Proceeding of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue No. 37 - Evidence - Meeting of December 5, 2018
OTTAWA, Wednesday, December 5, 2018
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 11:30 a.m. to examine and monitor issues relating to human rights and, inter alia, to review the machinery of government dealing with Canada’s international and national human rights obligations.
Senator Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good morning and welcome. First, I want to put forward a motion. Is it agreed, senators, that the committee allow the taking of photos during this meeting?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Before we hear from our witnesses, I would ask senators to introduce themselves.
Senator Ataullahjan: Salma Ataullahjan, from Ontario.
Senator Pate: Kim Pate, Ontario.
Senator Cordy: Jane Cordy, a senator from Nova Scotia.
Senator Boyer: Yvonne Boyer, Ontario.
The Chair: I’m Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard from Nova Scotia and chair of the committee.
Today we welcome visiting students from the International Political and Policies Studies Association at the University of Ottawa, and also students from the Faculty of Public Affairs at Carleton University. They are visiting us for this special Human Rights Day meeting. Students, you are invited to stay behind after the meeting adjourns for a group photo with the senators.
Senator Hartling: I am Nancy Hartling from New Brunswick. I know some of your faces. It’s nice to see you again. Thank you for being here.
The Chair: The year 2018 marks the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a way of marking this special occasion, our committee decided to hold a special hearing to assess the progress in standing up for equality, justice and human dignity. We are pleased that a very distinguished group of witnesses is here today to speak about human rights from a national perspective as well as international perspectives.
In our first hour, we have four panellists. Each has been asked to provide five minutes of opening comments. Let me introduce them in the order in which they will be speaking.
We’ll start with Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. She is accompanied by Monette Maillet, Deputy Executive Director and Senior General Counsel. By video conference, we have two panellists. Robyn Maynard is a writer, activist and educator from the University of Toronto and author of Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present. Also by video conference, we have Cheryl Knockwood who is the Governance Coordinator for the Membertou Band Council in Nova Scotia. Here in the room, we have Kathy Vandergrift who is Chair of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of the Children.
Welcome to all of you.
Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission: Thank you very much. My remarks will be in both official languages.
Thank you for inviting the Canadian Human Rights Commission to take part in this discussion on the progress of human rights in Canada since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a response to unspeakable atrocities born from hatred. It united the world in a common cause: To promote the principles of equality, dignity and respect for all. It was a worldwide acknowledgement that every human being, no matter where they are, is born with the same fundamental rights and freedoms.
Over the past seven decades, Canada has embraced the values articulated in the declaration. Much of our progress as a nation has not been by accident. It has been achieved through careful design. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act, as well as provincial and territorial human rights legislation, were all built on the principles in the declaration. These laws have given people in Canada the power to stand up against injustice and, in doing so, to make a change for the better — not just for themselves, but for their fellow citizens.
This anniversary is a time for contemplation and a renewed commitment to action. The commission’s recent submission to the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review highlights the very pressing human rights issues facing indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, racialized individuals and individuals with diverse sexual orientations or gender identities.
There is still much work to do. And there is a need for vigilance because of the rise of intolerance, bigotry and hate around the world. Canada is not immune. We have seen a rise in hate speech here, in Canada. Hate speech can lead to hate crimes.
Just last week, Statistics Canada released new numbers showing that police-reported hate crimes in Canada rose sharply in 2017, up 47 per cent over the previous year.
Offences motivated by racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance are all examples of hate crimes. So too are crimes motivated by bias against a person’s disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.
These crimes strike at the heart of Canada’s commitment to democracy and the fundamental rights of equality and non-discrimination.
Silence is not an option. We all have a responsibility to speak out against hate. After the Second World War, human rights systems were established to address injustice and discrimination and to prevent hate from ever taking root again. The systems in Canada do well in addressing discrimination, but there is a gap when it comes to addressing hate.
The last time Parliament conducted a broad study on hate was in 1965. The Cohen Committee found that:
. . . the individuals and groups promoting hate in Canada constitute “a clear and present danger” to the functioning of a democratic society . . . .
While this still applies today, Canada is a much different place than it was 53 years ago. The world is a much different place.
Everyone has the power to be a broadcaster. One individual can be louder and influence more people than ever before. A whole new generation is now exposed to hate online. As a result, the threat posed by hate speech is amplified. We need to take a closer look at how it spreads, how to address this phenomenon and how to hold accountable the people who share it and those who provide the platforms upon which to post it.
That is why I encourage this committee to initiate a study on how to address hate in Canada. You are well positioned to take the lead, engage all the players and bring everyone to the table. This could include governments, civil society, experts, regulators, service providers and law makers. You have demonstrated great leadership in the past by not shying away from pressing human rights issues. Your leadership on this issue would help to inform citizens, propose action and define a clear path to protecting people from this clear and present danger.
In conclusion, Canada has much to be proud of on this seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but our sense of accomplishment cannot result in us lowering our guard. We must remain vigilant and, most importantly, not take anything for granted.
Thank you very much. I look forward to answering your questions with Ms. Maillet.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Landry.
Robyn Maynard, Author of Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present, as an individualI would like to thank all of you for giving me the opportunity to speak today as a witness.
I’m going to take the moment that I have to speak today to the realities based in the present day by the Black diaspora in Canada as pertaining to human rights.
I’m also very alarmed by the rise in hate that we’re seeing across the country and around the world, but I’m also extremely concerned by the kind of racial discrimination that we see that is structural, that is systemic and that is, in some ways, still part of the way our society functions.
A few years ago, the United Nations declared a decade directed towards looking at the realities of peoples of African descent around the world. After a cross-country visit around Canada with multiple consultations, they called on the Canadian government to address the widespread array of human rights abuses that were being experienced by Black populations around the country, including discriminatory treatments at the hands of the police, levels of incarceration, lower employment and the treatment of Black families in the child welfare system and in schools.
Of course, this correlates to generations of data that we have seen produced in government documents by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and the Quebec Human Rights Commission. In a nation that is committed to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Multiculturalism Act, we see that the realities faced by Black Canadians today, nationally and internationally, should be seen and understood as unconscionable.
I hope we can all agree that Black children, Black young people and Black people of all ages, abilities and genders deserve access to rich, fulfilling and healthy lives. Yet, the empirical data and the long-standing claims by Black communities shows us that, across this nation, we are very far from this fact.
As the United Nations acknowledged, and as my work and many others’ in Canada have traced, the racial discrimination that we’re seeing experienced by Black communities today is not something that is only recent. It’s something that dates back to this country’s legalized support of the slavery of Black people in this country for 200 years.
I’m going to use some of the minutes I have to demonstrate, I think, some of the most salient examples of systemic injustice that we continue to see.
First, I would like to draw our attention to the realities faced by Black children. Let me just remind all of you that, under slavery, enslaved Black children were bought and sold as property, sometimes as punishment towards their parents, and toward their mothers in particular. We saw, of course, the legalized practice of segregated schooling, which did not end in Nova Scotia until 1983 and Ontario in 1965. We can look to the history of the treatment of Black children in Nova Scotia in the segregated Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, in which there was widespread abuse and government underfunding up until the mid-twentieth century.
We can continue to see the devaluation of Black children in the present day, where only a few years ago we saw a young Black 6-year-old girl handcuffed in her school; where Black youth are in care in Ontario at a rate five times higher than that of other youth; where Black youth in Toronto make up 8 per cent of the youth population, but 40 per cent of youth in care, and 65 per cent in other cities. In Montreal, Black English-speaking youth are one third of those held in youth protection. We know that Black children in care are kept longer and reunited less frequently with their families.
We can see as well the long-standing devaluation and the lack of protection for Black children today in schools across the country. In Canada’s largest school board, the Toronto District School Board, almost half of the children expelled between 2011 and 2016 were Black. In Halifax, where Black youth make up 8 per cent of the student body, they accounted for 23 per cent of suspensions between 2015 and 2016.
A recent study by the American Psychological Association shows us that Black children continue to be seen as less innocent, as older than they are and as less worthy of protection. This is something that, as a society, needs to be, as I said, unconscionable.
I would like to speak, as well, for a moment about the realities of Black peoples who are so disproportionately in contact with the criminal justice system.
We know documentation has shown us that there is widespread carding and disproportionate police stops. Black people are stopped at a rate of two to four times higher than the general population, not only in Toronto, but in Kingston, Halifax, Vancouver and Lethbridge. Another study just came out yesterday in Montreal that demonstrated that Black youth on a large scale were experiencing disproportionate stops, violence and racial epithets.
