Andrew Thompson, On the Side of the Angels: Canada and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (University of British Columbia Press, 2017).

When it comes to upholding human rights both at home and abroad, many Canadians would like to believe that we have always been “on the side of the angels.” This book tells the story of Canada’s contributions — both good and bad — to the development and advancement of international human rights law at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) from its creation in 1946 to its dissolution in 2006.

The CHR gave Canada the opportunity to forge a reputation as a human rights leader, while simultaneously advancing international laws and reforms that served its strategic interests as well as those of its allies. This book scrutinizes this reputation by examining Canada’s involvement in a number of contentious human rights issues — political, civil, racial, women’s, Indigenous, and, in particular, the response to mass human rights violations. It finds that Canada’s record was mixed, its priorities motivated by a variety of considerations, both domestic and international.

An in-depth historical overview of six decades of Canadian engagement within the UN human rights system, On The Side of the Angels offers new insights into the nuances, complexities, and contradictions of Canada’s human rights policies. It also reveals that, despite its limitations, the international human rights law established at the UN offers the best hope of a world in which all citizens are able to enjoy a dignified existence.

About the Author
Andrew S. Thompson is an adjunct assistant professor of political science at the University of Waterloo and a fellow at both the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Balsillie School of International Affairs. He is the author of In Defence of Principles: NGOs and Human Rights in Canada.