About This Database


The impetus for this database project was the perceived need for an easy-to-use online resource that would allow Canadians and others to find information about the international human rights instruments that are relevant to Canada, Canada’s official position vis-à-vis such instruments, and international human rights jurisprudence relating to Canada.

The information and documents in this database are all publicly accessible elsewhere online. However, they are spread across several different websites, which are sometimes difficult to navigate. As a result, finding official instruments and documents can be difficult and time consuming, even for experienced researchers. This database aims to simplify the process of finding international human rights information for Canadian researchers, lawyers, activists, journalists, and members of the public.

In facilitating access to this information, we hope that this database will:

  • Create greater understanding of international human rights and how they apply to Canada;
  • Foster dialogue on Canada’s implementation of its international human rights commitments; and
  • Provide a foundation for informed human rights advocacy.
Contents and Methodology

The documents in this database are all official documents from international organizations or from the Canadian government. Below you will find more detailed information about the documents you can expect to find in each of the three sections of documents.

This is an ongoing, living project. The database is regularly updated to ensure it is both comprehensive and current. The list below provides an overview of the documents that are or are not currently included, a list which may change in the future as additions are made.

This database does not provide any subjective commentary or summary of international human rights instruments and related materials as they apply to Canada. However, some subjectivity was unavoidable in creating this database; determinations had to be made as to which instruments to include and which to exclude. This was particularly challenging in relation to instruments from areas of law that intersect with international human rights law.

Regarding the documents themselves, best efforts have been made to include versions of PDF files taken directly from official sources, but in some cases PDF versions were created from text on html websites, or specific portions of longer PDF documents were extracted for ease of searching and access by users of this database (eg. certain non-binding instruments and treaty body general comments were a small subset of pages within lengthy meeting records), or documents were taken from non-official yet reliable third-party sites.

Binding Instruments

The database includes major international and regional multilateral instruments, both those that have been ratified by Canada, and those that have not been ratified by Canada as of yet.

To compile the instruments, we used a 2011 list published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) entitled “Human Rights: Major International Instruments, Status as at 30 June 2011”. Our team then searched by multilateral organization to identify binding instruments that had been created since 2011.

Information about status of ratification was taken from the UN Treaty Collection site, or other official sites depending on the treaty in question.


  • UN human rights treaties (both “core” and “non-core”)
  • OAS human rights treaties
  • ILO human rights treaties more strongly relating to human rights
  • Main international humanitarian, refugee, and criminal law treaties

Not included:

  • Bilateral instruments (eg. trade agreements with labour side agreements)
  • Regional instruments that Canada is not eligible to become a party to (eg. Council of Europe or African Union instruments)
  • ILO treaties with lesser implications for human rights
  • Any instrument from the World Health Organization
Non-binding instruments

The instruments were taken from a list published by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in 2002: “Human Rights: A Compilation of International Instruments”, ST/HR/1/Rev.6, (Vol. I, Part 1). Research for more recent instruments was performed by going on the sites of various international organizations.


  • UN General Assembly and other UN body human rights resolutions (eg. UNESCO, ECOSOC)
  • ILO resolutions strongly related to human rights
  • Some non-binding instruments from other entities (eg. G7)

Not included:

  • ILO resolutions less relevant to human rights
  • OAS General Assembly human rights resolutions – numerous resolutions are accessible online here, in the records of proceedings of sessions.
  • OSCE, WHO, World Bank, OIF non-binding instruments
International monitoring documents

Most of these documents were taken directly from the UN Treaty body database. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) documents were taken from the IACHR site, searching by year for only those documents related to Canada.


  • Documents arising from Canada’s participation in the UN treaty body monitoring process (including information from UN Agencies, and information from National Human Rights Institutions)
  • UN treaty body jurisprudence on individual complaints
  • IACHR decisions on individual cases, and IACHR reports on Canada
  • Some UN special rapporteur reports

Not included:

  • Shadow reports authored by Canadian NGOs for submission to UN treaty bodies
  • Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review documents
  • ILO jurisprudence and reports
  • Decisions of the International Court of Justice
  • Decisions of the International Criminal Court, hybrid, or ad hoc international law tribunals (eg. ICTY or ICTR)
  • Decisions of Canadian courts, tribunals, or other decision-makers

Best efforts have been made to ensure that this database contains only official, reliable information; however, it is possible there are errors in the information provided. Also, while our aim was to provide a neutral information platform, our team had to make some inherently subjective determinations as to what to include or exclude.

HRI, the Human Rights Research and Education Centre (HRREC), the University of Ottawa, and the individual project participants are not responsible for any harm(s) suffered due to reliance on the information contained in this database; database users assume any risk due to such reliance. Moreover, HRI, HRREC, the University of Ottawa, and the individual project participants are not responsible for the content provided on third party websites linked to in this database.