The Domestic Implementation of International Law: A Canadian Case Study

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Book Chapter

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human rights law, international human rights law, Charter of Rights and Freedoms, domestic implementation, treaties, human rights norms


International human rights law is a rapidly evolving area in which the focus on the rights of individuals, as opposed to states, challenges the norms of international law. For example, international human rights treaties and custom often enforce the right of the individual against the state that is often responsible for concluding and ratifying those very international treaties. As a result, although governments may ratify or support international human rights treaties and movements, the protection of those rights in Canada is not assured.

The domestic implementation of international human rights law in Canada occurs through two primary pathways. The first path is through the formal domestic implementation of international treaties (and custom) that have been signed by the federal government. The second path occurs through the adoption of human rights norms upheld by Canadian human rights law, as well as the organizations responsible for enforcing the rights of Canadians (for example the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Commission). This paper discusses the interaction between these two pathways using the example of the Canadian government's approach to the death penalty.