We have also lost too many Black community members at the hands of police. A recent CBC study showed us that the disproportion of Black community members being harmed is great. Many in our community are still mourning the deaths of Andrew Loku, Abdirahman Abdi and Pierre Coriolan.
We know that Black people are incarcerated at a rate three times higher than that of our representation in the general population and that there are disparities at the level of sentencing and use of force behind bars. We know that these are ongoing injustices. As well, Black people are being placed in solitary. For example, Arlene Gallone, who spent nine months in solitary confinement only a few years ago, is now undertaking a class action against Correctional Service Canada.
In a country so often represented as what is called the underground railroad, we need to look, as well, at Black migrants in this country. Given that almost half of Canada’s Black population was born elsewhere, we need to look to the incarceration crisis also being seen in Canada’s long-standing support for the practice of indefinite detention. I would like to draw attention to the case of Michael Mvogo, who was actually held in immigration detention for almost 10 years after serving a short sentence for having a small amount of crack cocaine and serving his time, not because he was dangerous but because of unsatisfactory identification. I would like to draw attention, as well, to Alpha Anawa, a Black child who was born in immigration detention and whose first words, at two years old, were “radio check,” which were the words spoken by the guards at shift change. Between 2016 and 2017, Canada detained 162 children, and 439 migrants were held for longer than three months.
In the spirit of the representation of diversity being our strength, where Canada continues to be seen as a bastion of rights for immigrants and refugees, we see that the vast majority of the migrants who cross the border irregularly from the United States into Canada are from Black majority countries, particularly Haitians and Nigerians, just as the government has actually announced it is set to actually increase deportations, as reported by CBC, by 20 to 30 per cent in the coming years.
I would like to draw particular attention to the realities of Black women who so frequently go between the cracks. They are incarcerated, again, at a rate that is vastly higher than that of other women in society and are subject to ongoing police brutality, including the recent case of Majiza Philip, who had her arm broken by the Montreal police in 2014. The way that Black mothers continue to be targeted by Child and Family Services, having their children removed from them, often for extremely unjust reasons, in ways we don’t often view as a kind of racial profiling, is just as harmful, if not more so, than what happens on the streets.
The Chair: Ms. Maynard?
Ms. Maynard: Is that my time?
The Chair: Yes, it was some time ago. I know you have a lot that you want to share with us.
Ms. Maynard: Thank you.
The Chair: I hesitated to interrupt. I know that there will be questions. I think that some of the other points you wanted to raise will be able to be shared with us at that time. Thank you.
Ms. Maynard: I was about to conclude anyways. Thank you for listening.
Cheryl Knockwood, Governance Coordinator, Membertou Band Council: [Editor’s note: Witness spoke in her Indigenous language.]
Thank you for inviting me, honourable senators, and giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts about Indigenous human rights.
First, I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Mississauga of New Credit, the Anishnaabe, the Haudenosaunee, the Wyandotte and the Huron Nations here in Toronto, where we’re filming.
It is customary in my nation, when introducing oneself, that we identify not only our name but also who our family is and where we are from. My name is Cheryl Knockwood. I am an L’nu from Mi’kma’ki. I grew up in the traditional territory of the Sikniktuk District, and I currently live in the Unama’ki District. The traditional territory of the Mi’kmaq encompasses New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Gaspé regions of Quebec and parts of Maine.
I understand the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights is hosting this hearing to assess Canada’s progress in standing up for human rights. The committee invited me to share my views on what progress has been made by Canada in upholding the human rights of Indigenous peoples and what I think remains to be done.
The truth is, Indigenous nations in Canada are in a state of crisis today and will continue to be in that state of crisis until our collective Indigenous human rights, which are outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, are upheld, respected and implemented, and that the process of Canada’s decolonization occurs.
Recently, Dr. Pam Palmater, a social justice advocate, did a great job of articulating Canada’s current state of crisis, or the truths of colonization, which are: Indigenous peoples are only 5 per cent of the Canadian population, yet make up 50 per cent of the children in foster care nationally. In Canada, that’s 90 per cent; Saskatchewan, 80 per cent. In Canada, 25 per cent of all federal prisoners are Indigenous men and 36 per cent are Indigenous women. The leading cause of death for Indigenous youth in Canada is suicide. In Canada, 60 per cent of Indigenous children live in poverty. Indigenous women or girls in Canada are six times more likely to be murdered than non-indigenous women.
Also, just 150 years ago, 100 per cent of the land base of what is now known as Canada was Indigenous lands. Currently, Indigenous people only encompass 0.2 per cent of the total land mass in Canada under the reservation system.
The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized numerous Aboriginal and treaty rights cases for many Indigenous nations across Canada, yet we’re still struggling to get those decisions implemented — for instance, the 1999 Marshall decision in Mi’kmaq territory that recognized the treaty rights of the Mi’kmaq Maliseet and the Passamaquody individuals to commercially sell their fish and to make a moderate livelihood. Twenty years later, there is not one Mi’kmaq Maliseet and Passamaquody community that is currently fishing under its 1761 treaties. They are fishing under interim agreements.
There are over 600 First Nations communities in Canada. At any given time, one in five of these communities are under a boil water advisory. Indigenous languages are in a state of emergency, with some languages on the brink of extinction.
So what do we do to address this state of emergency?
Cindy Blackstock recently tweeted that we need to “Advocate for the change we want to see,” so today I advocate for real change because actions speak louder than words. We need action and we need to see real progress.
Honourable senators, these are my recommendations. We need to see action on the following:
Canada needs to provide more resources and programming to support Indigenous languages. While federal funding for French and English language schooling sits at approximately $4,000 per child, Indigenous languages receive only $4 per child from the federal government.
Canada needs to provide safe drinking water in all Indigenous communities.
Canada needs to give back some of our lands and resources, not just acknowledge that we’re on the territory of certain Indigenous nations.
Canada needs to get rid of the gender discrimination within the Indian Act.
Canada needs to compensate Indigenous nations for harms caused due to colonization and genocide.
Canada needs to keep Indigenous children in their communities and provide the resources, services and programs needed to keep Indigenous families together.
Canada needs to provide resources for policing agencies to conduct timely and comprehensive investigations of missing and murdered Indigenous women and men, children, girls and boys.
Canada needs to do away with mandatory minimum sentencing.
Canada needs to fulfil its outstanding treaty obligations.
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled in January 2016 that Canada discriminated against First Nation children by underfunding child welfare services. Canada needs to be compliant with that decision.
Canada needs to pass Bill C-262, an act to ensure the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I’m glad to hear that’s currently gone through second reading here in the Senate.
Finally, the UN declaration provides a vision for change. If the Canadian government, with the support of Indigenous peoples, can evaluate this country’s laws, governance structures and bureaucratic systems against the standard set out in this UN declaration, then we can develop effective plans for social, legal and political change. An honest review of Canadian law structures and systems, in light of the UN declaration, carried out in partnership with Indigenous peoples, will inspire new approaches to policies and procedures, and new insights into the development of social and economic projects. The government’s commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and, consequently, the process of bringing our laws in line with the UN declaration, I believe, will have a very real impact on improving human rights for all Indigenous people.
Once again, thank you for this opportunity to share my views.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Knockwood.
Kathy Vandergrift, Chair, Canadian Coalition for the Rights of the Children: Thank you very much for this opportunity to contribute to an important discussion at a significant historical moment.
I would like to discuss how we move from aspiration to realization for children’s rights in Canada.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is one of the significant treaties to implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we are celebrating today. Canada led in the adoption and ratification of the convention on children’s rights. We will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary next year as the most ratified human rights instrument.
Right now, Canada is undergoing the fourth review of how it implements the convention in Canada. The government’s report is now almost five months late, and there has been no public input into the process. Implementation remains weak in Canada, and I think you have heard that from the speakers before me. Most recommendations from previous reviews have been ignored, even when they would benefit children in Canada.
Why does implementation matter? I would like to raise three points. First, the evidence is clear: children are doing better in countries that take implementation seriously. Second, the convention is useful for public policies that affect children. It provides a holistic and comprehensive framework that ties areas of public policy together. Children’s lives don’t live along the silos of government departments, so the convention can provide a useful tool to intigrate policies and it can avoid unintended consequences, some of which we heard about. Third, implementing children’s rights could make federalism work better in Canada.
What are the barriers to implementation? I’ll quickly mention three.
