Education in the NunavikEducation in the NunavikEducation in the Nunavik
The Nunavik is a region located at the north of the Quebec region in Canada. With an area of 507,000 km2, it is home primarily to Aboriginal population, especially the Inuit. With struggles for land rights still occurring in this area, problems of large inequalities in health care and, in particular, education, persist. Inequity in education in the Nunavik is an important issue impacting many young lives and future livelihoods.

Country Overview

According to the OECD, Canada is the most educated country in the world with 56.2 percent of adults completing two-year, four-year or vocational program. In 2010, Canada had a graduation rate of 78.3 percent, making many think that almost everyone can get a diploma. While this national graduation rate may be high, the graduation rate for the Aboriginal youth population in 2011 was only about 24 percent. In comparison, the graduation rate for non-Aboriginal youths in the country was almost 87 percent. There is a huge disparity it the educational attainment in indigenous population, in this case, the Inuit, and in non-indigenous population.

Problems at Different Levels

The question, of course, is why this difference exists? Many failures can be linked to the ineffectiveness of policy initiatives created by officials at the local (Nunavik), regional (Quebec) and national (Canada) level. One example of the inefficiencies happened in 2015 when former Nunavik students learned that their high school diplomas were not in fact real diplomas, but certificates that indicate the “attestation of equivalence of secondary studies.”

While the school board apologized, nothing could be done for the students who worked hard with the resources that they had for their achievements. While this is a problem that came about at a local level, the provincial and national governments did not aide the local government either. The school board that oversees Nunavik education has also placed responsibility on the provincial Minister of Education for not providing more funds and help to the schools.

Alleviating the Problem of Education in the Nunavik

Improving education in the Nunavik is a key component to alleviating poverty and improving livelihoods of the citizens of the region. The first step to solving this education crisis is by recognizing the problem, and this is being done both by the Canadian government and by various nongovernmental organizations. The 2018 Canadian budget dedicated almost $12 billion for investment in indigenous populations through various education endeavors, housing programs and health initiatives.

One nongovernmental organization that is doing incredible work for the Inuit population in Canada is Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. This a national organization that has a goal to represent all Inuit women in Canada, giving them a voice and better access to educational opportunities. This group works with policymakers, other organizations and community leaders to develop ideas and solutions that are most beneficial to the Inuit population.

Another incredibly important nongovernmental organization is Indspire, a cross-national Indigenous-led charity that invests in Indigenous education all across Canada. Indspire has a virtual learning center called the K-12 Institute that helps policymakers, educators and community members best educate the Indigenous population. It also has awarded over $14 million for 2018 school year through about 4,900 scholarships to Indigenous students to advance their studies. This is an incredible organization because it is run by people who understand the struggles of educational attainment in Indigenous communities.

Disparities between indigenous and non-indigenous population have a long history in Canada, but these disparities will decrease with the work of nongovernmental organization such as Indspire and Paktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, along with the country’s government actions. By educating as many people as possible about the inequality, individuals and the government can continue to work hard to close the gap of education in the Nunavik and in whole Canada as well.

– Isabella Niemeyer
Photo: Flickr

Maternal Health Program for Low-Income Families
Since 2001, the province of Manitoba, Canada, has provided 63,000 pregnant and low-income women with cash supplements to help them take care of themselves and their families. The program is called the Healthy Baby Prenatal Benefit.

The supplements are “financial cushions” meant to provide women with the money they need to get health care, healthy food and nutritional supplements. Researchers who have worked with the program say that it has provided a blueprint for other provinces in Canada to follow. If this maternal health program for low-income families works well on a cross-country scale, it could possibly be further developed to help other countries as well.

Maternal Health Program

The money is not the most important part of this project, though. Because the cash supplement was only around $62 per month, the mothers cannot afford many things with it. However, the financial cushion encouraged women to seek healthier food, better transportation options and other things they might not splurge on.

Also, this was a gateway for ensuring that women get into prenatal care as soon as possible. Along with the stipend comes a community. There are approximately 70 prenatal and postnatal support groups across Manitoba that educate women about their future children, what they need to know during pregnancy, and other tips and tricks they may not have received otherwise. All in all, it has been a successful maternal health program for low-income families.

