Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a federal parliamentary government. In a free and fair multiparty federal election held in October 2015, the Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau, won a majority of seats in the federal parliament, and Trudeau formed a government at the request of the Governor General.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
The most significant human rights issues were reports of deadly violence against women, especially indigenous women, and forced labor, all of which authorities investigated and prosecuted.
There was no impunity for officials who committed violations, and the government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish them.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.
Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns cited in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions. Adults and juveniles were held separately, although minors were held with their parents in immigration detention centers as an alternative to splitting families.
Civil liberties and prisoners’ rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) filed suits against the federal government in courts in British Columbia and Ontario over the use of “administrative segregation” or solitary confinement in federal correctional facilities. The suits alleged prison authorities overly relied on solitary confinement to manage crowded institutions and high-needs inmates; subjected individuals to cruel and unusual treatment or punishment; violated the right to be free from arbitrary detention; and failed to meet its duty to provide care. NGOs sought legislated caps on the time authorities may keep individuals in segregation. In March the federal correctional investigator reported the average daily count of inmates in administrative segregation decreased to fewer than 400 in 2015-16 (down from average counts of more than 800 in the previous two years). The average time inmates spent in solitary confinement also fell in part due to assignment of high-needs inmates to treatment programs and specialized units for mental care, drug addiction, or other factors as an alternative to segregation.
In July an Ottawa man filed suit against the Ontario government for a mental health breakdown which he alleged occurred after spending 18 months in solitary confinement while on remand awaiting trial.
Administration: Independent authorities investigated credible allegations of inhumane behavior, and documented the results of such investigations in a publicly accessible manner.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by independent non-governmental human rights observers.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court; the government generally observed these requirements.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
National, provincial, and municipal police forces maintain internal security. The armed forces are responsible for external security but in exceptional cases may exercise some domestic security responsibility at the formal request of civilian provincial authorities. The federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) reports to the Department of Public Safety and the armed forces report to the Department of National Defense. Provincial and municipal police report to their respective provincial authorities. The Canada Border Services Agency reports to the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and is responsible for enforcing immigration law. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the RCMP and provincial and municipal police forces, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
Authorities generally relied upon warrants in the apprehension of persons. A judge can issue a warrant after being satisfied a criminal offense might have been committed. A person arrested for a criminal offense has the right to a prompt, independent judicial determination of the legality of the detention. Authorities respected this right. Authorities provided detainees with timely information on the reason for the arrest, and ensured prompt access to a lawyer of the detainee’s choice, or, if the detainee was indigent, a lawyer provided by the state without restriction. Bail generally was available. Suspects were not detained incommunicado or held under house arrest.
Judges may issue preemptive peace bonds (orders to keep the peace) and apprehend individuals who authorities reasonably believe may carry out terrorist activities. Judges may also issue recognizances of bail to detain persons and impose bail conditions if authorities deem the restrictions likely to prevent terrorist activity. Authorities may hold persons under preventive detention under recognizance for up to seven days, subject to periodic judicial review. Restrictions may include limits on travel and surrender of passports. Use of peace bonds and recognizance for counterterrorism purposes is subject to annual reporting requirements to the federal parliament.
Pretrial Detention: Authorities released detainees immediately after they were charged, unless a judge deemed continued detention necessary to ensure the detainee’s attendance in court, for the protection or safety of the public, or due to the gravity of the offense. Persons subject to continued detention have the right to judicial review of their status at regular intervals. In 2016 the Supreme Court imposed ceilings of 18 months for provincial courts and 30 months for superior courts to bring cases to trial. If authorities exceeded these limits, the Supreme Court ruling stated it would consider accused persons “to have suffered prejudice” and be entitled to a stay of charges or other remedy, unless authorities could demonstrate exceptional circumstances had caused the delay.
The government may detain or deport noncitizens on national security grounds through use of an immigration security certificate. The government issues certificates based on confidential evidence presented to two cabinet ministers by intelligence or police agencies, which is then reviewed by a federal court judge who determines “reasonableness” and either upholds or revokes the certificate. A judge may order an individual to be detained during the security certificate determination process if the government believes the individual presents a danger to national security or is unlikely to appear at the proceeding for removal. The judge may impose conditions on release into the community, including monitoring. Individuals subject to a security certificate may see a summary of confidential evidence against them. Authorities must provide full disclosure to court-appointed, security-cleared lawyers (special advocates), who can review and challenge the evidence on behalf of these individuals but not share or discuss the material with them. The law establishes strict rules on the disclosure and use of secret evidence, prohibits the use of evidence if there are reasonable grounds to believe authorities obtained the evidence because of torture, and provides mechanisms for review and appeal.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.
The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and the independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Trials are held before a judge alone or, for more serious cases, before a judge and jury. Defendants have the right to a fair and timely trial, to be present at their trial, and to consult with an attorney of their choice in a timely manner. The government provides an attorney at public expense if needed when defendants face serious criminal charges, and defendants may confront or question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. Defendants and their attorneys generally have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants also enjoy a presumption of innocence, a right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them (with free interpretation as necessary), a right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and a right of appeal.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters and access to a court to bring a suit seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. Remedies can be monetary, declaratory, or injunctive. Federal or provincial human rights commissions may also hear alleged human rights violations. Individuals may also bring human rights complaints to the UN or the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.