I titled this “Aspiration to Realization,” because the convention was seen as an aspirational document at the end of the Cold War. It was seen as mostly for children in Africa and Asia and maybe not so much for Canada. The narrative continues to be that children in Canada are okay with the exception of Indigenous children and perhaps some other groups. That’s not true. International comparisons in recent years have been a wake up call. They show that Canada ranks in the lower half of comparable countries in many areas of children’s rights and well-being. In addition, I would highlight that most children in Canada have not been informed about their rights and how to appropriately exercise them. Research shows the practical benefits when children and parents know about children’s rights. There is no excuse for Canada on this failure to take the most basic steps of implementation.
There is some cultural opposition to children’s rights. There are misunderstandings about children’s rights in some corners, but nothing that is insurmountable. Fears that children will become overly demanding if they learn about their rights are misplaced. The research shows that children who learn rights-respecting ways show more respect for teachers and other leaders, engage in less bullying and are more capable of finding what they need to develop their potential. Canada will be better off if we make progress toward the convention goal of developing the full potential of every child. The convention is sometimes portrayed as anti-family, but in fact families would be more supported if the convention were implemented. There are questions about children’s rights in different cultural communities, but they can be addressed because the convention deals with cultural identity and identity issues in a positive way.
The third barrier is government structures. Federalism is a challenge. Every area of children’s rights involves both federal and provincial jurisdiction. The blame game continues. For more than 20 years, I have heard federal officials blame provinces and provinces say they don’t get enough money. I think the public is tired of the blame game. The coalition has put forward the case that implementing the convention can make federalism work better. We need a mind shift from seeing federalism as a reason to shelve the convention to one that sees the convention as an asset for federalism. Why? It focuses on outcomes for children, not how much money is spent and who pays the bill. It allows flexibility in means while monitoring progress toward end goals so provinces can choose different specific policies but still achieve the goal of equitable treatment across borders in Canada. Finally, transparency and public accountability for all players is part of implementation.
The current crisis in child welfare is a good example of how implementing the convention could have made federalism work better. It could still, if we take it seriously. What are some of the keys to implementation? I will name four directions.
First, use the convention as a tool for public policy, not just as an abstract UN ideal or as a big burden, as I sometimes hear officials describe monitoring and reporting. If we had implemented the convention more seriously, we would have uncovered earlier the situation of Indigenous children that is now costing a lot to repair.
Second, use children’s rights to make federalism work better, moving beyond the old blame games.
Third, we need political persistence. We have lots of general statements about caring for children. We don’t need more general statements. What we need is political persistence to follow through on implementation at two levels. Put in place systemic changes that take children’s rights seriously and follow up on specific recommendations.
I hope this committee might find a way to play a role in the current review to have that kind of discussion in Canada about how we will actually implement children’s rights.
Finally, on the cultural front, there are two steps. First, use the language of children’s rights in public documents and policies consistently and, second, make progress on informing children about their rights. Canada has the capacity to do this. In five years, we could reverse the current reality from most children not knowing about their rights to most children knowing how to exercise their rights in ways that respect the rights of others.
I look forward to your questions and further discussion.
The Chair: Thank you all for your testimony this morning. We have a lineup of senators who want to ask questions.
Senator Ataullahjan: I thank all of you for being here and for your testimony. I have been sitting here writing notes, and I am mindful of the fact that other senators have questions, too, so I will just try to sneak in two questions.
Ms. Landry, we are hearing words that we have a responsibility to stand up and speak against hate. We also hear that hate is on the rise. We hear diversity is our strength. As a Muslim, I can feel the shift. I hear it, and I dared to express an opinion on social media and the amount of hate that I got. I have spent more of my life in Canada. Canada is home. I am proud to serve Canada. Yet I was told, “Go home.” Do we want racialized groups to immigrate to Canada and help build Canada? Do we want them to stay quiet and not express an opinion? We have the case of my daughter who was running late for a flight, a PhD student. While she was paged, “Ataullahjan,” the one attendant laughs to the other and said, “I don’t even know if she understands English.” I could go on and on about these instances. Are we falling short? What can we do to make people feel that they truly belong in Canada? My children are Canadian. It goes on from not being called to interviews because they have certain names and me being told to change their names. Where do we draw the line? And I do agree with you; it has gotten worse.
Ms. Landry: Thank you for your question, senator.
I will invite my colleague to add, if she wants, but that is why we called for a study. Since 53 years, Canada is at a different place than it was before with the phenomenon of social media and the fact that now everyone can be a broadcaster. We all have smartphones and iPads and access to technology. Our children in school can use it. Almost all of them now have devices, even when they are young, and it is accessible. We need to develop a strategy.
For me, hate, intolerance and discrimination and what we are facing will not be resolved by one group, just by the Canadian Human Rights Commission or by another group. It will take a strategy to address it. It will take a study to understand the phenomenon and the lack of empathy that we are suffering in Canada, and across the world. It’s not just in Canada, but we are not used to seeing that in Canada, and this is what we are seeing. This is something that we need to address.
I have given interviews before with regard to some situations that have happened. It could be the Quebec mosque or the shooting in Pittsburgh. I strongly believe that leaders need to stand up and denounce discrimination, hatred and intolerance. They need to talk about it.
When I talk about leaders, I am talking about politicians. We will be in an election year. It is very important that our leaders show an example and denounce intolerance and the hatred that we are facing. It is the same with all the leaders across the country. Yes, there are politicians, but many people that we all know are in a leadership position. They can use their voice. How can I ask someone on the street or my children to do something if our leader doesn’t show, by example, how important it is to stop this situation?
I really call for a study. I believe that is important. We cannot take the chance to improvise. We need to understand what is happening and the phenomenon of the fact that everyone can now be a broadcaster. Hopefully, that will answer your question in part.
The Chair: Can you ask your other question on the second round? I have a long list, but I hope we will get to a second round.
Senator Cordy: Thank you so much to each of you. You have given us so much valuable information. Much, unfortunately, is what we have heard before, but it doesn’t hurt to keep saying the same things over and over. We will be celebrating 70 years for Human Rights Day. I am sure that when it started 70 years ago, they thought we would be having these great celebrations, but here we are, 70 years later, recognizing there is still so much going on.
Ms. Knockwood, you gave us a great description of Indigenous youth, young people in particular, and what is happening with the percentage of children in care compared to the population. We are doing a study on the human rights of prisoners. When we went to the Prairie provinces — you gave us the number of 25 per cent, which is Canadian wide — in the prisons there, 65 per cent are Indigenous. You can’t help but say we are clearly doing something wrong. We know that the fastest growing demographic in Canada is Aboriginal youth and, if we don’t do what is right for Aboriginal youth, we are hurting the whole country. This is the fastest growing demographic.
You gave us some suggestions of what we should be doing, for example, on language, safe water, lands, that sort of thing. I am interested, though, about your comment about resources for children’s services. I think the same thing would be true, Ms. Maynard, for Black families, with the statistics you gave. If we don’t do something to help the families — the mothers, the fathers, the young people — to grow and to what they can be to help Canada and to help their people, then nothing will work. Can you be a bit more specific on what specifics we should do for children and their families in both groups?
Ms. Knockwood: Thank you for that question, honourable senator.
In terms of what we can do for families and Indigenous youth within communities, one of the issues we need to address is that the child and family services that we have developed and are currently being used across a lot of Indigenous communities right now are modelled on the provincial child and family services. We need to reevaluate and take a look at the structures that are created to deal with foster care and families in the situation of what is happening in the communities and reevaluate the institutions. We need to look to our cultures, our traditions and our wisdom from our elders and look at redesigning some of the institutions currently in charge of addressing this important issue that we are in a state of crisis over, and look at creating new institutions that better mirror the needs and the issues of the First Nations communities. That would really help.
The other thing is providing more resources for families that are struggling. One of the reasons why a lot of children are in care is because of poverty. We need to address the issue of poverty in order to be able to ensure that children stay within families and communities. We need to take a look at that issue as well. Many reports and studies have been done about that. We need to start addressing that issue.
Those are my two comments.
Ms. Maynard: Thank you very much. I really support what Ms. Knockwood said.
I would like to add as well that it is absolutely necessary to prioritize community-driven initiatives, led by Black community members and educators, to address, for example, the push-out rates of Black youth in schools, and community-led initiatives to keep Black children with their families. If we look at the sheer amount of resources that it takes, for example, to place a Black youth in care — and as I mentioned, they are in care so disproportionately — it’s a rate that’s often double most Black families, and particularly most Black single mothers, make.
