Apr 172020
 
Massive call to respect human rights while responding to COVID-19

We are one of 157 organizations and 144 individual experts who wrote to the government of Canada about our concern for human rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A call for human rights oversight of government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic

Regard for human rights is essential in times of crisis. Human rights principles provide a valuable framework for government action and establish crucial safeguards against abuses. Yet respect for human rights is particularly vulnerable – tenuous at best – in times of crisis. That holds true whether the crisis is related to national security, natural disasters or a public health emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic. It is, therefore, a vital time to ensure robust human rights oversight: to encourage strong human rights measures are adopted by governments, and to guard against intentional or unintended human rights violations.

Human rights obligations enshrined in international law, the Charter, treaties, legislation and other instruments make it clear what action governments must take to protect human rights – such as the rights to life, health, adequate housing and livelihoods – that are at risk due to the COVID-19 crisis. They establish clear requirements with respect to gender equality, non-discrimination and language rights, and highlight the necessity of deliberate action to protect fully the rights of marginalized individuals and communities. And they lay out the permissible limits on restricting other rights, to the extent that is necessary to address the crisis.

The fact that the human rights obligations are clear, however, is not an assurance they will be upheld. That is of particular concern with many of the key human rights obligations that are at stake in the COVID-19 pandemic, including with respect to health, housing, food, safe water and other basic needs. Governments across Canada have long asserted that those and other economic, social and cultural rights are not amenable to the same enforcement as other rights, leaving their protection to the more uncertain and arbitrary political realm. However, international human rights standards require that economic, social and cultural rights be equally subject to effective oversight and enforcement as other human rights. This is particularly important during the current crisis.

Too often, in times of crisis, human rights are dismissed by governments as being irrelevant and unnecessary at best, or unhelpful barriers to an effective response at worst. That is certainly so with the current COVID crisis. Governments face enormous challenges and need to make decisions rapidly. The public health risk is dramatic and the economic fall-out is spiralling exponentially. Understandably fearful and facing an information overload, people are less likely to second-guess government action and are inclined to give greater latitude to measures that significantly restrict their rights.

Massive call to respect human rights while responding to COVID-19

Often overlooked is the greater or differential impact of the pandemic itself on First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, Black and other racialized communities (especially individuals of Asian origin), the elderly, people living with disabilities, women and children at risk of violence in the home, refugees and migrants, people marginalized because of gender identity or sexual orientation, minority official language communities, prisoners, sex workers, people who are homeless or living in inadequate housing, people who use drugs, precariously-employed workers, and other at-risk communities. Governments have, importantly, taken action to respond to the needs of many of these communities, but more is needed, and oversight is a vital safeguard.

At the same time, bodies and institutions that traditionally play a central role in protecting human rights – including courts, and human rights commissions and tribunals – are facing considerable constraints and limitations. While some urgent matters are still being heard by way of video and telephone conferencing, many proceedings have been indefinitely adjourned and most new cases are not being scheduled. Moreover, due to the specific nature of the pandemic and the shutdown of democratic processes and civic space, public forums, such as parliamentary committee hearings and public community meetings, that serve as human rights accountability and transparency mechanisms of a sort, are now also unavailable.

We are therefore calling on governments at all levels – federal, provincial, territorial and municipal – to take urgent steps to enhance and strengthen human rights oversight of their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, including by:

  • Ensuring that Indigenous knowledge-keepers, representatives of federal, provincial and territorial human rights commissions, representatives of relevant municipal human rights offices and language commissioners have or strengthen their official advisory role to special committees, emergency task forces, crisis response working groups and other bodies established by governments to coordinate their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Immediately establishing or identifying independent human rights oversight committees made up of First Nations, Métis and Inuit representatives from both rural and remote Indigenous communities and urban centres, impacted communities, frontline service providers, human rights advocates, labour representatives, academics and other experts, with mandates to:
    • Identify measures needed to strengthen human rights protection in COVID response strategies;
    • Track human rights violations associated with COVID response measures, including through police enforcement;
    • Highlight information and statistics, disaggregated by sex, gender, Indigenous identity, race, disability and other identities, that are needed to improve human rights protection;
    • Ensure that governments apply intersectional gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) to all dimensions of their responses to the COVID crisis incorporating, inter alia, anti-racist, anti-ableist and anti-oppression frameworks;
    • Encourage and draw upon community-based human rights monitoring and reporting of human rights violations associated with COVID-19;
    • Make regular recommendations to governments; and
      Report publicly on a regular basis, through mechanisms to be determined by the Committee, once established.

