P1enary Session - most formal, countries’ reports, adoption of agenda, final document, some NGO statements;
Main Committee - consideration of substantive agenda items (easier to speak at, but no particular significance attached to it);
Drafting Committee - closed to NGOs (except for formal statement by working groups at outset); where all the decisions on the text of the final document got made.
B - Informal
NGO level, NGO fair tent, displays, caucuses, seminars, meetings with delegations, regional and thematic working groups etc.
2. EGALE Goals at the World Conference
Get as many States as possible to call for an end to discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation;
Get sexual orientation included in the final document as a prohibited ground of discrimination or (more realistically) ensure the wording of the final document is broad enough to cover lesbians, gays and bisexuals;
maximize lesbian, gay and bisexual visibility at the Conference;
address the World Conference in either plenary or main committee;
lobby and network with other NGOs.
3. Extent to which goals achieved:
5 States called for an end to discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation in either plenary or main committee: Netherlands, Canada, Austria, Germany, Australia (plus a number of NGOs).
Paragraph 8 of final document asserts as a principle of international law respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms “without distinction of any kind”. (potentially broader than existing guarantees in Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).
Met with delegations and NGOs, persuaded WEOG group to take a position on lesbian, gay and bisexual issues, lobbied Canadian delegation in particular, participated actively in lesbian, gay and bisexual caucus (which met on a daily basis), media coverage through CBC and reporter for Human Rights Tribune, meeting (dinner) with Canadian ambassador to Vienna, CIDA etc.
Addressed plenary on behalf of EGALE and persuaded WEOG to address the issue in its statement (text of statements attached).
Networked till I was blue in the face, list of contacts to be compiled.
4. EGALE (and other) documents:
Text of EGALE address to the Plenary;
Fact Sheet for the Canadian Delegation;
Recognition of Sexual Orientation at World Conference on Human Rights;
Speak Out! Pamphlet;
Press Release on Canadian Statement;
ILGA address to the plenary;
Text of paragraph 8 of final document;
Address of Dorothy Dobbie, M.P. to the plenary;
“Vulnerable Groups” - draft text of WEOG statement to the plenary (prepared by EGALE, revised and delivered by Louise Shaughnessy of NAWL);
“EGALE attends World Conference on Human Rights” - follow-up news article.
5. Where do we go from here?
Beyond Vienna Working Group established;
1994: International Year of the Family - room for action on both domestic ad international level;
1995: Conference on Women’s Rights in Beijing (lesbian issues expected to be prominent);
1998: 50th anniversary of adoption of Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
Internet: based in Ottawa - networking;
EGALE application to join ILGA - to be considered in Barcelona this month. ILGA likely to be accredited and be able to make representations to ECOSOC, which meets annually;
International Commission of Jurists: has recently taken on as a “new project” an examination of sexual orientation and a human rights. Vice-President: Madam Justice l’Heureux-Dube’;
Tasmanian case being considered by UN Human Rights Committee.
Part A: Lesbian and Gay Rights Are Human Rights
A principal theme of the World Conference on Human Rights has been the need for the human rights of all persons to be recognized and respected by the international community universally and non-selectively. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides:
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
Resolution 471122 of the United Nations General Assembly, adopted on December 18, 1992, established a Provisional Agenda for the World Conference emphasizing the need to consider the realization of all human rights “including those of persons belonging to vulnerable groups” (Agenda item 11).
Lesbians and gays are without question “vulnerable groups”, whose human rights are being abused in many states. In some countries we face the death penalty. In many others we are imprisoned or subjected to forcible treatment such as electroshock therapy in an attempt to destroy our sexual identity. Virally all our rights are routinely violated in some countries, including the rights to freedom of assembly, speech, privacy, work, health and equality.
