In 2019, the Government of Canada developed Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders. The document contains guidelines that “offer practical advice for officials at Canadian missions abroad and at Headquarters to promote respect for and support human rights defenders.”
The guidelines define Canada’s approach to supporting human rights defenders (HRDs or defenders) on an international level, by engaging with defenders through multilateral institutions, by engaging in international advocacy or by promoting responsible business conduct. The guidelines also provide a framework for, amongst other actions, effectively mapping and reporting violations against human rights defenders and enhancing the visibility of human rights defenders.
Similar legislation has been implemented by other countries, mainly European ones that have developed a separate implementation of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders (other examples include Norway, the United Kingdom, Switzerland). Protection International does not consider this kind of legislation as a national policy for the protection of human rights defenders, first of all because the guidelines are not binding. Secondly, because such guidelines are not applied to human rights defenders within the country that adopts it. Nevertheless, these measures aim at contributing to an enabling environment for human rights defenders in countries where Canada works on foreign missions, as they provide a focal point on the ground dedicated to provide assistance to human rights defenders by (amongst other activities) facilitating spaces for discussion or providing ad hoc support to human rights defenders in need.