284. The Committee considered the second periodic report of Canada (CAT/C/17/Add.5) at its 139th and 140th meetings, on 20 April 1993 (see CAT/C/SR.139 and 140).
285. The representative of the reporting State introduced the report and indicated that the preparation of the report had entailed close cooperation between the federal, provincial and territorial governments and had provided those governments with the opportunity to review the state of implementation of the Convention within their respective areas of competence. He also outlined the recent activities undertaken by his Government in both international and domestic forums to counter torture, excessive force and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
286. With regard to initiatives taken at the international level, the representative mentioned, in particular, his Government's support of efforts aimed at providing for the operation and expenses of all human rights treaty bodies, including those of the Committee against Torture, from the United Nations regular budget. He also referred to the importance his Government attached to the elaboration of an optional protocol to the Convention against Torture. In addition, he spoke of the regular contribution his Government made to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.
287. Concerning initiatives at the domestic level, the representative referred to measures being taken to improve general conditions of incarceration for women, especially in meeting the needs of aboriginal women in correctional settings. In this regard, he outlines the innovative developments which had resulted from the recommendations of a recent Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women.
288. The representative also made reference to police reforms in Quebec, providing details of the new Code of Ethics for Quebec police officers, adopted on 1 September 1991, which had established duties and standards of conduct for police officers in their relations with the public. Information was also provided on two new bodies, namely the Commissioner for Police Ethics and the Comité de déontologie policière, which had been created to ensure respect for the standards prescribed in that Code.
289. Additionally, the representative described recent developments in police force training standards introduced in the province of Ontario. He further indicated that the effectiveness, safety and success of those new measures were being monitored carefully and that their use was expected to extend to police agencies throughout Canada.
290. Finally, the representative made reference to the work of the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture and to various activities of the Centre for which the Government provided funding.
291. Members of the Committee asked various questions of a general nature. They asked what measures had been taken at the level of domestic law, prior to the ratification of the Convention, to ensure its compatibility with the provisions of the Convention. They also wished to receive further details of the legal competence of the different levels of government in the Canadian federal system in the application of the provisions of the Convention, especially with regard to the jurisdiction of judges, and of any difficulties the federal system had posed in the compilation and provision of statistics on torture-related matters. Further information was also sought on matters relating to the alleged maltreatment of two immigrants of Chinese origin by the police authorities in Vancouver and the ill-treatment of Mohawk Indians by Quebec police forces in 1990, especially in relation to the outcome of those complaints and the impartiality of any inquiries undertaken on those incidents.
292. Referring to article 2 of the Convention, members of the Committee requested clarification as to the application of different provisions of the Criminal Code for the offence of torture, especially regarding the effect of the inclusion of section 7 (3.71) of the Criminal Code, which made war crimes and crimes against humanity a criminal offence.
293. In connection with article 3 of the Convention, members of the Committee requested further information on the action taken by the Government of Canada to ensure compatibility with the provisions of that article, especially on the issue of non-refoulement. In this connection they recalled that persons who were refused entry or refugee status should not be returned to countries where there was a risk that they might be subjected to torture. Moreover, it was asked whether the Government of Canada considered that extraditing a person to a country where he could face the death penalty subjected that person to inhuman and degrading treatment.
294. Concerning articles 5 to 9 of the Convention, members of the Committee wished to receive further information on the legislative measures taken to provide judges in Canada with the competence of universal jurisdiction on torture-related matters. They also wished to know more about the application of mutual judicial assistance between Canada and other States, especially with regard to the offence of torture, where no bilateral agreement existed.
295. With regard to article 10 of the Convention, members of the Committee wished to know whether education on torture-related matters was being applied restrictively or in the widest possible manner and in this connection they wished to know of any special training on torture-related matters being given to the military and border police, and to all medical personnel in Canada.
296. In connection with articles 12 and 13 of the Convention, members of the Committee requested further information on the procedures available to individuals to initiate charges and proceedings against ill-treatment or abuse of power committed by police authorities. In particular, they sought information on the work of the Public Complaints Commission, the Commissioner for Police Ethics and the Comité de déontologie policière.
297. Concerning article 14 of the Convention, members of the Committee sought further information not only on the possibilities available for the rehabilitation and treatment of torture victims but also on the remedies and compensation available to victims of ill-treatment even in cases where the alleged perpetrator had been acquitted.
298. With regard to article 16 of the Convention, attention was drawn to acts which constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and to the seeming association between society's tolerance of physical chastisement in the home environment and the acceptance of violence. In this connection, it was asked whether corporal punishment of children by parents was practised in Canada and what was the legal basis for that practice.