Impact of the Program

Women who have participated in the Healthy Baby Prenatal Benefit program said they felt like confident mothers after going to support groups and using their supplements to better their lives. The program drew inspiration from France, the country that is touted as one of the best countries in the world to raise children. Programs like the Healthy Baby Prenatal Benefit are inspiring others around the world as well.

Cambodia has set up a UNICEF funded pilot project that gives stipends to women if they follow up on their prenatal checks. It was relatively successful, which gives hope to the government and other nongovernmental organizations that funding projects like this are important in the long term. Taking care of the mother’s body while pregnant not only helps the future child but also helps the mother. It decreases the death rate among pregnant women, which can drastically change a child’s future.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 830 women die every day from preventable issues related to pregnancy and childbirth and 99 percent of those women come from developing countries. Women in rural areas are affected the most because they do not have access to adequate health care. The most interesting thing that can be concluded from these facts is that skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies. This directly relates to the cash programs in countries like Canada, France and Cambodia.

Other Countries That Need Similar Programs

There are a lot of countries that could benefit from the programs such as the Healthy Baby Prenatal Benefit program and that can develop their own maternal health programs. In this article, three of such countries are listed.

Sierra Leone is the first country on the list that could improve maternal health care. There are around 1,360 deaths per every 100,000 live births in the country, which makes the situation urgent. The second on the list is Chad, a country that has approximately 856 deaths per every 100,00 live births. Children make up for 57 percent of Chad’s population and this dangerous trend could potentially leave many of them without mothers. In Nigeria, there are approximately 814 deaths per every 100,000 live births. Nigeria has looked into cash supplement programs before, but creating one specifically for pregnant women would create a great and much-needed change.

Developing countries can and should follow Canada’s example and success with a maternal health program dedicated specifically to low-income families. There is a successful blueprint in the world and it just needs to be adapted to each country that needs it.

– Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in CanadaCanada has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world, but these numbers may be deceiving when the population is broken down further in the detail. The following 10 facts about life expectancy in Canada described in this article will show that despite the high life expectancy rate, there is a stark disparity between the indigenous population and non-indigenous population in the country.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Canada

  1. The average life expectancy in Canada was 82.30 years old in 2016. This can be broken down further to male and female genders, with the females life expectancy at 84 years on average and male population life expectancy approximately at 80 years. There is a large discrepancy here, however, between the indigenous and non-indigenous population in the country. According to federal documents, the people that belong to indigenous population live approximately 15 years less than people from the non-indigenous population.
  2. First Nations adults or non-indigenous Canadians are twice as likely to die from preventable health causes than non-aboriginal adults. These preventable causes are ones like pneumonia, breast cancer and tuberculosis. Many of these deaths could be prevented if these people had better access to health care.
  3. People of the indigenous population in Canada are more likely to experience inequalities in health care than people of the non-indigenous population. For example, they are more likely to wait for treatment in emergency rooms or visit several different hospital emergency rooms to get treatment for illnesses. This poor care may be the result of intrinsic discrimination in the health care system.
  4. Mental health problems are also more likely to be the problem of the indigenous population. In Aboriginal communities, the suicide rate is five to six times higher than the national average. Inuit youth population also has a suicide rate that is 11 times higher than the Canadian average, and it is one of the highest suicide rates globally. Mental health is a critical determinant of a healthy person, and due to lack of access to proper health care, the indigenous population may be more at risk for the continuation of these illnesses.
  5. One way that Canadian government and official institutions are targeting this inequality is by recruiting more indigenous doctors to the medical field to improve cultural sensitivity and to draw attention to issues that indigenous population faces. There is also an initiative between the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada and the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada. This initiative aims to devote part of the undergraduate medical study to indigenous health care and problems in the health care industry. While this is a slow process, it represents work being done to ensure better health care and life outcomes.
  6. High life expectancy in Canada is correlated, in part, with education. According to the OECD, Canada’s population is the most educated in the world with 56.27 percent of adults that have completed a two-year, four-year or vocational program. The discrepancies between indigenous and non-indigenous population life expectancy mentioned above may also be due to the differences in education. For example, the Inuit population in the Kativik region of Quebec has a graduation rate of 25.9 percent while the total graduation rate of the Quebec region is 79 percent.
  7. Differences in education are also reflected in job acquisition and earning potential. Due to lower levels of education, people of the indigenous population are less likely to be employed in professional, managerial and technical jobs that typically provide opportunities to earn more money. Indigenous peoples are more likely to be found employed in jobs with less earning potential that do not require a post-secondary degree. These jobs include trades, service industry, or agricultural jobs. Differences in work and earnings may lead to lower income and less access to much-needed services that can ensure survival and prolong life.
  8. In 2012, according to the First Nations Information Governance Centre, the unemployment of the indigenous population was 13.9 percent, 5.8 percent higher than the non-indigenous population unemployment rate of 8.1 percent. Unemployment can negatively affect many aspects of life, including both mental and physical health, as well as increasing poverty levels. This can certainly explain lower life expectancy rates.
  9. Poverty also influences indigenous population more than non-indigenous population. Over 80 percent, or 297 out of 367 Aboriginal reserves, had a median income lower than the national poverty line that Statistics Canada considers to be $22,133. Poverty is directly linked to chronic stress that can drastically influence health outcomes and thus lower life expectancy.
  10. One nongovernmental organization fighting these harmful effects described above is the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). The NWAC’s goal is to promote and improve the well-being of indigenous populations through policy initiatives, advocacy and projects. Some of the projects are Project PEACE, that aims to advocate for community safety nets and financial literacy programs for women and ASETS (Aboriginal Skills and Employment Strategy), a program that helps women find jobs and gain educational skills.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Canada show that despite the fact that the country is considered to be one of the most developed in the world, there is still the unequal treatment of indigenous population and more should be done to resolve this question.

