Racial Equality and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is an international human rights treaty that has been ratified by 177 of the 194 countries in the world. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1965 and entered into force in 1969. Canada has been a state party to this Convention since October 14, 1970.

Rights in CERD

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination requires that state parties condemn all racial discrimination and ensure that all public entities (governments, courts, all public programs and services) act in a non-discriminatory manner towards persons of all races. The Convention requires eliminating policies and laws that could have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination.

In addition to eliminating all racial discrimination by public bodies, the Convention requires state parties to legislate against racial discrimination by private parties, including by outlawing hate speech and hate crimes, and to take all appropriate measures to end racial discrimination.

The Convention also reiterates civil, political, and economic, social and cultural rights listed in other UN human rights treaties, which the state must ensure are enjoyed equally, without discrimination based on race.

Finally, the Convention requires state parties to promote education and public initiatives that combat racial discrimination.

Sexism and Racism Intersect 

In 2000, the CERD Committee adopted a General Recommendation on the gender‑related dimensions of racial discrimination. General Recommendations are developed by treaty bodies from time to time to guide states parties when they are interpreting and implementing rights. 

In General Recommendation 25, the Committee noted that 1) certain forms of sexist conduct may be directed towards racialized women specifically, such as sexual violence; 2) some forms of racial discrimination have a unique and specific impact on women, such as pregnancy resulting from racially motivated rape; and 3) women may lack access to remedies for racial discrimination because of gender bias in the legal system and discrimination against women in private spheres of life.

“FAFIA is committed to advancing the human rights of all women, and to combating racism and racist practices in Canada. The particular conditions and experiences of women who experience racism and racial discrimination are too often overlooked, both in accounts of the situation of women and in accounts of the situation of ‘racial minorities.’”FAFIA Report to CERD. 2007

CERD Procedures 


Under Article 14 of the Convention, countries that have ratified can make a declaration permitting the Committee to consider complaints from individuals or groups regarding failures to comply with the rights in the CERD. Canada has not made a declaration regarding Article 14 and therefore women in Canada cannot make individual complaints to this treaty body.


As with other international human rights treaties, the CERD establishes a Committee of experts, who are elected by the countries that have ratified the Convention, to periodically review the compliance of each state party.

Canada’s Reviews

Canada submits reports on its compliance with CERD to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination approximately every five years. Canada reported most recently in 2007 and 2012. FAFIA participated in these reviews, making submissions about the status and conditions of racialized women in Canada.

FAFIA’s Reports

Other Resources