Background

In the post World War II era, the creation of the United Nations (1945) and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), aimed to promote international peace in response to atrocities and attacks which occurred in previous years. The establishment of these international instruments was accompanied by a first regional initiative in the Americas, which resulted in the adoption of its own American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man in April 1948 and the enactment of a Regional Charter creating the Organization of American States (OAS).

In 1959, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was created and all members of the OAS were automatically subject to it. The Commission receives claims regarding rights violations from individuals and responds to them by making inquiries and recommendations. The continental judiciary for the implementation of these rights is conferred on to the Inter-American Court established in San José, Costa Rica, in 1969 by the American Convention on Human Rights.

This organization now includes 34 Member States, including Canada since 1990, and as well as 70 observer States. Canada is currently one of the largest contributing members of the OAS, but it refrains from acceding to the Convention and recognizing the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

In this regard, a Canadian Senate committee weighed the advantages and disadvantages of a potential Canadian membership to the inter-American system in the early 2000s. Despite some of the constraints noted in the report, the report recommended the accession. In the Committee’s view, “[w] hile it is true that Canadians already enjoy protection under the Charter and federal and provincial human rights laws (…) human rights standards, and action claims are developed for the benefit of individuals, not the state. It shouldn’t be assumed that people have too much protection that it is useless to add new ones. ” But since this report, and in spite of new realities stemming from a democratization movement in Latin America, there has been no serious reflection in Canada on its role and renewed involvement.

Last year marked the 25th anniversary of Canada’s membership in the Organization of American States. Canada is one of the primary sources of financial and political support for Organization of American States (OAS). For the past quarter century, Canada has played a key role in the strengthening of the inter-American system for the promotion of human rights. However, Canada has yet to ratify the primary human rights treaty in the Inter-American system (the American Convention on Human Rights, hereinafter the ‘American Convention’ or ‘Convention’). It has also failed to recognize the compulsory jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Meanwhile, Canadian involvement in the Americas has increased from an economic point of view. Today, Canada has five trade agreements in force with Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Costa Rica, as well as three trade agreements with Honduras, Panama and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Finally, five economic agreements under negotiation. All countries in the Americas are targeted by Canada’s foreign policy, as Latin America represents approximately a billion people market.

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