299. Replying to the questions of a general nature, the representative of the reporting State informed the Committee of the changes that had been made to Canadian law prior to the Convention's ratification so as to ensure its compliance with specific provisions of the Convention. The representative also provided information and explanations with regard to the division of legislative powers under the federal structure of Canada. He stated that collection of statistical information on matters related to the Convention was complicated by the division of powers in Canada. Consultations with relevant government departments responsible for collecting such data would be held and more information of that nature would be included in the next report. Furthermore, with regard to the alleged ill-treatment of two persons in Vancouver, the representative indicated that the Committee would be provided with an updated report on the findings of the independent commission appointed by the Province of British Columbia to inquire into municipal policing. He also informed the Committee that the independent Public Complaints Commission had already carried out an investigation and that the two persons in question had apparently instituted proceedings against the officers concerned. In connection with the allegations of ill-treatment of Mohawk Indians by Quebec police forces in 1990, the representative stated that four of the cases had been raised before 1 September 1990 and had thus been considered under the former system through submission to the Complaints Committee of Quebec's Department of Public Security, which had rejected the cases on various grounds. However, the Committee's decisions were subject to appeal. Under the new provisions on police conduct in Quebec all complaints would be considered in the first instance by the Commissioner for Police Ethics. This had happened in one case which had occurred after 1 September 1990 and, as a result of the inquiry by the Commissioner, certain police officers had been brought before the Comité de déontologie policière, which would decide on the matter in the autumn of 1993.
300. Regarding article 2 of the Convention, the representative explained that the Criminal Code contained not only the offence of torture but also war crimes and crimes against humanity and that, while crimes against humanity could well include torture, such crimes also demanded that other conditions be met, for example, that the offending act had been committed against a civilian population or identifiable group of persons. Where an accused was charged with conduct which fulfilled the definition of both sections, the accused could be convicted of only one offence. Moreover, the defence of obedience to de facto authority was not available to an individual charged with a war crime or a crime against humanity.
301. With regard to article 3 of the Convention, the representative told the Committee that Canada's refugee determination system fully complied with the Convention's requirements relating to torture allegations. In this connection, he described the training given to immigration officers, which had been developed with the assistance of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the various provisions and procedures available to individuals to make a claim for refugee status. He also indicated that the success rate for refugee claimants in Canada had been recognized by UNHCR as the highest in the world and that the refugee determination system would be kept under continuous review to maintain its high standards. With regard to the concern raised that a person might be extradited to face the death penalty the representative referred to various debates on the issue in the Human Rights Committee and in the Supreme Court of Canada.
302. In connection with article 5 of the Convention, the representative explained that, in the Canadian Criminal Code, the offence of torture was subject to universal jurisdiction. Thus, any judge, whether provincial or federal, who had the authority to hear criminal trials could rely on the universal jurisdiction of that Code.
303. Concerning articles 8 and 9 of the Convention, the representative indicated that Canada could cooperate with another country in accordance with those articles regardless of whether bilateral treaties on mutual legal assistance existed. As an example of how the procedure of mutual legal assistance was applied in practice, information was given on the assistance given by Canada at the request of Chile in connection with a torture-related prosecution there.
304. With regard to article 10 of the Convention, the representative informed the Committee of the training on the Convention and other related matters given to various public officials, including members of the correctional service and recruits for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Canadian armed forces called upon to assist civil authorities during a riot or disturbance in Canada or participating in United Nations peace-keeping and humanitarian operations outside Canada received specific training in, inter alia, the use of minimum force. The representative also indicated that he was unaware of specific training given to medical doctors on the detection of torture and more information on that subject would be sought.
305. In connection with articles 12 and 13 of the Convention, the representative outlined the procedures available to an individual alleging torture by the police, which included personal prosecution of the offence. Such actions may be brought by the individual under the provisions of the Criminal Code or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or through the filing of a complaint with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Moreover, civil redress may be sought under the Crown Liability Act or at common law. Since the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Public Complaints Commission had become operational in 1988 it had held 12 hearings, 5 of which had concerned excessive force.
306. With regard to article 14 of the Convention, the representative outlined several aspects of compensation arrangements in Canada for criminal injuries following a police investigation. He indicated, for example, that compensation might be provided in the case of an accused person acquitted on the merits of a charge or in the case of an acquittal on technical grounds. Such compensation provisions stemmed from special funds established by the Government. Equally, an injured party might seek compensation or other remedies through the courts, even if the offender was a government official.
307. Concerning article 16 of the Convention, the representative informed the Committee of the statement by the Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of Regina V. Smith, that there were certain punishments which would always offend the protection against cruel and unusual punishment in section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that included corporal punishment. Furthermore, the Federal Government was re-examining a provision of the Criminal Code which permitted reasonable force by a parent or schoolteacher in the correction of a child.
Conclusions and recommendations
308. The Committee expressed its appreciation to the Government of Canada, not only for its comprehensive report but also for the measures and efforts undertaken by the Canadian authorities in compliance with the provisions of the Convention.
309. The Committee also expressed its thanks for the excellent presentation by the Canadian delegation and in this regard noted with satisfaction the various clarifications provided by the delegation in response to the questions raised by members of the Committee during its examination of the State party's report.
310. Nevertheless, the Committee expected to be provided with further details on the training of health personnel and the outcome of the inquiries conducted by the Canadian authorities relating to two immigrants of Chinese origin, in addition to the statistics requested by the Committee.