates mental health issues that many detainees face, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and suicidal ideation. It is telling that there are no official screening procedures to prevent the detentions of vulnerable people, such as those with mental health issues, pregnant women, and young children.[5] For example, according to data obtained on March 31, 2016 by the Canadian Council for Refugees, there are at least 82 children in detention that are accompanying a parent as “guests.”[6]

Access to Justice in Immigration Detention

In our recent research, we also identify a series of systematic everyday obstacles that impede access to procedural justice for immigration detainees in Canada. Such obstacles include the arbitrariness of decision-making in detention reviews; the difficulty with gathering new evidence, the standard of proof for detainees, and prohibitive release conditions that collectively diminish the efficacy of monthly reviews of detention sentences; and the overlapping barriers to retaining high-quality legal counsel that include insufficient funding, geographical distancing, and informational hurdles.

A key building block to procedural justice is access to high-quality, affordable legal counsel. Although detainees have a right to be represented in their detention reviews, the government is not obligated to provide counsel. While a recent Canadian Bar Association report[7] and a 2013 Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters report both detail the difficulties facing marginalized groups of Canadians in obtaining counsel,[8] neither report addresses the plights of non-citizens, let alone those in detention. Yet, legal counsel is found to be the chief determining factor in successful detention bail hearings across national contexts. Advocates in the United States, for example, have been keen to document the deleterious consequences of appearing in immigration court without counsel.[9] The authors of the study determined that “immigrants who are represented by counsel do fare better at every stage of the court process—that is, their cases are more likely to be terminated, they are more likely to seek relief, and they are more likely to obtain the relief they seek.”[10] Similarly, in Canada, effective representation of migrants is key to protecting their rights while in detention.

The structure of detention in Canada systematically impedes access to quality legal counsel for detained migrants. These hurdles include: difficulties with gathering case-relevant evidence from detention; one-way telephone communication out from the IHCs and prisons; unjustified and discretionary transfers between detention sites; and the increasing use of video- and teleconferencing over in-person hearings. Counsel–client meetings also vary arbitrarily across detention facilities: in the Toronto IHC, a glass partition separates visitors and detainees who must rely on a patchy two-way telephone system, but at the Laval (Montreal) IHC they are allowed to mingle in the visiting room. In both provincial prisons and IHCs, access to reliable information on available legal counsel is extremely limited, and not always in a language comprehensible to the detainee. IHC detainees are particularly isolated because there is no Internet and interpreters are made available only at IRB and CBSA proceedings.

Moving Forward?

These and other issues flag ethical and legal concerns about the current state of immigration detention in Canada. There must be a broader debate about whether immigration detention can ever be just. Until that point, however, it is our responsibility to prevent further deaths and long-lasting psychological damage by improving the everyday living conditions and lowering or eliminating access to justice barriers facing detainees in Canada.

[1] Stephanie Silverman and Petra Molnar, “Everyday Injustices: Barriers to Access to Justice for Immigration Detainees in Canada,” Refugee Survey Quarterly 2016: 35 (1): 109-127, http://rsq.oxfordjournals.org/content/35/1/109.abstract

[2] See for example the recent Ontario Court of Appeal case, Chaudhary v Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2015 ONCA 700 (CanLII.) holding that immigration detainees can apply to the Superior Court of Justice for habeas corpus to challenge their incarceration.

[3] UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Back to Basics: The Right to Liberty and Security of Person and ‘Alternatives to Detention’ of Refugees, Asylum-Seekers, Stateless Persons and Other Migrants, April 2011, PPLA/2011/01.Rev.1, online: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4dc935fd2.html.

[4]Nicholas Keung, “Report alleges ‘political interference’ in migrant detentions,” Toronto Star, 09 June 2014, online: http://www.thestar.com/news/immigration/2014/06/09/report_alleges_political_interference_in_migrant_detentions.html.

[5] Silverman and Molnar, supra note 1.

[6] Canadian Council for Refugees, ‘Immigration Detention Statistics 2015,” March 2016, online: http://ccrweb.ca/sites/ccrweb.ca/files/immigration-detention-statistics-2015.pdf.

