Putting people first — What we’re doing

Last year, we went out to hear from as many human rights advocates and experts as we could about what they expect from Canada’s national human rights watchdog. Time and again, we heard the same message: that the Commission must put people first, that we must be an independent and outspoken national voice, and that we must make it easier for everyone in Canada to access human rights justice.

We heard you, and here is just a snapshot of what we’re doing so far.


From denouncing hate and intolerance, to calling for a moratorium on solitary confinement, to bringing parties to the table to find meaningful resolution to human rights conflicts, the Commission took the lead on pressing human rights issues—both publicly and behind the scenes. Through mediation and litigation, the Commission works to find consensus and clarify complex legal issues. This year, after a decade of legal wrangling, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that child welfare services on First Nations reserves are discriminatory. The Commission served as a bridge to bring the parties back together so that they could find reasonable and meaningful ways to implement this historic decision.

A collage of statements to the press and quotations made by the Commission throughout 2016 —covering issues including child-welfare on First Nations reserves and the importance of speaking out against hate. A collage tweets and images the Commission put out on social media throughout 2016.
“Too many children living in First Nations communities are being taken from their families and placed in care.”
“We must shine a bright light on these dark events. No one should live in fear because of who they are.”
“…in a free and democratic society, the human rights of every person on Canadian soil must be respected.”


From appearing before Parliamentary Committees, to participating in expert panel discussions, to promoting acceptance and inclusion in schools, the Commission raised awareness and sparked discussion on some of Canada’s most pressing human rights issues.

“As human rights defenders, there has never been a more important time for us to speak out, challenge our reality, to ensure that discrimination or intolerance are never normalized.”
“I don’t know if you know this, but people in Canada have so much hope and optimism about all of you—and every other person who is your age in Canada. Your generation is already living the ideals and freedoms that so many people who came before you worked so hard to achieve.”
“But the truth is: momentum alone is not enough. If we want to advance legal and social justice for Indigenous peoples in Canada, we need to inspire action not just from governments, but from citizens.”
“Taking a genetic test that could help save one’s life shouldn’t be a calculated risk.”
“I believe that now more than ever, it is important to shine a light on stories and experiences that sometimes contradict deeply held Canadian values. I say “now more than ever” because I believe that there is an opportunity to bring about meaningful change.”


The Commission continued its conversations with Parliamentarians, human rights advocates, First Nations organizations, employers, other human rights commissions, and community organizations that work directly with people living in vulnerable circumstances. These conversations helped the Commission share and gather information on Canada’s human rights issues—from hearing about the injustice faced by a single mother in a remote community, to understanding the implications of new federal legislation, to consulting on Canada’s international human rights obligations.

A colourful collage of photos showing Chief Commissioner Landry posing for photographs throughout 2016 with various partners and stakeholders of diverse backgrounds and cultures. There are no captions to tell the viewer who the individuals are in each photo—but each of the photographs has a positive feeling. One photo shows the Chief Commissioner with her fist in the air, cheering and marching with Commission staff in a Pride parade.