Canada’s human rights profiles for 80 countries haven’t been updated in 5 years: watchdog

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Global Affairs Canada has not updated its human rights reporting on nearly 80 countries since 2019, according to a new report by a national security review body.

The department’s human rights reports are used by other government agencies to help make decisions about sharing information with foreign governments, informing diplomatic activities and directing foreign aid.

The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) said the list of countries that have not been reviewed includes Ukraine, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Belarus – a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin in his ongoing invasion of Ukraine – has not been updated since 2015.

Maintaining up-to-date profiles on countries’ human rights records is “vital” given how other government departments and agencies rely on GAC’s assessments, particularly when it comes to sharing information that could result in the mistreatment of foreign nationals abroad, NSIRA warned.

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“(The reports) help inform Canada’s international engagement and programming decisions, including foreign policy, development, trade, security and consular activities,” the agency’s latest report, released Thursday afternoon, read.

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NSIRA noted that GAC has made “considerable headway” in updating a number of countries’ human rights profiles, particularly for nations deemed to be “high-risk” in order to reflect “current events.”

Individual foreign missions are responsible for updating their host countries’ human rights reports – which include “open source” information like news reports, conversations with human rights groups on the ground and “engagement” with local governments.

“The reports include information on the overall human rights context in the country, as well as an analysis of the significant human rights-related events that took place during the review period,” NSIRA noted.

That information is particularly valuable when Canadian departments and agencies are making decisions around the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act, a 2019 law that committed Canada to uphold “international agreements prohibiting torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

“A primary objective of enshrining these principles through statute rather than the previous use of ministerial directions was to ensure that Canada’s commitment to these principles does not rest with the minister or government in power,” the NSIRA report stated.

Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to Global News’ request for comment.

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