Canada urged to improve human rights record at U.N.

Tue Feb 3, 2009 12:36pm EST
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By Laura MacInnis

GENEVA (Reuters) - Canada should strengthen its domestic violence laws and stop religious discrimination against Muslims, a U.N. body heard on Tuesday.

Germany, Russia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and China are among the other countries facing a review this month, under a less than year-old process that is meant to ensure all U.N. members are held to account for their rights records.

In its first examination under the Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review, Canada was also urged to do more to improve the welfare of its aboriginal citizens and to review its policies on police use of Taser weapons, following the 2007 death of an unarmed Polish man at the Vancouver airport.

The Canadian delegation told the 47-member state forum "no country, including Canada, has a perfect human rights record."

"It is important that every country open their human rights records to scrutiny, both domestically and internationally," Canada's deputy justice minister John Sims told the session in Geneva, where both the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and Human Rights Council are based.

The reviews could help the nearly three-year-old Human Rights Council gain credibility as a watchdog for wrongdoings.

Since its launch in 2006, the Council has held special sessions on Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan's Darfur crisis, and Israel.

The Council's predecessor, the U.N. Human Rights Commission, was seen to be largely ineffective.   Continued...

<p>Mohammed Mangla takes his brother Saleh's photograph outside the Baitun Nur mosque, the largest mosque in Canada, in Calgary July 4, 2008. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>