The Optional Protocol and disability rights in Canada

Making a Human Rights Complaint

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Being a champion
Making an Optional Protocol complaint
Submitting your complaint
What happens after you submit?

Being a champion

As a member of an organization that serves people with disabilities, you have the opportunity to be a champion for human rights. That might mean that you're working to educate the people you serve about resources like the Optional Protocol, or it might mean that you're actually submitting complaints on behalf of those individuals. Either way, you're making a meaningful difference in the journey to equality for people with disabilities in Canada.

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Making an Optional Protocol complaint

If you've exhausted your domestic resources for making a human rights complaint on behalf of the people with disabilities you serve, you may be able to take your complaint to the UN through the Optional Protocol.

Before you do that, it's important to understand the Optional Protocol complaint guidelines that the UN has created. They state that the Committee will consider only those complaints that:

  • Are covered by the UNCRPD. The complaint must be about a violation of rights that are protected under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • Are unique. The same complaint must not have already been examined by the Committee or another body within the UN. (If it was, the Committee will reject your complaint.)
  • Have been filed locally. You must have already exhausted your domestic resources for resolving your complaint.
  • Are true. The complaint must be genuine and represent a true violation of rights.
  • Occurred before or during the time when Canada agreed to the Optional Protocol. That means that the violation of rights must have happened during or after December of 2018.

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Submitting your complaint

If you'd like to submit a complaint to the United Nations Committee, you'll need to send it in writing or another accessible format, such as audio, Easy Read or braille. Complaints can be submitted in English, French, Russian or Spanish.

When writing your complaint, try to give as much detail as you can about the human rights violation you're talking about. Although it's not a must, it may be helpful to speak to a lawyer who can assist you with writing the complaint.

Still stumped on how to write your complaint? Click here to download the UN's submissions guidelines for making a human rights complaint through the Optional Protocol.

Once you've finished writing your complaint, you can send it to:

Petitions Team
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10 (Switzerland)
Fax: + 41 22 917 9022 (particularly for urgent matters)

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What happens after you submit?

Okay, so let's say you've made your complaint to the UNCRPD through the Optional Protocol. You're probably asking yourself, "Now what?"

Now it's in the hands of the United Nations Committee to review, and decide whether they'll accept it or reject it.

They may reject your complaint for one or more of the following reasons:

  • You or the people you represent live in a country that ratified the Convention but didn't accede to (that is, agree to) the Optional Protocol.
  • You, as the person making the complaint, don't tell them who you are.
  • The Committee has reason to believe you've submitted the complaint with bad intentions, or the complaint isn't relevant to the UNCRPD.
  • The Committee or another UN body has already reviewed the same complaint from someone else, or is reviewing the same complaint currently.
  • There are still ways that your complaint could be resolved locally (that is, through court or by a tribunal or your provincial, territorial or federal human rights body), unless it's taking too long or won’t make much difference.
  • The Committee has reason to believe your complaint is false or there isn't enough proof.
  • The violation occurred before Canada ratified the Optional Protocol in December of 2018 (unless it carried on after they ratified it).

If the Committee accepts your complaint, they'll contact the country involved (in this case, the Canadian government) confidentially to tell them about it. You'll then be contacted and will likely be asked to answer questions and provide more information as the Committee investigates your complaint.

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