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Amnesty International Canada released its annual report on the state of human rights in Canada on Friday, one day before UN Human Rights Day.

In its 2022 Human Rights Agenda, the organization reviews Canada’s domestic performance over the past year against its international human rights commitments and lays out concrete, actionable steps to bring the country’s human rights record in line with its obligations.

The report is launching at a pivotal juncture for Canada, as the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and surging anti-rights movements increasingly threaten people’s fundamental rights and their well-being, both in this country and abroad.

‘Public pledges and investments are insufficient markers of human rights protection. They demand robust, sustained, and measurable implementation. Only the lived experience of those whose rights are most at risk can tell us the full story and whether progress was indeed made.’

Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

“Canada’s numerous, eloquent commitments to reconciliation with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples, ending racial discrimination, climate change, and refugee protection must be commended. But these are far from enough,” Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada (English-speaking Section), wrote in the report’s introduction.

“Public pledges and investments are insufficient markers of human rights protection. They demand robust, sustained, and measurable implementation. Only the lived experience of those whose rights are most at risk can tell us the full story and whether progress was indeed made.”

This year’s Human Rights Agenda focuses on five distinct but related priorities highlighted in Amnesty International Canada’s Strategic Plan 2022-2030. They are: the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Discrimination and Racial Justice; Gender Justice; People on the Move: Refugee and Migrants Rights; and Climate Justice and Corporate Accountability. By applying an intersectional lens, the report’s authors champion an approach to policy-making that not only respects but reflectsthe intersecting identities of right-holders, especially people belonging to historically marginalized groups.

Nivyabandi pointed to climate change as a disproportionate threat to people and groups whose rights are already at risk. “We cannot truly understand climate change without unpacking its heightened impacts on Indigenous communities, women and 2SLGBTQIA+ people, immigrants and refugees, and people with disabilities,” she said on Friday. “Canada’s response to climate change must put their experiences, their interests, and ultimately, their rights first.”

While the report shines a light on continuing human rights violations, it also recognizes victories that human rights defenders in Canada celebrated in 2022. For example, Canada edged closer to eliminating the cruel, discriminatory practice of immigration detention after four provinces – British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Alberta, and Manitoba – separately announced that they would stop holding migrants detained by the Canada Border Services Agency in provincial jails.

“Jailing newcomers simply for seeking a better life in Canada is cruel, unnecessary, and it disproportionately targets over-policed groups such as Black men,” said Nivyabandi, echoing the findings of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Canada’s joint 2021 report “I Didn’t Feel Like a Human in There:” Immigration Detention in Canada and Its Impact on Mental Health. “We thank provincial leaders for stepping back from this abhorrent practice and urge the Canadian government to do the same.”

The release of the 2022 Human Rights Agenda comes as Amnesty International supporters across Canada gather in person to participate in the global movement’s signature letter-writing event. Centred around UN Human Rights Day on December 10, Write for Rights sees thousands of groups in more than 200 countries and territories take millions of actions in support of people whose rights are under attack.

In years past, dozens of Write-A-Thons – lively events where activists gather to write letters, sign petitions, enjoy music and refreshments, and listen to inspiring guest speakers – took place in communities across Canada. However, in 2020 and 2021, those gatherings were cancelled or migrated online because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“Defending human rights, at its core, is about people joining together and harnessing their collective power to counter injustice,” Nivyabandi said. “Gathering online can be an effective tool to spur change, but it is not the same experience as the intimacy and immediacy of getting together in person, sharing stories, and acting as a group. That is where empathy thrives and momentum grows unstoppable.”

Media contact: Cory Ruf, Media Officer, Amnesty International Canada (English-speaking Section), media@amnesty.ca, 647-269-1795