IHL in Canada

International humanitarian law in Canada

Governments must ensure respect for international humanitarian law. States are obligated to teach it to their armed forces and to the general public, and must enact laws to punish serious violations of the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols, which are regarded as war crimes. They must also pass laws protecting the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Crystal emblems.

Canada has signed and ratified the major international conventions on humanitarian law. People who commit war crimes or grave breaches of international humanitarian law can be tried and punished under Canadian criminal law. The Government of Canada instructs the armed forces and civilians on international humanitarian law, so that the entire population can understand its principles. The Canadian Red Cross is also active in promoting the rules of international humanitarian law in Canada to the armed forces and the public.

National Committee on International Humanitarian Law

States must implement the provisions of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols to their fullest extent. Governments are obligated to enact laws and regulations to punish violators, protect the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems, and ensure the rights of protected persons.

International humanitarian law covers a broad range of issues, and implementing it requires coordination and support from many organizations. Some states have created inter-ministerial working groups  to help the government implement and spread knowledge of international humanitarian law. Establishing these committees is an important step in effectively applying international humanitarian law.

Canada established a National Committee on International Humanitarian Law in1998, and the Canadian Red Cross is a member of the Secretariat. The Committee includes five government departments:

  • Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
  • Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT)
  • Department of National Defence
  • Department of Justice Canada

According to its terms of reference, the Committee exists to:

  • Facilitate the implementation of Canada’s obligations under international humanitarian law, including reviewing national legislation and administrative measures;
  • Consider and, where appropriate, recommend the ratification of additional instruments of international humanitarian law;
  • Advise on dissemination and training of international humanitarian law within Canada, including but not limited to the armed forces, the police, civil servants, humanitarian organizations, the judiciary, schools and universities, journalists, and other target groups;
  • Coordinate and stimulate government departments and other relevant organizations in strengthening and disseminating international humanitarian law;
  • Examine and, where appropriate, recommend measures to promote the national implementation of international humanitarian law in other countries, drawing on the resources and expertise available in Canada;
  • Develop and maintain pool of Canadians who are knowledgeable about international humanitarian law; and
  • Liaise and exchange information on international humanitarian law with other national committees and with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
For more information please visit: http://www.cnchl-cncdh.ca/article.asp?id=9155&tid=087