We recognize that the Government of Canada has on a number of occasions committed itself to recognizing the equality rights of lesbians and gays. We commend Canada for recognizing the rights of lesbians and gays to equality in its plenary address. We look to our State Representatives to take action throughout the Conference to ensure that lesbians and gays are recognized as having the right to be free from discrimination. We feel it is important that this express recognition be reflected in the final conference document
We wish to emphasize that it is particularly important that Canada does everything possible to ensure that the right of lesbians and gays to equality is recognized explicitly, rather than subsumed in general phraseology such as “or other status”. There are three main reasons for this:
A general phrase would be no advancement upon the present Covenants, which are not currently being applied by States in such a way as to protect the rights of lesbians and gays. It is essential to promote language which expressly recognizes that this discrimination is unacceptable. To do otherwise creates the impression that sexual orientation is somehow unfit to be expressly mentioned in a human rights document. It fails to accord due’ recognition to the very serious abuses of the human rights of gays and lesbians occurring around the world.
If Canada does not take this opportunity to forcefully advocate respect for the explicit recognition of the human rights of lesbians and gays, the international community and the, people of Canada may receive the impression that these human rights violations are not thought to be of any particular import In addition, if those delegations which are supportive are offered the compromise of a general phrase, they are more likely to circumvent the issue of sexual orientation, rather than explicitly committing themselves to the elimination of discrimination against lesbians and gays.
One of the main functions of a human rights document is to educate, and to set out in the clearest possible terms that, while cultural differences are important, there remain certain minimum standards for the treatment of a human being. The educative function of the final document in this context will be wholly undermined if the Conference does not see fit to expressly denounce the violations of the human rights of lesbians and gays.
Any State which truly supports the principle of universality must recognize that human rights apply equally to all people, and that there is simply no scope for other State parties to argue that cultural differences justify imprisonment, denial of equality, torture, or execution of lesbians and gays. Indeed, this is a textbook example of the importance of universality and the need for equality guarantees: vulnerable minorities which lack a strong voice are dependent upon the international community to ensure that their human rights are not completely disregarded. In many States, the oppression of lesbians and gays is so extreme that they are unable to publicly acknowledge their sexual orientation, let alone form groups or advocate for reform. Those people are therefore completely dependent on more progressive countries such as Canada to pursue these issues for them.
Part B: The Canadian Position
On October 25, 1985, the all-party Parliamentary Subcommittee on Equality Rights tabled its report, Equality for All, in the House of Commons. It unanimously recommended that the Canadian Human Rights Act be amended to add sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination.
On March 4, 1986, the Government responded to the Equality for All report, affirmed its commitment to the principle of equal opportunity for all persons, and pledged to take “whatever measures are necessary” to ensure that sexual orientation is a prohibited ground of discrimination.
Sexual orientation is now a prohibited ground of discrimination in the human rights Acts of British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, and the Yukon Territory.
On August 6, 1992, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in the landmark Haig and Birch case that the equality guarantees of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms require that the federal Canadian Human Rights Act be extended to prohibit discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. The Attorney General of Canada conceded in that and other cases that sexual orientation is an analogous ground of discrimination in the Canadian Charter. The then Minister of Justice, the Hon. Kim Campbell, publicly stated that the Government was committed to the principle of equality for gays and lesbians and would therefore not be appealing the Haig and Birch decision.
On the eve of the World Conference on Human Rights, the Senate of Canada passed Bill 5-15, a Bill introduced by Senator Kinsella, the sole purpose of which was to insert sexual orientation into the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Senate unanimously recommended that the Bill be passed without amendment. At the third reading of the Bill, only one Senator (Senator Frith) opposed the Bill, and he was at pains to point out that he opposed the Bill for procedural reasons only.
In the Recommendations for the Canadian Government from the Canadian Satellite Meeting of the World Conference on Human Rights, special emphasis was placed on the need for the UN to “address in a consistent and vigorous manner the fundamental rights of all sectors of human society that are particularly vulnerable to abuse, including ... members of the gay/lesbian communities.”
