UN Convention On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Inquiry Backgrounder

BACKGROUNDER
Inquiry under Article 8 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women into Murders and Disappearances of Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada

  • The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) came into force 3 September 1981
  • Canada ratified CEDAW on 10 December, 1981
  • The United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women came into force on 22 December 2000
  • Canada ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW on 18 Oct 2002
  • The Optional Protocol to CEDAW authorizes the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) to 1) receive and adjudicate complaints from individuals who allege that their rights have been violated by a State that is a party to the treaty, and 2) initiate an inquiry when it receives “reliable information indicating grave or systematic violations.”
  • Canada’s compliance with the Convention is reviewed about once every five years by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee). Canada submits a report. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also submit reports.
  • The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA), in its submission to the CEDAW Committee at the time of the review of Canada’s 6th and 7th reports in November 2008, drew attention to missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.
  • The CEDAW Committee, after reviewing Canada’s compliance with its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 2008, in its Concluding Observations, stated:

31. …the Committee…remains concerned that hundreds of cases involving Aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered in the past two decades have neither been fully investigated nor attracted priority attention, with the perpetrators remaining unpunished.

32. The Committee urges the State party to examine the reasons for the failure to investigate the cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women and to take the necessary steps to remedy the deficiencies in the system. The Committee calls upon the State party to urgently carry out thorough investigations of the cases of Aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered in recent decades. It also urges the State party to carry out an analysis of those cases in order to determine whether there is a racialized pattern to the disappearances and take measures to address the problem if that is the case.

  • Canada was asked to report back on its actions on the recommendation contained in paragraph 32 in one year, and it did so in February 2010. FAFIA and the Native Women’s Association of Canada provided follow-up reports indicating that Canada had taken no adequate action.
  • On 25 August 2010, after considering the follow-up report from Canada, the CEDAW Committee wrote to Canada to state that “The Committee considers that its recommendation (regarding missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls) has not been implemented and it requests the Canadian authorities to urgently provide further information on measures undertaken to address such concerns …”. Canada supplied further information to the Committee on 8 December 2010, but was asked additional questions.
  • In January 2011, FAFIA made a formal request to the CEDAW Committee to initiate an Inquiry under Article 8 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention.
  • In September 2011, NWAC made a formal request to the CEDAW Committee to initiate an Inquiry under Article 8 of the Optional Protocol
  • In September 2011, FAFIA and NWAC submitted additional information to the Committee and requested that an Inquiry under Article 8 of the Optional Protocol be initiated because of Canada’s failure to act promptly and effectively to address the violations of the human rights of Aboriginal women and girls.
  • The CEDAW Committee decided to conduct an Inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada in 2011.
  • Members of the CEDAW Committee came to Canada in September 2013 to investigate and meet with both government and civil society representatives in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Whitehorse, Prince George and Vancouver.

Further information about the CEDAW Inquiry and all relevant documents can be found at:

http://www.fafia-afai.org/en/solidarity-campaign/the-cedaw-inquiry/.

2015.03.06 CEDAW Inquiry UN Backgrounder

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Canada Commits ‘Grave Violation’ of Rights of Aboriginal Women and Girls: United Nations Committee On The Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Releases Report On Inquiry

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(March 6, 2015) (Ottawa, ON) In a report released today, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) concludes that Canada’s ongoing failure to address the extreme violence against Aboriginal women and girls constitutes a “grave violation” of their human rights.

Dawn Harvard, Interim President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, says, “On the eve of International Women’s Day, the CEDAW Committee condemns Canada for failing in its human rights commitments to Aboriginal women because it refuses to deal with the violence as ‘a serious large-scale problem requiring a comprehensive, coordinated response’.”

After extensive examination of evidence, the CEDAW Committee concludes that Canada is violating Articles 2, 3, 5 and 14 of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. These articles require States parties to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women, to modify social practices that discriminate against women, and to take into account the special problems encountered by women living in rural and remote areas.

The CEDAW Committee finds that there are ongoing police and justice system failures to respond adequately to the violence, dismissive responses to family members, lack of diligence in investigations, and lack of effective mechanisms for oversight of police practices and conduct, including the practices and conduct of the RCMP.

The Committee also finds that Canada has failed to properly take into account the root causes of the violence. It states unequivocally that the realization of economic and social rights, including the right to adequate living conditions on and off reserve, is necessary to enable Aboriginal women to escape from violence.

The United Nations CEDAW Committee oversees the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women by the 188 countries that have ratified it. Canada ratified in 1981. Residents of states that have ratified both the Convention and its Optional Protocol can make individual complaints when their rights have been infringed or can request an inquiry into systemic violations of human rights by their governments.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) made a request to the CEDAW Committee in 2011to inquire into the crisis of murders and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls.

“The UN CEDAW Committee has considered voluminous and detailed evidence from Canada about the steps that it is taking, but it finds them insufficient, inadequate, and uncoordinated” – says Sharon McIvor of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action – “so insufficient that the failure amounts to a grave violation of rights.”
“Canada told the Committee that it is ‘strongly opposed’ to the development of a national action plan,” says Shelagh Day of FAFIA. “But the Committee recommends that Canada establish a national public inquiry in order to develop an integrated national plan of action, and a coordinated mechanism for implementation and monitoring it. This is the step that is so clearly necessary now.”

“This is an extremely important report for Canada,” says Dawn Harvard of NWAC. “Canada has been told, first by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and now by the United Nations CEDAW Committee, that Canada’s failures to act violate the human rights of Aboriginal women.”
The CEDAW Committee has issued a comprehensive set of recommendations dealing with policing, victim services, access to justice, stereotyping, prostitution and trafficking, social and economic conditions and the Indian Act. It calls on Canada to implement them as a whole.
“What more does Canada need?” says Dawn Harvard of NWAC. “It is time to act now.”

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The CEDAW Inquiry report can be found here:

http://www.fafia-afai.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/CEDAW_C_OP-8_CAN_1_7643_E.pdf

Further information on the CEDAW Inquiry, including submissions to the Committee, can be found at: http://www.fafia-afai.org/en/solidarity-campaign/the-cedaw-inquiry/

Media Contacts:
Native Women’s Association of Canada:
Claudette Dumont-Smith and Dawn Harvard: 613-894-0576

Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action:
Sharon McIvor: 250-378-7479
Holly Johnson: 613-355-5582
Shelagh Day: 604-872-0750 or email: shelagh.day@gmail.com

2015.03.06 CEDAW Report on Inquiry

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