For over two decades, Canada and Canadians have played leading roles in the establishment and operations of the International Criminal Court. During the treaty negotiations the government of Canada chaired a “like-minded” group of states. Like-minded governments and civil society networks successfully campaigned for an independent and effective Court, able to prosecute military and government officials within its jurisdiction accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. A Canadian, Philippe Kirsch later became the Court’s first President. Another Canadian, James Stewart is presently the ICC’s Deputy Prosecutor. Many Canadian experts have worked at the Court’s Hague headquarters or in the field assisting investigations.
In 2016 then-Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion carried on in this tradition. In November he personally gave Canada’s remarks at the annual meeting of ICC states parties. He also travelled to several capitals in Africa to address many of the ICC’s opponents.
The Court has come under attack from a number of critics — some who allege an anti-Africa bias, and also from some of the world’s most powerful states, who are not party to the ICC treaty and fear that their nationals might come before the Court.
Now that Mr. Dion has been succeeded as Foreign Minister by Chrystia Freeland, there are questions regarding whether the ICC will continue to attract priority attention from Canada. Ms. Freeland, the former Trade Minister, was nominated to the post primarily to help the government engage with the new Trump administration in the United States.
One option open to the new minister would be to appoint a Canadian Ambassador for International Justice. Modeled on the U.S. State Department’s “Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues” such an appointment would signal to the world the importance Canada attaches to the ICC – through the appointment of a permanent Ambassador.
In October 2016, Stephen Rapp,who was then the U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, came to Ottawa and encouraged the Canadian government to make such an appointment.
What you can do
Write to Minister Freeland.
Encourage her to ensure that Canada continues to commit high level Canadian political support for the international Criminal Court.