3. Human Rights in Canada – Summary

Key Message

The assessment of the human rights situation for the Mary River mine begins with a review of how government protects human rights in Canada. According to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, governments must protect against human rights abuse within their territory, including by companies. This requires taking steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress such abuse through effective policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication.

In Brief

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The assessment of the human rights situation for the Mary River mine begins with a review of how government protects human rights in Canada. According to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, governments must protect against human rights abuse within their territory, including by companies.

The assessment of the human rights situation for the Mary River mine begins with a review of how government protects human rights in Canada. According to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, governments must protect against human rights abuse within their territory, including by companies. This requires taking steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress such abuse through effective policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication.

Canada is a signatory to most international human rights treaties. Even though it was initially opposed to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it now supports it. Canada also supports international human rights standards related to business and human rights. At the same time, Canada is aggressively pursuing resource development (in Canada and around the world) as part of its economic strategy. Canada needs to ensure that its resource development strategy does not contradict human rights.

Within Canada, human rights are protected by the Constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and provincial or territorial human rights laws. Furthermore, the Canadian Constitution and modern land claims agreements provide a strong protection of aboriginal rights in Canada.

In Nunavut, the protection of collective Inuit rights is assured by the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. There is also a Nunavut Human Rights Act that protects Nunavummiut against discrimination and creates the Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal. In a recent report to the Government of Nunavut, it was recommended that it create a new human rights commission to provide better protection for and education about human rights in Nunavut.

While there are strong legal protections for human rights in Canada, important challenges remain with respect to implementation of both Inuit and human rights in Nunavut, including:

• Poverty and lack of economic and employment opportunities affect the realization of economic and social rights in Inuit communities.

• The remote location, lack of infrastructure and high cost of food and services affect the right to food, the right to housing and the right to health of many individuals and families.

• The territorial and local governments lack resources to fully implement their human rights obligations.

• There are gaps in terms of access to remedies as Nunavut does not have a human rights commission, and there are significant barriers for Inuit using the legal system.

It is against this backdrop that the Baffinland company must ensure that its operations do not harm the human rights of Nunavummiut.
 

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