POLITICS

UN Asks Canada How It Makes Up For U.S. Immigration ‘Shortcomings’

Everyone wants to know how Canada deals with its "bigger neighbour."

08/14/2017 19:39 EDT | Updated 08/15/2017 09:44 EDT
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stands near U.S. President Donald Trump and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May at the Belvedere of Taormina during the Summit of the Heads of State and of Government of the G7 on May 26, 2017 in Sicily.

An United Nations special committee went an hour over its allotted time in Geneva on Monday, asking questions to a Canadian delegation about the country's record on racial discrimination.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) asked a series of questions that covered topics from violence against Indigenous women to the fact that minority people are disproportionately represented in the country's prisons.

And because of Canada's proximity to the United States, experts broached the topic of how the two countries approach immigration.

"How far can your country offset the shortcomings of the bigger neighbour?" CERD committee member Marc Bossuyt asked in reference to U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration and refugee bans.

Every five years, Canada's compliance with the United Nation's human rights treaty is reviewed by CERD. Canada's record on racial discrimination was last examined in 2012.

The violence from Charlottesville, Va. over the weekend were also raised by the committee. Chairperson Anastasia Crickley called the clashes a "sobering" proof of how systemic racism exists today.

A 32-year-old woman was killed and dozens injured on Saturday after a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters who gathered in response to a white nationalist rally held in the city earlier.

That "Unite The Right" rally, which attracted the likes of white supremacists and Nazis, called on supporters to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee from a city park.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter on Sunday to offer a reminder that Canada isn't resistant to similar events.

Last month, a Mi'kmaq ceremony in Halifax at the site of a statue of the city's founder was interrupted by a group of self-described "Western Chauvinists."

After founding the city in 1749, Edward Cornwallis issued a bounty on Mi'kmaq scalps after an attack on a colonial settlement.

Chief Grizzly Mamma told CBC News that at the time, she was praying when she saw the so-called Proud Boys walk up to the group as they honoured the Indigenous lives lost because of colonialism.

"We were mourning for all of our people that have died and they came to disrespect us and dishonour us," she said.

A delegation led by the Canadian Heritage department is in Switzerland to attend two days of questioning before the special UN committee.

First Nations Child and Family Caring Society executive director Cindy Blackstock and lawyer Pam Palmater are also in Geneva to attend meetings at the UN headquarters.

At one point during questioning, the U.S. member of the committee, Gay McDougall, put some pressure on Canada to lead with implementing progressive pieces of legislation to end racial discrimination.

Canada is expected to respond to the UN's suite of questions on Tuesday.

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