Canada is a signatory to a number of international declarations and conventions that commit our governments to advancing the equality rights of women in BC. One such international treaty is the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). CEDAW provides a comprehensive code of what women’s equality means in marriage, politics, cultural institutions and more, and how measures of women’s equality should be incorporated into domestic law.


CEDAW Submissions

As part of a coalition known as the BC CEDAW Group*, West Coast LEAF participates in “shadow reports” intended to draw the Committee’s attention to those areas of inequality of particular concern to women in BC. Reviews have been done for 2016, 2010, 2008, and 2003.

The UN’s concluding observations on Canada’s CEDAW compliance were released in November 2016 and reflected many of the recommendations made by West Coast LEAF.


2016 Submission to the UN on Child Care and CEDAW

In October 2016, West Coast LEAF partnered with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC on a submission to the United Nations about the essential role of child care for fulfilling Canada’s obligations under CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women). Our Director of Law Reform traveled to Geneva, Switzerland alongside representatives of 13 other Canadian NGOs to report to the UN during the review of Canada’s CEDAW performance.


2016 Submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

As part of the BC CEDAW Group, West Coast LEAF contributed to a UN submission documenting BC’s failures to meet its obligations to women and girls under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). We made recommendations relating to access to justice, violence against women, poverty, health, childcare, and more.


2015 Submission to the UN Human Rights Committee

In June 2015, West Coast LEAF provided a written submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee to inform the Committee’s preparation of a General Comment on Article 6 (Right to Life) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). We made this submission in order to ensure that the right to life under the ICCPR reflects the reality of women’s lives and provides them with meaningful protection.

We made the following key points:

1) The scope and nature of Article 6 must be interpreted in a way that reflects the indivisibility and interdependence of human rights.

2) State inaction that results in either a public or private threat to the right to life must be included in the interpretation of “deprivation of life.”

3) “Inherent right to life” must be interpreted to start at birth.



The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is an international process that involves a review of the human rights record of all UN Member States once every four years. It provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their countries and to fulfill their international human rights obligations.

The participation of civil society is an integral part of the UPR process. NGOs have the opportunity to make submissions to the UN Human Rights Council, and these are considered during the review.

As part of a coalition known as the BC-CEDAW Group, West Coast LEAF made submissions to the UPR process on a number of key issues for women, including access to justice, socio-economic rights, discrimination and violence against Aboriginal women and girls, and incarceration of women and girls.


2012 Submission to UN CERD

In this 2012 report, Lawyers’ Right Watch Canada and the BC CEDAW Group said that Canada and British Columbia are failing to deal with the human rights crisis of disappearances and murders of Aboriginal women and girls. The report asked the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to urge Canada to take effective action immediately. The report, “Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls in British Columbia and Canada”, was submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Committee was reviewing Canada’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in Geneva in February 2012.


*The BC CEDAW Group is a coalition of individuals and organizations committed to advancing the rights of women and girls in British Columbia. Formed in 2002, the Group has participated in United Nations periodic reviews before a variety of treaty bodies, including the UN CEDAW Committee in 2016, reporting on BC’s progress. The 2017 BC CEDAW Group includes the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC, Hospital Employees’ Union, Justice for Girls, Poverty and Human Rights Centre, Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, West Coast LEAF, Single Mothers’ Alliance BC, and the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective.