Current Projects

Developing a Roadmap to End Immigration Detention of Children

The goal of this project will be to sustain public attention on the treatment of vulnerable individuals who are detained pursuant to Canada’s immigration laws, to improve conditions for children and families who are detained, and to inform international advocacy efforts. Specifically, this project will follow up on an IHRP report on children in immigration detention, “‘No Life for a Child’: A Roadmap to End Immigration Detention of Children and Family Separation,” that will be released on September 22, 2016.

IHRP students, working with refugee lawyers, mental health specialists, service providers, and community activists, will research new data from the Canada Border Service Agency to support ongoing advocacy by outlining a roadmap for the government to revise the immigration detention system to abide by international law.

The new research will focus on children who are either detained pursuant to IRPA or as “guests” of their non-citizen parents, or separated from their detained parents. Over the past few years, hundreds of children have been detained in Canada’s immigration holding centres, or separated from their parents. The long-term impact of both detention and family separation on children’s mental health is significant.

Students will synthesize primary and secondary source data to provide an understanding of the problem, outline the Canadian laws and policies at play, analyze the issue from the perspective of binding international human rights law, and provide recommendations to various stakeholders.


Advancing the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing

Partner Organization: UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing

The IHRP will provide support to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, for her next thematic report the UN Human Rights Council due in March 2017 on housing economics, investment and the right to adequate housing.

The financial system has grown exponentially and now far outweighs the so-called real economy in terms of sheer volumes of wealth.  Financial actors – banks, insurance and pension funds, hedge funds and private equity firms, and other kinds of financial intermediaries - have become central actors in housing and real estate markets and key drivers of housing policy.  In an unprecedented way, housing is no longer about provision for people; it’s about profit, investment, security of wealth. It has no concern for humans let alone their fundamental rights.  There is a structural incongruence between the financialization of housing as a global phenomenon and human rights

Our students will aid the Special Rapporteur in gathering and assessing relevant data, with the aim of developing estimates of investment in different aspects of the housing market, as well as uncovering international and domestic regulations that are in force, with a view to assessing whether they are consistent with international human rights obligations. The project will also investigate the approaches that have been developed to curb excessive speculative investment in housing and land, and how international human rights law might further any of these advances. This will allow the Special Rapporteur to derive current investment patterns and their effects on the realization of the right to housing.  The goal of the project is to elevate the right to housing on the global stage and ensure the report has a broad reach amongst diverse audiences.     


Investigating Police Treatment of Indigenous Women and Girls

Partner Organization: Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch is in the process of investigating police treatment of indigenous women and girls in Saskatchewan. This investigation is a follow-up to HRW’s 2013 report on police treatment of indigenous women and girls in northern British Columbia. The cases documented within the current investigation in Saskatchewan fall within locations policed by the RCMP as well as the municipal police services of Prince Albert, Regina, and Saskatchewan.

HRW has conducted six weeks of field research into police treatment of indigenous women and girls in Saskatchewan, speaking with women and girls (many of whom were crime victims), witnesses, and community service providers in Prince Albert, Regina, Saskatoon, and several smaller communities in northern and central Saskatchewan. While the investigation focuses primarily on documenting policing-related abuses within the last three years, interviewees reported earlier incidents as well. The goal of this project will be to sustain public attention on the mistreatment of indigenous women and girls and to influence the recommendations that will be made by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

HRW and the IHRP will also make a joint submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women highlighting two areas of concern. First, policing failures and abuses that contribute to Indigenous women's and girls' increased vulnerability to violence, and access to safe water and sanitation on First Nation reserve communities in Ontario. The submission will be sent to the Committee on the occasion of its eighth and ninth periodic review of Canada, which will take place on October 25, 2016, at Palais des Nations in Geneva.


Researching Challenges to Freedom of Expression in Guatemala

Partner Organization: PEN Canada (Toronto) 

International organizations have expressed growing concern over increasingly common press freedom violations in Guatemala and the disturbing use of the courts to target journalists, media organizations and human rights defenders.

While the Guatemala constitution protects freedom of speech, journalists and human rights defenders face threats and practice self-censorship when covering drug trafficking, corruption, organized crime, and human rights violations. Threats have come from public officials, drug traffickers, individuals aligned with companies operating in indigenous communities, and local security forces. 

