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Title:  Canada Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State 
Date:  March 1996 
 
 
 
 
                             CANADA 
 
 
Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a federal parliamentary form of 
government and an independent judiciary. Citizens periodically choose 
their representatives in free and fair multiparty elections. 
 
Elected civilian officials control the federal, provincial, and 
municipal police forces.  The armed forces have no role in domestic law 
enforcement except in national emergencies.  Laws requiring the security 
forces to respect human rights are strictly observed, and violators are 
punished by the courts. 
 
Canada has a highly developed, market-based economic system.  Laws 
extensively protect the well-being of workers and provide for workers' 
freedom of association. 
 
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens.  
However, there were occasional complaints in some areas, primarily 
regarding discrimination against aboriginals, the disabled, and women.  
The Constitution and laws provide avenues for legal redress of such 
complaints.  The Government and private organizations seek to ensure 
that human rights are respected in practice at all levels of society and 
take steps to convict and punish human rights abusers.  The Government 
has taken serious and active steps to address violence against women. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.   
 
A civilian inquiry is continuing into the activities of a now disbanded 
regiment during its 1993 peacekeeping mission in Somalia.  Several 
soldiers from this regiment were found guilty in 1995 of various charges 
in the 1993 killing of a Somali teenager in Canadian military custody. 
 
  b.  Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
  c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
The law prohibits such practices.  However, there were isolated reports 
of excessive use of force by police.  In July a  
 
Montreal jury convicted four of five police officers for the December 
1993 beating of taxi driver Richard Barnabe.  The presiding judge 
imposed jail terms of 60 to 90 days, to be served on weekends, on three 
of the officers.  The fourth officer received a suspended sentence and 
was ordered to perform 180 hours of community service.  Media and human 
rights groups criticized the sentences as too lenient.   
 
Prison conditions meet international standards, and the Government 
permits visits by human rights monitors.  A Federal Inquiry Commission 
is investigating complaints by six female inmates that they were 
shackled and stripped by a male riot squad during the course of a riot 
and attempted escape in an Ontario women's prison in 1994. 
 
  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and the 
Government observes this prohibition. 
 
  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government 
respects this provision in practice.  The judiciary provides citizens 
with a fair and efficient judicial process and vigorously enforces the 
right to a fair trial. 
 
The court system is divided into federal and provincial courts, which 
handle both civil and criminal matters.  The highest federal court is 
the Supreme Court, which exercises general appellate jurisdiction and 
advises on constitutional matters.  The judicial system is based on 
English common law at the federal level as well as in most provinces; in 
the province of Quebec, it is based on the Napoleonic Code.  Throughout 
Canada, judges are appointed.  In criminal trials, the law provides for 
a presumption of the defendant's innocence and the right to a public 
trial, to counsel (free for indigents), and to appeal. 
 
There were no reports of political prisoners. 
 
  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The law prohibits such practices, government authorities generally 
respect these prohibitions, and violations are subject to effective 
legal sanction. 
 
Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the 
Government respects these rights in practice.  An independent press, an 
effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system 
combine to ensure freedom of speech and of the press, including academic 
freedom. 
 
Journalists are occasionally banned from reporting some specific details 
of court cases until a trial is concluded, and these restrictions, 
adopted to ensure the defendant a right to a fair trial, enjoy wide 
popular support.  Some restrictions on the media are imposed by 
provincial-level film censorship, broadcasters' voluntary codes curbing 
graphic violence, and laws against hate literature and pornography.  The 
Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits repeated communications by telephone 
that expose a person or group to hatred or contempt.  Human rights 
groups are exploring the possibility of extending this prohibition to 
the Internet. 
 
  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects 
them in practice. 
 
  c.  Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
respects this right in practice. 
 
  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
The law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in 
practice. 
 
The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees 
and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees.  There were 
no reports of forced expulsion of those having a valid claim to refugee 
status. 
 
Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their 
government peacefully, and citizens exercise this right in practice 
through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of 
universal suffrage. 
 
The official opposition in Parliament and the provincial government both 
support sovereignty for Quebec.  A referendum on the question of 
Quebec's relations with Canada, postulating Quebec sovereignty combined 
with a substantially revised economic and political relationship to 
Canada, was narrowly rejected in Quebec on October 30. 
 
