Global body reviewing allegations of discrimination by Canadian human rights commission

By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) - A United Nations-affiliated body is reviewing allegations Canada's human rights commission discriminated against Black and other employees and disproportionately dismissed race-based complaints, a move that could hinder the commission's ability to participate in U.N. human rights proceedings.

In a report published Friday, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions - which accredits national human rights bodies according to internationally agreed-upon principles - said it is launching a special review of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which handles human rights complaints against Canada's federal government, among other things.

The report cites findings of systemic racial discrimination within the commission by Canada's Senate and its Treasury Board Secretariat. These included higher dismissal rates of race-based complaints it receives and excluding Black employees and employees of colour from promotions.

The human rights alliance did not respond to emailed questions Monday. The Canadian government and the human rights commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The commission's mandate includes screening discrimination complaints, mediating some complaints, representing the public interest in litigation, conducting research and tabling special reports in parliament.

According to its website the commission was granted "A" status first in 1999 and again in 2006, 2011, 2016 and 2023.

If the alliance downgrades Canada to "B" status, the commission would no longer have independent participation rights at the UN Human Rights Council.

The Black Class Action Secretariat filed the complaint citing the findings of systemic discrimination with the global body in February.

"A downgrade from A to B would be catastrophic for Canada’s participation in the international community. They would have to sit on the sidelines," Black Class Action Secretariat's Executive Director Nicholas Marcus Thompson told reporters Monday.

"With this international review, the Canadian government is now on notice: It cannot claim to be a global leader in human rights while discriminating against its own right here at home."

(This story has been corrected to say that the commission's ability to participate in UN proceedings is at risk, not Canada’s, in paragraph 1)

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny, editing by Deepa Babington)