One of the main drivers of removal of both Black and Indigenous children is poverty, yet we have not seen a significant investment in addressing the massive poverty faced by Black children and Black families. That continues to allow families to be seen as neglectful when what is actually neglectful is the fact that Black families continue to be housed in social housing that is not liveable or actually decent adequately funded. Black communities, more broadly, don’t have the community financial support they need.
I also wanted to mention, particularly when talking about Black youth, is that we need to see both a condemnation and an end to the ways that Black youth continue to be treated by the police. We need to remember that these are often kids, teenagers, who, as the Livingstone report that came out yesterday says, are being faced with such horrific kinds of violence and exclusion. We need to see a wholesale condemnation and a binding commitment to end the policing practices that are allowing for the harassment and targeting of Black youth. I am thinking especially about what are often called the “gang-focused initiatives,” which are often really about, from so many Black youth I have spoken to, criminalizing Black youth just for spending time with three or more of them in a public space and being seen as a gang. We need to see that condemned and turned around.
Senator Boyer: My question is for you, Ms. Maynard. It is picking up on what Senator Cordy asked, dealing with the family issues you are talking about. One of the areas I have been working in for quite some time is the coerced sterilization of Indigenous women. I would like to know if you’ve seen this issue in any of the communities you have dealt with, in the Black communities.
Ms. Maynard: I am not an expert precisely on that. From years as a community advocate and outreach worker, I can tell you that, overall, the ways that Black women are treated within health care systems are atrocious. We have seen, for example, American studies that show that Black women who express experiencing pain are often read as experiencing less pain than other women. I have seen them denied services and being disbelieved, being thought to be seeking pain medication. We have seen an under-investigation into the realities faced by Black women within health care systems. That needs to be prioritized if we are to value Black women’s lives in this society. So while I can’t speak specifically to sterilizations, more broadly, being treated neglectfully within health care means that people’s access to reproductive health, freedom and autonomy is very much limited, particularly given the high rate of Black women behind bars, where we know that Black women are being denied milk and vitamins in prisons from the 1990s onward.
Senator Pate: Thank you to all of you, not just for appearing here today but for the life-long work you have all done and the many contributions you have made to Canadians and your respective communities, as well as to all of us.
I wanted to pick up on a couple of things. Poverty has been woven through everything you have talked about. One of the areas that I am particularly interested in, particularly given the research that has come out, minimal as it is on the examples, is how you feel that a guaranteed liveable income — not just a basic income, but a guaranteed liveable income — might impact the various groups you are working with, whether young people or others. We have heard lots of examples of how it might assist Indigenous and Black communities. I am interested in your perspective of how that might link in, not to replace social services but as a way to alleviate the policing of people for income and some of the issues that you, Ms. Knockwood and Ms. Maynard, have both mentioned.
Ms. Knockwood: Thank you, honourable senator, for your question.
I recently read a book by Bernie Sanders, who ran for president of the U.S. One of the things he recommended as well was that we need to have a guaranteed minimum income. I think that would make real effective change for everyone. I support that.
Ms. Maynard: I would like to add my support for that as well. Of course, as you mentioned, it can’t be a stand-in for redressing the injustices and so many other issues. For example, I don’t think that adding a guaranteed liveable income would get rid of the problem of carding, but addressing economic injustice, particularly because it falls along racial lines continuously across Canadian history, is something that would make an intervention into what is often an unlivable life for so many poor Black families. It would be an essential step toward racial, economic and social justice.
Ms. Vandergrift: To add to that, it is an option for us to consider, but you named one of the concerns that is raised relative to children: We know that helping children in families out of poverty is often a combination of household income and community supports. There is a concern that if a guaranteed annual income is seen as the fix, it may miss other important pieces. When it comes to the emerging national poverty reduction strategy, we are keen on seeing much more aggressive targets for addressing child poverty in order to address the issues we have heard here and that there be a combination of household income and support services.
Ms. Landry: As we all know, discrimination is and can be amplified by poverty. This is certainly something the CHRC, Canadian Human Rights Commission, will support as one of the tools to address discrimination.
Senator Hartling: Thank you, everyone, for being here on this important day to commemorate 70 years of human rights, but still a long way to go.
I am thinking about your suggestion, Ms. Landry, of our doing a study on human rights issues and how we would do that. Each of you can jump in on this. What do you think is driving this hate in Canada? I noticed on the news last week that the numbers are going up in terms of Black men and Muslim men. What is driving it? It seems that Canada wasn’t like this before. What is happening? It worries me, because those are not our values in Canada. Can you give me your thoughts on that?
Ms. Landry: I will quote Nelson Mandela, who said:
No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
I believe we are facing this phenomenon with social media and all the technology. We are in an era when we are experiencing a lack of empathy and, with that lack of empathy and compassion, this is what happens. We don’t put ourselves in the shoes of others and we connect less and less with each other. If someone talks about a Muslim child or a Black child, they don’t feel touched or concerned by that. We are more individualist, and I think that is one of the problems. We need to understand where that is coming from in order to address it.
Ms. Vandergrift: One of the things I would like to contribute is what the evidence shows about children who learn about their rights in rights-respecting schools. We need to start early in teaching respectful attitudes. The evidence is that when you build it right into the school system from the beginning and children learn and practise respectful behaviours, there is a different attitude. Most of the research is from the U.K., but it is relevant to Canada.
We don’t do that in Canada. We don’t start early. Most of the children do not learn about their rights. Human rights are taught in Grade 7 or 8. It is taught as part of future citizenship, when you get to vote. It is not taught as something for children to be practising now. Rights-respecting is about relationships and learning to create space for everyone. If we start early with children, it will be a good investment. It’s not the only solution, for sure; you need other strategies. Why we haven’t made that move puzzles me. We did a survey of all provincial education systems, and teaching children’s rights is not in any provincial education system in a credible way.
Ms. Knockwood: I would like to add to that. There is a lot to be said about this. Sometimes we need to walk a mile in another person’s moccasins in order to be able to see what that person is living.
I had an opportunity to witness a powerful exercise called the blanket exercise. I’m not sure if any of the senators have had an opportunity to be part of that. Obviously, it is my history and I have lived it. When I participated in that, I was probably one of three First Nations people in a group of about forty people. It was so powerful for me and for everyone there, because it provided the opportunity to all participants to recognize the tragedy of the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada since contact. Reading about it and seeing little snippets of it through media or learning a bit about it in school didn’t provide as huge an impact as did participating in a two-hour blanket exercise. I think every institution in Canada that works with First Nations people — maybe even every educational institution in Canada — should incorporate, at some point or another, an exercise similar to the blanket exercise so that people have the opportunity to experience the feelings of that tragedy and to know about it.
Once we have compassion for another group that is not our own, there is more opportunity to have those discussions and to create the bridges that are so needed to ensure that hate doesn’t thrive within Canada. Hate is based on not knowing and on fear of the unknown. Let’s shine a light on the unknown. Let’s shine a light on the unknown, on the experiences, and not just academically. I feel that the blanket exercise was very educational in creating compassion, which is what I think we need. Thank you.
Ms. Maynard: I want us to remember that these rises in hate aren’t just coming from outside the society we live in. I want to bring it back to the systemic again. We live within institutions that, because they have not redressed, often continue to condone racialized injustice, where we see that Black children’s lives are not valued in the schools and child welfare homes where they often find themselves, and where Black people in mental health crises are killed and there are no repercussions. When we continue to see uninterrupted systemic discrimination, that is something that is also tacitly condoning hate because it is condoning certain kinds of dehumanization and allowing them to be both legal and acceptable. That allows for ongoing dehumanization that enables the kind of hate we are seeing.
It is not only populist hate that we are seeing, but it’s also on the rise for many political leaders. I am thinking, for example, of Doug Ford referring to those who have children in Canada who are migrants as having anchor babies, a very racialized trope. I’m also thinking of other more right-leaning Conservative politicians, for example, the Conservative ad that showed a picture of a Black man crossing the border and said that Canada has to stop what it just started. We need to look at where this is coming from. It is not only coming from within the population, but it’s coming from political leaders. Unfortunately, it is something that is still part of Canadian institutions. Unless we see a full-scale commitment to remedying these injustices in a broader way, we won’t be able to address the spike in racialized hate speech outside of those institutions.
The Chair: Colleagues, I apologize. We will not have time for a second round because we have a second panel.
