Québec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission
A New Strategic Plan
The Commission's 2015-2010 Strategic Plan which will guide its work in the coming years was tabled at the Québec National Assembly on April 1st 2015.The plan calls for the establishment of a dynamic framework of change built around three main orientations: promoting substantive equality in employment without discrimination; ensuring the respect of the rights of people and groups in situations of vulnerability and reinforcing the Commission's capacity to improve its organizational performance.
One of the key challenges is to continue fulfilling the Commission's mandate at a time when the institution's resources are severely tested as a result of cost-cutting austerity measures imposed by the Québec government. The Commission is not only responsible for promoting and defending the principles of the Charter but also has the duty to ensure that the interests of children are protected and that their rights recognized in the Youth Protection Act are respected and promoted. In addition, the Commission oversees compliance with the Act Respecting Equal Access to Employment in Public Bodies.
Social and Economic Rights
In recent month, the Commission has again called on the Québec government to reinforce social and economic rights in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
In the fall 2014, it published an opinion urging the permanent program review commission set up by the provincial government as part of its cost-cutting exercise, to take into account the impacts of its reforms on human rights and freedoms. The Commission stressed that this exercise cannot be based solely on economic efficiency or budgetary considerations.
Three elements should be considered and fully integrated in the review process: compliance with the criteria for setting the scope and defining the exercise of fundamental freedoms and rights enshrined in Sections 1 to 9 of the Charter, the recognition of the right to equality, and, fulfilling the commitments relative to social and economic rights enshrined in the Québec Charter and in the International Covenant on Social, Economic, Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
By ratifying the ICESCR, Québec made several commitments, among others, to: prohibit discrimination (direct, indirect or systemic); to ensure progressively the full realization of the recognized rights and to refrain from adopting "regressive measures".
In March 2015, the Commission raised the issue again when it asked Employment and Social Solidarity Minister, Sam Hamad, to forego implementing most of his proposed changes to the Indvidual and Family Assistance Regulation announced in early January, because they infringe on important economic and social rights guaranteed in the Charter and in international law.
The underlying discriminatory impact of these measures which feed stereotypes and prejudices towards social welfare recipients would also aggravate the exclusion of this group already living in poverty, which is cause for serious concern, the Commission stated in its comments.
It also reminded the government that Québec has made a commitment to progressively ensure the full realization of rights and to refrain from adopting "regressive measures", that would directly or indirectly be a step back. After analyzing the measures in the regulation regarding welfare payments, it found that Québec had not demonstrated that these regressive measures are fully justified "based on the available resources".
Nevertheless the changes to the regulation were put in place and some of them came into force May 1st while others will be effective on July 1st 2015. These measures concern the reduction of the basic benefit allowed for an adult in a residential drug treatment centre, changes relating to the calculation of room rental revenues, new eligibility requirements related to residency in Québec and employment income exemptions in case of a false declaration.
New content in www.cdpdj.qc.ca
In recent months, new features and helpful information have been added to the Commission's Website including:
- A thematic page - Economic and Social Rights: Vital
- Our opinion on bulling
- Legal obligations of day camps concerning children with disabilities
The Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms turns 40 this summer. The Québec Commission is celebrating this milestone with a number of special projects and events to highlight how this fundamental law has contributed to transform Québec society.
Before the Charter came into law on June 27, 1975, following a unanimous vote in the National Assembly, Québec did not have any legislation to protect fundamental rights and freedoms except for general provisions of the Civil Code. There were no laws outlawing discrimination against disabled people or members of racialized groups. Employers routinely refused to hire women or fired them when they became pregnant. Gays and lesbians had no rights and the expression LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) was not part of our vocabulary.
"This anniversary gives us the opportunity to reflect on what we've achieved and take stock of the work that remains to be done in order to ensure the that each and everyone's rights and freedoms are respected," says Jacques Frémont, President of the Québec Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Québec human rights and youth rights commission). With this in mind, the Commission recently unveiled the theme of the anniversary: Une Charte, mille combats (One Charter, a thousand struggles) that pays tribute to the pioneers of the Charter and to the women and men who work on a daily basis to advance rights in Québec.
And, to highlight the very important work and contribution of activists in all regions of the province, the Commission launched in April, a call for nominations to honour 40 human rights defenders. They will be honoured at a forum on International Human Rights Day, December 10th 2015. This forum will allow them to discuss the challenges they face as activists. Their contribution will also be underlined and promoted throughout the year on a website and in the social media.
Call For Nominations
Anyone who defends rights and freedoms in his or her daily life can present his or her candidacy. An individual can also nominate someone else. The rules are available on the Website 40ansdelacharte.org Nominations close on Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 5 p.m.
A prestigious jury, chaired by Louise Arbour, former United Nations human rights high commissioner will choose the 40 laureates. The other members of the jury are : Dr. Gilles Julien, founder of several social pediatric clinics in Québec, Samian, First Nations hip hop artist, Carla Beauvais, coordinator of Black History Month and Ian Hamilton, executive director of Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education.
Besides the December 10th forum, other events celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Charter will be held all year long. The Commission plans to take part in numerous community events and conferences, including one devoted to the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Québec Human Rights Tribunal in the fall of 2015.
The Québec Charter
The Québec Charter is a fundamental law that takes precedence over all other laws in Québec, and has a quasi-constitutional status. It is largely inspired by international instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Charter recognizes that all human beings are equal in worth and dignity. Its primary objective is to foster harmonious relations between citizens, as well as relations between citizens and their institutions.
This law is more than an anti-discrimination code as it guarantees not only the right to equality, but also fundamental rights and freedoms, economic and social rights as well as judicial and political rights.