We write to express our support for, and solidarity with, those working on Burnaby Mountain to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Quakers are good citizens who seek lawful ways to promote changes within society and to make known our concerns. However, as a last resort, those Friends who are led to do so may choose nonviolent civil disobedience after much discernment.
Canadian Friends Service Committee has considered the issues at stake and found unity with the actions taken by Indigenous peoples (including our partners, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs), Friends, and other concerned citizens. We thank them for their commitment to nonviolent witness for the health of our beautiful and increasingly fragile home, the earth. We thank them for their concern for future generations.
We write as a national body engaging in Friends’ peace and justice work in Canada, because we know that this is not a set of problems which only affect the residents of BC. The best evidence suggests that this pipeline’s expansion, by tripling the volume of diluted bitumen shipped from Alberta’s tar sands through the existing Trans Mountain pipeline route, would have detrimental impacts on the climate and health of our entire planet.
Decisions made today will affect all of us in the future. That climate change impacts were not considered by Canada’s National Energy Board in its approval of this project is unacceptable. It is in the public interest that the Federal Government effectively address climate change. An equally critical reason why this project should not go ahead at this time is that Kinder Morgan and the Government of Canada have failed to obtain the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the Indigenous peoples whose unceded territories would be impacted.
Friends from several countries joined together in June to express our sense of the urgent need for action on climate change . We know that Canada can and must immediately invest in creating more sustainable communities by using cleaner and more renewable energy. We have the creative potential to change directions. We must move away from practices which appear poised to harm the long-term wellbeing of so many for limited short-term gain. NASA scientist James Hansen has warned that releasing the carbon contained in Alberta’s tar sands alone is likely to mean “game over” for efforts to maintain a stable climate within just a few decades . Given the extraordinarily severe challenges facing us, we find the nonviolent direct actions of Friends in keeping with Quaker faith and witness on climate change and human rights. These acts are motivated by a sincere concern, in line with our Testimonies of Peace, Simplicity, Community, Equality, Integrity, and Unity with Creation.
in Friendship and with gratitude for the efforts toward a better future,
Clerk, Canadian Friends Service Committee
 The Guardian, “Tar sands exploitation would mean game over for climate, warns leading scientist”, May 19, 2013
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A2
Dear Prime Minister,
We are a range of organizations across Canada from many different backgrounds, including faith groups, human rights organizations, legal groups, women’s equality organizations, ethno-cultural groups, trade unions and many more. We are writing this Open Letter to you today – International Human Rights Day as well as the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention against Torture and other forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – to urge that Canada take a long overdue step in addressing the continuing grim and harrowing crisis of torture around the world.
In December 2002, the United Nations adopted an important treaty focused on preventing torture, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. Twelve years later, Canada has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol, despite having made promises to the UN Human Rights Council in 2006 and 2009 to consider doing so. We are calling on you to commit to take that step without any further delay. It is time for Canada to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
We are writing to you directly Prime Minister Harper because this involves a number of different government departments, including Foreign Affairs, Public Safety, Heritage and Justice. As such, your leadership is required. We are also writing to you directly because progress towards Canadian ratification has been stalled for a number of years. Again your leadership is required.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture establishes national and international systems for inspecting detention centres, all with an eye to identifying and exposing the conditions that permit and encourage torture to take place. It seeks to pierce the shroud of secrecy that allows torture to continue at such alarming rates around the world. Amnesty International has documented torture in 141 countries in the last five years.
Seventy-six countries have ratified and thus legally bound themselves to the Optional Protocol since it was adopted by the UN in December 2002. Another 19 have taken the symbolic but important first step of signing the Optional Protocol, for a total of 95 states. The list includes many of Canada’s closest allies. Six states have ratified in 2014, including two just last month.
Once Canada becomes a party to the Optional Protocol we will be able to credibly and forcefully press other countries to follow suit – countries where torture is rampant and where there are inadequate or nonexistent laws and institutions for preventing torture and monitoring detention facilities. The international community urgently needs Canada to be party to the Optional Protocol to assist in the vital effort of more universally realizing its great promise of torture prevention. Canada cannot play that role from the sidelines.
Ratification of the Optional Protocol will also strengthen oversight of detention centres in Canada in a manner that brings consistency across the country, ensuring greater coherence between detention centres that are operated by the federal government and those that are operated by provincial and territorial governments. It will also bring scrutiny to detention centres that are currently not subject to independent oversight, such as immigration detention centres operated by the Canadian Border Services Agency. Torture and ill-treatment are not rampant in Canadian detention centres and there are some complaint processes already in place. Nevertheless, the improved oversight provided through the Optional Protocol will further strengthen efforts to guard against abuses that do occur.
