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(Toronto) - Canada should take concrete steps to renew its reputation as a global leader on the international human rights stage, Human Rights Watch said today in an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"In recent years, Canada has too often fallen short on its commitments to protect and promote human rights," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.  "We need Canada to again be a strong ally for the global human rights movement."

The letter calls on Canada to address a number of key human rights policy questions left unresolved by the previous Parliament, and to make these issues a top priority during the next legislative session.  It presents Human Rights Watch research on each of these issues, and sets out recommendations, which, if adopted, could improve Canada's human rights record.

The issues addressed in the letter include: regulating the behavior of Canadian oil, mining, and gas companies operating abroad; removing restrictions on future funding to combat maternal mortality in developing nations; ratifying the Convention on Cluster Munitions; protecting the rights of refugee claimants; and repatriating the Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr, a Canadian national.

"Canada's strong and principled voice is sorely missed in international forums and everywhere in the world where human rights are at risk," Roth said. "We urge Canada's Parliament to swiftly address the shortcomings identified in our research and take concrete measures to solve them."

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