[7] The Canadian Bar Association, “Reaching Equal Justice Report: An Invitation to Envision and Act,” November 2013, online: http://www.cba.org/CBA/equaljustice/secure_pdf/EqualJusticeFinalReport-eng.pdf.

[8]Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, “Access to Civil and Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change,’ October 2013, online http://www.cfcj-fcjc.org/sites/default/files/docs/2013/AC_Report_English_Final.pdf.

[9] New York Immigrant Representation Study Report: Part II, “Accessing Justice II: A Model for Providing Counsel to New York Immigrants in Removal Proceedings,” 2011, online: http://cardozolawreview.com/content/denovo/NYIRS_ReportII.pdf.

[10] Ingrid V. Eagly and Steven Shafer, “A National Study of Access to Counsel in Immigration Court,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 2015:164(1), online: http://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=9502&context=penn_law_review .

By |April 4th, 2016|Blog|

International Women’s Day: Reflecting on Human Trafficking in Canada: A Distressing Reality

By Andreina Minicozzi

March 8 is International Women’s Day, first recognized in August 1910 at the International Women’s Conference in Denmark. It was proposed by German socialists, Luise Zeits and Clara Zetkin, who sought to acknowledge women workers in America and Europe.[1] The objective of this annual event was to combat violence against vulnerable women and children and to recognize women’s struggles by forming alliances among them both domestically and internationally.[2] Today, International Women’s Day not only celebrates the actions of women throughout history, but also acts as a time of reflection.

In 2016, we must reflect in particular on the impact that human trafficking has on women. Human trafficking is a growing and significant international problem, especially in Canada. Toronto is the “common destination” for human trafficking in Ontario and a “hub for human trafficking routes.”[3] According to a study released by the Alliance Against Modern Slavery, 551 cases involved Ontario as the destination or “transit point” from 2011 to 2013. Other equally alarming highlights from the report are as follows:

  • 62.9% of victims trafficked to, through, or from Ontario were Canadian citizens;
  • 90% of these individuals were female; and
  • 63% of trafficked person were between the ages of 15-24.[4]

In 2010, 71 percent of reported human trafficking cases in Canada were related to sex trafficking and 63 percent of these victims were Canadian citizens.[5] Toronto police have advised that approximately 20 percent of victims of sex trafficking are Indigenous women, suggesting that this may be connected to their high rates of disappearance and death.[6]

While countries like Sweden and Belgium have been proactively combating and prosecuting human trafficking for decades,[7] Canada’s response has been “lethargic.”[8] Human trafficking was only registered as an offence in the Criminal Code in 2005.[9] Nevertheless, Canada has been working to improve, signing onto several international treaties[10] and instituting legislative reform.[11] In addition, in 2012, the government articulated a “4-P” action plan to combat human trafficking, consisting of Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, and Partnership. This federal anti-trafficking strategy coordinated with that of the provinces.[12] However, what is still missing is protection for survivors.

In recent years, Canada’s approach to human trafficking has focused on prosecuting the perpetrators. According to the RCMP, as of January 2015, 85 convictions were secured in cases of human trafficking, resulting in 151 individuals being convicted of human trafficking-related offences.[13] What Canada needs now is an action plan aimed at assisting survivors with housing, counselling, and financial support, as well as comprehensive training for law enforcement and the public.

Human trafficking is a form of slave labour.[14] It is not only illegal, but violates human dignity. If the Canadian government is to commit to helping victims of human trafficking, it must adopt a more holistic approach to combat human trafficking. The first step is to create an action plan that not only punishes the perpetrators, but, more importantly, provides support services to survivors recovering from their fear and trauma. Premier Kathleen Wynne has acknowledged that Ontario has fallen behind in the fight against human trafficking and needs more coordination of information and support for victims.[15] In the words of Inspector Joanna Beaven-Desjardins: “This is a Toronto problem, an Ontario problem and a Canada problem. Everyone thinks it’s not happening here, but it is.”[16] The Ontario government is expected to launch a comprehensive action plan to combat human trafficking in June, 2016. Hopefully this action plan will revise legislation, fund service centers providing survivors with shelter, psychological, legal, medical and social assistance, provide educational services to law enforcement and the public, and provide greater funding for ongoing analysis and research across Canada. This International Women’s Day, let us remember those women who survive the indignities of human trafficking by advocating for their support.

