Canada's Relation to International Human Rights

Canada protects human rights through the Canadian Human Rights Act (1977) and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982), as well as provincial human rights legislation such as the Ontario Human Rights Code (1962). Canada is also a member of the United Nations and a signatory to most of its treaties (see International Human Rights Treaties to which Canada is a Party).

Human rights violations, such as harassment (which isn’t a tort), are not prosecuted by the courts but by statute-enabled tribunals such as the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT), which administers the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), which administers the Human Rights Code.

The United Nations

The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945. It is currently made up of 193 Member States. The mission and work of the United Nations are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter.

International Human Rights Treaties

International human rights law (IHRL) is not to be confused with international humanitarian law (IHL), which is the law that governs armed conflict, with the aim of protecting non-combatants and regulating the means of warfare. IHRL is based on treaties between sovereign nations known as ‘human rights instruments.’ In 1966 the United Nations adopted two Covenants which form the International Bill of Human Rights, viz.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a UN General Assembly declaration that doesn’t create binding international human rights law. Other Conventions include:

International Courts

There is currently no international court to administer international human rights law. However, quasi-judicial bodies exist under some UN treaties, like the Human Rights Committee under the ICCPR. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction over the crime of genocidewar crimes and crimes against humanity. The European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights enforce regional human rights law.

Social Justice Tribunals Ontario

Human Rights Claim

If you’ve been the subject or accused of discrimination or harassment contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code we can help you file an application or response to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and guide you through the hearing process.

Landlord-Tenant Disputes

The Landlord and Tenant Board operates under the Residential Tenancies Act to process eviction applications and resolve disputes between landlords and tenants. If you have a dispute with your landlord or tenant, need to apply for an eviction or have been unjustly evicted, we can help you file an application and guide you through the hearing process.

Philosophy of Human Rights

Universal Jurisdiction

Universal jurisdiction is a principle in international law that allows a state to prosecute a person outside its jurisdiction. This is justified by the reasoning that the crime committed is “against all” (erga omnes), the law against the criminal is “compulsory” (jus cogens) and the criminal is an “enemy to all” (hostis humani generis), which any state is authorized to prosecute.

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations support this principle on the ground that certain crimes pose a threat to the international community, which has a moral duty to act. Critics of universal jurisdiction like Henry Kissinger, on the other hand, argue that it “risks creating universal tyranny.”

Critiques of Human Rights

While human rights may seem like a good thing to those who consent to be governed by them, they can seem like a bad thing to those who don’t.

For instance, some critics of human rights see them as totalitarian, Eurocentric, veiled communism and dehumanizing toward people with a different view of justice. Two examples are retributivism and natural law. These are ancient and philosophically respected theories of justice, which are particular targets of opprobrium under the human rights regime.

Most retributivist systems maintain that an eye for an eye is a fundamental right, absent which the state is useless, as it basically just deprives people of the ability to avenge themselves, rather than enables them to do so. Natural law systems, on the other hand, prohibit certain acts ‘against nature,’ classic examples being homosexuality and bestiality, which are supposed to be intrinsically perverse and deleterious.

Another critique against human rights is that its agenda to end racial discrimination and establish people’s autonomy is paradoxical, since the diversity it promotes undermines diversity and the autonomy it promotes undermines autonomy.