International Human Rights Treaty Law

Roles and Responsibilities

Canada’s policy is to adhere to international human rights treaties only once it is satisfied that it is in compliance with the treaty obligations. As such, the federal government engages in an extensive internal review process before adherence.

The purpose of the review is to examine domestic laws, regulations, policies and practices in light of the treaty’s obligations to identify potential inconsistencies and to recommend ways of addressing any such inconsistencies. Where a treaty touches on matters under provincial and territorial jurisdiction, a similar review is conducted by these levels of government.

Three federal departments – the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Department of Justice and the Department of Canadian Heritage — form the core group when Canada considers becoming a party to an international human rights treaty. Other government departments can also be involved, depending on the topic of the treaty under consideration.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has responsibility over foreign policy on human rights, and is generally responsible for leading Canadian negotiations on new international human rights treaties. More information on Canada’s international human rights policy can be found at: Canada’s International human rights.

The Department of Justice generally leads the federal government’s internal review process when Canada considers becoming a party to an international human rights treaty. The Department of Justice also provides legal advice to the federal government on the domestic implications of treaty obligations.

The Department of Canadian Heritage is responsible for coordinating consultations with the provinces and territories, when the international human rights treaty under consideration covers matters under their jurisdiction. These consultations are conducted through the Continuing Committee of Officials on Human Rights (CCOHR), a federal-provincial-territorial body chaired by the Department of Canadian Heritage. More information on the CCOHR can be found at: CCOHR.