16/05/2016 - Chief Commissioner's Presentation to the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence on Bill S-205, An Act to amend the Canada Border Services Agency Act

Speaking notes for

Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E.

Chief Commissioner
Canadian Human Rights Commission

Presentation to the
Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence on
Bill S-205, An Act to amend the Canada Border Services Agency Act

Monday, May 16, 2016
Ottawa, Ontario

 

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

 

Mr. Chair, Honourable members,

Thank you for inviting me to take part in this discussion today. 

I would like to introduce my colleague: Fiona Keith, Counsel for the Commission.

We are encouraged to be discussing legislation that would create a monitoring and oversight body for Canada Border Services Agency. 

Today I have two messages I would like to share with you:

First, effective monitoring and oversight of human rights protection in the delivery of national security services must include the collection of human rights-based data.

Second, everyone in Canada, no matter their circumstances or how they ended up here, is entitled to basic human rights protection.

This is why we have joined the call for independent monitoring and oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency in relation to migrants and other foreign nationals in detention.

Most of the legislation that gives Canada’s national security organizations authority to operate on our behalf is silent on human rights protection.

We are convinced that effective monitoring and oversight must be supported by the collection of human rights-based data. 

Our opinion is informed by a decade of research on national security and human rights in the Canadian context, which culminated in a Special Report to Parliament in 2011. 

The Commission’s report recommended that Parliament require national security organizations to collect human rights-based data on their performance. 

It also recommended that national security organizations be required to share that information with Canadians.

As it stands today, there are no processes in place to collect, track and report human rights-based data related to the delivery of national security services. 

Many organizations have policies to prevent discriminatory practices such as profiling. 

But few can demonstrate whether these policies are followed. 

None have the hard numbers to assess whether unjustified bias against people due to characteristics such as race, religion or ethnic origin is taking place in the field.

The absence of this information has the potential to impact public trust.

Collecting and analyzing human rights-based data would help national security organizations ensure that they deliver services in ways that respect human rights.

Making this data available to the public would increase trust and confidence in the activities of national security organizations.

In the past year, troubling reports about conditions in detention centres have convinced us that independent oversight and monitoring of the activities of national security organizations is necessary to ensure human rights justice in Canada.

A University of Toronto report and news stories have shone a light on the CBSA’s arbitrary detention of migrants. Thousands of migrants, including women and children, are being arbitrarily held by Canada Border Services Agency in detention centres for extended periods. 

They have no access to human rights protection.

This gap results in part from a provision in the Canadian Human Rights Act that limits its protection to those who are legally present in Canada. 

Put another way, the very law designed to protect people from discrimination in Canada does not apply to some of the most vulnerable people in our country. 

This lack of human rights justice for foreign nationals held in Canadian prisons and detention centres is an urgent matter that requires immediate redress.

As I mentioned earlier, everyone in Canada, no matter their circumstances or how they ended up here, is entitled to basic human rights protection.

If we are to be a world leader in human rights, anything less is unacceptable.

In conclusion, we are encouraged to be discussing measures to bring about more effective monitoring and oversight for a national security agency. 

The reasons for doing so are compelling.

As Canada’s national voice on human rights, the Commission urges you to consider legislation that will ensure that the activities of national security bodies are consistent with human rights protection.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to answering your questions.

-30-

 

Text Resize

-A +A