Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) commits states parties to the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of understanding among all races. The UN General Assembly adopted the CERD in 1965. Canada ratified the Convention in 1970. Signatories to the CERD agree to change any domestic laws or policies that create or perpetuate racial discrimination as well as outlawing hate speech and criminalizing membership in racist organizations.

The CERD defines racial discrimination as any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of impairing the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on equal footing with others. This definition does not apply to distinctions, exclusions, restrictions or preferences made by a state between citizens and non-citizens. Furthermore, the CERD sets out a non-exhaustive list of rights and freedoms in regard to which racial discrimination is prohibited, such as the right to work, the right to join a trade union and the right to housing.

The CERD also provides for the establishment of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. As with the other committees established under United Nations conventions, the Committee monitors the implementation of the CERD, receives regular reports from states parties and issues recommendations. The Committee also has access to three monitoring procedures under the CERD:

  • an early-warning procedure to prevent existing situations from escalating into conflicts and to respond to problems requiring immediate attention so as to limit the scale and number of serious violations of the Convention
  • a procedure for the examination of inter-state complaints
  • a procedure for the examination of complaints from individuals

Members of the Committee on CERD, like many of the other Committees established under UN human rights conventions, are people who are independent experts of high moral standing and impartiality. States parties nominate individuals from their country who are then elected by states parties through a secret ballot. There are 18 members on the Committee on CERD.