While these facts may look bleak, there are organizations that are working to improve indigenous livelihoods and reduce unjust inequalities.

– Isabella Niemeyer
Photo: Pixabay

Canadian Foreign Aid
People in the U.S. generally know little about their northern neighbor, Canada. Its parliamentary system, federal system and until recently, its leader remained unknown. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has changed that. The charismatic gentleman held the spotlight, at least for a time, in the press. However, many of his international supporters may find a surprise waiting for them across the border. According to the BBC, Canadian foreign aid spending is ranked last among its peers.

According to the CBC, a year after Prime Minister Trudeau took office in 2015, Canadian foreign aid shrank by 4.4 percent. Now, this could be attributed to the prior government. It is difficult to rearrange an entire government’s budget overnight; it is difficult to do it even in a year. For comparison, the 29 other members of the Development Assistance Committee, a part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, agreed to a minimum of 0.7 percent of a nation’s gross national income. Canada allocated 0.28 percent, or $3.9 billion. Unfortunately, in 2016, only six countries in OECD met their goal.

There is some hope for an increase in Canadian foreign aid in the future. According to Canadian Financial Minister Bill Morneau, Canada will add $2 billion to its foreign aid budget in 2018. This comes at a time when the prime minister has decided to adopt a feminist international assistance policy. Within the same five years that Canada will increase its foreign aid budget, it will also change and narrow its target. The prime minister set a goal that 95 percent of Canadian foreign aid will be aimed at gender equality. The money will be used to fund educational programs and charities in particular. This increase in funding is the largest in 16 years and has earned praise from charities throughout Canada and from U2 frontman and philanthropist Bono.

Private Sector Partnerships a Part of Canadian Foreign Aid

Nations around the world, especially the U.S. and the U.K., use private sector partnerships to boost economic development in certain areas. These are areas where the private sector partner can also turn a profit. These partnerships are controversial because of the unpredictable social, economic and environmental impacts they have on the local area and population. However, they have also had positive results in many communities.

In Burkina Faso, for example, the material wealth of the people working in the mines improved after Canadian company Iamgold partnered with the Canadian government to open the largest mine in West Africa. Housing was built, utilities improved and schools and medical centers were constructed. Due to Canada’s mining expertise (the country is home to more than 60 percent of the world’s mining companies), the government has decided to focus on mines. Prime Minister Trudeau intends to include these private sector partnerships in his new plan.

It seems that Canada’s new prime minister means well and wants to expand Canada’s positive global impact. It can take many years for a nation to adjust the course of its spending, and Canadian foreign aid is slowly heading in a positive direction. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used “Canada is back” as a slogan during his campaign in 2015. In 2018, Canada will begin its increase in foreign aid and its new feminist program. It will also host the G7 summit in June. This year is the year that Justin Trudeau can prove Canada is back.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

Tackling Poverty Together: Canada’s Poverty Reduction StrategyThe government of Canada is showing its commitment to fighting poverty by developing and implementing Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. Canada’s focus on a modern approach to the problem of poverty should be an example to many other countries.