All citizens have equal political rights, and these rights are respected 
in practice.  There are no impediments to participation by women, 
minorities, or aboriginals at any level in politics or government.  
Women have headed major political parties and served as Prime Minister 
and Governor General.  Although aboriginals are usually consulted on 
decisions affecting their interests, many bands continue to press the 
Government to grant them more autonomy. 
 
Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
A wide variety of human rights groups operate without government 
restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights 
cases.  Government officials are very cooperative and responsive to 
their views. 
 
Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides for equal benefits and 
protection of the law regardless of race, national or ethnic origin, 
color, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.  These 
rights are generally respected in practice, but there are occasional 
charges of discrimination reflecting Canada's multicultural society. 
 
The new Ontario provincial government elected in June pledged to repeal 
employment equity (affirmative action) legislation introduced in 1994.  
The Ontario Premier said that the current legislation would be replaced 
by new regulations emphasizing equality of opportunity. 
 
The Constitution protects the linguistic and cultural rights of 
minorities.  Laws in the province of Quebec stipulate that French is the 
working language of most businesses and require most children to receive 
publicly funded education in French. 
 
Despite Canada's policy of bilingualism, English speakers in Quebec and 
French speakers in other parts of Canada must generally live and work in 
the language of the majority.  In Quebec, language laws restrict access 
to English-language public schooling to those whose parents were 
educated in English in Canada and to short-term residents.  Despite the 
latter exception, the step-child of a short-term resident foreign 
businessman required a Ministerial-level "humanitarian" decision to 
permit attendance at an English-language public school because the child 
was neither the biological nor adopted child of the businessman.  Other 
provinces often lack adequate French-language schooling, which is of 
concern to local Francophones, although French-language schools are 
reported to be thriving in all three prairie provinces. 
 
  Women 
 
Canadian law prohibits violence against women, including spousal abuse.  
Statistics Canada reported that one-half of all women have experienced 
at least one incident of violence by a male since the age of 16.  
According to a 1995 government report, more than 200,000 women have been 
sexually abused by their husbands or common-law partners in the past 
year.  In 1993 acquaintances or relatives were responsible for 72 
percent of the violent attacks committed against women, compared with 37 
percent of violent attacks against men.   
 
A bill amending the criminal code to eliminate extreme drunkenness as a 
valid defense became law in July.  The bill was stimulated by a Supreme 
Court ruling that a Montreal man could use intoxication as a defense 
against a sexual assault charge. 
 
Prior to the United Nations Conference on Women, Status of Women Canada 
(a federal agency created in 1976 to coordinate government policy on 
issues affecting women) issued a federal plan for gender equality.  This 
plan identified eight key objectives for improving the status of women, 
including the implementation of gender-based analysis in the Federal 
Government, improving women's economic situation, and reducing violence 
in society, particularly against women and children. 
 
Women are well represented in the labor force, including business and 
the professions.  The law prohibits sexual harassment, and the 
Government respects this provision.  Statistics Canada reported that 
women as of 1993 represented 42 percent of managers and administrators, 
56 percent of managers in social science and religion, and 18 percent of 
managers in the fields of natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.  
In the federal plan for gender equality, Status of Women Canada stated 
that women are underrepresented in senior management and overrepresented 
in clerical and service jobs.  A 1993 study released in August showed 
that women earned an average of 72 cents for each dollar earned by men, 
an increase of 4 cents over 1990 figures. 
 
In March 1,700 female public servants--primarily nurses, dieticians, and 
occupational therapists--won more than $55.5 million (74 million 
Canadian dollars) in back pay and salary increases in an out-of-court 
pay equity settlement. 
 
Women enjoy marriage and property rights equal to those of men.  The 
Supreme Court of Canada ruled in May that it is not discriminatory to 
require custodial parents (usually mothers) to pay income tax on child 
support while permitting noncustodial parents (usually fathers) to 
deduct these payments from taxable income.  The court argued that the 
regulation did not discriminate against women, but human rights groups 
disagreed and criticized the court's decision. 
 
In June four aboriginal women were awarded damages after the Canadian 
Human Rights Commission (CHRC) determined native bands had discriminated 
against them 10 years ago, when the women regained their aboriginal 
status under changes to the Indian Act.  The changes to the Act had 
entitled women who married white men to receive the same benefits as all 
other officially recognized aboriginals. 
 