PART C: International Support
In 1984, the European Parliament passed a resolution on sexual discrimination, which specifically condemned discrimination against homosexuals and called upon member states to report any provisions in their laws which discriminated against homosexuals.
In Dudgeon V United Kingdom (1982) 4 E.H.R.R. 149 and Norris V Ireland (1988) 13 E.H.R.R. 186, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that criminal prohibitions on homosexual sex violate the right to privacy in the European Convention on Human Rights. The right to privacy in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is identical in all relevant respects.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee has recently ruled admissible a complaint similar to Dudgeon from Tasmania, the only State in Australia which still maintains criminal prohibitions against homosexual sex.
Ireland is the only State in Western Europe which still maintains criminal prohibitions against homosexual sex. Decriminalization has just occurred in the Russian Republic. A number of States have introduced antidiscrimination legislation to protect the equality rights of lesbians and gays and in Denmark, Norway and Iceland laws have been enacted to permit same-sex couples to register their partnerships, granting them many of the same rights as marriage. Similar laws are expected soon in Sweden and Finland and over twenty cities in the United States now have registered partnership laws. In addition, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand and Australia have enacted specific laws to permit same-sex spousal immigration.
In his final report on the Realization of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Special Rapporteur Danilo Turk specifically supported the need for 1’increased attention to areas of discriminatory behaviour generally ignored at the international level, including on grounds of sexual orientation, and calls for study of such areas.”
The Netherlands, Canada and the Special Rapporteur of the NGOs have now called in the plenary session for the elimination of discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. The Netherlands has reiterated this position in even stronger terms in the Main Committee. Other delegations have indicated in less public forums that they are supportive. A number of the working groups and preparatory meetings as well as the women’s lobby here at the conference have placed emphasis on the need for the elimination of discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. In addition, many delegations have stressed the importance of universality and the need for the protection of vulnerable groups. Lesbian and gay issues will be the litmus test of each State’s true commitment to the principle of universality, and the equal application of human rights for all.
I am pleased to announce that the Government of Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency, will provide support of up to half a million dollars to the Centre for Human Rights to enable a women’s rights expert to assist in the all-important task of integrating the rights of women throughout the UN human rights system.
Rights of persons in vulnerable groups
If fundamental human rights are to be enjoyed equally by all people without distinction, the international community must devote more attention to those whose rights have been traditionally neglected.
The rights of children must be a priority concern for all nations. We must redouble our efforts to implement the Plan of Action adopted by the 1990 World Summit for Children, which Canada was proud to co-chair. On this - the Day of the African Child - it is fitting to rededicate ourselves to the survival, protection and development of children.
Persons with disabilities experience continuing marginalization in society. If their potential is to be fully appreciated, our outdated attitudes must be challenged and changed.
It is also unacceptable that anyone, because of sexual orientation or HIV infection, be denied fundamental human rights and freedoms.
This Conference will be commemorating the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People. We must ensure that the world’s Indigenous People can fulfil their legitimate aspirations to be full-fledged partners in the broader societies in which they live.
Canada looks forward to the completion of a draft Declaration on Indigenous Rights by the Working Group on Indigenous Populations. We support the full participation of indigenous representatives in the review of the draft Declaration by member states. Our experience in Canada has demonstrated that the involvement of Indigenous People is essential to the development of solutions appropriate to their needs.
This is why Canada also supports the extension of the Working Group mandate to review developments and advise on the concerns of Indigenous People.
Fact Sheet for the Canadian Delegation
The Inclusion of Sexual Orientation in the Final Document of the World Conference on Human Rights (A/CONF.157/FC/98)
This information sheet is in four parts:
Part A sets out the reasons for the importance of the inclusion of sexual orientation in the draft final documents.
Part B sets out the current position on the development of lesbian and gay rights in Canada.
Part C sets out the current international support for this position.
APPENDIX A details the specific amendments that we would recommend to the text of the Conference draft final document.