Human Rights Accountability in National Security Practices - A Special Report to Parliament

Are Canadian security organizations considering human rights when developing security measures and policies? In this Special Report to Parliament, the Commission recommended that Parliament pass legislation requiring national security organizations to publicly demonstrate how they meet obligations to respect human rights.



Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, the question of how best to ensure collective safety while respecting the rights of individuals remains on the minds of many Canadians, especially those who travel frequently by air.

Many of us associate this issue with our own experiences at airports. News reports regularly tell stories of air travelers who say they experienced discrimination during a security screening on account of their race, ethnicity, religion, or disability.

Over the past decade, the Canadian Human Rights Commission has conducted extensive research on national security and human rights in the Canadian context. It has consulted with organizations responsible for national security in Canada. And it has studied and analyzed court cases, inquiries into individual experiences, and the work of Parliamentary Committees.

The Commission has learned that many organizations have policies designed to prevent discrimination, but few can demonstrate whether or not their policies are actually effective in practice. For example, national security organizations have stated that they do not use racial or ethnic profiling. However, without clear methods to monitor practices and demonstrate that profiling is not taking place, an organization leaves itself open to criticism and the loss of public trust.

This Special Report to Parliament argues that good policy is not enough. Accountability is also necessary to ensure that national security organizations respect human rights in practice. Consequently, the Report recommends that Parliament amend existing legislation or create new legislation that requires national security organizations to track their human rights related performance and account publicly for that performance.


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