  Children 
 
The Government demonstrates its strong commitment to children's rights 
and welfare through its well-funded systems of public education and 
medical care.  Federal and provincial regulations protect children from 
abuse, overwork, and discrimination and duly penalize perpetrators of 
such offenses.  There is no pattern of societal abuse of children.  A 
private member's bill calling for punishments of up to 5 years for 
performing female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by 
international health experts as damaging to both physical and 
psychological health, passed its second reading in the House of Commons 
in October and was then forwarded to the Justice Committee.  The 
Minister of Justice argued that the Act is already covered by the 
Criminal Code under assault causing bodily harm.  The Quebec Human 
Rights Commission warned that it will vigorously prosecute parents and 
doctors who subject girls to FGM.  In 1994 a Montreal doctor said a 
dozen or more such operations are performed in that city each year. 
 
  People With Disabilities 
 
There is no discrimination against disabled persons in employment, 
education, or in the provision of other state services.  The law 
mandates access to buildings for people with disabilities, and for the 
most part the Government enforces these provisions.  However, human 
rights groups report that a large percentage of their complaints come 
from those with disabilities.  Disabled persons are underrepresented in 
the work force; for example, they comprise 2.6 percent of the federally 
regulated private sector work force, but those capable of working total 
6.5 percent of the population. 
 
A survey conducted for the CHRC showed that only 2 of 29 automated 
teller machines surveyed were accessible to people in wheelchairs.  
Access to such machines for the visually impaired showed slight 
improvement over the last 3 years.  Another CHRC study criticized the 
Federal Government for not providing government publications in 
alternate formats, such as Braille and large print, for the visually 
impaired. 
 
  Indigenous People 
 
Canada's treatment of its native peoples continued to be one of the most 
important human rights issues facing the country.  Disputes over land 
claims, self-government, treaty rights, taxation, duty-free imports, 
fishing and hunting rights, and alleged harassment by police continued 
to be sources of tension on reserves. 
 
Aboriginals remained underrepresented in the work force, overrepresented 
on welfare rolls, and more susceptible to suicide and poverty than other 
population groups.  In February, prompted by a rash of suicides on a 
reservation, a government panel in Nova Scotia released a report warning 
that the suicide problem among native youths will worsen unless the 
Federal Government initiates a national campaign to address the problem.  
In a step towards aboriginal self-government, the Federal Ministry of 
Indian and Northern Affairs signed a framework agreement with the First 
Nations of Manitoba at the end of 1994.  The agreement calls for the 
transfer of the Department's regional operations to the First Nations.  
In New Brunswick, the Eel river First Nation protested fishing 
restrictions and in June and July set up blockades on the river.  The 
impasse was resolved when government officials agreed to modify the 
existing agreement. 
 
The British Columbia Treaty Commission is dealing with statements of 
intent from 43 First Nations to negotiate treaties.  The treaty 
negotiations are expected to provide aboriginals with cash compensation 
or title to lands claimed by natives, a share in fishing and forestry 
revenues from those lands, and new powers for First Nation governments.  
In its second annual report, the Commission noted that "the status quo 
is unacceptable.  The issues have been unresolved for over 140 years.  
The Commissioners firmly believe that the only viable solution is for 
the parties to come to the table and negotiate settlements."  This 
result may be difficult to achieve, however, since to date the federal 
and provincial governments have been unable to agree on the details of a 
cost-sharing arrangement, resulting in a stalemate in treaty 
negotiations. 
 
In Quebec, the Cree Nation strongly objected to the referendum on Quebec 
sovereignty, stating that the referendum was illegal and an affront to 
their rights.  The Cree held a separate referendum rejecting Quebec 
sovereignty. 
 
The Royal Aboriginal Commission, established in 1991, continued hearings 
to examine aboriginal concerns.  The Commission is expected to publish a 
final report and recommendations by early 1996. 
 
In September police killed one person during a clash at Ipperwash with 
an armed aboriginal group (see Section 1.a.).   
 
The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development then appointed a 
representative to investigate the overall situation at Ipperwash, 
including land claims, and make recommendations. 
 
  Religious Minorities 
 
Religious minorities are protected by law and are generally free from 
discrimination in practice. 
 
In March the B'nai Brith League for Human Rights reported the highest 
level of incidents of anti-Semitic harassment and vandalism in 13 years 
of monitoring.  Such incidents increased to 290 from 256 the previous 
year.  In Toronto hate messages were mailed to Jewish leaders and 
organizations, hate literature was left on vehicles parked outside a 
Kitchener theater during a showing of "Schindler's List," and cars in 
Jewish neighborhoods were smeared with swastikas. 
 