[1] T Kaplan, “On the Socialist Origins of International Women’s Day” (1985) 11:1 Feminist Studies.

[2] United Nations Women Watch, History of International Women’s Day (2015), online: <http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/iwd/history.html>.

[3] CBC News, Toronto a ‘Hub’ for Human Trafficking: Report Says (14 June 2014), online: <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-a-hub-for-human-trafficking-report-says-1.2675941>.

[4] Alliance Against Modern Slavery, The Incident of Human Trafficking in Ontario (2014) at 7, online: <http://www.allianceagainstmodernslavery.org/sites/default/files/AAMS+-+Research+Report+-+2014.compressed.pdf> [Alliance Against Modern Slavery].

[5] Ibid at 9.

[6] K Blaze & T Grant, “Ontario Government to Unveil Strategy to Tackle Human Trafficking” The Globe and Mail (12 February 2016), online: <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario-government-to-unveil-strategy-to-tackle-human-trafficking/article28740329/>.

[7] See Belgium and Sweden as leaders for combatting human trafficking: Center for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism (CEOOR) Belgium, Trafficking and Smuggling of Human Beings: Preface & Part I: An Integral evaluation of Policy in the fight against trafficking in human beings, report 2007 (2008); A Gould, “The Criminalization of Buying Sex: The Politics of Prostitution in Sweden” (2001) 30:03 Journal of Social Policy.

[8]  B Perrin, Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking (Toronto: Viking Canada, 2010) at xi [Perrin, “Invisible Chains”].

[9] Perrin, “Invisible Chains”, supra note 7 at xi; Bill C-49: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Trafficking in Persons, online: <http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/About/Parliament/LegislativeSummaries/bills_ls.asp?ls=C49&Parl=38&Ses=1>.

[10] Notably the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, the Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (www.un.org).

[11] Such as: (a) Bill C-49: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Trafficking in Persons), which came into force in 2005 creating human trafficking as a crime; (b) Bill C-11: The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the IRPA), which came into force in 2001 defining human trafficking and smuggling as a distinct offence; (c) Bill S-223: The Victims of Human Trafficking Protection Act, which came into force in 2009 to amend the IRPA and include the victims in the definition of human trafficking (this amendment provides victims to stay in Canada for one hundred and eighty days with open access to health care services and counseling, but no other services are mentioned); and (d) Bill C-268: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, which came into force in 2010 launching a mandatory five-year minimum sentence for those who are convicted of trafficking of persons.

[12] Public Safety Canada, National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking (2012), online: <https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/ntnl-ctn-pln-cmbt/index-eng.aspx#toc-02>.

[13] Royal Canadian Mountain Police, Human Trafficking National Coordination Centre (2015), online: <http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ht-tp/index-eng.htm>.

[14] A Agathangelou, The Global Political Economy of Sex: Desire, Violence and Insecurity in Mediterranean Nation States (New York: Palgrave/MacMillan, 2006) at 42-43.

[15] Queen’s Park, “Ontario in ‘Drastic Need’ of Tackling Sex Trafficking, Wynne Says” The Star (14 December 2015), online: <http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2015/12/14/ontario-in-drastic-need-of-tackling-sex-trafficking-wynne-says.html>.

[16] Ibid.

By |March 4th, 2016|Blog|

Celebrating the Ten Year Anniversary of the Responsibility to Protect: Battling WWII Global Displacement Rates with an Emphasis on Implementation

By Heather Cohen

Tomorrow marks the celebration of the ten year anniversary of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). At the United Nations, the President of the General Assembly (PGA) will lead a thematic panel discussion from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST in the Trusteeship Council Chamber. For those of you who will not be in New York, you can tune into the live webcast here.

The event brings together leaders and eminent experts involved in the creation, development, and implementation of the World Summit commitment. Panelists will reflect on the progress made to date, current and emerging challenges, and opportunities to accelerate implementation. Member States and observers will have the opportunity to ask questions and make brief comments from the floor.

