The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) welcomes the Human Rights Committee addressing issues of extra-territorial human rights obligations and the indivisibility of human rights, particularly the economic, social and cultural rights aspects of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Informed in part by a Parallel Report submitted by the GI-ESCR and the International Human Rights Clinic at the Western New England School of Law, the Committee recently questioned Canada on its extra-territorial obligations (ETOs), including the ETO to protect rights abroad by regulating Canadian corporations and by providing accountability and remedial mechanisms when rights are violated abroad. The Committee commented that “A country could not just provide corporate identity to a company and then be unperturbed by whatever the company could do around the world.” When Canada challenged the extra-territorial jurisdiction of the Covenant, the Committee reminded the Canadian delegation that “The final arbiter for the interpreting the Covenant was the Committee, not individual States.”
In its Concluding Observations, the Committee expressed its concern “about allegations of human rights abuses by Canadian companies operating abroad … and about the inaccessibility to remedies by victims of such violations.” The Committee also regretted “the absence of an effective independent mechanism with powers to investigate complaints alleging abuses by such corporations that adversely affect the enjoyment of the human rights of victims, and of a legal framework that would facilitate such complaints.” The Committee went on to recommend that Canada “a) enhance the effectiveness of existing mechanisms to ensure that all Canadian corporations, in particular mining corporations, under its jurisdiction respect human rights standards when operating abroad; b) consider establishing an independent mechanism with powers to investigate human rights abuses by such corporations abroad; c) and develop a legal framework that affords legal remedies to people who have been victims of activities of such corporations operating abroad. ”
On the issue of indivisibility of human rights, and in particular the economic and social rights aspects of the Covenant, the Committee questioned Canada on homelessness and denial of access to health care for migrants, pointing out that both may rise to the violation of the right to life guaranteed in Article 6 of the Covenant. In its Concluding Observations the Committee reminded Canada that it “should ensure that all refugee claimants and irregular migrants have access to essential health care services irrespective of their status.”
The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Parallel Report is available HERE.
The Concluding Observations are available HERE.
The issue of indivisibility continued during a Half Day of Discussion related to drafting General Comment No. 36 on the content of Article 6 of the Covenant. There the Committee again looked at the economic, social and cultural rights aspects of the Covenant, including considering a Written Submission by the GI-ESCR submitted jointly with the Social Rights Advocacy Centre and ESCR-Net as well as an oral intervention by Bruce Porter of SRAC. The Committee looked as issues ranging from homelessness to denial of access to health care, water, sanitation and food as rising to potential violations of the right to life and was urged to continue to interpret the Covenant, including Article 6 as requiring both negative and positive legal obligations and remedies.
The Joint Written Intervention is available HERE.
A report on the Half Day of Discussion are forthcoming.