Overview of Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy

Approximately five million Canadians currently live in poverty, and poverty costs Canada between $72 and $84 billion each year. Canada has an opportunity to improve the quality of life of its citizens and also stimulate its economy through the Poverty Reduction Strategy. Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy included three initial steps:

  1. Consulting with Canadians in every area of the country on the issue of poverty
  2. Creating a Ministerial Advisory Committee on Poverty that includes a combination of experts as well as people who have experienced poverty themselves.
  3. Conducting the Tackling Poverty Together project— a research project that will look at six different communities across Canada.

Consulting Canadians on Poverty

The first step in Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy was to consult people from all areas of the country and all walks of life. This phase included a combination of meetings with local governments as well as online forums and town halls so that all Canadian citizens were given an opportunity to be heard. The use of online tools to engage more people in the conversation is a great example of leveraging modern technology to help find solutions for complex problems like poverty.

Establishing an Advisory Committee

Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy includes an advisory board of 17 leaders from academia, business and beyond. The advisory group also includes members that have experienced poverty themselves. This is an important reminder that any decision-making body should include those who have lived experience with the topic being considered. The advisory board will discuss issues pertaining to poverty and give advice to the Canadian government.

Conducting Research

The Canadian government has also conducted a case-study in six different communities across Canada to look at what can be done to lift people out of poverty. The final report made key conclusions about what Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy needs to focus on moving forward. Many other countries can learn from Canada’s findings. The conclusions were as follows:

  1. There is a strong and ongoing need for federal government support to help Canadians get out of poverty.
  2. The Canada Child Benefit and Guaranteed Income Supplement are making a big difference.
  3. The federal government offers other important programs that could be helping, but very few people are aware of them.
  4. Many people cannot access the support they need because of how some programs are designed and delivered.
  5. Canadians were unanimous that there is a need for more support in different areas, and by different levels of government, to help people overcome poverty.

An Innovative Way Forward In the Fight Against Poverty

Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy should be an example to the world on how to create a cohesive, modern and organized strategy for fighting poverty. However, poverty is a complex issue and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Powerful governments like that of the United States and organizations like the United Nations have the opportunity to aid the reduction of global poverty. One way they can do this is by making sure developing countries have the resources they need to implement their own poverty reduction strategies.

– Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in CanadaProviding healthy, safe drinking water to citizens is very important to the Canadian government. The Canadian government developed an organization called the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee, who was instructed to develop the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. These guidelines establish limits on substances that are allowed in drinking water and to what degree they are allowed, maintaining a high water quality in Canada.

The most important guideline is the Microbiological Quality guideline. The microbiological organisms that affect water quality include viruses, protozoa and bacteria. This guideline is the most important since these organisms can cause harm to those that drink it, both in the short and long-term.

Canada has had an increasing problem with algal blooms. Algal blooms are toxic, and these blooms are becoming more frequent and growing in spatial intensity.

The next set of guidelines to maintain the water quality in Canada is the Chemical and Radiological Quality guideline. The chemicals and other materials that provide the greatest risk in this category are fertilizers, silt, agricultural run-off and other minerals. These guidelines regulate the trace amounts in drinking water, as levels higher than those outlined in the guideline can cause health issues over a period of years.

The last category of guidelines is the Aesthetic Quality. These guidelines address things that consumers are most quick to notice; taste, odor and color. Most problems with these qualities come from water treatment plants or the distribution systems to the consumer’s house, such as piping.

In order to effectively regulate these guidelines, Canada has established 173 monitoring stations. The City of Ottawa itself performs over 125,000 water quality tests a year, checking for over 300 chemical contaminants.

These guidelines have proven to be very effective as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) gave a grade of “A” to the water quality in Canada.

When compared to 16 other peer countries, as considered by the OECD, Canada ranked 4th behind Sweden, Austria and Norway. In comparison, the United States was ranked 13th with a grade of “C”.

Scott Kesselring

Photo: Flickr

Education in CanadaEducation in Canada ranks among the highest in the world according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This is despite the fact that performance in math, reading and science has gone down in recent years.

Although performance in these three subjects has gone down, the impact of socioeconomic status is lower than the OECD average and students from immigrant backgrounds score similarly to their peers. Every Canadian province and territory provides pre-primary education for children who are five years old. Education in Canada is mandatory until the age of 16 or 18, depending on the province or territory, and grade repetition is lower than the average among OECD nations.