I want to thank all of you for sharing with us this morning, for your responses to the questions and for helping us to bring greater awareness to the gaps that we still need to address as we are looking at human rights in this country. Thank you for the work that you do every single day on these issues.
In our second hour today, we have four panellists. They shall speak from the international perspective. Each has been asked to provide five minutes of opening comments. Let me introduce them, and they will also present in this order: Martin O’Hanlon, Chair, CWA Canada, The Media Union, International Federation of Journalists; Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Representative in Canada, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Alice Kim, an intern in the office of Senator Martin and part of an internship program for young defectors from North Korea; and Mohammed Emrul Hasan, Vice President, Program Effectiveness and Quality, Plan International Canada.
Martin O’Hanlon, Chair, CWA Canada, The Media Union, International Federation of Journalists: Good afternoon, senators. Thank you for inviting me to speak about the rights of journalists on this the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I wish I had good news to report, but I’m sad to say that, for journalists, things are getting worse all around the world. Freedom of expression and more specifically, freedom of the press, is under serious threat around the globe. We have long watched governments from Saudi Arabia to Russia to Cuba restricting what journalists can report, but now, many serial offenders, notably China, are cracking down even harder, using technology to quash dissent and to block the sharing of information on social media.
Even more troubling, we have seen the rise of demagogues and ultra-conservative parties in formerly progressive countries such as Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and the Philippines who are openly hostile to the media. Turkey, a formerly secular country, is now the world’s leading jailer of journalists, with hundreds being held on trumped-up charges and many sentenced to years in jail. Then there is the U.S., where the ugliness of Trump and his Republican enablers are a threat to freedom of press and democracy.
Let’s be clear, journalism is a pillar of democracy and attacks on the media are attacks on our democratic system and our way of life. It is vital that progressive, moderate, responsible countries like Canada speak out publicly whenever freedom of the press is under attack, that we pressure other countries diplomatically to do better and that we punish the worst offenders through economic sanctions if necessary.
Restricting journalists’ rights is one thing, but in many countries, the situation is even more dire. From 2012 to 2016, at least 530 journalists were killed, according to the UNESCO figures, and nine out of 10 cases remain unpunished. Impunity reigns.
Hundreds of journalists are imprisoned and, on a daily basis, media workers are attacked, beaten, detained, harassed and threatened. There are growing threats to digital safety with cyber-attacks, hacking and online harassment, especially of women journalists, all creating a safety crisis for news professionals.
Behind every statistic is also a human tragedy, a death, a kidnapping, a family left without a mother, a father, a brother or sister. Behind every statistic is a country or community left without information, denied the right to be properly informed.
It is because of this growing frustration with a lack of action, and often a lack of will to tackle the crisis of impunity, that has driven the International Federation of Journalists to call for an international convention on the safety of journalists and media professionals. Such convention would provide a codification of all international rules that apply to journalists in one instrument, bringing together both human rights and humanitarian law provisions. It would include the obligation to protect journalists against attacks on their life, arbitrary arrest, violence and intimidation campaigns; the obligation to protect against forced kidnappings and disappearances; the obligation to carry out effective investigations into alleged interferences and to bring the perpetrators to justice; and in the context of armed conflict, the obligation to treat media workers and facilities as civilians.
This process could begin via declaration of principles contained in a UN General Assembly resolution. Although non-binding, it would clarify the law, express the determination of the international community to counter impunity for attacks against journalists, and lay the foundations for the adoption of a binding instrument in future. In fact, all UN sectoral conventions — on the rights of women, children, disabled people — have been preceded by general assembly declarations.
We have asked the Government of Canada to declare support for the convention, and I hope we will have the support of this committee and of the Senate at large.
I know I’m here to talk about the international climate, but before I close, I do have to make one mention of the situation in Canada, where things are benign but still worrying. Earlier this year, we saw Radio-Canada reporter Antoine Trépanier arrested just across the river in Gatineau simply for doing his job and asking questions. It was based on a frivolous harassment complaint by someone who didn’t like what he was reporting. It never should have happened. Also this year, a judge ordered Radio-Canada journalist Marie-Maude Denis to reveal her source in a Quebec corruption trial — a case that is now going to the Supreme Court. Just last week, the Supreme Court ruled that Vice Media reporter Ben Makuch must hand over material he gathered about an accused ISIS fighter.
Let us be clear: The media is not, nor should it ever be, an arm of the state. As journalists, we must fight attempt by anyone, especially authorities, to interfere with freedom of the press. As a result, our union will now be pushing the federal government to bolster the Journalistic Sources Protection Act to better protect journalist sources.
Thank you for your time, and I would be happy to answer any questions.
The Chair: Thank you.
Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Representative in Canada, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: I will not bring any more positive news than Martin. I’m sure colleagues around the world see the same trend of reporting a deteriorating situation when we speak about refugees. As you may know, the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is also mandated to address the issue of statelessness.
I wanted to remind everyone that the universal declaration, in Article 15, clearly states that everyone has the right to nationality. As we speak, we have more than 10 million people around the world who cannot claim the protection of a state and therefore have major impediments to claiming any of their basic human rights.
I had the honour to brief the committee on the Rohingya situation. It is probably one of the most well-known stateless population, probably more than 1.4 million Rohingya, and now a large number of them in Bangladesh fall within this category. But we also have stateless populations, including here in Canada. Also, it’s very difficult to have any statistic about who is failing to claim his or her Canadian citizenship.
But let me turn to Article 14, which is the right to seek asylum. We have seen, as you know, unprecedented levels of forcible displacement. From 2016 to 2017, we went from 22 million refugees to 25 million, so it’s 3 million more in a single year. This is the worst year that we have witnessed since the Second World War.
On top of that, you have to add another 40 million plus of internally displaced people who are trapped within the borders of their own country or who decide not to cross an international border because it’s a painful act for any human being to have to leave one’s own home. We are therefore close to more than 70 million people being displaced by conflict, generalized violence and individual persecution.
It’s important to note that the universal declaration protects all the rights for which — if they are not respected by the state — you can claim asylum: right to freedom of expression, rights of journalists, of political opinion, of religion, protect minorities. One of the key foundations of the international refugee framework is the right not to be returned when one is at risk of being tortured, the absolute prohibition of torture, which is enshrined in Article 5.
It is also interesting to note that the first human rights instrument, which was agreed upon formally by member states after the universal declaration — which was, as you know, initially a non-legally-binding instrument adopted by the general assembly — is the 1951 Convention on Refugees, which is the first decision by member states to say when human rights cannot be protected in a country, people have the right to seek asylum. Therefore, states have an obligation to accept and to welcome and to treat asylum seekers fairly.
As we see around the world, not necessarily in the countries that are on the front line but more in our Western democracies, we see doors being closed to refugees. We see more and more xenophobic, populist rhetoric against refugees, migrants and foreigners altogether. This country, as you well know, is not immune from those kinds of politicizations of the debate, from information that is instilled in the public to instill fears rather than to reassure the public that we have mechanisms to address the needs of those who come spontaneously to Canada to seek asylum or the 30,000 resettled refugees that Canada welcomes every year.
I just wanted to draw attention to the situation in Canada, because we have seen over the last few months a deterioration of the debate around refugees and people who cross through irregular means. I emphasize irregular. Those are not illegal acts. Irregular means at the border in Quebec, in Lacolle, Roxham Road. We are speaking about a bit more than 20,000 people this year, the same number as last year, who arrived spontaneously through Lacolle. On top of that, you have to add another 30,000 people who arrived through a regular port of entry, airports and so on, so a total of 50,000 asylum seekers in Canada.
This is one day in Bangladesh at the height of the Rohingya refugee crisis. In six weeks, Bangladesh received more than 700,000 people, and the worst day was when we received 50,000 people in a single day. Bangladesh kept the border open and went beyond the call of duty to accommodate those refugees in a part of the country which is very dense in terms of human presence, with all the difficulties of providing resources.
Closer to us, I just would like to flag that we still have a deteriorating situation in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, which provoked the caravan that we saw recently arriving in Mexico. We are speaking here about LGBTQ, we are speaking about women and children who are leaving because of systematic rape and systematic beatings, forced conscription into criminal gangs by those criminal gangs.
I will just stop with deteriorating situation in Venezuela, where 5,000 people leave the country on a daily basis. I think that represents the magnitude of the problem we are facing when we speak about refugees.
The Chair: Thank you so much.
