Maintaining a strong connection with Canadians and with our human rights colleagues at home and abroad remained an important part of our work this year. Adapting to a new COVID19 normal, we embraced video calling to conduct virtual meetings that helped to keep us informed and connected to important human rights issues in Canada and around the world.
Like any year, we worked to ensure that the voices of Canadians were included in our work. But 2020 in particular provided a unique opportunity in this regard.
Asking Canadians with disabilities about our new National Monitoring Mechanism role
In 2019, the Government of Canada formally designated the Commission as the body responsible for monitoring Canada's implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The Commission is responsible for monitoring progress and reporting on whether the Government of Canada is doing all it can to meet the human rights obligations outlined in the Convention.
In the spirit of “nothing without us,” the Commission sought input from people with disabilities and the organizations that advocate on their behalf from the outset of this new work.
In June 2020, we conducted a survey asking people to weigh in on our new role. We asked people from across Canada where this broad new role should put its focus. We asked them how they want to be involved in this work. We asked them to tell us what is most important in our path forward as Canada's National Monitoring Mechanism.
Here are just some of the highlights:
What we heard
In June and July 2020, the Commission asked people across Canada what they think is most important in our monitoring of the CRPD, and how they want to be involved in this part of our work.
2,927 Survey responses
64% identify as having a disability
48% are familiar with the CRPD
TOP 3 AREAS OF CONCERN:
- Work and employment
54% think the CRPD will have a positive effect
86% feel Canada is doing a poor job promoting the rights of people with disabilities
83% feel Canada is doing a poor job of protecting the rights of people with disabilities
Housing as a human right
In a year in which the right to housing has never been more critical and prevalent in the minds of Canadians, we commissioned new research, and engaged with stakeholders in preparation for the 2021 Governor in Council appointment of Canada's first Federal Housing Advocate.
We met with Leilani Farah, the outgoing United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, as well as Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the incoming Special Rapporteur, to discuss key issues, how we can advance the right to housing in Canada, and how we can help Canada meet its international human rights obligations on these matters.
The Housing Advocate will receive submissions from people in Canada, including those with lived experience in housing need or homelessness, who are experiencing systemic housing issues. Throughout 2020, the Commission developed the systems that will receive these submissions and collect data on systemic housing issues in Canada.
Helping level the playing field, together
In 2020, the close collaboration between the Commission and the Ontario Human Rights Commission helped result in an important decision by Facebook to begin enforcing new rules that will prevent advertisers from discriminating against people in Canada when it comes to jobs, housing and credit services.
In a joint public letter and subsequent discussions, we reached out to Facebook Canada to raise our concerns. Under Canadian human rights law, employers are prohibited from restricting their job advertisements to audiences based on age, gender, race or religion, unless the restriction is a bona fide occupational requirement or is part of a specific initiative.
Together, with findings from CBC News, our concerns were heard. Facebook Canada's decision means that advertisers will no longer will be able to target their Facebook ads at exclusive groups of people based on criteria such as their age, gender or postal code. Instead, advertisers will need to broaden their advertisements and ensure they are inclusive and available to everyone.
The timing could not be more important, with COVID-19 putting record numbers of Canadians out of work or in precarious housing and financial circumstances. Now more than ever, people in Canada need and deserve an equal chance to pursue new opportunities.