The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Erika Schneidereit

International law

Reluctant enforcement: The laws on universal jurisdiction

By Erika Schneidereit October 4, 2017 4 October 2017

Reluctant enforcement: The laws on universal jurisdiction


In international law, they are known as “victims of enforced disappearance” – individuals removed from their homes and typically never heard from again. But in Spain, they are known simply as ‘the disappeared’: the over 114,000 Spaniards who vanished during the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s subsequent dictatorship (between 1936 and 1975).  The word itself, “disappeared,” gives a glimpse of this tactic’s cruel effects. Victims’ families and friends are left with no explanation - the disappeared are simply gone, never to be heard from again.  

In the years that follow any war, there are calls for answers. Often, these calls go unheeded - sometimes because the government cannot risk reigniting tensions, sometimes because it simply lacks the political will to embark on a daunting quest for post-conflict justice.

When Spain emerged from dictatorship in 1975, it too struggled with how to reconcile the dark chapters of its past with a new vision for the future. Claiming that it needed to protect its nascent democracy, in 1977 the Spanish government chose to pass an amnesty law prohibiting prosecution of individuals for offences committed from 1936 to 1975 – a nearly 40 year period in which thousands of crimes had taken place. 

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International law

The challenges of preventing corporate human right abuses abroad

By Erika Schneidereit July 25, 2017 25 July 2017

The challenges of preventing corporate human right abuses abroad


The protection of human rights is one of the core values that Canadians hold dear. But do Canadian laws do enough to prevent human rights abuses committed overseas?

The challenges posed by this question have become increasingly relevant in a world where Canadian companies control vast operations in multiple countries. This issue has also drawn the attention of international bodies, such as the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. 

Earlier this summer, the working group visited Canada to examine issues involving Canadian corporations and human rights. Of particular interest was Canada’s extractive industry (mining and oil and gas) – unsurprisingly, given that more than half of the world’s mining companies call Canada home. While the group wrapped up its visit by applauding Canada for its commitment to addressing business-related human rights issues, it also identified a number of lingering concerns in preventing and remedying human rights abuses committed by Canadian companies operating abroad.

So, what’s so complicated about preventing corporate human right violations abroad?

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Privacy rights

Surveillance oversight requires international effort

By Erika Schneidereit May 3, 2017 3 May 2017

Surveillance oversight requires international effort

 

Since reports on Edward Snowden’s leaks on U.S. spying were published four years ago, the question of where (and how) to draw the line between privacy rights and security interests has generated considerable interest both domestically and at the international level. And yet, international law is still grappling with how to effectively regulate governmental surveillance and access to personal data.

Any discussion on the topic must begin by considering the right to privacy in international law, enshrined as a fundamental human right both in Article 12 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and in Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (as well as a handful of other international and regional agreements). But the right to privacy is also a qualified protection. Article 12 refers to no person being subjected to “arbitrary interference” with privacy and Article 17 prohibits “arbitrary or unlawful interference’ with privacy.

What does this mean exactly? 

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Human rights

The IOC and human rights

By Erika Schneidereit March 30, 2017 30 March 2017

The IOC and human rights

 

The Olympic Games – these words conjure up images of national anthems, medal counts, and the world’s best athletes competing for glory on the international stage.

But for many, reports of widespread human rights violations in the lead-up to the 2008, 2014 and 2016 Games overshadowed the excitement of watching the world’s finest go for gold.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has heeded calls from human rights organizations and other groups to establish the protection of human rights as a core value of the Games. In February, the IOC announced that it had revised its Host City Contract for the 2024 Games to strengthen human rights protections, including its first explicit reference to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The amended contract states that host cities are required to:

protect and respect human rights and ensure any violation of human rights is remedied in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and in a manner consistent with all internationally-recognized human rights standards and principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, applicable in the Host Country.

So, will this amendment really have an impact on the actions of future hosts?

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Immigration

The financial barriers to becoming new Canadians

By Erika Schneidereit March 2, 2017 2 March 2017

The financial barriers to becoming new Canadians

 

In the first nine months of 2016, immigrants hoping to become Canadian citizens submitted over 56,000 citizenship applications. The number may seem high, but is far lower than the nearly 112,000 applications submitted in the same period the year before – a nearly 50 per cent drop.

Why the decline? It’s hard to say exactly but former Immigration and Citizenship director general Andrew Griffith points to the rise in processing fees for citizenship applications, which jumped from $100 to $530 in 2014-2015. Add to that a “right of citizenship” fee, this increase tripled the price for immigrants wishing to process a citizenship application. 

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