The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights requires countries that have ratified it to both ensure the rights included and provide a legal remedy if those rights are violated. These rights are to be realized equally for women and men, and without any form of discrimination. They include:

  • the right of self-determination
  • the right to life
  • the rights not to be enslaved or tortured
  • the right to liberty and security of the person
  • the right to freedom of movement
  • the right to enter their country of origin
  • the right to a fair hearing in criminal matters
  • the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and expression
  • the right of peaceful assembly
  • the right of freedom of association, and
  • the right to vote and have access to public office

In Article 26, the Covenant also includes a key treaty commitment for women in Canada. Article 26 sets out the right to equality before the law and to equal protection of the law. It requires governments not to discriminate, to prohibit discrimination by law, and to provide effective protection against all forms of discrimination.

Canada has been a state party to this Covenant since May 19, 1976. Canada has also ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which permits women in Canada to file individual complaints (petitions) if their Covenant rights are violated and they have not been able to obtain a remedy in Canada.

Currently the Human Rights Committee is considering a petition filed by Sharon McIvor regarding the ongoing sex discrimination in the status provisions of the Indian Act. Despite litigation under the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Indigenous women and their descendants still cannot pass on their Indian status on the same footing as Indigenous men and their descendants. This sex discrimination has been entrenched in the Indian Act since 1871. For more information please see the Poverty and Human Rights Centre’s 2011 and 2016 postings.

Canada’s 2015 Review

Canada was most recently reviewed by the Human Rights Committee in July 2015. Many Canadian non-governmental organizations, including FAFIA, made submissions on the occasion of the Committee’s sixth periodic review of Canada. Following the review, in its Concluding Observations, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern about:

  • The on-going sex-discrimination in the Indian Act
  • The increasingly rates of women prisoners in Canada, with Indigenous women making up a disproportionately high and increasing share of women prisoners
  • Canada’s failure to adequately address the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous girls and take measures to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible
  • The high rates of domestic violence, particularly against women and girls, the low number of reported cases of male perpetrated violence against women, the insufficiency of shelters, support services and other protective measures for those subject to violence, and police and criminal justice system failures to effectively investigate, prosecute, convict and punish perpetrators of violence
  • Persistent gender inequalities including the high wage gap, the unequal application of pay equity legislation across federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions, the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions in the public and private sectors, and state failures to ensure employment equity in the private sector

Canada’s 2005 Review

Canada was most recently reviewed by the Human Rights Committee in 2005. Many Canadian non‑governmental organizations, including FAFIA, made submissions. In its Concluding Observations, the Committee noted with concern:

  • Canada’s failure to protect Indigenous women from violence, to address the poverty of Indigenous women, and to correct overt discrimination in the Indian Act
  • Canada’s poor treatment of federally sentenced women prisoners
  • The negative impact of cuts to social assistance and social programs on women and children, and other vulnerable groups, including African-Canadians
  • Canada’s lack of procedures for overseeing implementation of the rights in the treaty, and for correcting the deficiencies that are identified by treaty bodies.

FAFIA’s Reports

Other Resources