Education in Canada is decentralized. There are one or two departments in each of Canada’s 13 districts that are charged with organization, delivery and evaluation of the education system. Education is primarily provided by institutions that are supported through public funds from each of the jurisdictions. Canada’s federal government provides a portion of the funding needed for post-secondary education. In addition to that, it also provides programs which support the development of skills.

Canada also ranks above the OECD average in high school graduation rate, and it ranks the highest among OECD nations in tertiary education. Despite this, the Huffington Post reported that there are still some problems when it comes to education in Canada. “Pumping out post-secondary students doesn’t say much about the health of a country’s education system,” Mehrnaz Bassiri wrote.

The good news it, post-secondary education in Canada is more widely available because the cost is not as high as it is in places like the United States and United Kingdom. However, Canada’s low population density accompanied by the sufficient presence of universities allows for a greater percentage of Canadians to obtain a degree from a university, which has thus brought down the value of a degree.

While the benefits of a highly educated workforce have had detrimental effects on the value of college degrees, education in Canada is ranked among the highest of OECD nations, and should be applauded for its continued efforts toward inclusion and accessibility.

Fernando Vazquez

Photo: Flickr

Overfishing in Saint Pierre and MiquelonThe French islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon are located off the coast of Newfoundland and have a population of about 5,533, according to July 2017 data. It is estimated that about 90 percent of inhabitants live on St. Pierre, while a smaller population lives on Miquelon. The islands focus largely on the fishing industry and have for over a century, but overfishing in Saint Pierre and Miquelon has led to Canada imposing a long-term closure of the industry, causing a negative ripple effect on the economy of the islands.

The overfishing in Saint Pierre and Miquelon started when the United States repealed Prohibition in 1933. The islands’ thriving economy decreased dramatically and forced the laborers to turn back to fishing. Since then, Saint Pierre and Miquelon has constantly been fishing, leading to the overfishing problem.

In addition to the issue of overfishing in Saint Pierre and Miquelon, there has been a decline in the number of ships using the Saint Pierre harbor. This could be due to the weather and natural environment of the islands. Surrounding the islands are “treacherous currents and fog [that] have contributed to hundreds of shipwrecks off Saint Pierre and Miquelon.”

The four-mile strip of water between Saint Pierre and Miquelon is called “The Mouth of Hell” by the local fisherman because of the strong currents that have contributed to about 600 shipwrecks near the islands. The residents of Saint Pierre and Miquelon have used this to their benefit, as they can add to their earnings from fishing somewhat by salvaging the wreckage.

Dealing with overfishing in Saint Pierre and Miquelon has not been easy for the residents of the islands, but there has been some progress with sustainability and trying to stabilize the island’s economy, as the residents have turned to other kinds of seafood fishing such as crab fishing. They have slowly developed other types of agricultural farming, including vegetables, poultry, cattle, sheep and pigs. The government of Saint Pierre and Miquelon is also working to grow its tourism industry. With the hope of more tourism on the islands, a more sustainable way of fishing and more farming, Saint Pierre and Miquelon’s prospects are looking brighter and more stable.

Jennifer Lightle

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in CanadaHuman rights in Canada became a major topic of discussion after an investigation found that cultural genocide had been committed against Native Canadians. The Canadian government has vowed to reconcile with aboriginal Canadians, who also have the support of several advocacy groups.

In June 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published a report that found the Canadian government guilty of cultural genocide following a detailed investigation into its former practice of sending Canadian aboriginal children to attend state-funded residential schools.

The report’s introduction explains that cultural genocide is “the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next.”

“In its dealing with Aboriginal people,” the report states, “Canada did all these things.”

Six years of research was conducted in order to compile the report, which reveals that between the 19th century and the 1970s, 150,000 children from aboriginal families were forced to attend over 130 Christian boarding schools with the purported intention of integrating them into Canadian society. Native languages, religions and cultures were suppressed and many First Nation children faced physical and sexual abuse. The report estimates that at least 4,000 aboriginal children died in the schools, many buried in unmarked graves.

Since the report was initially published, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expressed the Canadian government’s solidarity with aboriginal people and his commitment to improve human rights in Canada for all. To that end, this year Trudeau invited Pope Francis to visit Canada and issue a formal apology on behalf of the Catholic Church, which directed many of the schools.

