Security agencies urged to track human rights records
'They say human rights are respected, but there's not often the proof that they are'
The Canadian Human Rights Commission is urging Parliament to pass legislation that would require national security organizations to monitor their human rights performance, saying data should be tracked and made public.
The special report to Parliament, called Human Rights Accountability in National Security Practices, is based on a decade of research by the commission.
"Not only is there no accountability framework in place, national security organizations are not required to collect and report data on human rights performance in practice," says the report, which was tabled Monday.
The CHRC recommends Parliament pass legislation to clarify, codify and make transparent "an adherence to human rights laws for all national security organizations."
The report also calls for a method to track performance and share that data with Canadians.
For example, Canada's national security organizations say they don't use racial or ethnic profiling, but Karen Mosher, the secretary general of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, says it's hard to verify those claims.
"They say human rights are respected, but there's not often the proof that they are," she said. "We hear complaints from visible minority communities, for instance, that they're being singled out."
Mosher says organizations such as the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency and Canadian Security Intelligence Service are not obliged to monitor themselves and report on how they're respecting human rights.
"So far as we've been able to tell, they're not doing anything. There's no reporting structure in place, there's no obligation on them to report, there's no evidence that they're collecting this data in any kind of systematic way."
Mosher says increased accountability at national security organizations would go a long way in building public trust and confidence.
In its report, the commission recognizes some security measures could potentially be discriminatory. In those cases, it suggests each organization should be compelled to prove that it has explored all alternative arrangements.
The commission also wants national security groups to train their employees in general human rights principles.
'Public confidence requires proof'
The report noted bodies like the Security Intelligence Review Committee and the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP provide oversight of national security organizations, but "when these bodies deal with human rights issues, as they sometimes do, it is on an ad hoc basis."
The report says this approach fails to provide a "comprehensive" view of human rights concerns and issues.
A statement released with the report notes that most of Canada's national security organizations have made clear commitments to human rights.
"But public confidence requires demonstrable proof. Monitoring and tracking data should be collected and made public," acting chief commissioner David Langtry said in a statement Monday.
A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the minister's office will be reviewing the report shortly.
With files from Alison Crawford