United Nations Committee Against Torture - Concluding Observations
Convention against Torture
and Other Cruel, Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment
7 July 2005
COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
2-20 May 2005
1. The Committee considered the fourth and fifth periodic reports of Canada (CAT/C/55/Add.8 and CAT/C/81/Add.3, respectively) at its 643rd and 646th meetings (CAT/C/SR.643 and 646), held on 4 and 6 May 2005, and adopted, at its 658th meeting (CAT/C/SR.658), the following conclusions and recommendations.
2. The fourth periodic report of Canada was due on 23 July 2000 and was submitted
on 20 August 2002, while the fifth periodic report was due on 23 July 2004 and was submitted on 11 October 2004, each in accordance with the Committee’s reporting guidelines. The Committee welcomes the open and inclusive participation in the reporting process of institutions and non-governmental organizations concerned with the protection of human rights, as well as the inclusion in the reports of diverging views of civil society.
3. The Committee notes:
(a) The definition of torture in the Canadian Criminal Code that is in accordance with the definition contained in article 1 of the Convention and the exclusion in the Criminal Code of the defences of superior orders or exceptional circumstances, including in armed conflict, as well as the inadmissibility of evidence obtained by torture;
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(b) The direct application of the criminal norms cited in subparagraph (a) above to the State party’s military personnel wherever they are located, by means of the National Defense Act;
(c) The general inclusion in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act 2002 of torture within the meaning of article 1 of the Convention as an independent ground qualifying a person as in need of protection (section 97, subsection 1 of the Act) and as a basis for nonrefoulement (sect. 115, subsect. 1), where there are substantial grounds for believing that the threat of torture exists;
(d) The careful constitutional scrutiny of the powers conferred by the Anti-Terrorism Act 2001;
(e) The recognition of the Supreme Court of Canada that enhanced procedural guarantees have to be made available, even in national security cases, and the State party’s subsequent decision to extend enhanced procedural protections to all cases of persons challenging on grounds of risk of torture, Ministerial expulsion decisions;
(f) The changes to Corrections policy and practice implemented to give effect to the recommendations of the Arbour Report on the treatment of female offenders in the federal prison system;
(g) The requirement that body cavity searches be carried out by medical rather than correctional staff in a non-emergency situation and after written consent and access to legal advice have been provided;
(h) The efforts made by the State party, in response to the issue of overrepresentation of indigenous offenders in the correctional system previously identified by the Committee, to develop innovative and culturally sensitive alternative criminal justice mechanisms, such as the use of healing lodges.
4. The Committee expresses its concern at:
(a) The failure of the Supreme Court of Canada, in Suresh v. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, to recognize at the level of domestic law the absolute nature of the protection of article 3 of the Convention, which is not subject to any exception whatsoever;
(b) The alleged roles of the State party’s authorities in the expulsion of Canadian national Mr. Maher Arar, expelled from the United States to the Syrian Arab Republic where torture was reported to be practised;
(c) The blanket exclusion by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act 2002 (sect. 97) of the status of refugee or person in need of protection for persons falling within the security exceptions set out in the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its Protocol; as a result, such persons’ substantive claims are not considered by the Refugee Protection Division or reviewed by the Refugee Appeal Division;
(d) The explicit exclusion of certain categories of persons posing security or criminal risks from the protection against refoulement provided by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act 2002 (sect. 115, subsect. 2);
(e) The State party’s apparent willingness, in the light of the low number of prosecutions for terrorism and torture offences, to resort in the first instance to immigration processes to remove or expel individuals from its territory, thus implicating issues of article 3 of the Convention more readily, rather than subject him or her to the criminal process;
(f) The State party’s reluctance to comply with all requests for interim measures of protection, in the context of individual complaints presented under article 22 of the Convention;
(g) The absence of effective measures to provide civil compensation to victims of torture in all cases;
(h) The still substantial number of “major violent incidents”, defined by the State party as involving serious bodily harm and/or hostage-taking, in the State party’s federal corrections facilities; and
(i) Continued allegations of inappropriate use of chemical, irritant, incapacitating and mechanical weapons by law enforcement authorities in the context of crowd control.
5. The Committee recommends that:
(a) The State party unconditionally undertake to respect the absolute nature of article 3 in all circumstances and fully to incorporate the provision of article 3 into the State party’s domestic law;
(b) The State party remove the exclusions in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act 2002 described in paragraph 4 (c) and (d) above, thereby extending to currently excluded persons entitlement to the status of protected person, and protection against refoulement on account of a risk of torture;
(c) The State party should provide for judicial review of the merits, rather than merely of the reasonableness, of decisions to expel an individual where there are substantial grounds for believing that the person faces a risk of torture;
(d) The State party should insist on unrestricted consular access to its nationals who are in detention abroad, with facility for unmonitored meetings and, if required, of appropriate medical expertise;
(e) Given the absolute nature of the prohibition against refoulement contained in article 3 of the Convention, the State party should provide the Committee with details on how many cases of extradition or removal subject to receipt of “diplomatic assurances” or guarantees have occurred since 11 September 2001, what the State party’s minimum requirements are for such assurances or guarantees, what measures of subsequent monitoring it has undertaken in such cases and the legal enforceability of the assurances or guarantees given;
(f) The State party should review its position under article 14 of the Convention to ensure the provision of compensation through its civil jurisdiction to all victims of torture;
(g) The State party should take steps to ensure that the frequency of “major violent incidents” in its federal corrective facilities decreases progressively;
(h) The State party should conduct a public and independent study and a policy review of the crowd control methods, at federal and provincial levels, described in paragraph 4 (i), above;
(i) The State party should fully clarify, if necessary through the adoption of legislation, the competence of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) to investigate and report on all activities of the RCMP falling within its complaint mandate; and
(j) The State party should consider becoming party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention.
6. The Committee requests that the State party provide, within one year, information in response to the Committee’s recommendations in paragraph 5 (d), (e) and (g).
7. The Committee requests the State party to submit its sixth periodic report by the due date of 23 July 2008.