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Gov’t of Canada Statement re: the situation of human rights defenders in the Philippines

Statement of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development


Ottawa, May 19, 2021 –

On 4 May 2021, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights (the Subcommittee) heard harrowing testimony from witnesses who described the crumbling state of human rights in the Philippines.

In bravely sharing their testimony, some of these witnesses risked their personal safety to raise awareness of the difficulties faced the people of the Philippines and asked Canada to help uphold human rights. For one witness, this possibility unfortunately became a reality. After sharing her traumatic experiences defending human rights in the Philippines, Cristina Palabay’s life was threatened by agents of the Philippines government as a direct result of her appearance before the Subcommittee.

The Subcommittee is appalled by the situation Ms. Palabay finds herself in. It regularly meets with human rights defenders operating in difficult situations across the globe. The Subcommittee cannot overemphasize the importance of their work and commends the tremendous personal risk they are taking to better the lives of their fellow citizens. There is no question that respect for human rights in many countries was gained because of human rights defenders.

The Subcommittee underscores its solidarity with human rights defenders and deplores any action taken against them by governments or otherwise. The personal safety and wellbeing of all those who appear before the Subcommittee are of the utmost concern to its members. As such, the Subcommittee will be taking additional measures to ensure those who appear before it, are aware of the risks and how they can be mitigated.

Additionally, the Subcommittee urges the Government of Canada to join with partners and multilateral organizations in denouncing government-backed violations of human rights, especially those committed against human rights defenders. The Subcommittee reminds states that have ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, such as the Philippines, that when attacking human rights defenders, they are violating their international human rights obligations.

The Subcommittee stands in solidarity with Cristina Palabay and calls on the Government of the Philippines to stop its officials from harassing and threatening her life as well as those of her peers and colleagues.

For more information, please contact:
Naaman Sugrue, Clerk of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Tel: 613-992-9672

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