Endorsed by / Appuyé par :

ORGANIZATIONS
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
Alberta Prison Justice Society
Amnesty International Canada (English branch)
Amnistie internationale Canada francophone
Anglican Church of Canada
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Assemblée des Premières Nations Québec-Labrador (APNQL)
Association des juristes progressistes
Association pour la défense des droits du personnel domestique de maison et de ferme (ADDPD) / Association for the Rights of Household Workers
Association québécoise des avocats et avocates en droit de l’immigration
Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale
Atira Women’s Resource Society
Atlantic Human Rights Centre, St. Thomas University
Avocats sans frontières Canada
Black Legal Action Centre
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
British Columbia Treaty Commission
Bureau international des droits des enfants / International Bureau for Children’s Rights
Canada-Hong Kong Link
Canada Tibet Committee
Canada Without Poverty
Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform
Canadian Arab Federation
Canadian Association for Community Living
Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
Canadian Association of Human Rights Institutes
Canadian Association of University Teachers
Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children
Canadian Council for International Co-operation
Canadian Council for Refugees
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
Canadian Federation of Students – Fédération canadienne des étudiantes et étudiants
Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action
Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (EN) – Réseau juridique canadien VIH/sida
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association
Canadian Office and Professional Employees’ Union
Canadian Prison Law Association
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
Centrale des syndicats du Québec
Centre for Free Expression, Ryerson University
Centre for Human Rights Research, University of Manitoba
Centre for Law and Democracy
Centre international de solidarité ouvrière
Centre Oblat – A Voice for Justice
Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice
Christian Peacemakers Teams – Canada
Citizens for Public Justice
Clinique de droit international pénal et humanitaire, Université Laval
Clinique internationale de défense des droits humains de l’UQAM, Université du Québec à Montréal
Colour of Poverty Colour of Change
Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine – Committee for Human Rights in Latin America
Community Legal Aid and Legal Assistance of Windsor
Conseil central du Montréal métropolitain-CSN
Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses
Council of Agencies Serving South Asians
Council of Canadians
Council of Canadians with Disabilities
Criminal Defence Advocacy Society
Dalhousie Legal Aid Service
David Suzuki Foundation – Fondation David Suzuki
Desmarais Desvignes Crespo s.e.n.c.r.l., étude légale
Disability Rights Coalition (Nova Scotia)
DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada
East Coast Prison Justice Society
Egale Canada
The Equality Fund
Equitas
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
Fédération autonome de l’enseignement
Fédération des femmes du Québec
Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec
Federation of Black Canadians
Federation of Medical Women of Canada, WPS Committee
Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada
Femmes autochtones du Québec
First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
Friends of the Earth Canada
Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain
Gender and Women’s Studies, Trent University
Grand Council of the Crees/Cree Nation Government
Greenpeace Canada
Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa
Indigenous Climate Action
Indigenous House of Bishops Leadership Circle of the Anglican Church of Canada
Indigenous Law Centre, University of Saskatchewan
Indigenous Ministries of the Anglican Church of Canada
Indigenous World Association
Institute for Canadian Citizenship
Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory on the Rights of the Child, University of Ottawa
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development
International Commission of Jurists, Canada
International Human Rights Program, University of Toronto
International Justice and Human Rights Clinic, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
International Women’s Rights Project
Inter Pares
Jack and Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Justice for Girls
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Landon Pearson Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights, Carleton University
Law, Disability & Social Change Project, University of Windsor
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
Ligue des droits et libertés
Ligue des droits et libertés – section Québec
Melançon Marceau Grenier et Sciortino, cabinet d’avocats en défense des conditions de travail des personnes salariées
Mennonite Central Committee Canada
Millennial Womxn in Policy
Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, Concordia University
National Council of Canadian Muslims
Nobel Women’s Initiative
Nonviolence International Canada
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Oxfam Canada
Oxfam-Québec
Peace Brigades International – Canada
PEN Canada
Pivot Legal Society
Plan International Canada
Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund
Prisoners’ Legal Services
Project Ploughshares
Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala
Public Service Alliance of Canada
Punjabi Community Health Services
Queen’s Prison Law Clinic
Rainbow Faith and Freedom
Regroupement Naissances respectées
Rideau Institute
Sisters Trust Canada
Social Rights Advocacy Centre
South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
Table de concertation au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes
Tides Canada
Toronto Association for Democracy in China
UNICEF Canada
Unifor
Union of BC Indian Chiefs
United Nations Decade for People of African Descent Push Coalition
United Steelworkers Canada
Urban Alliance on Race Relations
Urban Native Youth Association
Uyghur Refugee Relief Fund
Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project
West Coast LEAF
WISH Drop-In Centre Society
Women’s Wellness Within
World Federalist Movement – Canada
World Sikh Organization (Canada)
YWCA Canada
613/819 Black Hub

