November 10, 2020
MEETING WITH CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS AND HUMAN RIGHT COMMISSIONS ON TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2020, PANEL DISCUSSION: “HUMAN RIGHTS IN CANADA IN CHALLENGING TIMES”
FROM: MICHAEL BRYANT
SUBJECT: CANADIAN CIVIL LIBERTIES ASSOCIATION SUBMISSION TO FPT CONFERENCE
This memorandum sets forth the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s (CCLA) submissions for FPT Ministers responsible for Human Rights, with particular focus on FPT management of the COVID pandemic. If I have to explain who we are to you, then we are not doing a good enough job in your jurisdiction. Much of our work is done through litigation, in which case we are opposing parties, at times. CCLA has appeared at the Supreme Court of Canada and all levels of court more than any other domestic human rights NGO in Canada, since our genesis in 1964. Our mandate is to change the law where governments or legislatures limit civil liberties contrary to Canada’s Constitution.
We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this FPT meeting. Our experience over the decades has been that issue-based advocacy through legislative and FPT venues has had less impact than litigation, but we advocate, nonetheless. Earlier this year, CCLA put out a report, grading FPT jurisdictions on their treatment of Canadian human rights during your emergency management of COVID19. We put out another report, last summer, on the enforcement of new COVID rules through charges and tickets. Both reports are being updated as of this writing, with new versions coming out later in November and early 2021.1 Our website also provides regular, sometimes daily updates to human rights issues arising during this pandemic.
Being familiar myself with FPT meetings, and having co-hosted one with the Hon. Irwin Cotler back in the day, I’m mindful of its limitations. Permit me to narrow my focus, therefore, so as to raise but one subject matter (racism), and otherwise focus herein on your systems or infrastructure than on the many critical issues themselves, which are better covered by those aforementioned reports by CCLA. After all, where there are breakdowns in the systems designed to protect Canadian human rights, there is little to no possibility of constitutional compliance. Where that happens, it’s always the vulnerable who suffer the most. We thus have two basic submissions: one about our institutions; the other is practical. I will address the latter at the outset.