Alice Kim, as an individual: Thank you everyone for inviting me here today. My name is Alice. I’m here in Canada participating in the HanVoice Pioneers Project. HanVoice is Canada’s largest non-profit organization that focuses on North Korean human rights and refugee issues, and the Pioneers Project was made by HanVoice to help refugees like myself to learn and develop skills to become better advocates for North Korea. I’m here today to share my family’s story, which I hope will illustrate the North Korean reality and the role that Canada can play to change it.
I was born in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, in 1995. My parents were high-ranking elites in the Worker’s Party of Korea, the ruling political party. My dad was a general and my mom was a high-level secretary in Kim Il-sung’s inner circle.
In 1996, my dad was promoted to a diplomat posting in China, and my mom and I accompanied him, but we were in China for just a short time because things in North Korea began to change very quickly. In 1994, Kim Il-sung had passed away and the country fell into a famine that lasted many years. In the transition of power, Kim Jong-il implemented the policy of Songun in 1994. This meant that now the military force was first priority. As the famine continued to destroy the country, my dad commented to others that Kim Jong-il’s policies caused more harm than good. Soon after that, he was ordered to report back to North Korea immediately. Someone had disclosed his complaint to higher authority. My dad understood he had become a threat to Kim Jong-il’s rise to power and that our lives were in danger.
In delaying his return to North Korea, a hit was put out on my father. One night, he felt a gun applied beside his ear, and my parents immediately planned to escape. My dad had contact with other diplomatic missions, including the Portuguese government in Macau, and they agreed to assist my father in escaping China into South Korea. As you may know, Macau was held by Portugal for nearly 200 years and was finally returned to China in 1999, so this exit route no longer exists for North Koreans in China.
Flying out of Macau, my family arrived in South Korea at the end of December 1997 when the presidency of Kim Dae-jung was about to start. You may already know that Kim Dae-jung won the Nobel Peace Prize for introducing the “Sunshine Policy.” What you might not know is that domestic policies and attitudes towards the refugees were greatly impacted because of this policy. In order to have positive relations with North Korea, the plight of refugees were still under the rug. To make matters worse, the IMF financial crisis fell on the region that same year, turning the country into economic chaos. My family arrived in South Korea at the worst possible moment for a North Korean family whose need for financial assistance was most unwelcome and whose knowledge about inner workings of a secretive government was no longer valued.
In discovering my family’s history, I learned about the power of lines drawn at pivotal moments in history that would determine the course of our lives. If Roosevelt and Stalin had not split our country in half in 1945, would there have to be a North or South Korea or Korean refugees? If Kim Il-sung had not passed unexpectedly, would my parents have remained revered North Korean elites? If Portugal had not controlled Macau at that time, would my family have escaped? If we had not entered during Kim Dae-jung’s presidency and the IMF crisis, would my family have been celebrated as refugees survivors?
I applied to be a HanVoice Pioneer to act as an advocate and help erase the deepest line that has defined my identity. I’m interested in the reunification of the two Koreas because this line should not have been there in the first place, but most importantly, to me, this line cost us leaving someone precious behind. When my father was posted to China, our family was forced to leave my older sister behind in North Korea, according to the policy for diplomats. She was an insurance deposit. To this day, we do not know if any of our family members, including my older sister, are alive. She was just six at the time, and today, she is maybe 28.
This is why I will not be a silent North Korean refugee. This is why I turn to the Canadian government and people to ask for action. I stand here today as a humble North Korean to remind the Canadian government and policymakers that your lines matter and that they impact real people in real time. I hope that my story can help Canadian decision-makers to be empowered to continue conversations with those in need so that we can steer policies toward a better future for the North Korean people together and finally, one day, I can find and meet my older sister again with this effort and your help.
Thank you so much.
The Chair: Thank you so much for telling us your story.
Mohammed Emrul Hasan, Vice President, Program Effectiveness and Quality, Plan International Canada: Thank you, honourable chair, honourable deputy chairs and honourable members of the committee. I will make my remarks with hope and some stories that are aligned with the presentations of other previous speakers.
We really welcome this opportunity to celebrate global gains and to reflect how Canada can continue to lead on the international stage by advancing human rights for all, including children and especially girls. While I’ll be focusing on the international context, I will also weave the Canadian context into it, because children are universal to everywhere.
As one of the world’s largest development organizations, with 80 years of experience working to advance children’s rights and equality for girls, we know that the global community is at a pivotal juncture that presents both great challenges and great hope for children, particularly girls.
Undoubtedly, there have been many gains globally and, in Canada, from excellent non-discrimination and equality legislative policy and institutional initiatives to thematic successes for girls such as access to primary education, under five mortality rates and more. We are also witnessing a renewed and powerful upswell of social activism by girls and women, as well as boys, men and people of other gender identities around the world and in Canada, to continue fighting for their rights. These wins must be celebrated.
With every government that signs on to attaining sustainable development goals, there is unequivocal commitment to leave no one behind and realize the human rights of all.
Yet, every day through our work around the world, we see how discriminatory, social and gender norms continue to perpetuate inequality, leading to girls being denied an education, a voice and a choice. They are denied control over their bodies, denied decisions on their future and denied the ability to live free from violence and abuse. In too many corners of the world, this is being seen as normal. Unfortunately, no country, including Canada, has achieved complete gender equality.
We know there is a gaping data deficit rendering millions of girls around the world, including in Canada, invisible because of a lack of timely and credible data. Without this data, we cannot accurately reflect the specific challenges girls face and monitor the real progress.
We also know child protection globally has been a neglected issue. The persistence of violence against children, especially girls, and the systemic violation of their rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child everywhere, including in Canada, remains a major obstacle towards the achievement of SDGs.
But we also know there are proven solutions to these issues. We know from our work that challenging harmful gender norms and the root causes of inequality is the only way to create sustainable change for children and justice for all. Without a doubt, we know from the data that gender equality delivers social, economic, political and environmental dividends for everyone, but we have a long way to go.
Canada’s lead on advancing gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women on the global stage is not only the right thing to do but, as the evidence suggests, a smart way to deliver better development outcomes that have a more sustainable impact.
From Muskoka to the Feminist International Assistance Policy to the recent G7 declaration on the education and empowerment of girls in crisis, Canada’s long-standing and continued global leadership and strong reputation in promoting gender equality have been pivotal in mobilizing global efforts to tackle maternal and child mortality and early childhood forced marriage. Canada is helping to champion adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights, promote education, advance the political participation of women and girls and their role in peace and security.
Importantly, the Canadian government’s Feminist International Assistance Policy has sharpened focus on empowerment of women and girls as an end unto itself. These are hard-won gains that must be pursued going forward, building on what we have achieved. Second, Canada needs to reassert child protection and child rights within Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy as the next step to ensuring maximum results to implementation.
The most important point that I would like to put forward here is Canada must reassert accountability to girls, women and communities supported through development assistance, in addition to Canadian taxpayers, by measuring impact and empowerment in clear and understandable terms.
The gender data gap is vast and accountability systems are relatively weak, requiring urgent attention to successfully monitor and measure gender equality and progress toward our sustainable development goals indicators. This is true also for Canada.
We also urge the development of comprehensive measures aimed at changing both the condition and position of women and girls through development assistance. The work is challenging, but when done correctly, it can unleash human potential by empowering women and girls to shape their lives and create a world that is more just for everyone.
The Chair: Thank you all very much for your testimony.
Senator Cordy: Thank you. These have been two outstanding panels that we have today before we celebrate Human Rights Day on December 10.
I would like to ask you a question, Mr. O’Hanlon, about journalists and freedom of the press. I agree with you that journalism is a pillar of democracy and we see, throughout history, that countries that have allowed journalists and the freedom of the press to go to the wayside have not been well done by throughout history. You spoke of Poland, Turkey, China and Saudi Arabia. I was in Turkey just after the uprising. Funnily enough, the journalists, the judges and the opposition members were all arrested within hours of the uprising, making one wonder if the lists were made up before the uprising happened.
I’m concerned about that, but I’m really disturbed by what is happening in North America — in Canada and in the United States — but we’ll just talk about Canada. I’m concerned by some of the language that we’re hearing about journalists. I’m disturbed when I see women journalists doing interviews on TV who are being sexually harassed in the background by people who don’t even care they are in the video picture. I’m concerned by the language we are hearing that Mr. Beuze spoke about, and we are hearing terms like illegal migrants and illegal refugees. They are not illegal. They are refugees and they are migrants. We are hearing a change in tone of language and we are hearing not just language, but we’re hearing of an increasing number of journalists who are being killed and people saying, “Oh well.”