 

INDIVIDUALS
Laurie E. Adkin, Professor, Comparative Politics and Environmental Studies Program, Department of Political Science, University of Alberta
Melanie Adrian, Associate Professor of Law, Carleton University
Sharry Aiken, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Queens University
Payam Akhavan, Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Kjell Anderson, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba
Nora Angeles, Associate Professor, School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
Kirsten Anker, Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chair of World Refugee Council
Reem Bahdi, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Natasha Bakht, Full Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Fayyaz Baqir, Visiting Professor, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa
Gerry Barr CM, Past President- CEO, Canadian Council for International Cooperation
Emmanuelle Bernheim, Professeure, Département des sciences juridiques, Université du Québec à Montréal
Faisal Bhabha, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Adelle Blackett, Professor of Law & Canada Research Chair in Transnational Labour Law and Development, McGill University
Raphaëlle Blard, chargée de projets, éducation et médiation, Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec
Peter Boothroyd, Professor Emeritus, School of Community & Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
Susan Breau, Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
Ed Broadbent, Former Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada and Former President of Rights & Democracy
Bruce Broomhall, Professeur, Département des sciences juridiques, Université du Québec à Montréal
Ruth Buchanan, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Katherine Bullock, Lecturer, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto Mississauga
Karen Busby, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba
Doris Buss, Professor of Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University
Michael Byers, Professor & Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law, University of British Columbia
Vince Calderhead, Counsel, Pink Larkin
Camille Cameron, Dean and Weldon Professor of Law, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Katy Campbell, Dean Emeritus, Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta
Luisa Canuto, Instructor, Department of French, Hispanic, & Italian Studies, University of British Columbia
May Chazan, Canada Research Chair in Gender and Feminist Studies, Trent University
Sally Chivers, Professor, English and Gender & Women’s Studies, Trent University
François Crépeau, Professor of International Law, McGill University
Robert J. Currie, Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Alexandre Da Costa, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta
Amanda Dale, Human rights activist and scholar, Ottawa
Stéphanie Demers, Professeure, Département des sciences de l’éducation, Université du Québec en Outaouais
Nathalie Des Rosiers, Principal of Massey College at the University of Toronto, Former Dean of Law at University of Ottawa (Common law and Civil Law), Former General Counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Former President of the Law Commission of Canada, Former MPP (Ottawa-Vanier) & Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry
Karen Drake, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Bernard Duhaime, professeur expert en droits humains et sur le système des Nations unies, Université du Québec à Montréal
Pearl Eliadis, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Mohamad Fakih, CEO & President, Paramount Fine Foods, Chairman of Fakih Foundation
Bernie M. Farber, Chair, Canadian Anti-Hate Network
Leilani Farha, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing
Karine Gentelet, Professeure agrégée et Directrice du CIERA-UQO, Université du québec en outaouais.
Christine Gervais, Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa
Sara Ghebremusse, Assistant Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
Philip Girard, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Cynthia Glidden-Tracey, Instructor, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia
Kasari Govender, British Columbia’s Human Rights Commissioner
Vanessa Gruben, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Lucie Guibault, Associate Dean, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University.
Dipti Gupta, Professor, Department of Cinema-Communications, Dawson College
Penny Gurstein, Professor, School of Community & Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
Jaswant Guzder, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University
Tanya Handa, Professeure, Département des sciences biologique, Université du Québec à Montréal
Lorian Hardcastle, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law and Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary
Tom Hutton, Professor, The Centre for Human Settlements and School of Community & Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
Adelina Iftene, Assistant Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Beverly Jacobs, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Laverne Jacobs, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Sébastien Jodoin, Assistant Professor, Canada Research Chair in Human Rights and the Environment, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Am Johal, Director, Office of Community Engagement, Simon Fraser University
Rev. Susan C. Johnson, National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
Ellen R. Judd, Distinguished Professor and Professor of Anthropology, University of Manitoba
Jasminka Kalajdzic, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Asha Kaushal, Assistant Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
F. Tim Knight, Associate Librarian, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Jennifer Koshan, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary
Faisal Kutty, Adjunct Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, and Assistant Professor of Law, Barry University School of Law
Fannie Lafontaine, Professeure, Faculté de droit, Université Laval, titulaire de la Chaire de recherche du Canada sur la justice internationale pénale et les droits fondamentaux
Louis-Philippe Lampron, Professeur titulaire, Faculté de droit, Université Laval
François Larocque, Professor and Canadian Francophonie Research Chair in Language Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Jodi Lazare, Assistant Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Anne Levesque, Professeure adjointe, Programme de common law en français, Faculté de droit, Section de common law, Université d’Ottawa
