CCIJ is involved in important policy work concerning the opportunity for survivors to pursue justice through civil litigation in Canadian courts. This option is important for survivors because criminal prosecutions normally require the participation of the Canadian government which results in only a small number of cases. Since the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act was passed in 2000 to empower Canadian criminal courts to try suspects accused of committing atrocities abroad, the Canadian government has convicted only one person. The federal War Crimes Program tasked with pursuing these cases has not received a funding increase at any time during its ten-year existence.
Civil litigation can be initiated by the survivors themselves, giving them greater control over a case, and provides the possibility of compensation. However, Canada’s State Immunity Act generally gives foreign governments immunity in Canadian courts, making it very difficult for survivors to seek compensation for torture and other atrocities committed by those governments.