We are writing to you with this urgent plea today, in particular because International Human Rights Day is a day that marks important advances in the development of international human rights laws. It was on this dayin 1948 that the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, launching the international human rights system. Also on this day thirty years ago on 10 December 1984, the UN adopted the ground-breaking UN Convention against Torture and other forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Canada was a strong champion of and played a key role in the adoption of the Convention against Torture.
Three decades later 156 countries have ratified the Convention and bound themselves to its comprehensive framework governing the absolute and unequivocal prohibition against torture. Another ten states have taken the first step of signing the Convention. But despite having support from 166 governments, torture continues to be widespread around the world. That is why it is of such urgent importance for the Convention’s Optional Protocol, with its focus on torture prevention, to gain wider international support. We are looking to Canada to play a lead role in that effort.
Canada needs to ratify the Optional Protocol for the fundamentally important reason that preventing torture anywhere and everywhere, globally, is of concern to Canadians. As the multicultural diversity of Canada continues to grow it is a particularly serious preoccupation for the increasing number of Canadians who worry about the safety of family and friends who live in other countries where the risk of torture and ill-treatment is very high.
Canada needs to ratify the Optional Protocol as well because in an increasingly inter-connected world, more and more Canadians have experienced or have been at serious risk of being tortured in a growing list of countries – countries without the oversight and monitoring that would help prevent torture in the first place. That list includes China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Syria, none of which have yet signed or ratified the Optional Protocol. Canadian ratification would strengthen our ability to press those countries to ratify and open their detention centres to increased scrutiny. That would help to prevent torture and to keep Canadians safe.
Prime Minister, when your government stood for election to the UN Human Rights Council in 2006 you pledged to consider ratifying the Optional Protocol if elected. Canada was elected and served a three year term but did not ratify.When Canada’s human rights record was reviewed for the first time under the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process in 2009 your government again promised to consider ratifying the Optional Protocol, in response from recommendations to do so from many other governments. Again that did not happen.
We were disappointed, therefore, that when Canada was reviewed for the second time under the Universal Periodic Review, in 2013, the government simply stated that there are no plans to ratify at this time, despite the fact that this was one of the most frequently repeated recommendations directed at Canada, often from close allies.
Prime Minister, your officials have done the work to lay the ground for Canada to ratify. They have identified changes that might be needed to Canadian law, policy or practice. None are daunting; all are feasible. It is time to engage provincial and territorial governments in a discussion and bring them on board so that ratification can go ahead expeditiously. It is about leadership. It is about political will. And as the world marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention against Torture against a tragic and disappointing backdrop of a continuing worldwide torture crisis; it is about stepping up and getting it done.
We look forward to news that Canada has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture before the 31st anniversary of the Convention comes around on 10 December 2015. We urge you to commit to that goal.
Amnesty International Canada (English branch)
Amnistie internationale Canada francophone
Regional Chief Cameron Alexis and
Regional Chief Morley Googoo
Assembly of First Nations
Avocats sans frontières Canada
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
Canada Tibet Committee
Canada without Poverty
Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS)
Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers
Canadian Association of University Teachers
Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture
Executive Director and General Counsel
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Canadian Council for International Cooperation
Canadian Council for Refugees
Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
Canadian Labour Congress
Canadian Lawyers Abroad
Canadian Peace Alliance
Canadian Tamil Congress
Citizens for Public Justice
Committee to Aid Refugees
Council of Canadians
Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group
Group of 78
Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War
Human Rights Watch Canada
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Law Union of Ontario
The McLeod Group
National Council of Canadian Muslims
National Union of Public and General Employees
Native Women’s Association of Canada
Pivot Legal Society
Rideau Institute on International Affairs.
