Treaties and Declarations

International Human Rights Treaties and Declarations signed by the federal government represent binding international legal obligations. While these treaties are typically signed by the federal government, provincial governments are obliged to comply with international obligations in areas of provincial jurisdiction  just as the federal government is obliged to comply in areas of federal jurisdiction.  Furthermore, although international treaties do not form binding sources of domestic law until they have been incorporated into domestic legislation,  Canadian courts attempt, wherever possible, to interpret and apply municipal bylaws and provincial legislation in a manner consistent with Canada’s international human rights obligations, in the same way as with federal legislation.  Provinces carry the greatest responsibility for ensuring compliance with international human rights norms in areas of social and economic rights, such as the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to adequate housing.


There are 5 United Nations human rights treaties, and one Declaration that are particularly relevant in the areas of social and economic rights.  The Canadian government has ratified all of these treaties and thus all levels of government are obliged to coordinate as needed to fulfil the obligations set out in each of these treaties.


The treaties include:

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

The relevant Declaration is:

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples