Anatomy of ratification: Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

When the government announced late last week that it had ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, two disability organizations were cited in the government announcement, singing the praises of the convention. They were the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, each of which had played an active role in advocating for the negotiation, signature, and ratification of the Convention within Canada, and had issued its own media release.

The Convention had been signed by Canada in 2007, one of the first countries to sign.  The Executive Vice-President of CACL, Michael Bach described the role of Canada and of voluntary-sector organizations in the development of the Convention:

The Convention was influenced by a Canadian perspective and is a document that all Canadians should be proud of.  Canadian concepts about inclusive education, living in the community and supported decision-making infuse the Convention.  The Convention also recognizes the valuable role that families play in making rights a reality for their family members with disabilities.  The Convention is also unique for the way it was developed.  It is the first time in UN history that people affected by a treaty were actively engaged in the development of its text.  It is a Convention that is informed by the lived experience of people with disabilities and their families.

So, what was the process from the signature in March, 2007, to the ratification in March, 2010?  According to a United Nations explanatory document, signature indicates support in principle, while ratification commits a country to be bound by the terms of the Convention. In between, in Canada, the Continuing Committee of Officials on Human Rights does it work.

According to the Committee’s website, its mandate is to “to maintain federal-provincial-territorial consultation and coordination on human rights issues, including with respect to the elaboration, ratification and implementation of international human rights treaties.” With representation from each provincial and territorial government, this Committee is also responsible for collecting information as to compliance by each jurisdiction with proposed international agreements, and for signaling when each is ready for a ratification to take place.  When all are ready, presumably, the federal government acts.

Canada did not sign the optional protocol, which commits signatory and ratifying countries to respond to complaints of violations that people with a disability in that country communicate to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Complete lists from the UN indicates which countries signed the Convention, which have ratified, and which have signed  and/or ratified the Optional Protocol, and when those actions took place.

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