Sr. Veronica O’Reilly csj
Congregation of the Sisters of
St. Joseph in Canada
Students for a Free Tibet Canada
President & CEO
United Nations Association in Canada
Acting Executive Minister
Church in Mission Unit
The United Church of Canada
Fannie Lafontaine et Julia Grignon
Co-directrices, Clinique de droit international pénal et humanitaire
Professor John Packer
Director, Human Rights Research and
University of Ottawa
Renu J. Mandhane
Director, International Human Rights Program
University of TorontoFaculty of Law
Uyghur Canadian Society
West Coast LEAF
Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)
Hon. Warren Allmand
World Federalist Movement – Canada
Download in PDF. More Public Statements
Simple. Easily accessible. These are not things you might associate with synthetic biology (SB), a complicated and rapidly exploding industry combining biology, engineering and computer science in a way some call “genetic engineering on steroids”. But, responding to a request from Friends at Canadian Yearly Meeting in August, CFSC has produced a short update on SB headlines from 2014. It is both easy to understand and full of information well worth being aware of!
SB has massive ethical, ecological, spiritual and economic implications and you shouldn’t need a PhD in biology to have a voice on these issues. We hope you will read and share this brief update and consider discussing it with a study group. If you have questions or comments about synthetic biology we’d be happy to hear from you.
Download the 2014 update on synthetic biology.
Find out more about synthetic biology.
Canadian Friends Service Committee is among the 160 organizations which have come together to remind the Government of Canada of the critical importance of social assistance to many refugee claimants, and the damaging effects which sections 172 and 173 of the omnibus Budget Bill C-43 are likely to have. Our joint open letter is below. A petition has also been started which you may wish to sign.
The Honourable Joe Oliver, MP, PC
Minister of Finance
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Open Letter: Budget Bill Restricts Access to Social Assistance for Refugee Claimants
As organizations that have an interest in ensuring that everyone in Canada has equal access to income security, we are alarmed by the inclusion of sections 172 and 173 in your recently introduced omnibus Budget Bill C-43. These sections amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and are essentially Private Members Bill C-585, which was introduced earlier this year.
Many of our organizations are health and social service agencies and legal and community advocates that work directly with refugee claimants and others with precarious immigration status. The change that would be made to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act as a result of these provisions would allow provinces to restrict access to social assistance for refugee claimants and others who have not yet been granted permanent residence.
To receive social assistance in any province, one must already qualify through testing and demonstrate great need. To then deny social assistance based on immigration status is to cruelly deny the most vulnerable in our society the crucial lifeline that allows them to survive.
A Federal Court recently described your government’s denial of healthcare to refugee claimants as “cruel and unusual”. It is disturbing to see another initiative in Parliament that seems to be using legislation to threaten the well-being of migrants attempting to navigate Canada’s immigration system.
Fleeing persecution places tremendous stress and burden on families seeking refugee status in Canada. Some of these families suffer from post traumatic stress disorder that can make finding and holding a job difficult without appropriate health care. Work permits take time to be approved and issued, which leaves people with no source of income for months on end. In the interim, access to social assistance is vital to sustain and rebuild lives. Without that source of support, many will be unable to feed, house, or clothe themselves and their families, putting further pressure on already overburdened charities and shelters. We know that poverty leads to poor health outcomes including higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and depression. We also know that denying basic social benefits, particularly to refugees, contravenes the spirit and letter of numerous international human rights obligations that are binding on Canada, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. It is unacceptable for our government to implement policies that worsen people’s health and deny their fundamental human rights.
We are also concerned that such a significant legislative change is being included in an omnibus Budget Bill, after being introduced as a Private Members Bill. These are inappropriate processes to deal with such a critical issue as access to basic social benefits. This is particularly the case since these provisions will have far reaching negative consequences for the health, income security, stability, and successful settlement of very vulnerable people who have come to Canada seeking shelter from war and persecution.
Our organizations call on you to withdraw sections 172 and 173 from Bill C-43. We will be making this Open Letter public and will continue to raise this issue with you, your MP colleagues, and the general public.