Through this work, PEN and the IHRP would draw on past collaboration in Latin America and India to analyze the challenges to freedom of expression Guatemala. As part of the project, students will conduct field research in Guatemala during reading week (November 7-11). 

Students will assist PEN in drafting its formal submission to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of Guatemala. Interim deliverables will include an in-depth internal memo assessing three major challenges to freedom of expression in Guatemala, with the aim of focusing the scope of the report. PEN and the IHRP will also be conducting research to identify potential Guatemala civil society partners for research and advocacy, including the Guatemalan PEN Centre.


Exploring civil liability for sex abuse by UN peacekeepers

Partner Organization: AIDS-Free World

The Code Blue Campaign, launched by AIDS-Free World in May 2015, has worked to keep sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeeping personnel high on the international agenda by exposing allegations of abuse, engaging and informing the media, providing insight and analyses into how the UN currently responds, and proposing novel changes to the status quo.  Rooted in a steadfast belief in multilateralism and the importance of peacekeeping to help fragile societies emerge from conflict, the campaign affirms that the UN can and should be the 'gold standard,' leading the way on protecting civilians and addressing abuses wherever they occur.

Our students will research potential opportunities for civil action against the UN, individual peacekeepers, and troop-contributing countries. This research has the potential to act as a reference guide for victims of sexual exploitation and abuse and their advocates, including civil society organizations, potentially underpinning future civil claims supported by civil society organizations. It will also highlight the impact of the UN’s immunity provisions on victim’s rights to an effective remedy when it does not provide adequate alternative mechanisms for resolving disputes. This will make an important contribution to a relatively uncharted area of legal research. Further, the project will contribute to ground-breaking research, analysis and advocacy on the various justice mechanisms currently or potentially available to victims of peacekeeper sexual violence, whether criminal, civil or restorative, and how the three intersect. The project and will also help to identify the legal and policy reforms necessary to increase these forms of access to justice.


Canada’s Review by the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Partner Organizations: EarthRights International; MiningWatch Canada

As part of Canada's upcoming review at the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in July 2017, the IHRP in collaboration with EarthRights and Mining Watch will be making a submission highlighting allegations against Canadian extractive companies for their involvement in human rights violations in countries around the world.

Students will also research and draft a joint submission to the Country Rapporteur to include the extraterritorial conduct of Canadian corporations as an issue in the pre-sessional List of Themes.  

The submission will examine whether the Canadian government is failing to uphold its international obligations by continuing to provide both direct and indirect support to Canadian companies that violate human rights, including those that have been globally criticized and condemned for egregious violations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The submission will also examine whether Canada has failed in creating and implementing legislative and administrative frameworks to prohibit, sanction, and criminalize the discriminatory practices of these companies. Students will also research whether Canada has failed to ensure victims have access to effective remedies as required by the Convention.


Challenging Barbados’ Anti-Sodomy Law

Partner Organization: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

Anti-sodomy laws are prevalent in many Caribbean countries as a result of British colonialism. These laws criminalize people who identify as LGBTI and promote discrimination, harassment, and violence. The IHRP, in collaboration with a Bajan petitioner and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, will research, draft, and submit a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and then to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACrtHR) challenging the anti-sodomy law of Barbados. As part of the project, the IHRP will research regional human rights law and outline legal arguments used to support the petition.

Barbados is the only English-speaking Caribbean country who has ratified the American Convention on Human Rights and accepted the jurisdiction of the IACrtHR. The Sexual Offences Act (SOA) of Barbados criminalizes anal sex (“buggery”) even if it occurs in private between consenting adults. Conviction can result in imprisonment for life. The SOA arguably violates a number of rights guaranteed in the Constitution of Barbados and the Convention, including freedom of expression and right to privacy. The Supreme Court of Belize has recently ruled that a similar anti-sodomy law violates human rights. However, a savings clause in the Constitution of Barbados immunizes the SOA from a constitutional challenge in Barbadian courts.


* Please note: The IHRP only selects projects through referrals from NGOs. We do not provide legal services to individuals without a referral from an NGO.