The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) has released its Annual Report for 2011. The report describes the work of the Commission and highlights important changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) that took effect in 2011.
Many of Canada’s top employers have recognized that there is a strong business case for building corporate cultures that respect human rights. The CHRC developed the Human Rights Maturity Model to assist organizations in creating sustainable workplace cultures that prioritize human rights. The Maturity Model provides organizations with the tools and guidance needed to improve workplace policies and practices.
In 2011, 12 federally regulated organizations were using the Maturity Model. Six organizations, including the CHRC, completed a pilot testing exercise. During the pilot testing, the organizations were led through a process that assisted them in documenting and reporting on how human rights are integrated into daily workplace practices. Organizations participating in the pilot agreed that the Maturity Model helped them be more proactive in preventing discrimination.
The CHRC has also developed an interactive web-based self-assessment tool for the Maturity Model. Employers input specific information about their workplace, and then self-assess their “maturity” by looking at current human rights practices. The online tool generates a “gap analysis” and an action plan that helps organizations improve their processes and track their progress.
The Maturity Model was designed to help organizations create and sustain a workplace culture based on equality, dignity and respect. The online tool provides resources that can help bring change. It is scalable and adaptable to organizations of all sizes.
As of this year, people governed by the Indian Act have the same rights to freedom from discrimination as everyone else in Canada. When Parliament broadened the CHRA in 2008 to include matters under the Indian Act, it gave First Nations governments three years to adjust. Complaints regarding the Government of Canada could be brought immediately. But people could only begin filing discrimination complaints against First Nations governments as of June 18, 2011.
For the past three years, the CHRC's National Aboriginal Initiative (NAI) has been working with First Nations and other Aboriginal stakeholders to raise awareness about the CHRA and help communities adjust to their new obligations and responsibilities. The NAI team has been supported by every branch at the CHRC. Altogether, CHRC staff have participated in more than 130 meetings, conferences and other events with First Nations and other Aboriginal representatives.
Throughout 2011, the CHRC continued to raise awareness. Activities included:
- Preparation, publication and distribution of a guide to the CHRA, with specific examples relevant to a First Nations context. With close to 10,000 copies in circulation, the guide has become one of the most widely distributed documents in the history of the CHRC;
- Preparation, publication and distribution of a human rights handbook with examples designed to help First Nations governments and employers address human rights issues;
- Launching the do you know your rights? Website to provide individuals and organizations accessible information on federal human rights protections; and
- Participating in webcasts for First Nations governments, in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations, to discuss their rights and responsibilities under the CHRC.
Over the past ten years, the CHRC has conducted extensive research on human rights and national security. It has consulted with the Canadian agencies responsible for national security. And it has analyzed court cases, inquiries into individual experiences, and the work of Parliamentary and Senate Committees.
The CHRC learned that many organizations have policies designed to prevent discrimination, but few can demonstrate whether or not their policies are working. For example, national security institutions have stated that they do not use racial or ethnic profiling in their work. However, without methods to monitor and prove that profiling is not taking place, organizations will always be vulnerable to criticism.
In 2011, the Commission took two steps to address this issue. To begin with, it tabled a Special Report to Parliament to inform Parliamentarians of these operational challenges and to provide recommendations. The CHRC's Special Report to Parliament argues that governance and accountability frameworks are necessary to ensure that national security institutions consider human rights in ever day operations, and that these are currently lacking. It explains that without an accountability structure, national security institutions have no credible way to show that they are consistently adhering to Canadian human rights standards.
The Report recommends that Parliament adopt legislation that requires national security institutions to track human rights-related performance. It also recommends that those institutions share their findings with the public.
As an additional step, the CHRC collaborated with organizations responsible for national security to develop a guide entitled The Human Rights Impact Assessment. This guide will help organizations ensure that security standards, policies, and practices are both effective and respectful of human rights.
In November 2011, the CHRC submitted a report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, highlighting the situation of Aboriginal children in Canada. This UN Committee is a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by governments that have signed the Convention, including Canada.
The report cites the following facts:
- 27.5% of Aboriginal youth under 15 years of age live in low-income households compared to 12.9% for non-Aboriginal children.
- There are about eight times more Aboriginal children in care than non-Aboriginal children.
- Key health indicators such as birth weight, infant mortality and teen pregnancy all suggest a gap with non-Aboriginal peers. There are also significant problems with substance abuse, diabetes, and obesity.
- In 2006, the proportion of the Aboriginal population without a high school diploma was 34%, whereas, for the non-Aboriginal population, it was only 15%.
- Aboriginal youth are significantly overrepresented among young offenders.
- Aboriginal girls experience violence at a higher frequency and greater severity than non-Aboriginal girls.
The CHRC's report also acknowledged that other vulnerable groups such as children belonging to racial, ethnic or religious minorities and children with disabilities are also in need of special care.