The Quebec Human Rights Commission in February said that dress codes 
intended to ban the wearing of the hijab, an Islamic scarf, in public 
schools are discriminatory. 
 
  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
Discrimination is prohibited by federal law and violators are 
prosecuted.  Nevertheless, there were isolated incidents of racist-
inspired discrimination and violence. 
 
In June a Nova Scotia provincial government report concluded that black 
Nova Scotians have been educationally marginalized over the past 200 
years.  Accordingly, the Government has thus far adopted 42 of the 
report's 46 recommendations that focused on improving education services 
for blacks. 
 
On October 30, the Quebec sovereignty referendum secured a majority of 
the French speaking electorate's votes but was defeated by overwhelming 
opposition from non-French speakers combined with a minority of French 
speakers.  The exceptionally narrow defeat (49.4 percent vs. 50.6 
percent) produced some mutual recrimination and polarization between the 
two groups throughout the country as well as in Quebec.  A referendum 
night statement by Quebec leader Parizeau, blaming the defeat on "money 
and the ethnic vote" has accentuated concerns of non-French speakers.  
Parizeau's remarks were widely criticized by French speakers and were 
associated with his decision to resign.  Mainstream leaders have 
expressed concern over the disruptive and divisive potential of recently 
publicized organizations with radical or even terrorist agendas on both 
ends of the separatist-federal spectrum. 
 
Section 6  Worker Rights 
 
  a.  The Right of Association 
 
Except for members of the armed forces, workers in both the public and 
private sectors have the right to associate freely.  The Labor Code 
protects these rights for all employees under federal jurisdiction, 
while provincial legislation protects all other organized workers. 
 
Trade unions are independent of the Government.  They are free to 
affiliate with international organizations.  Of the civilian labor 
force, 29.2 percent is unionized. 
 
All workers have the right to strike, except those in the public sector 
providing essential services. 
 
In the first 7 months of 1995, there were a total of 245 work stoppages, 
18 of which were illegal.  As of July, there were 115 unresolved labor 
disputes; the remainder were settled through direct bargaining, 
mediation, or (as in the case of railway workers and west coast 
longshoremen) by government back-to-work orders. 
 
The law prohibits employer retribution against strikers and union 
leaders, and the Government enforces this provision. 
 
  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
Workers in both the public (except for some police) and the private 
sector have the right to organize and bargain collectively.  While the 
law protects collective bargaining, for some public sector workers 
providing essential services there are limitations, which vary from 
province to province. 
 
The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires employers to 
reinstate workers fired for union activities.  There are effective 
mechanisms for resolving complaints and obtaining redress. 
 
All labor unions have full access to mediation, arbitration, and the 
judicial system. 
 
There are no export processing zones. 
 
  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
Forced labor is illegal, and there were no known violations. 
 
  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
Child labor legislation varies from province to province.  The Federal 
Government does not employ youths under 17 years of age while school is 
in session.  Most provinces prohibit those under age 15 or 16 from 
working without parental consent, or at night, or in any hazardous 
employment.  These prohibitions are effectively enforced through 
inspections conducted by the federal and provincial Labor Ministries.  
The statutory school-leaving age in all provinces is 16. 
 
  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
The federal minimum wage, established by ministerial order and enforced 
by the Ministry of Human Resources Development, applies to employees in 
industries under federal jurisdiction (less than 10 percent of the total 
work force).  Since 1986 it has remained at $2.99 (4.00 Canadian 
dollars).  In all provinces, the minimum wage is higher than the federal 
minimum.  Although it is common practice among most federal jurisdiction 
employers to use the provincial/territorial rates, the Government 
announced in September plans to align the federal rate with the 
provincial/territorial minimum wage for workers over 18 by mid-1996.  
For youths and students, Ontario, Alberta, and the Northwest Territories 
have a minimum wage lower than the respective standard minimum.  A 
family whose only employed member earns the minimum wage would be 
considered below the poverty line. 
 
Standard workhours vary from province to province, but in all the limit 
is 40 or 48 a week, with at least 24 hours of rest. 
 
Federal law provides safety and health standards for employees under 
federal jurisdiction, while provincial and territorial legislation 
provide for all other employees.  Federal and provincial labor 
departments monitor and enforce these standards.  Federal, provincial, 
and territorial laws protect the right of workers with "reasonable 
cause" to refuse dangerous work. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

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