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News April 15, 2020

CFE Joins 156 Other Organizations in Calling for Governments in Canada to Make Human Rights a Centrepiece of their Response to Covid-19 Pandemic

More that 300 organizations, academics, and public figures have called on governments in Canada to ensure that human rights are central in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Respect for human rights is particularly vulnerable – tenuous at best – in times of crisis. That holds true whether the crisis is related to national security, natural disasters or a public health emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter points out. “It is, therefore, a vital time to ensure robust human rights oversight: to encourage strong human rights measures are adopted by governments, and to guard against intentional or unintended human rights violations.”

As the letter notes, the impact of the measures being taken in response to the pandemic disproportionally affect First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, Black and racialized communities, the elderly, people living with disabilities, women and children at risk of violence in the home, refugees and migrants, official minority language communities, prisoners, sex workers, people who are living in homelessness or inadequate housing, people who use drugs, precariously-employed workers, people who are marginalized on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation and other at-risk communities.  

At the same time, bodies and institutions that traditionally play a central role in protecting human rights including courts, and human rights commissions and tribunals – are facing considerable constraints and limitations.

The letter calls on all levels of government to ensure broadly representative independent  human rights oversight committees established immediately. Further it calls for ensuring that Indigenous knowledge-keepers, representatives of federal, provincial and territorial human rights commissions, representatives of relevant municipal human rights offices, and language commissioners have or strengthen their official advisory role to special committees, emergency task forces, crisis response working groups and other bodies established by governments to coordinate their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the joint letter here