Access Alliance Community Health Centre
Access Empowerment Council
Action Plus Brome Missisquoi
Action Réfugiés Montréal
Amnesty International Canada (English speaking)
Anglican Diocese of Niagara
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Arts and Science Students’ Union
Association of Ontario Health Centres, Adrianna Tetley, Chief Executive Officer
Association of Ontario Midwives
Association pour la défense des droits sociaux Québec métropolitain (ADDS QM)
Bathurst Street United Church, Toronto
BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Bridges Community Health Centre
Campaign 2000: end child and family poverty in Canada
Campaign for Adequate Welfare and Disability Benefits
Canadian Alliance of Community Health Centre Associations
Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law
Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers
Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW)
Canadian Council for Refugees, Loly Rico, President
Canadian Council for Social Development (CCSD)
Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care
Canadian Federation of University Women
Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
Canadian Health Coalition
Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH)
Canadian Romani Alliance
Carrefour d’aide aux nouveaux arrivants (CANA)
Central Toronto Community Health Centres
Centre d’Action socio-communautaire de Montréal (CASCM)
Centre de recherche d’emploi de l’est
Centre des femmes d’ici et d’ailleurs
Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples
Centre francophone de Toronto
Centre justice et foi
Champlain Community Health Centre Executive Directors’ Network, Jack McCarthy, Chair, ED of Somerset West CHC
Church of the Holy Trinity, Trinity Square, Toronto
Citizens for Public Justice
Coalition des organismes communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida (COCQ-SIDA)
Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres of Ottawa
Colour of Poverty / Colour of Change Network
Comité d’aide aux réfugiés
Comité des Personnes Assisteés Sociales de Pointe-Saint-Charles Montréal
Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment
Community Advocacy & Legal Centre
Community Legal Assistance Sarnia
Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec (COPHAN), Richard Lavigne, directeur général
Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA)
Council of Canadians
Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter
FCJ Refugee Centre
Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes
Femmes du monde à Côte-des-Neiges
Flemingdon Community Legal Services
Front commun des personnes assistées sociales du Québec
Groupe-Ressource du Plateau Mont-Royal
Hamilton Community Legal Clinic
Health For All
Health Providers Against Poverty
HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO)
Immigrant and Refugee Support Centre
Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)
Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario (IAVGO)
Injured Workers Action for Justice
Injured Workers’ Consultants (IWC)
Inner City Health Associates
In-School & Library Settlement Services
Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group
Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC)
Interprofessional Medical and Allied Groups for Improving Neighbourhood Environment (IMAGINE Clinic)
Jesuit Refugee and Migrant Service
Jewish – Refugee Action Network (JRAN)
John Howard Society of Toronto
Kensington Bellwoods Community Legal Services
Kinbrace Community Society
Kingston Community Legal Clinic
Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic
La Clé sur la Porte
Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network
Le Centre Afrika
le Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU)
Le Regroupement des assistées sociales et assistés sociaux du Témiscouata (Rasst)
Legal Assistance of Windsor
Ligue des droits et libertés
L’R des centres de femmes du Québec, Carolle Mathieu, présidente
Matthew House, Toronto
Mennonite Central Committee Canada
Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support
Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto
Mississauga Community Legal Clinic
Multicultural Women and Seniors Services Association (MWSSA)
National Council of Women of Canada
Neighbourhood Legal Services – London
ODSP Action Coalition
Ontario Coalition of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), James Ryan, President
Ottawa Sanctuary City Network
Parkdale Community Legal Services
Pathway to Potential, Adam Vasey, Director
Presbyterian Church in Canada, Life and Mission Agency, The Rev. Dr. Richard W. Fee, General Secretary
Project Genesis, Michael Chervin, Executive Director
Provincial Council of Women of Ontario
Public Health Students’ Association, Dalla Lana School of Public Health
Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario
Refugee Support Group of Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church
Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO)
Regroupement des assistées sociales et assistés sociaux du Témiscouata
Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec
Regroupement des cuisines collectives du Québec (RCCQ)
Réseau d’intervention auprès des personnes ayant subi la violence organisée (RIVO)
Romero House, Joseph Schmidt, President of the Board of Directors
Scarborough Community Legal Services (SCLS)
SDG Legal Clinic
Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Office, Kingston, Ontario
Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada, Office for Systemic Justice, Sue Wilson, Director
Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara (SARNN)
Social Planning Council of Kitchener-Waterloo
Social Planning Council of Sudbury, Janet Gasparini
Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Edmonton Central Council
South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
South Ottawa Community Legal Services
South Riverdale Community Health Centre
Student Christian Movement
Students Against Bill C-585
Students for Medicare
Sudbury Community Legal Clinic
Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec, Lucie Martineau, présidente générale
Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI)
Toronto Christian Resource Centre
Toronto Public Health
United Church of Canada, Church in Mission Unit, Michael Blair, Executive Minister
United Church of Canada, Justice and Global Justice Team, Toronto Southeast Presbytery
University of Toronto Medical Society
University of Toronto Medical Students for Refugee Care
University of Toronto Students’ Union
Voices from the Street
Welcome Home Refugee Housing Community, Sharon Schmidt, Director
West End Legal Services of Ottawa
West Neighbourhood House
West Scarborough Community Legal Services
Woman Abuse Council of Toronto
Women Speak Out
Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre
Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)
Working for Change