From the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect:

The adoption of the responsibility to protect at the 2005 World Summit represented a significant step towards realizing the international community’s commitment to end the most horrific forms of violence and persecution. Member States affirmed their primary responsibility to protect their own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and accepted a collective responsibility to assist each other in fulfilling this responsibility. They also declared their preparedness to take timely and decisive action, in accordance with the United Nations Charter and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, when national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from these four crimes and violations.

Significant progress has been made during the past decade in elaborating this commitment. The Secretary-General developed a framework for implementation based on three mutually reinforcing pillars, which provides guidance on how States can best protect their populations (Pillar I), assist and encourage each other to uphold their responsibility to protect (Pillar II), and work collectively to ensure timely and decisive response (Pillar III).

Member States have also devoted considerable attention to the responsibility to protect. Since 2009, the General Assembly has adopted a resolution, held a formal debate, and convened six annual informal interactive dialogues. The Security Council has adopted more than thirty resolutions and Presidential Statements that explicitly reference the responsibility to protect. This body has also held an Arria formula meeting on the responsibility to protect. The Human Rights Council has included the principle in fourteen resolutions, covering both thematic and country-specific topics. At the regional level, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has adopted a resolution on strengthening the responsibility to protect in Africa and the European Union has continuously supported the responsibility to protect and its operationalization.

This extensive consideration has contributed to the development of a consensus on core aspects of the responsibility to protect. Member States agree on the need to prioritize prevention, to utilize a full range of diplomatic, political, and humanitarian measures when addressing situations that feature the four crimes and violations, to consider military force only as a last resort, and to ensure that implementation of the responsibility to protect is in accordance with the United Nations Charter and other established principles of international law.

The past decade has also witnessed growing commitment to transforming the principle into practice. International engagement in cases like Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Kenya and Kyrgyzstan successfully mitigated the risks of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, demonstrating that the collective weight of the international community can make a difference. The responsibility to protect has also spurred the development of new institutional capacity, including global, regional, and sub-regional mechanisms dedicated to the prevention of these crimes and violations. By the end of 2015, fifty one Member States and the European Union had appointed focal points for the responsibility to protect.

Despite this progress, urgent challenges remain. Acts that may constitute genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity are currently occurring in far too many crises. The world has also witnessed the alarming rise of non-State armed groups that seek to spread violent extremist ideologies and are brazenly perpetrating atrocity crimes. These situations have created protection challenges of a staggering scale and produced widespread humanitarian crises, including a global migration and refugee crisis. These challenges have also stretched the ability of the international community to generate timely and decisive collective responses. The initiative by France and Mexico on restraint on the use of the veto, the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Group Code of Conduct, and similar proposals by the Elders have all encouraged Member States to refrain from taking action that either hinders or delays robust international responses to genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.

In more general terms, not all Member States have become party to the international conventions that set out the legal framework for the prevention and punishment of the crimes specified by the responsibility to protect, including the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Secretary-General and President of the International Committee of the Red Cross have also recently drawn attention to an alarming decline in respect for international humanitarian and human rights law, particularly in situations where national authorities have argued that exceptional security threats or political crises justify temporary abrogation from their legal obligations.

Given the ongoing occurrence of these grave international crimes and in light of the progress made over the past decade, it is clear that the responsibility to protect remains a vital and enduring commitment. As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has noted, it “offers an alternative to indifference and fatalism” and represents a “milestone in transforming international concern about people facing mortal danger into meaningful response.” The challenge now facing the international community is both practical and political: how to best uphold its responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity by accelerating implementation.

Ten years since the universal adoption of R2P, it remains a vital and enduring commitment, but the next decade must be about moving from commitment to implementation. Partnerships for prevention will be key and CLAIHR is proud to be a member of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect. In the words of the PGA, “[a]ll of us, at the United Nations and beyond, have responsibility to take greater steps to promote tolerance, human rights, and human dignity.”

