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to review decisions of administrative boards, commissions and tribunals to ensure that these are not inconsistent with human rights legislation.
The Canadian Constitution expressly provides that any law that is inconsistent with the
Constitution is of no force and effect, enabling Canadian courts to strike down laws held to be inconsistent with the Charter. In addition, the Constitution contains a broad remedial provision
enabling Canadian courts to craft remedies for violations of the Charter rights of individuals. In a recent decision (R. v. Hape), the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the importance of Canada’s
international human rights obligations to the interpretation of both domestic statute law and the Charter.
Canada’s human rights commissions and tribunals are independent statutory bodies created
by federal, provincial and territorial human rights legislation (see above). They are generally mandated to mediate and investigate complaints of discrimination under the prohibited grounds found in their respective legislation. Commissions also work to prevent discrimination by undertaking human rights education and promotional activities. Other administrative bodies, such as labour relations boards, have jurisdiction to investigate particular human rights issues that arise from their specific mandates. All administrative bodies mandated to apply law must do
so in a manner consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Governments in Canada have also created various public advocates for human rights, such
as ombudspersons, which generally investigate complaints about government services and promote access to these services, and children’s advocates, which promote the interests of children who have concerns about provincial government services.
Canada’s international human rights obligations
Canada has ratified many of the human rights treaties of the United Nations and has a long
tradition of participation in the drafting of United Nations human rights instruments and co- operating with relevant monitoring mechanisms.
International human rights treaties ratified by Canada do not automatically become part of
our domestic law. As a general practice, Canada does not incorporate the full text of treaties into
its domestic law. Instead, Canada’s domestic implementation is most often accomplished through a variety of laws, policies and programs at several levels of government.
While the Government of Canada has jurisdiction under the Canadian Constitution to enter
into human rights treaties on behalf of Canada, the implementation of many of the obligations under these treaties falls within the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories. The Government
of Canada therefore consults with provincial and territorial governments on matters involving their law-making authority prior to ratification.
Given the shared jurisdiction under Canada’s Constitution and the importance Canada
places on being in compliance with the obligations of a treaty before ratification, the federal,
provincial and territorial governments undertake an extensive legislative and policy review prior
to a decision on ratification. At present, Canada is undertaking this analysis in respect of the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and All Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.