What should we be doing? Do we bring in laws? It’s very difficult because, in many cases, they are attacking governments, either provincially or federally, so the government comes out as well and you just don’t want to hear criticism about the governments. As parliamentarians, what do we do?
Mr. O’Hanlon: Specifically on the issue of people shouting sexual harassment at some of our women journalists, government can easily pass a law to target that specifically and make that a crime punishable by a certain penalty. It’s crazy that people get away with that, and they really do it with impunity.
On the broader issue of what we can do to combat the verbal attacks on the press, it is troubling. We have seen it. Trump is the most vocal, but you know, in the Ontario Government we have a new premier who attacks the press, and in a recent case —
Senator Cordy: Yes, he has his own television station.
Mr. O’Hanlon: Because they want their message. It’s political. They realize they are catering to a base and attacking the press is something they can win on in the court of public opinion in many ways.
I think the most important thing that parliamentarians can do is to reinforce the importance of a free press as a pillar of democracy, and independent reporting, and let people know that we need a free press and we need to respect journalists, especially ones who are reporting unbiasedly. There are some that would not necessarily be considered journalists because they are tied to a specific group that has a name, but if you are mainstream, independent media, you should be getting the respect that you need. Politicians should be showing that respect all the time.
Senator Cordy: Mr. Beuze, do you have any comment on the language that is being used for refugees?
Mr. Beuze: We are in a world — and I am sure Martin will be able to develop that — where facts, figures and references to policy and legal frameworks no longer resonate within the wider public. It is more the values and emotions that drive the discussion on those issues, which is dangerous because that is where populist rhetoric and xenophobic attitudes, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Black, anti-Jews or Islamophobia can rise.
You will have noticed, for example, that in the global compact on migration, which will be adopted in Marrakesh on December 10, there is a whole section of calling upon states to do exactly what Martin said, that is, having a policy and legal framework to protect the freedom of expression, which is not unlimited in terms of when it calls to racial hatred and violence, when it is inaccurate and seeks to instill fear in the population. Journalists, according to the human rights framework, have to be held to account.
Senator Ataullahjan: I want to thank all of you, especially Ms. Kim, for sharing your story. I applaud your courage. I think you could see there were a few wet eyes on this side.
My question was similar to that of Senator Cordy. Martin, did you ever imagine that you would be seeing what you are seeing and how journalists are being treated in Canada?
My question to you, commissioner, is the following: Could you give me an update on the Rohingya and the sex trafficking we were worried about with children? We hear of vans coming into the camps and children being picked up, and the victims of rape, the children born out of those rapes. There are so many issues. I keep asking this question and no one seems to be able to give me an update.
Mr. O’Hanlon: It is interesting you raised that. Recently, I gave a speech and I said I can’t believe that in 2018, we are dealing with this nonsense. The premier of the Province of Ontario coming out and attacking the free press because he will get political gain out of it is absurd. It is not a partisan thing; as journalists, we don’t support Liberals, Conservatives, NDP. We just support issues, and a key issue as a pillar of democracy is freedom of the press. If any party attacks that, we have to defend that. You are asking what can we do? You have to shout these people down and stand up to them every time they do things like this. Every time they attack a journalist for doing their job, we have to stand up and say, “That journalist has the right to do that and he has a responsibility to that, and they shouldn’t be belittled for doing it.”
Mr. Beuze: Briefly, it takes time for the humanitarian partners to set up the proper mechanisms through which safe spaces and the one-on-one or focus group or participatory assessments can help survivors of rape to come forward. In the Rohingya situation, we are only one year after the fact. To shift, we have seen that in the context of the Syrian refugees, it takes nine months for a woman of participatory activities, such as cooking classes and sewing, to feel confident enough to come forward and ask for help because she has been subjected to sexual violence or rape. We must take into consideration that it takes a long time before survivors feel confident enough to come forward. There are issues linked to tradition, social norm, risk of reprisal from the male members of the families in the situation of the Rohingya or the Syrians. That is the first point. And we will never force people, even if we suspect that a child maybe born out of rape. We will always respect the decision of the woman to share that kind of story or not.
Second, you need to offer a solution to people. When there are few livelihood opportunities, when people struggle to make ends meet, people will be forced to resort to “survival” sex, which is a euphemism for forced prostitution, whether it is themselves or their children. That does not affect only girls; we have to be extremely aware that little boys or male adults are also subjected to different forms of sexual harassment. To avoid that, we need to provide sufficient resources for the families not to be forced to resort to those harmful practices, which can also be early marriage in the case of children or taking children out of school to make them work or to beg on the street and so on. It is a situation where the funding — you have heard me say that several times in front of this committee and other committees in Parliament — is absolutely critical. That is the only way you can prevent those types of violations and abuse.
Senator Martin: I am no longer a member of the committee, but I came today knowing that this was a special day. Thank you to my colleagues for giving me this opportunity.
I feel like each one of you should have your own session because there are so many questions we could ask. So thank you for your presentations.
One question is for Alice, who is currently in my office. Each time I hear her story, there is something more that she adds. I was moved to tears myself, along with others in this room.
What is the most effective way the international community, including Canada, can assist North Korean defectors? You mentioned at the end of your speech calling upon policy makers to take action. What would you recommend?
Mr. Hasan, I listened carefully to what you were saying. Towards the end, you talked about how the gender data gap is vast and the accountability system is relatively weak. You go on to explain what you meant by that, but I was curious about it. We have challenges in every sector, talking about accountability. How would you strengthen that? Would you expand on that a bit more? Is there anything being done about that? If so, what can Canada do to contribute as well?
Ms. Kim: Thank you. That is a very good question.
I can recommend some efforts that Canada can make towards change. The first is North to North, the resettlement program. I endured so much bullying as a North Korean person in South Korea, and it is very hard as a North Korean living in South Korea. My parents also had a hard time looking for a job and surviving in South Korea as North Korean refugees. However, when I came here to Canada, I realized that the Canadian people are not more upset about other cultures and origins. They don’t care about my origin. I am still hiding my origin from my best friend in South Korea. That is a shame to me. I am also worried about their reactions if they know about my origin. I think Canada can accept more North Korean refugees and they are able to live here more comfortably.
Second, I know that Canada is a human rights leader. As a human rights leader, Canada can pay more attention about North Korean human rights issues. As you know, the United States and South Korea focused on denuclearization dialogue with North Korea. I also know denuclearization is important, but I think human rights issues are extremely important to the people of North Korea. As an international leader on national human rights, Canada can raise that issue in international society.
Finally, the Canadian government and this committee can support and help NGOs that help North Korean refugees, like HanVoice, including the NGOs in South Korea. This will help the North Korean refugees, I think.
Mr. Hasan: Thank you for your questions. I will highlight three things to demystify what I meant by the gender data gap first and then look at what Canada can do.
If you look at all surveys done globally, including Canada, for example, the census, the demographic health surveys in countries internationally, there are MICS surveys done by the UN, and many governments are doing annual surveys. Often, these surveys just desegregate data by sex at most. We know that if you want to desegregate data by many other things like age, location or other gender identity, it will cost more. We know that. However, in the absence of that desegregation, you get data which is almost not useful. We therefore need to promote and find out how to collect data from different age cohorts, especially the cohort of ages 13 to 18. We call this cohort the missing cohort from any study and survey. There is a lot of attention around whether or not you have the right methodology to do the survey. Recently, the World Health Organization and our organization, with support from the Canadian government, did some piloting of surveying adults, girls and boys. We learned that by doing that, you can find a lot of other elements that are required for policy decisions. That is number one.
Second, quite often we look at the whole problem from a household perspective, and treating a man as head of the household basically takes out the whole gender dimension that happens in the household, in the community and in society. You are missing the important element for making programmatic decisions about what needs to be done with the girls and women.
The Canadian government, especially Global Affairs Canada with the assistance provided internationally, has added a big element around accountability. They talked about the fact that data will not only be provided for reporting but also to the communities so they can learn from the data and take programmatic action to address gender inequality globally. That is one good step. Second, they have already identified a need to find out measurements for gender equality. Gender equality is one of the most difficult things to measure. It talks about empowerment, and many people ask how you measure empowerment. There is a need to invest more to learn how to measure this. Many organizations in Canada, with the support of Global Affairs Canada now, are doing good work to identify those measurement frameworks so we can inform the sector and globally and, at the same time, use that data to better inform better policy and programming decisions.
The Chair: Thank you. We have time for a second round now.
Senator Cordy: Ms. Kim, thank you very much. Your testimony was very powerful. When you are living in Korea and you are a middle-class family of means, are you aware of the political climate happening there? Are you aware of the human rights things that are happening in North Korea?
Ms. Kim: Actually, my parents talk to me about North Korea every day because they think it is important. They want me to become a bridge between North Korea and South Korea.
When my parents were in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, they experienced the biggest famine in North Korea. Even in Pyongyang, there was no food. My mom said our neighbourhood died because of famine, but they couldn’t complain to the government about it because it is not permitted to North Korean people. They do not know what human rights mean. There is no concept of human rights, so they don’t know what happened in North Korea themselves.
When my parents moved to China through the other provinces in North Korea, they saw many people who died because of famine. There are no trees or grass to eat because they already ate all of it. Many children just run out in their province around the poor people, and they are exposed to sexual assault, especially for women or children. They don’t know what happens after.
Through this situation, the North Korean government just kept to information about nuclear weapons, that outside it is dangerous and our country is the best country to live in, and North Korean citizens have to follow our orders and the Kim family’s conditions. We were just educated about the Kim family’s history and North Korea is the best country, and we just followed that situation.
Senator Ataullahjan: My question to you, Mr. Hasan, is twofold. I would like to know the unique challenges faced by girls in developing countries and countries where there is conflict.
As well, you just said that the man has been the head of the family. We need to take out the gender dimensions. How do you think we will be able to do that in countries where there are such traditional roles and where even the women will not go against the wishes of their fathers, husband and brothers? When I do speaking engagements, I talk about encouraging women but supporting them. I tell the males in the family they have to support them.
Mr. Hasan: I want to start with your last question because it is an interesting one.
It is not easy in a society where you see that patriarchy is normal. Bringing out the issue around girls and women and addressing those issues by just targeting girls and women will not solve it. There is a huge thing going on in the international development space called “male engagement.” It is engaging males and getting them to take action to address some of the unacceptable societal practices and then move to the empowerment space.
If I go to a country and start doing empowerment from day one without understanding the cultural, social, political and religious contexts and say that we will move them from X to Y and empower everyone, that would be the wrong approach. The approach will be to identify how to stop harmful practices that are a big barrier for girls and women, how to engage men to really address them and then gradually work with them for a longer time.
We have a number of examples of working in a country like Nigeria and the Boko Haram area, which is very religiously and politically challenging. The Punjab in Pakistan is a very difficult place to work where we did a program called “women’s economic empowerment,” bringing women into the dairy sector and supporting them to become big producers.
We always found that it takes time, but if you can have that male engagement plus let girls and women understand and develop agencies for themselves, move them together and give them data around what is happening — gender equality not only improves the lives of girls and women but it also improves the lives of men. If that data can be shown to people and that it is helping the whole society and the community, it makes a change. That is a good example of the change. It will take a long time to do it everywhere in the world, but the change will eventually happen.
The first question that you asked is about data —
Senator Ataullahjan: The challenges faced by girls.
Mr. Hasan: Yes. There are a lot of challenges, especially if you look at the conflict areas. I will give you an example because I have just come back from one of my missions in Bangladesh, an area where we have Myanmar Rohingya refugees living. They are in a situation that is unstable, not so much conflict but unstable. If you look at the traditional problems or barriers that girls and women face in Bangladesh, it is obviously a lack of education if you are poor, and mobility is a big issue — you are unable to go where you want — but the most important is decision-making. Am I able to make decisions for myself and my family? Am I able to make decisions for my children as a woman? If you turn that to the refugees, where the problem is security and they are unable to get even their basic needs and means, plus all the other areas I talked about, you cannot talk about decisions when you see the deep problem they have facing with security. That is one example.
Another example I can give you is from a mission I did in Syria and Jordan working with refugees who were crossing the border from this side. The biggest one is the violence against girls and women in the context of conflict, sexual and physical violence. These are documented and reported. A number of units here and at UNICEF have identified those problems for girls and women in the area of conflict. The issues are so big that when you try to address them, as you said, in the first one or two years, they will not even report it to you. That requires a lot of psychosocial processes to work with them and get those findings and then work around them. Those are the common issues of girls and women in the area of conflict.
Senator Ngo: I have questions for Mr. O’Hanlon and Mr. Beuze.
You mentioned the freedom of the press has been oppressed, mostly in the former Eastern Europe, Turkey, Myanmar, Vietnam and China. What are the main threats facing these journalists while reporting on human rights issues in those countries?
Mr. O’Hanlon: In many of them, they simply can’t report on human rights issues without the threat of being attacked. That comes from either government, from criminal gangs or other people who have an interest in silencing them. It can actually be a physical attack. You are reporting something that somebody doesn’t want you to report, which is the essence of journalism. As we say, everything else is public relations. When they go to try to report crises in countries that the government doesn’t want reported, they will be punished in one way or another.
Myanmar would be a perfect example of that. We don’t hear a lot of what is going on. When we do, for example from Reuters, they lock them up in jail, which was horrific. This is a major international news organization, and even their journalists were put in jail. What does that say to the freelancers, independents or small journalists if they can lock-up journalists from one of the biggest news companies in the world?
Senator Ngo: What about Vietnam? Do you have any cases there?
Mr. O’Hanlon: I don’t have a specific case from there, but the press is not a free press in Vietnam. It is the same thing. If they try to report something the government doesn’t want, it will not go well.
Senator Ngo: Mr. Beuze, Ms. Kim mentioned the North Koreans refugees. Why have other countries not accepted North Koreans as refugees there? What are the main reasons for that?
Mr. Beuze: As you know, it is extremely difficult for North Koreans to leave the country. Everyone has the right to seek asylum but, in a number of countries, not only North Korea, it is extremely difficult to leave one’s own country. Then it is difficult to have a country next door that will receive you and keep the border open. We see, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Asia, an opening to those fleeing violence and persecution, but in a number of other countries it is difficult to arrive through regular means, including through irregular means and to claim asylum in those countries. The system is more and more restrictive.
Ms. Kim: There are many discriminatory prejudices against North Korea refugees in South Korea. The people of North Korea can only go and enter South Korea. That is the only option when we escape from North Korea, but as a North Korean refugee in South Korea, our life is very difficult. We endure many struggles. When my family arrived in South Korea, the South Korean government took away all our certifications from North Korea. My parent’s credentials and high-level positions in the North became a source of suspicion. They spent all times of the day working at land fills, gas stations and in the street for the small amount of money we needed to survive.
Financial problems are difficult for our family, but the most difficult thing is discrimination. When I was in middle school and elementary school, I would often find trash spilling out of my locker, and sometimes kids poured dirty water from a mop bucket on my head when I was in a bathroom stall. Sometimes kids would hide sharp blades in my desk so I would cut my hand reaching for a book. As I grew older, the mistreatment became more intensified and difficult.
As I mentioned, Canada, as a multicultural society, can accept their origin, and North Korean refugees have more options to choose for ourselves where we live. We can have a better future here. I recommend that Canada, as a human rights leader, maybe lead in a resettlement program for the North Korean people.
The Chair: That is probably a good point for us to end on, and I am pleased that we are ending with your voice, Ms. Kim. You are a model for us in terms of finding courage to use your voice as an advocate. From the last panel, we heard that silence is not an option. Each of you has clearly reinforced the theme that it is so important for us to stand up for rights. On Monday, as we mark the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we will remember all that you have shared with us today and the reminder that, while some progress has been made, there is still much more to be done. We all must use our voices to stand up for human rights. I want to thank you for giving us some of your time today and sharing your experiences and expertise. Thank you again.
I will remind senators that we want to pause for a picture with these students.
Senator Pate: Senator Bernard, with your approval and with the committee’s approval, I want to move that, following the photo, we move in camera for the discussion of last week’s draft report and to discuss future business.
The Chair: That would mean staying late, and just —
Senator Martin: The chamber sitting is at 2.
The Chair: The sitting is at 2. I don’t know how we would handle that. We have — no? No.
Senator Ataullahjan: No.
Senator Cordy: I’m fine.
The Chair: Fine to stay? So if we have quorum, we could still have the in camera meeting. Okay, so we’ll suspend for five minutes to do the photograph, and then we’ll come back to the in camera. Thank you.
(The committee continued in camera.)