Human rights commissions in Canada are created by federal, provincial or territorial governments. Commissions get their funding from those governments but they are not controlled by them; the commissions are meant to be independent,, to operate at “arms- length”, so that they can work without government interference.
The commissions are led by appointed commissioners. The commissioners make sure the commissions are run effectively, according to the laws that set out their duties and areas of work, and that they make the best use of their funding, staff and legal powers.
In 1993 the United Nations created the “Paris Principles”; Canada voted in favour of these principles, which describe how all human rights commissions or similar institutions should work. In general, the Principles say commissions must be independent and have broad functions and powers to look into a wide range of issues that affect human rights. In Canada, this means humans rights commissions should be able to
- Look into and take action on any human rights matter including doing research and investigating violations of human rights laws
- Give advice to governments and others on how to protect and promote human rights
- Comment on laws, regulations and policies to help ensure they follow human rights legislation
- Contribute to the human rights reports which Canada is required to make to United Nations bodies and committees, and where it is needed, express an opinion on the subject
- Report on the state of human rights in general and give advice on how to fix any problems
- Work with the UN and other international, regional, or local human rights institutions including commissions
- Build relations with non-governmental groups which work to promote and protect human rights
- Tell the public about human rights and the work to stop discrimination by sharing information, supporting education about human rights and by making use of the media.
CASHRA helps support commissions and the Paris Principles by sharing information and building cooperation among its members and other organizations involved in promoting and protecting human rights.