SUMMARY OF AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S SUMISSIONS TO THE UN COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN
Canada underwent its sixth and seventh review of its compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in October 2008. Amnesty International provided written submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women during the review. We also provided follow-up submissions to the Committee’s Concluding Observations.
Amnesty International’s submissions recognized that Canada has, in many respects, a commendable record when it comes to advancing women’s equality, both in Canada and at a global level. Important legal protections exist within Canada, including at the level of a constitutionally-entrenched guarantee of equality, which offer women a strong framework for protecting their rights. Canada has long championed initiatives at the UN that aim to bolster the protection of women’s rights, including by regularly bringing forward a resolution on violence against women at the UN Human Rights Council.
However, Amnesty International’s submissions highlighted that the reality for far too many women across Canada is one of violence, discrimination, and other human rights violations. This is particularly true for women from marginalized communities. Our brief emphasized three barriers to effective protection of women’s human rights in Canada:
- An inadequate approach to implementation of UN human rights recommendations;
- A failure to reliably provide information about human rights protection that is disaggregated by gender and other identity; and
- Inadequate funding of efforts to protect women’s human rights.
The brief also draws attention to serious human rights violations experienced by three groups of women: Indigenous women, refugee and migrant women, and women in federally-run prisons. Amnesty International lays our recommendations to address these concerns.
OUTCOMES OF THE REVIEW
In its Concluding Observations, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women called for Canada to enhance its implementation and dissemination of and awareness-raising about the CEDAW at all levels of government. The Committee recommended that Canada amend the Indian Act to eliminate discrimination against women with respect to the transmission of Indian status. The Committee stressed that Canada should provide all women, especially vulnerable women, with access to effective remedies for discrimination endured on the basis of sex, including access to legal representation. As part of this recommendation, the Committee encouraged Canada to reconsider its cancellation of the Court Challenges Programme, an important mechanism to ensure access to justice for vulnerable women. Among its recommendations, the Committee emphasized the need for Canada to combat violence against women, and to carry out thorough investigations of the cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women “in order to determine whether there is a racialized pattern to the disappearances and take measures to address the problem.” The Committee also recommend that Canada address the overincarceration of aboriginal women and women of colour in federal prisons.
A year after the release of the Committee’s Concluding Observations, Amnesty International submitted a follow-up report highlighting our serious concern that the government had not proceeded with any substantive consultation with Indigenous women’s organizations in Canada in response to the Committee’s recommendation to “examine the reasons for the failure to investigate the cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women and to take the necessary steps to remedy the deficiencies in the system.” Amnesty International recommended that the federal government should work with Indigenous women and representative organizations and provincial and territorial officials to develop and implement a comprehensive, coordinated national plan of action in keeping with the scale and seriousness of the violence experienced by Indigenous women. Such a plan of action must include measures to ensure appropriate police response as well as measures to reduce the gap in standard of living and access to services for Indigenous women.
Sixth and Seventh Periodic Report of Canada to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (August 2007, CEDAW/C/CAN/7)
List of issues and questions with regard to the consideration of the periodic report of Canada (March 2008, CEDAW/C/CAN/Q/7)
Unequal Rights: Ongoing concerns about Discrimination against Women in Canada: Amnesty International’s submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (September 2008)
Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (November 2008, CEDAW/C/CAN/CO/7)
Amnesty International’s Follow Up to the Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2009)
Response by Canada to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women’s recommendations (February 2010, CEDAW/C/CAN/CO/7/Add.1)
Updated response by Canada to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women’s recommendations (March 2010, CEDAW/C/CAN/CO/7/Add.1/Corr.1)
Supplemental information provided by Canada to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (November 2010, CEDAW/C/CAN/CO/7/Add.2)