Hon. Sheila Copps (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.)
The concluding observations of the United Nations committee on the convention on the elimination of discrimination against women, CEDAW, are not considered binding in international law but are considered authoritative, that is, they carry moral obligation and weight. States are expected to undertake follow-up measures on recommendations and to respond to the issues of concern to the committee in subsequent reports. While there is no requirement to develop an overall implementation plan in Canada, several steps are taken to ensure that the views of all human rights treaty bodies, such as the CEDAW committee, are given due consideration.
This follow-up process begins with the immediate distribution of the concluding observations to all concerned federal departments and to all provincial and territorial governments. Federally, each department then discusses the issues to determine whether and what measures can be taken to address those issues within its area of competence. Interdepartmental meetings are held to coordinate efforts. Provinces and territories engage in their own intra-governmental discussions. To coordinate efforts between jurisdictions, discussions are held through the appropriate established federal-provincial-territorial government mechanisms. These mechanisms include the continuing committee of officials on human rights, and in the case of the CEDAW, meetings of federal-provincial-territorial ministers and senior officials on the status of women.
In response to the sub-questions: (a) and (d) Four interdepartmental meetings have been held to discuss the concluding observations. The next meeting is expected to be held in October. A working group has been established to develop a strategy for improved reporting. In addition, the CEDAW and the concluding observations have been discussed interdepartmentally at meetings on related subjects, including discussions on the agenda for gender equality and human rights issues generally.
(b) The continuing committee of officials on human rights, which includes representatives of all jurisdictions, discussed the committee’s recommendations on five occasions. The federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for the status of women also discussed the CEDAW at their meeting in September.
c) and (e) At the request of the Feminist Alliance For International Action, FAFIA, officials from several federal departments met with representatives of women’s non-governmental organizations to hear their suggestions regarding follow-up to the concluding observations. Status of Women Canada has provided funding to FAFIA to develop strategies and coordinate action by women’s organizations throughout Canada concerning follow-up to Canada’s international commitments on women’s issues.
Federal departments are expected to include discussions of the issues raised by this and other human rights treaty bodies within their usual consultations with non-governmental organizations on issues within the responsibility of the department. There is no formal process in place to solicit input from women’s, aboriginal or human rights non-governmental organizations specifically in regard to follow-up to the views of the CEDAW committee. The possibility of establishing such a process in future, however, is one of several issues that will be examined by federal departments that are engaged in discussions on how to improve the implementation of, as well as reporting on, all six human rights instruments that Canada has ratified.
(f) The concluding observations are available to all Canadians on the website of the Department of Canadian Heritage at http://www.pch.gc.ca/progs/pdp-hrp/docs/cedaw_e.cfm . Paper copies are available free of charge on request by calling the human rights program at 819-994-3458.
(g) Each jurisdiction is in the process of determining what will be done within its area to address each of the issues raised by the committee. Efforts to address the issues are expected to be ongoing over several years. In accordance with the requirements of the CEDAW committee, information on the measures implemented and the results achieved will be included in Canada’s next report.
Topic: Routine Proceedings
Subtopic: Question No. 250