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UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights in Canada

By September 1, 2023No Comments

The Executive Director of CASSA, Samya Hasan, recently traveled to Geneva along with the organizations Color of Poverty-Color of Change and South Asian Legal Health Clinic Ontario (SALCO) to participate in the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights in Canada. This trip marked a significant milestone for our organization; We would like to thank  Color of Poverty- Color of Change for this amazing opportunity.. Below is the Pre-Session Panel Presentation by Samya Hasan, the ED of CASSA. For further details about this trip, please visit our social media pages @cassaonline.

Good morning, my name is Samya Hasan and I am the Executive Director of an NGO called Council of Agencies Serving South Asians. Today I am representing Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change as a steering committee member. COPC is a community initiative based in the province of Ontario, Canada made up of individuals and organizations working to address the growing racialization of poverty and the social exclusion and marginalization of Indigenous and racialized communities.

This submission is informed by consultations with community organizations, legal clinics, and COPC networks that work with racialized communities. In the 3rd UPR cycle, Canada received 305 recommendations and supported 199 of those recommendations. Unfortunately, there were little to no national consultations by the Canadian government in the last review cycle, though some civil society organizations were invited to provide feedback on the draft National Report.

The focus of this submission is on racial discrimination in Canada. I urge you to follow this presentation with the fact sheet titled: “4th Universal Periodic Review Cycle: Racial Discrimination in Canada” for the status of state recommendations from the last cycle and additional data.

ISSUE 1: Race-based Disaggregated Data Collection

We acknowledge that Statistics Canada has recently launched the Disaggregated Data and Analytics Framework (DDAF), designed to establish disaggregated data standards, identify existing and potential data sources, and leverage innovative data foundation projects. However, Canada’s approach to the collection of disaggregated data has still not progressed at a rate that acknowledges the growing populations of racialized people in Canada and the growing disparities in all of their life outcomes. Despite years and cycles and cycles of recommendations from various UN treaty bodies, Canada has yet to implement an all-of-government process to collect disaggregated data, including race-based data, choosing instead to continue to study the matter and create frameworks.


1. The Federal, Provincial, Territorial, and Municipal governments in Canada must mandate the collection, monitoring, and tracking of disaggregated data with respect to ethno-racial and faith backgrounds across all Departments.

2. Ministries, Divisions, and relevant institutions must be mandated to use this data to develop strategies for addressing systemic racism, faithism, and human rights violations;

ISSUE 2: Over-representation of racialized people in criminal justice, corrections, policing, and child welfare

Black people in Canada continue to be racially profiled and over-represented across the Canadian criminal justice system, corrections and policing. Black Canadians account for 9% of federal inmates in Canada despite making up only 4% of the national population. Black offenders are overrepresented among those involved in use-of-force incidents in federal corrections. Black children in Ontario make up 7% of the population but account for 13.9% of the investigations from child welfare agencies.


1. Significantly increase the Federal Government’s contribution to legal aid programs in all provinces and territories, with a significant portion earmarked for racialized communities.

2. Mandate provinces, territories, and municipalities to prioritize community and social support over the criminal justice system, incarceration, and child welfare for racialized communities.

ISSUE 3: Hate crimes and online Hate

Hate crime data shows that the situation is continuing to get worse in Canada. Hate crimes targeting race or ethnicity have increased for a third year straight from 2019-2021, with a 72% increase in police-reported hate crimes. Hate crimes in Canada targeting the Arab and West Asian populations, East and Southeast Asian, and South Asian populations have increased Drastically. The increase in hate crimes has coincided with an exponential increase in hate speech and hate content on online platforms. Online hate disproportionately impacts women, youth, and those who are racialized or Indigenous. There are currently no mechanisms to track, report, investigate, and remove hate content online other than what is arbitrarily deemed to violate each social media platform’s standards. Groups most targeted by online hate include the Muslim population, groups with diverse sexual orientations, the Jewish population, and the Black population.


1. Renew the Federal Government’s commitment to work with civil society to create and implement a renewed, enhanced, and comprehensive National Action Plan Against Racism.

2. Immediately launch and release a National Anti-hate Strategy to combat hate crimes and hate speech.

3. Immediately develop an effective regulatory framework based on a set of comprehensive, basic minimum standards, to which online service providers would need to comply to operate.

4. Reinstate a provision comparable to the previous Section 13 of the Human Rights Act in order to hold individuals promoting hatred accountable.

ISSUE 4: Gender-based violence and violence against racialized and Indigenous women

Despite supporting numerous recommendations from the last cycle related to this issue, Canada massively failed in its implementation of this. Gender-based violence service providers specifically serving racialized communities dealt with two to four times the number of abuse survivors they normally do during the pandemic, they were not funded sufficiently to meet these needs. A large part was due to a funding system that did not recognize community needs and followed a system that benefited historically funded organizations, leaving smaller organizations scrambling to apply for funds on a continuous basis. In the last UPR cycle, COPC recommended repealing the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act. The South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario has noted that the Act is not based on statistical data or research, and will continue to perpetuate myths about practices of polygamy and forced marriages. The Act targets racialized women and perpetuates the myth that violence against racialized women, and in this case South Asian and Muslim, woman is a “cultural” issue. Although the problematic title of this Act has been removed, it continues to operate as legislation.


1. Repeal the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act entirely, and provide greater economic and social support for racialized women experiencing violence.

2. Develop a comprehensive National Action Plan on Gender-based Violence that specifically addresses the unique and different barriers of victims of violence form racialized and Indigenous communities to replace the current National Roadmap that does not provide concrete commitments to action.

3. Provide equitable funding to community-based and ethnic organizations serving racialized and Indigenous survivors of gender-based violence.

The Canadian government has made some progress in addressing the barriers of systemic racism and discrimination. However, data tells us that Indigenous and racialized communities in Canada still fares worse in most life outcomes, including poverty, employment, health, education, justice/access to justice, housing, and other areas. A concrete National Anti-hate Strategy and a National Action Plan Against Racism must be developed with concrete actionable goals, funding allocation, enforcement, and accountability mechanisms.