News Release Article from  Global Affairs Canada

Canada reaffirms commitment to human rights

February 15, 2016 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada

The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today took concrete steps to reaffirm Canada’s commitment to human rights at a meeting with Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. It is the first visit of a UN high commissioner for human rights since 2006.

Minister Dion took this opportunity to assert the Government of Canada’s commitment to support the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) through a contribution of $15 million over the next three years in new core funding. The commitment represents a significant increase in funding by the Government of Canada and will help the OHCHR to deliver on its mandate to help populations whose human rights are at risk of being violated or abused. Furthermore, as a priority for the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau‎, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, development projects funded by Canada will also ensure the promotion and protection of the human rights of populations in need.

Together with the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Minister Dion also affirmed that the Government of Canada opposes the use of the death penalty in all cases, everywhere, ending the selective approach followed since 2007. As of today, the government will undertake clemency intervention in all cases of Canadians facing execution. This change in policy is rooted in the Government of Canada’s opposition to the death penalty as well as its commitment to providing the highest standard of consular assistance. In short, Canadian officials will now seek to determine how and when to undertake clemency intervention, and not whether clemency intervention should be undertaken.

Minister Dion and High Commissioner Al Hussein also discussed approaches and strategies aimed at strengthening the international human rights system, a priority for the Prime Minister and a central pillar of the mandate across Global Affairs Canada. They exchanged views on how Canada can work with the United Nations and with other countries to encourage respect for human rights, diversity, inclusive and accountable governance and peaceful pluralism.

Minister Dion will also travel to Geneva, Switzerland, on February 29, 2016, to address the High-Level Segment of the 31st Session of the Human Rights Council.

Quotes

“Canada is fully committed to supporting the United Nations human rights system and harnessing its great potential. Simply put, we cannot have the peace, stability and prosperity we seek if human rights are not respected. There is still much to be improved in the field of human rights—at home and abroad—and Canada will be there in a meaningful way to promote positive change.

“If the Government of Canada does not ask for clemency for every Canadian facing the death penalty, how can we be credible when we ask for clemency in selective cases or countries? We must end this incoherent double standard. Canada opposes the death penalty and will ask for clemency in each and every case, no exceptions.”

- Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Quick facts

  • In 1993, at the World Conference on Human Rights, in Vienna, Austria, the nations of the world came together to affirm the equal importance of all human rights, declaring them to be universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated, and to find more effective ways of working together to put the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into practice.
  • As the principal United Nations office mandated to promote and protect human rights for all, the OHCHR speaks out objectively in the face of human rights violations worldwide. It provides assistance to governments and civil society organizations to help implement international human rights standards on the ground and helps individuals to realize their rights.
  • The United Nations Human Rights Council is the most important global platform for debate and discussion—and plays an important role in promoting cooperation—to ensure respect for human rights. Its objective is to help UN member states meet their human rights obligations through dialogue, capacity building and technical assistance.
  • Canada works to promote and protect human rights at the United Nations, the International Organisation of La Francophonie, the Organization of American States and in the Commonwealth, among other organizations.
  • More recently, Canadians facing the death penalty abroad were required to formally apply for and receive Governor in Council approval before the Government of Canada could undertake any form of clemency intervention. Clemency intervention is defined as any diplomatic effort, at any stage of the process after an individual is detained, aimed at avoiding imposition of the death penalty or the sentence being carried out.

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