In addition to the government’s pledged efforts, several nonprofit organizations are working to advocate for the reconciliation and inclusion of aboriginal peoples in Canada after being denied basic human rights, excluded from society and, as affirmed by the report, suffering cultural genocide. Here are three of organizations you can support in their mission to create a better tomorrow for Native Canadians and defend human rights in Canada for all of its citizens.

  1. Assembly of First Nations: “The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a national advocacy organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada, which includes more than 900,000 people living in 634 First Nation communities and in cities and towns across the country.”
  2. Canadian Human Rights Commission: A key site for annual reports, updates on related public policy and its outcomes, and related campaigns. Opportunities to support advocacy endeavors also disseminated.
  3. The Native Women’s Association of Canada: “founded on the collective goal to enhance, promote, and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of First Nations and Métis women within First Nation, Métis and Canadian societies.”

Savannah Bequeaith

Photo: Flickr

Concerns for Human Rights in CanadaWhile Canada has a relatively impressive human rights record, there are still a few concerns. The country has recently seen disproportionate mistreatment of indigenous populations, and its mining industry is also responsible for human rights violations. Finally, its policy on foreign aid deserves a second look. Here are some of issues with human rights in Canada nd what the nation (and the world) is doing to resolve these problems.

Indigenous Rights

One of the most prominent issues of human rights in Canada is the prevalence of violence against indigenous women and girls. Human Rights Watch found that while they make up only 4.3 percent of the female population, they account for 16 percent of all female homicides.

In 2015, the issue gained international attention after a declaration by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The declaration stated that Canada had violated the human rights of its indigenous population by failing to swiftly and thoroughly investigate the disproportionate violence they have experienced. Canada responded by launching a national public inquiry into the murders of indigenous women and girls throughout the state in August 2016.

The human rights of Canada’s indigenous communities are further affected by a persistent lack of clean water. In 2016, 92 First Nation communities had received a total of 132 drinking water advisories over the course of seven months. Contaminated water can have severe health consequences, ultimately causing gastrointestinal disorders and increasing the risk of cancer.

Issues in the Mining Industry

Issues of health and human rights are also present in Canada’s mining industry. Given the size of the industry, its impact on global human rights is enormous. In recent years, Human Rights Watch has uncovered pervasive patterns of poor working conditions and gang rape among Canadian employees in Papua New Guinea and the use of forced labor in mines in Eritrea. Many incidents go unreported and therefore cannot be remedied. The Canadian government has typically elected not to impose new oversight or regulations on the industry, and the Trudeau government has followed this pattern.

Foreign Policy Concerns

Also of concern are certain aspects of Canada’s foreign policy and how they impact the human rights of foreign citizens. Canadian law stipulates that the exporting of military technology to is only legal if “there is no reasonable risk” that the arms will be used against civilians and places limits on what can be sold to countries with poor human rights records. However, Canada has previously exported military vehicles and other goods to Saudi Arabia. These were used in 2011 and 2012 to violently suppress peaceful protests.

Solving these Problems

As in most of the world, there are issues with the protection of human rights in Canada as well as Canada’s protection of human rights around the world. Despite this, it is clear that the state has the structures necessary to address these issues. Laws regarding human rights in Canada stem from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, created by the international community after World War II.

The first two articles of the declaration, which concern equality and freedom from discrimination, are the foundation of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Passed in 1977, this act protects Canadians from identity-based discrimination and harassment. While the protections afforded through this legislation have not been explicitly integrated into the constitution, the Supreme Court has decided that Canadian laws must be interpreted in ways that are consistent with them.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is a federal agency that works to promote the principle of equal opportunity and prevent discrimination through educating the public on human rights cultures; conducting and publishing relevant research; managing citizen complaints and representing the public interest.

Many complaints brought before the commission are referred to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, a separate, independent entity which operates much like a court. The tribunal hears the cases and has the authority to order remedies or award damages.

With these mechanisms in place, Canada has the means necessary to respond to human rights crises within its borders. While further international pressure may be needed to pursue the state to pursue justice and reforms both at home and within its foreign policy. However, given the strong record of protection of human rights in Canada, it is likely that the state will continue to work to adhere to its policies and uphold international norms.

Alena Zafonte
Photo: Flickr