Sheryl Lightfoot, Canada Research Chair of Global Indigenous Rights and Politics, University of British Columbia
Josh Liswood, Chair of the International Board, Plan International
Michael Lynk, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Western University
Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop
Julie Macfarlane CM, Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Constance MacIntosh, Viscount Bennett Professor of Law, Associate Professor, Schulich School of Law Dalhousie University
Wayne MacKay, Professor Emeritus of Law, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Audrey Macklin, Professor and Chair in Human Rights Law, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
Kelly McGuire, Associate Professor and Chair, Gender & Women’s Studies, Trent University
Heidi Matthews, Assistant Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Ingrid Mattson, London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies, Huron UC at Western University
Karel Mayrand, Directeur général – Québec et Atlantique, Fondation David Suzuki
Tim McDaniels, Professor Emeritus, School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
Frédéric Mégret, Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Errol Mendes, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Naiomi W. Metallic, Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy, Assistant Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Karen R. Mock, C.M., President, JSpaceCanada
Sarah Morales, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law University of Victoria
Janet Mosher, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Roxanne Mykitiuk, Professor, Director of Disability Law Intensive Program, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Baljit Nagra, Assistant Professor, Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa
Shaheen Nanji, Director, Global Engagement, SFU International, Simon Fraser University
Jennifer Nedelsky, Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
The Most Rev. Linda Nicholls, Archbishop and Primate, Anglican Church of Canada
Ken Norman, Emeritus Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Saskatchewan
Obiora Okafor, Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
John Packer, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Pamela Palmater, Professor and Chair in Indigenous Governance, Ryerson University
Mona Paré, Professeure agrégée, Faculté de droit, Section de droit civil, Université d’Ottawa
Debra Parkes, Professor and Chair in Feminist Legal Studies, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
Imam Dr. Abdul Hai Patel, Former Ontario Human Rights Commissioner
Carla L. Peck, Professor, Department of Elementary Education, University of Alberta
Danielle Peers, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation, University of Alberta
David Petrasek, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa
Sukanya Pillay, Visiting Professor and Law Foundation of Ontario Scholar, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Paula Pryce, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia
Nandini Ramanujam, Associate Professor Faculty of Law, McGill University
Bill Rees, Professor Emeritus, School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
Sean Rehaag, Director, Centre for Refugee Studies and Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Graham Reynolds, Associate Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
Honourable Allan Rock, former Minister of Justice, Minister of Health, Ambassador to the United Nations and President Emeritus, University of Ottawa
Jillian Rogin, Assistant Professor, Windsor Law, University of Windsor
Sophie Rondeau, avocate, doctorante, Université Laval / Université de Genève
Audrey Rousseau, Professeure de sociologie, Département des sciences, Université du Québec en Outaouais
Robert Russo, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
Carolyn Sale, Associate Professor, Department of English & Film Studies, University of Alberta
François Xavier Saluden, Chargé de cours, droits de la personne, droit international, droit de l’eau, Université de Montréal, Université du Québec à Montréal, Université Laval
Craig Scott, Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Sara Seck, Associate Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Maged Senbel, Associate Professor, School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
Léa Serier, Collaboratrice Groupe de travail sur les disparitions forcées ou involontaires, ONU, Auxiliaire de recherche au sein du laboratoire S’Ouvrir Aux Amériques (SOAA) pour mieux défendre les droits humains, Université du Québec à Montréal
Tess Sheldon, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Penelope Simons, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Anneke Smit, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Makere Stewart-Harawira, Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta
Christina Szurlej, Associate Professor, Department of Human Rights, St. Thomas University
François Tanguay-Renaud, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Andrew S. Thompson, Centre for International Governance Innovation Senior Fellow and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Political Science, University of Waterloo
The Ven. Michael Thompson, General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada
Mirja Trilsch, Professeure, Département des sciences juridiques, Faculté de science politique et de droit, Université du Québec à Montréal
Eric Tucker, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Daniel Turp, professeur titulaire à la Faculté de droit de l’Université de Montréal
Alain Vallières, Membre de l’Institut international des droits de l’homme (Strasbourg), et membre du comité sur l’Immigration du Barreau du Québec
Mark Vardy, Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Environment, Simon Fraser University
Mark Vessey, Professor of English Literature and Principal of Green College, University of British Columbia
Christine Vézina, Professeure agrégée, Faculté de droit, Université Laval
June Webber, Former Vice President, St Francis Xavier University and Director of the Coady International Institute
Sheila Wildeman, Associate Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Stepan Wood, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
Margot Young, Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia

 

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