Policy & legal framework
Within the international arena, the United Nations has recognized the importance of a broad range of provisions of recourse and remedial measures against racism and racial discrimination. Remedies are considered from both procedural and substantive perspectives. Among these measures, redress and reparations are saliently included as a part of the measures that states must apply to adequately and appropriately address racist and discriminatory practices. They (redress and reparations as forms of remedy) are generally recognized within the principles of international law.
The Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is the preeminent international agreement on the subject of racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia. The Convention also refers to the obligation of State Parties to assure everyone within their jurisdiction effective protection and remedies. It goes on further to stipulate the right to seek adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage as a result of any act of racial discrimination which violates a person's human rights and fundamental freedoms contrary to the convention. (Article 14, CERD).
At the recent World Conference Against Racism that was held in Durban, South Africa, the issue of reparations was propelled to the forefront as an integral measure to redress historical wrongs. This was one of the predominant themes negotiated in the WCAR process by states and NGOs alike. Consequently a number of articles addressing the subject of reparations, and declaring specific tragedies and events and their impact on the situation of specific groups have been agreed on in the Durban Declaration and Program of Action. For example, in the Declaration, articles 99, 100-102, 104, and 106. In the Program of Action, articles 165 and 166 also deal with this issue.
As a principle, the states who have signed on to the international declarations, conventions and agreements have an obligation to effect the provisions of these declarations and agreements.
Canada is a signatory to the International Declaration on Human Rights and the six principal international human rights treaties, including ICERD. Canada also signed on to the recently adopted Durban Declaration and Program of Action, albeit with reservations. Notwithstanding, its signing of these international agreements, since the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement in 1988, Canada has maintained a policy position of not paying financial compensation (reparations) for historical injustices to any other groups