CASHRA - The Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies

Featured Agency

Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse

The Commission

The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Commission of Human Rights and Youth Rights) is an independent body whose mission is to uphold the principles set out in the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms which came into force 35 years ago.

The 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.

Under the Charter, every person has a right to full and equal recognition and exercise of his or her human rights and freedoms, without distinction, exclusion or preference based on race, colour, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age except as provided by law, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, handicap or the use of any means to palliate a disability.

The Commission works to promote, educate and raise awareness of fundamental rights, conducts in-depth research on key and emerging human rights issues and advises the government on bills and legislation. It also receives and investigates complaints of discrimination and may bring such cases to the Québec Human Rights Tribunal.

The members of the Commission are appointed by the Québec National Assembly. Mr. Gaétan Cousineau is the president of the Commission and Ms. Sylvie Godin is vice-president, responsible for the youth mandate.

Recent Issues


Protecting children and youth

The mission of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse is also to ensure that the interests of children are protected and their rights, as recognized by the Youth Protection Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act are respected. (The Commission of Human Rights merged with the Commission of Youth Rights in 1995.)

It investigates any situation where it has reason to believe that the rights of a child are at risk. In recent years, the Commission has investigated the Youth Protection Services in Nunavik and recently issued a follow-up report.

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Equality programs

In addition, the Commission is responsible for applying the Act respecting equal access to employment in public bodies and offers a free and confidential Advisory Service to employers and decision makers regarding reasonable accommodation questions.

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Exploitation of elderly or disabled persons


Under the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, elderly and disabled persons are protected against exploitation.

In April 2010, with additional resources from the Québec government, the Commission established a dedicated team of investigators working with a legal counsel, who can intervene quickly to ensure the safety of the elderly and put an end to any situation involving exploitation. The Commission can turn to the courts in order to ensure that the assets of vulnerable seniors are protected. As the province's population is aging, the number of complaints involving the exploitation of the elderly is on the rise.

The Commission provides information and a leaflet to help family, friends, caregivers and health and social service workers better understand that exploitation means taking advantage of the vulnerability or dependency of an elderly person to deprive him or her of their rights. This can involve extorting money, inflicting abuse, withholding care that is required for health, safety or wellbeing or compromising the person's dignity.

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Racial Profiling

Since the fall of 2009, the Commission has focused much of its research and education work on the issue of racial profiling as it affects 14 to 25-year olds from racialized communities. Youth and their parents were asked to speak out about their racial profiling experiences in the educational sector, the social services and child and youth protection sector, as well as in the area of public safety.

In March 2010, the Commission released its Consultation Document on Racial Profiling offering first-hand accounts of profiling, statistics and a series of questions aimed at guiding the discussions during the public hearings which were held in the spring 2010.

More than 50 persons, community groups and public institutions testified or offered written submissions putting forward constructive solutions to address racial profiling. The Commission will release its final report and recommendations in the spring of 2011.

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Social Profiling

In November 2009, the Commission issued a ground-breaking report on social profiling and the judiciarization of the homeless in Montreal.

Although people living on the streets make up less than 1% of the Montreal population, they received 31.6% of the tickets issued by the police under municipal by-laws in 2004, and 20.3% in 2005. The number of tickets issued annually to the homeless under municipal and public transit by-laws jumped by 327% between 1994 and 2005. As the number of tickets issued rose, so did the number of street people jailed for failure to pay their fines. The Commission decided to examine to what extent the municipal by-laws and their application were consistent with the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

The Commission found that the excessive use of the courts to deal with the homeless is the result of targeted police practices aimed at removing them from the public space, rather than a neutral and impartial enforcement of the law. It demonstrated that the homeless are victims of social profiling when for example, they are ticketed for minor offences that are rarely, if ever, punished by the police when committed by other citizens such as: jaywalking or lying on public bench or yet, when they are ticketed repeatedly – five times in one day – for obstructing traffic.

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Discrimination and International Medical Graduates


On November 16, 2010, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse released a report into allegations of discrimination against International Medical Graduates (IMG).

The findings of this systemic investigation clearly show that foreign-trained doctors are subject to a discriminatory treatment on the basis of their ethnic origin in the course of the admission process leading to a postdoctoral training in Québec. Throughout the process, they face a series of obstacles that disproportionately disadvantage and excludes from the four medical faculties in Québec, although they pass the required exams and are covered by the government's immigration policy favouring the recruitment of highly-skilled professional since 2002.

In 2007, groups representing foreign-trained doctors publicly accused Québec universities of discrimination pointing to the fact that they had turned down the applications of 174 IMG physicians, who had obtained equivalence of their degrees from the CMQ, but could not complete their medical training. All the while, the medical faculties chose not to fill 85 resident positions because, according to a spokesman, they did not have the "necessary qualifications".

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Service dogs and children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders


Service dogs for children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) constitute a means to palliate a disability within the meaning of the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, according to the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse.

The January 12, 2011 opinion opinion formally recognizes that children with PDD assisted by a service dog have the right, without discrimination, to access public places or public transport and to obtain goods and services normally offered to the public.

These same rights must be extended to parents of children with PDD when they are accompanied by the dog, but not by the child, considering the particular context within which falls the use of such dogs. Moreover, based on the right to discrimination-free working conditions, their right to bring a service dog to the workplace is recognized, unless it constitutes a case of undue hardship.

The opinion is available in French on the Commission's Web site.

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CASHRA - The Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies