Systemic Constraints Within The UN System

Addressing Systemic Constraints Within The UN System And How They Are Overcome

Presenter: Dr. Joan Russow

February, 2020

Dr. Russow’s brief presentation, and our discussion that follows will have two related themes:

Three case studies: UNODA UN Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, COP15 on climate change, and UNDRIP (The United Nations Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous People).

Canada and international law and use of international law to overturn Injunctions:

“Canada will not normally become a party to an international agreement which requires implementing legislation until the necessary legislation has been enacted.”
The full context of this statement comes from  the  1982 “Canadian Reply to Questionnaire on Parliaments and the Treaty-making Power” (PTMP). It is an external Affairs communiqué which was put together in 1982 to assist external affairs to explain the division of powers  and constitutional conventions in Canada vis a vis International obligations.


“We would also note that in some administrative decision making contexts, international law will operate as an important constraint on an administrative decision maker.  It is well established that domestic legislation is presumed to comply with Canada’s international obligations, and that it must be interpreted in a manner that reflects the principles of customary and conventional international law.”  -Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov, 2019 SCC 65 (CanLII)

About Dr. Joan Russow:

For 25 years she had been going to the United Nations either as a representative of various NGOs, or as a member of the media.  She attended several climate change conferences, and also the negotiations of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. She was a former lecturer in global issues in sustainable Development in the Environment Program at the University of Victoria.


Is Canada living up to its international treaty obligations?