By |February 25th, 2016|Blog|

The Mandated 3-Month Wait for OHIP Coverage

By Shalu Atwal

While the Canadian health care system is widely touted for its universality, three provinces – Ontario, Quebec[1] and British Columbia – do not allow landed immigrants[2] to access provincial health care coverage until three months after their arrival.[3] According to a piece published by the Toronto Star, entitled “Ontario urged to eliminate OHIP wait,” there are two main rationales behind this policy.[4] First, the policy operates as a cost-saving measure. The three-month wait has supposedly resulted in $90 million in savings per year for Ontario. Second, delaying access to federally-funded health care serves to discourage medical tourism. In other words, the three-month wait disincentivizes persons moving to Ontario for a brief period of time solely for the purpose of taking advantage of free medical services. Instead, the Ontario Government provides alternatives for landed immigrants, including advising immigrants to obtain private insurance before arriving to Canada.[5] The government also funds several Community Health Centres (CHC), which provide primary care free of charge.[6]

However, critics of the policy maintain that these alternatives are inadequate. Private insurance is often not purchased because it is incomprehensive (e.g. emergency-oriented rather than preventative) or too costly.[7] The CHCs also have their barriers; for instance, Scarborough’s only CHC reported a waiting list of 3,000 uninsured newcomers seeking to access health care.[8] Regarding the policy itself, critics argue that it is not only arbitrary (why not impose a two-month wait instead?), but also ineffective. The Ontario Medical Association (OMA), which publicly advocates for the elimination of the wait, stated in a review paper that any immediate savings gained by not providing insurance to newcomers were subsequently depleted.[9] Immigrants without health coverage often seek primary medical care at hospital emergency departments, an expensive and already overcrowded part of the health care system.[10] Moreover, the OMA found that immigrants tend to delay seeking care until the three-month period is over.[11] Not only can this compound costs, as illnesses can worsen over time, but it also poses a danger to the broader community from a public health perspective. A former president of the OMA, Dr. Mark MacLeod, stated: “whether a person has an infectious disease, an urgent health event, an accident, or a chronic illness, the best possible outcomes will be achieved when the person seeks medical care as quickly as possible.”[12]

Critics also argue that the mandated three-month wait for health care coverage violates the right to health.[13] A right to health is recognized by numerous international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, while Canada is a signatory to the Declaration, it is not, in itself, binding law in Canada. In fact, Canada has not yet recognized a legal right to health.[14]

Even so, opponents of the three-month wait for OHIP coverage emphasize that its removal is the “right thing to do.”[15] When New Brunswick eliminated the wait, the Health Minister, Mary Schryer, echoed this sentiment, stating:

“Removing the three-month waiting period is the right thing to do… Our government recognizes that removing this barrier will enhance access to health-care services for immigrants…”[16]

 

[1] There are exemptions to the three-month wait in Quebec for infectious and communicable diseases and women are provided care for pregnancy, domestic violence, or sexual assault.

[2] This wait also applies to former residents returning from abroad.

[3] Caulford, Paul and Jennifer D’Andrade. “Health care for Canada’s medically uninsured immigrants and refugees.” Canadian Family Physician. 2012. 58: 725.

[4] Keung, Nicholas. “Ontario Urged to Eliminate OHIP Wait | Toronto Star.” Thestar.com. Toronto Star, 3 Feb. 2011. Web. 14 Jan. 2016.

[5] “OHIP Coverage Waiting Period.” Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, 1 Dec. 2011. Web. 14 Jan. 2016.

[6] “Community Health Centres.” Ontario. Government of Ontario, 9 Sept. 2015. Web. 14 Jan. 2016.

[7] Elgersma, Sandra. “Immigration Status and Legal Entitlement to Insured Health Services.” Parliament of Canada. 2008. 7.Parliament of can not only compoitlement to Insured Health Services.”s oned: hese words: ruary 2012. , . This can not only compo

[8] Caulford, Paul and Jennifer D’Andrade 725.

[9] Ontario Medical Review. “Reviewing the OHIP Three-Month Wait.” 2011. 13.

[10] Ibid. 14.

[11] Ibid.

[12] “Three-Month Wait for OHIP.” Ontario Medical Association. 2016. Web. 14 Jan. 2016.

[13] “Right to Health Care Coalition.” Access Alliance. 2015. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.

[14] “The Health of Canadians – The Federal Role: Final Report” Parliament of Canada.

[15] Goel, Ritika and Michaela Beder. “Welcome to Canada…but don’t get sick.” CMAJ. 2012. 184(1): E103.

[16] Ontario Medical Review 17.

By |February 9th, 2016|Blog, Uncategorized|