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Permanent Program Review: the process must respect human rights and freedoms

Montréal, October 9, 2014 — The Commission de révision permanente des programmes must take into account the impacts of its planned reforms on human rights and freedoms, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse warned today, underscoring that this exercise cannot be based solely on economic efficiency or budgetary considerations.

“The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse must not interfere in the government’s decisions regarding the ongoing review of programs, said its President, Jacques Frémont. However, the Commission de révision permanente des programmes and the government must consider and respect human rights and freedoms of people who may be affected by their decisions, including the most vulnerable in our society which may be the first to suffer.”

In an opinion, which was sent to Québec Premier Philippe Couillard and to the permanent program review commission earlier this week, the Commission restates that the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms is a fundamental law that takes precedence over other laws, and possesses a quasi-constitutional status. It expressly affirms that the State is bound by the Charter, thus, it applies to the government’s actions and the programs under review.

It its opinion, the Commission states that three elements regarding the protection of human rights and freedoms should be an integral part of the review process: respect for the criteria allowing the exercise of rights to be fixed by law – sections 1 to 9 – of the Charter; respect for right to equality and, fulfilling the commitments relative to social and economic rights enshrined in the Québec Charter and in the International Covenant on Social, Economic, Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The findings of the Commission de révision permanente des programmes and the expected mechanisms for an ongoing review of programs cannot adversely affect rights guaranteed under the Charter, particularly the right to equality which prohibits direct, indirect and systemic discrimination. Moreover, the Commission’s opinion reminds the government that Québec has undertaken to respect the ICSECR. Under this commitment, States are prohibited from adopting regressive measures relative to the rights protected under the covenant.

“Disregarding the human rights issues could lead to important – and probably – costly litigation. Beyond such judicial considerations, the Commission insists on reiterating the importance of the Charter and its objective, which is the protection of human rights and freedoms based on human dignity and equality essential to ensure the development of every individual,” Mr. Frémont said.

The opinion of the Commission to the Commission de révision permanente des programmes is available at: www.cdpdj.qc.ca/Publications/avis_revision_programmes.pdf

The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Human Rights and Youth Commission) ensures the promotion and respect of the principles set out in the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. It also ensures that the interests of children are protected and that their rights recognized in the Youth Protection Act are respected and promoted. In addition, the Commission oversees compliance with the Act respecting Equal Access to Employment in Public Bodies.

Contact:
Patricia Poirier
514 873-5146 or 1 800 361-6477, extension 358
patricia.poirier@cdpdj.qc.ca

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