About Us

Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world. In 2002 Human Rights Watch Canada was established to advance education on human rights issues both in Canada and around the world, and to increase support for the work of Human Rights Watch worldwide.

The Canadian office organizes several larger public and smaller private events throughout the year. This includes our Annual Toronto Human Rights Watch Film Festival, which demonstrates the power of film in raising awareness of human rights issues across the globe, and our Voices for Justice Dinner that celebrates human rights champions for their courageous activism.

We also engage with Canadian decision-makers in government and in other sectors as part of the organization’s advocacy work. If you are interested in learning more about our local activities, please contact the Toronto office at

Our Work

Human Rights Watch is a nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights movement with a network of affiliates and offices around the globe. It includes roughly 400 staff members who are human rights professionals, including country experts, lawyers, journalists, and academics of diverse backgrounds and nationalities.

Established in 1978, Human Rights Watch is known for its accurate fact-finding, impartial reporting, effective use of media, and targeted advocacy, often in partnership with local human rights groups. Each year, Human Rights Watch publishes more than 100 reports and briefings on human rights conditions in some 90 countries, generating extensive coverage in local and international media. With the leverage this brings, Human Rights Watch meets with governments, the United Nations, regional groups like the African Union and the European Union, financial institutions, and corporations to press for changes in policy and practice that promote human rights and justice around the world. Would you be interested in finding out more about Human Rights Watch research on Canada, please go to the Canada country research page.

How we work

Investigate. Human Rights Watch is committed to systematically researching and analysing human rights conditions worldwide in order to uncover abuses. Researchers interview leaders, victims and witnesses so that they can form an accurate picture of what happened. They also review media and academic reports, domestic and international law and policy papers to gain a further understanding of the situation.

Expose. Human Rights Watch researchers publish their findings in the form of reports and articles. These are then made accessible to the public as well as local authorities in order to raise awareness of the abuses. The publications are available in multiple languages and formats and are often referenced in news articles worldwide.

Change. Following the identification and publication of human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch’s advocacy division work closely with local authorities and organisations in order to demand accountability and put an end to the abuses that they have discovered. The ultimate goal of Human Rights Watch is to ensure that human rights are upheld worldwide and to promote justice and change. 

Human Rights Watch Canada Board of Directors

Michele Alexander
Michele Alexander is our deputy executive director of development and global initiatives for Human Rights Watch and is responsible for the management of the organization's outreach, fundraising, and marketing initiatives. Read her full bio here:
Deane Collinson
Deane Collinson is a retired Senior Executive at Loblaw Companies, Cadillac Fairview, and Calgary Co-operative Association as well as Fred Victor Board Vice Chair. Read his full bio here:
Nancy Hamm
Nancy Hamm is the Chair of the Pine River Institute Board of Directors and her involvement includes: campaign fundraising, event planning and board leadership. Read her full bio here:
Chip Pitfield
Chip Pitfield is Vice President, Private Wealth at Fiera Capital. Read his full bio here:
Heather Spinks
Heather is a partner and chartered professional accountant with Koster, Spinks & Koster LLP. Read her full bio here

Human Rights Watch is an independent, nongovernmental organization, supported by contributions from private individuals and foundations worldwide. To ensure our independence, we do not accept government funds, directly or indirectly. Donations made in Canada benefit our work worldwide.


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Please save the date for the Toronto Human Rights Watch Annual Dinner on June 8, 2020. For more details, contact us at


  • The Sudanese government’s indiscriminate aerial bombardment and shelling in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states has killed and injured scores of civilians since the conflict began more than a year ago, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on December 11. Government forces have raided villages, burned and looted civilian property, arbitrarily detained people, and assaulted and raped women and girls.
  • Through our Human Rights Watch Film Festival we bear witness to human rights violations and create a forum for courageous individuals on both sides of the lens to empower audiences with the knowledge that personal commitment can make a difference. The film festival brings to life human rights abuses through storytelling in a way that challenges each individual to empathize and demand justice for all people. It begins on Tuesday, February 26 and runs through Thursday, March 7 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. 

  • For 35 years, Human Rights Watch has been at the forefront of the international human rights movement, investigating human rights abuses and exposing the truth to create deep-rooted change.
    The Voices for Justice Annual Dinner honours courageous individuals who protect and defend human rights around the world. Please join us on November 12 at the 10th anniversary dinner in Toronto as we honour one such courageous individual, Hassan al Amin, with our highest tribute -- the Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism -- in recognition of his unwavering, fearless commitment to human rights. The evening will be hosted by Honorary Chair Jian Ghomeshi. 
  • The 89-page report documents both ongoing police failures to protect indigenous women and girls in the north from violence and violent behavior by police officers against women and girls. Police failures and abuses add to longstanding tensions between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and indigenous communities in the region, Human Rights Watch said.

  •  In 2012, Human Rights Watch is hosting 14 dinners in 9 countries across North America, Europe and Asia honouring 6 incredible human rights defenders with the Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism.  We were privileged in Toronto to recognize Sister Consuelo Morales (Mexico) for her courageous efforts to end impunity and aid victims of abuses in Mexico’s “war on drugs.” Your participation helped make Toronto’s 9th Annual Voices for Justice Dinner on Monday, November 5th a huge success. THANK YOU!

  • As the London Olympics began, spectators around the world cheered for two Saudi women who madehistory by competing for their country--Wujdan Shahrkhani in judo and Sarah Attar in track and field. Saudi Arabia had previously sent only all-male teams to the Olympics. Human Rights Watch welcomed this as an important first step, while calling for an end to the effective ban preventing millions of Saudi women and girls from practicing sports.

  • Human Rights Watch is writing to raise concerns about certain provisions of proposed Bill C-31, Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, that we believe are harmful to refugees and asylum seekers and incompatible with international refugee and human rights law. Although the detention provisions of Bill C-31 are ostensibly proposed to deter human smugglers, Human Rights Watch believes that these provisions, in fact, target refugee claimants fleeing persecution, who will suffer their consequences.