The Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development studies and reports on matters referred to it by its parent committee or on topics Subcommittee members choose to examine. As a subcommittee, it is created by – and reports to – the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. A motion to create the Subcommittee must be adopted in every parliamentary session as there is no specific provision for it in the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. Therefore, the motion creating the Subcommittee and, in turn, its mandate, can be changed by the parent Committee in every session. The motion creating the Subcommittee in the 1st Session of the 41st Parliament was as follows:
... it was agreed, — That, pursuant to Standing Orders 108(1) and 108(2), a Subcommittee on International Human Rights to be chaired by a member elected by the Subcommittee, be established to inquire into matters relating to the promotion of respect for international human rights, as may be referred to it by the Committee; ... That the Subcommittee be empowered to send for persons, papers and records, to receive evidence,...
The general powers of House of Commons Standing Committees such as the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development can be found in the Compendium of House of Commons Procedure. The Subcommittee has all of the powers of the Standing Committee except the power to report to the House of Commons.
In the course of its studies, the Subcommittee may request the appearance of officials from different government departments, in particular:
the Department of Canadian Heritage, which is the lead federal department coordinating Canada’s human rights reporting to the United Nations, as well as provincial and federal efforts toward the ratification and domestic implementation of international human rights instruments.
In addition to government officials, the Subcommittee, like most committees, often hears from witnesses representing civil society, non-governmental organizations and academia. The Subcommittee does not focus on constitutional or purely domestic human rights issues. In particular, any studies arising from the work of Canada’s National Human Rights Commission are referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. However, because there are topics that may relate to the respect for international human rights in Canada, Subcommittee members make their decision to study a topic on a case-by-case basis.