Could Canada Become a New Forum for Cases Involving Human Rights Violations Committed Abroad?

Unlike the United States, with its Alien Tort Statute, Canada has no legislation specifying which courts should take jurisdiction over actions brought by non-Canadians in respect of alleged human rights violations committed outside of Canada. For that reason, among others, plaintiffs seeking a forum for the determination of an action alleging human rights abuses in a jurisdiction other than the place where the alleged human rights abuses occurred have tended to pursue actions in the United States rather than Canada.

That may now, however, be starting to change. In recent years, foreign plaintiffs, particularly in mining cases, have sought to have Canadian courts take jurisdiction over cases alleging human rights abuses in foreign jurisdictions. In addition, there are currently two leave to appeal applications before the Supreme Court of Canada in which plaintiffs are seeking to pursue actions in Canada respecting alleged human rights abuses that occurred in other countries. As these developments unfold in Canada, the frequency and scope of such cases may be on the decline in the United States. Accordingly, would-be plaintiffs in cases alleging human rights violations outside of North America may increasingly consider Canada as a potential forum, particularly where there is some link between the facts of the case and Canada.

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Reproduced with permission of the publisher from Commercial Litigation and Arbitration Review, vol. 1, no. 4, November 2012.

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