Marginalized groups faced intersecting inequities, systemic discrimination and barriers to the realization of their human rights. The right to assembly was often under threat, particularly for Indigenous land defenders. Authorities failed to mitigate the climate crisis.
Freedom of assembly
In February, authorities invoked the Emergencies Act to end the “Freedom Convoy” blockade protest against Covid-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions in the capital Ottawa. The Convoy was characterized by incidents of racism, violence, harassment, intimidation and hate speech.1 On 25 April, the government established a Public Order Emergency Commission to examine the use of the Act.
On 3 November, the Ontario government passed Bill 28 making it illegal for members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), including educational assistants, school custodians, early childhood educators, secretaries and other professionals to exercise their constitutional right to proceed with a planned strike. This was repealed on 14 November.2
Indigenous peoples’ rights
The Innu people of Pessamit condemned climate change, forestry practices, hydroelectric projects and colonial policies threatening their traditional ways of life and identity, including their cultural rights, which should be included in any climate changes plans.3
In April, Prime Minister Trudeau officially acknowledged the role of the Catholic Church and the government in creating, maintaining and operating the residential school system, which the House of Commons unanimously recognized as genocide on 27 October.
On 1 June, 19 land defenders opposing construction of pipelines on their lands were charged with criminal contempt.4 On 22 June, Wet’suwet’en land defenders filed a civil claim over surveillance, harassment and intimidation against the minister of justice for the province of British Columbia, three Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers, Forsythe Security and Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. The case was ongoing at the end of the year.
In September, a private company, Coastal GasLink, began drilling on Wet’suwet’en territory, despite opposition by Hereditary Chiefs.5
On all issues, Indigenous Nations called for Nation-to-Nation dialogue with provincial and federal governments. However, authorities failed to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous communities in relation to resource extraction projects.
Right to water
Thirty-three long-term drinking water advisories, issued when water is not known to be safe, remained in effect at the end of the year, affecting 29 First Nations communities. In August, the territory of Nunavut declared a state of emergency for the city of Iqaluit over the shortage of water.
Following a class action lawsuit by several First Nations, the 2013 Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act was repealed and the authorities committed to introduce a new law in consultation with First Nations.
Women’s and girls’ rights
In July, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights acknowledged the disproportionate impact of forced and coerced sterilizations on Indigenous women, Black and racialized women, and people with disabilities. In November, research in Québec confirmed that Indigenous women suffered forced sterilizations and obstetric violence.
Gaps remained on disaggregated data collection and accountability mechanisms for implementation of the 2022 Progress Report on the National Action Plan to End Violence against Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirit peoples. A new national action plan to end gender-based violence was introduced in November.
In October, a coalition of civil society organizations representing transgender, Indigenous and Black sex workers challenged laws criminalizing sex work before the Ontario Superior Court. A decision remained pending.
LGBTI people’s rights
In August, the government launched the first “Federal 2SLGBTQI+ Action Plan”, committing new funds prioritizing Black, Indigenous and racialized civil society organizations. Core recommendations for health, employment and refugee support were lacking, as were implementation details.
In April, the CERD Committee condemned the criminalization of Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en land defenders by the federal government, the province of British Columbia, the RCMP’s Community-Industry Response Group and private security firms.
In June, the Toronto Police Service reported disproportionate use of force and strip searches on racialized, particularly Black, communities.
In October, the Québec Superior Court ruled arbitrary traffic stops unconstitutional as they are based on racial profiling. The Québec government appealed this decision in November, contradicting a commitment made in 2020.
On 4 October, the federal government sought to dismiss a class action lawsuit by Black federal workers alleging systemic discrimination in the public service. A decision remained pending.
In November, the appeal of a Québec Superior Court judge’s decision to uphold most of Bill 21 banning the wearing of religious symbols in certain public service functions was heard by the Court of Appeal.
Refugees’ and migrants’ rights
In May, the Québec Superior Court restored access to subsidized childcare for refugee claimant families, denied by the Québec government since 2018. The Québec government appealed this decision.
In June, the British Columbia government announced it would end immigration detention in its provincial jails, citing human rights concerns. The provinces of Nova Scotia, Alberta and Manitoba followed suit.
In August, the Ontario Superior Court dismissed a motion to challenge Canada’s denial of essential healthcare to migrants with irregular status and refusal to compensate an affected individual.
In October, the Supreme Court of Canada heard a constitutional challenge of the Safe Third Country Agreement, which prevents most refugee claimants arriving at Canada’s official land ports of entry from seeking protection in Canada.
Disparities in refugee resettlement were prevalent. Authorities committed to resettle 40,000 Afghans and increase sponsorship to 3,000 Afghan refugees. Authorization for emergency travel and fee-exempt temporary visitor visas were, however, open to an unlimited number of Ukrainians.
Failure to tackle climate crisis
Canada continued to have the highest rate of greenhouse gas emission per capita of the top 10 emitting countries and was among the largest public finance providers for fossil fuels.
A new NDC reduction of 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 had been announced in April 2021. This target fails to reflect Canada’s level of responsibility and capacity and will not keep the rise of global temperatures below 1.5˚C.
Canada committed to doubling its climate finance contribution to CAD 5.3 billion (USD 3.9 billion) over the next five years to support international climate efforts in developing countries. These commitments fall short of Canada’s fair share of responsibility for the climate crisis.
By 1 July, Export Development Canada had financed CAD 3.4 billion (USD 2.5 billion) to the oil and gas sector in Canada and abroad.
- “Amnesty International Canada statement on ‘Freedom Convoy’ blockade”, 11 February
- “Amnesty International Canada welcomes repeal of ‘chilling’ Ontario anti-strike bill”, 7 November
- Any Tidal Wave Could Drown Us – Stories from the Climate Crisis, 3 November
- “Canada: Indigenous land defenders at risk”, 22 June
- “Canada: Construction of pipeline on Indigenous territory endangers land defenders”, 3 October