Remarks at the 2020 Meeting of Federal, Provincial and Territorial Human Rights Ministers

Speaking Notes

Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E.

Chief Commissioner Canadian Human Rights Commission

Remarks at the 2020 Meeting of Federal, Provincial and Territorial Human Rights Ministers

November 10, 2020

12:30 p.m.

5 minutes







Thank you so much. Hello everyone — Honourable Ministers and fellow human rights advocates.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the various traditional territories that we are all speaking from today.

Since our last meeting, we have seen some positive leadership and commitment in making human rights a priority.

Canada is certainly a world leader in human rights, but there is much more work to be done.

There are still persistent gaps in equality for many Canadians. For some, their situation was dire before pandemic.

COVID-19 has made matters far worse. Like gas on a fire, the pandemic has exacerbated and amplified inequality in Canada.

In fact, it has expanded the circle of vulnerability and has disproportionately affected already marginalized groups, including:

  • women,
  • children,
  • people with physical or mental disabilities,
  • immigrants and refugees,
  • LGBTQ2SI individuals,
  • older Canadians,
  • low income Canadians,
  • those in housing need and the homeless, many of whom are forced to live in encampments,
  • those in our prison system, and
  • Indigenous peoples, Black people, and other racialized groups.

Which brings me to an equally pressing human rights issue right now in Canada: the need for action to dismantle systemic racism.

Racism is a structure, not an event.

And systemic racism continues to create barriers for Indigenous peoples, Black Canadians and other racialized people in Canada.

Barriers to accessing health care, adequate housing and employment

And barriers to essential — potentially life-saving — services.

We are seeing overt and aggressive acts of racism, hatred and intolerance.

In recent months, we have also seen a rise in reports of antisemitism and Islamophobia.

This is an urgent human rights issue — and we have been sounding the alarm for years.

We have said often that: hate is a threat to public safety; hate shuts down debate; hate undermines democracy; and that hate threatens our human rights.

Combatting hate, whether on the ground or on-line, will take comprehensive, coordinated government-led action.

And that is the word I’d like to now conclude with: action.

Minister, I believe the various human rights issues being discussed yesterday and today have all reached a critical point where action is needed. The time for “further study” has passed.

It is now time for action.

Action that ensures that all human rights — including Indigenous and treaty rights — and economic, social and cultural rights — are recognized and implemented.

Action that seeks to dismantle systemic racism and promotes equality and inclusion for Indigenous, Black Canadian, Asian Canadians, and other racialized Canadians.

Action that aims to build a new normal, a better normal, one that promotes a more just, diverse and inclusive society for all.

And finally, action that is carried out with a close eye on Canada’s international human rights obligations and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Canada’s current international human rights obligations can serve as a framework for all governments to achieve substantive equality and fight systemic racism and discrimination.

We strongly encourage the domestic implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. It would bolster this framework and contribute to Canada’s human rights progress.

In closing, please know the Canadian Human Rights Commission, together with all Canada’s provincial and territorial human rights commissions, will be there as your ally on this road to a better normal.

Let’s do it together.

Thank you.



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