Voices-Voix Declaration 2016

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Voices-Voix is a non-partisan coalition of Canadians and Canadian organizations committed to defending our collective and individual rights to debate and dissent.

We believe that to protect rights and promote a healthy environment for debate, dissent, diversity and democracy, Canada needs transformative change to our laws, institutions, priorities, and political culture. The federal government must mainstream human rights across all of its policies and programs and honor its commitments under international law. We must create conditions that ensure social justice and allow all Canadians to enjoy their rights, from access to basic needs such as food, water and shelter and a safe, sustainable environment, to exercising their freedoms of liberty, expression and association.

Canada needs an enabling environment that allows civil society organizations to flourish. This means establishing legal and funding frameworks that facilitate their governance and operation. Groups that represent marginalized communities and work towards equality and social justice will require special support. This is especially important, given that women, racialized people, people with disabilities, LGBTQ communities, Muslim communities, people living in poverty, youth and others have borne and continue to bear the brunt of cuts, attacks and marginalization.

The Government of Canada must establish a relationship with Indigenous peoples based on rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. Addressing the enduring legacy of colonialism and cultural genocide is essential if we are to achieve equality and justice for all. This requires the enthusiastic pursuit of meaningful reconciliation among Indigenous communities, the state and civil society institutions.

The government must create opportunities for meaningful participation in the development of public policy. Our rights to advocacy, dissent and freedom of expression must be promoted and respected. The voices of diverse groups must be heard and efforts made to address their concerns. We need vibrant, independent and accountable media providing information and a range of opinion to Canadians, and serving as a forum for dialogue and debate. Scholars must be guaranteed an intellectual climate that permits discussion of a range of ideas as well as curiosity-driven publicly-funded and publicly available research.

We also need a non-partisan, merit-based public service. Public servants must be empowered to deliver informed, frank and independent advice without fear of reprisal. The independence and autonomy of public institutions must be protected. Canadians should have full access to the information and research gathered by the public service, including its scientists.

Together, we pledge to press for respect for free, open debate and dissent in Canada. United, we call on the Government of Canada to:

Actively promote political diversity, advocacy and dissent

  • Respect, protect and fulfill the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly
  • Create effective protections for public servants who are whistleblowers or who provide fearless advice
  • Sanction officials and legislators who vilify, slander or engage in reprisals against government critics
  • Support independent media and promote diverse media across Canada that disseminate a wide range of opinions and voices

Foster an enabling environment for civil society organizations

  • Establish funding arrangements that are robust, fair and equitable, assuring transparency and mutual accountability
  • Ensure no sector faces repercussions for partisan reasons, as was the case for women’s rights, environmental and other rights-based organizations in the past decade
  • Promote instances for meaningful and inclusive policy dialogue and consultation with civil society groups and citizens
  • Permit charitable organizations to advocate for their mandates without restriction and implement, in consultation with the sector, solutions that eliminate political interference in their work.

Strengthen parliamentary accountability and democratic processes and institutions

  • Restore and strengthen independent government institutions, public science and knowledge organizations
  • Eliminate the use of omnibus legislation
  • Ensure government lawyers are legally required to advise Parliament of bills that risk being deemed unconstitutional
  • Support greater participation of women and minorities in Canada’s political processes, from political office to public consultations

Be transparent and accountable

  • Update Access to Information and Privacy Acts, expanding their scope, eliminating loopholes, taking into account advances in technology, and ensuring timely processing of requests
  • Ensure national security and anti-terror laws comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • Ensure national security and intelligence agencies are subject to Parliamentary oversight and independent review and require agencies to report on human rights impacts
  • Guarantee the right of public servants and publicly-funded researchers to speak out regarding their research and findings

Respect Indigenous rights and self-determination

  • Recognize the Indigenous and fundamental human rights of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. This includes: historical treaties; contemporary treaties; addressing land claims agreements in a timely fashion and in a way that does not require that title and Indigenous rights be surrendered
  • End the repression and criminalization of Indigenous peoples acting to protect their land, culture and rights
  • Remove gender discrimination from the Indian Act and correct the effects of gender discrimination for all Indigenous peoples
  • Support self-determination initiatives in accordance with the UNDRIP, committing to respect free, prior and informed consent, and implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • Ensure culturally appropriate and equitable provision of public services to Indigenous peoples, including clean water, adequate shelter, health care, elder care and education


Does your organization want to endorse the Declaration? Click here.


If you want to express your support for the Voices-Voix Declaration as an individual, please sign the petition below.

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