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.
Canada faced questions about its anti-terrorism laws, including a controversial “special advocate” measure in which a court-appointed lawyer with high security clearance stands in the place of certain detainees in their hearings.
Sims said the practice was meant to protect highly sensitive information while ensuring detainees get fair treatment.
“This program special advocates will be challenged and will work its way through the Canadian court system. It will, in this way, be tested for how well the government has struck this important balance,” he said.
On racial and religious profiling, he said that it was not used as it was contrary to the law. Canada’s “bias-free” recruitment of police meant its force included racial or ethnic minorities less likely to engage in such practices, he said.
Addressing the concerns raised that it should ratify more human rights treaties, Sims said that Canada chose not to join the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in September 2007 because it was too vague on some issues.
“We are aware that Canada’s position has generated a number of adverse reactions. I wish to stress, however, that Canada remains committed to fulfilling its human rights commitments to aboriginal peoples in Canada,” he said.
The U.N. panel also said Canada ought to accede to U.N. treaties on enforced disappearances, the rights of migrant workers, and an optional protocol to the anti-torture pact.
Editing by Stephanie Nebehay