Canada failing on economic and social rights – UN reports


For immediate release

OTTAWA (7 March 2016) – The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) released their concluding observations on Canada earlier today. They gave Canada its marching orders to use international human rights across the board to address several areas of concern, including the lack of implementation and protection of economic, cultural and social rights (ESC) for the most vulnerable.

The Committee was critical of Canada on its inability to use the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protect the rights of the homeless and people in poverty, its failure to use the maximum available resources to assist the most marginalized and the need for a human rights approach in poverty related policies. Canada has the fiscal and judicial systems in place to implement and protect economic and social rights and was urged to use the Charter as well as taxation mechanisms to fulfill these obligations.

Canada Without Poverty (CWP) welcomes this report, CWP’s President Harriett McLachlan stated, “The Committee has made it clear to Canada that significant work must be done if we want to fulfill our human rights obligations. For the Trudeau government to be serious about being an international human rights leader, this is the place to start – by respecting and effectively implementing ESC rights. As it stands now, close to 5 million people living in poverty in Canada have no means to access justice and to protect their rights.”

Key recommendations by the Committee were the need for Canada to develop a national anti-poverty plan and strategies on housing and homelessness based in human rights, to ensure minimum wages are set to living wage standards, to repeal all provincial social assistance claw-back provisions and the need for Canada to incorporate ES rights implementation and monitoring into inter-governmental agreements with provinces and territories.

CWP’s Executive Director Leilani Farha added, “The message from the CESCR is clear, Canada must do more protect human rights at home. The court system must be opened to protect the most vulnerable, and this will mean broadening the interpretation of the Charter to ensure the justiciability of ESC rights under Canadian law. The government needs to understand that rights like adequate housing, food and health are not to be taken lightly. The Committee is clear: national strategies must be developed to address poverty and firmly rooted in human rights.”

CWP is calling on the federal government to take swift action on the numerous recommendation put forward by the CESCR.


For more information:
James Armbruster
Canada Without Poverty
Communications Coordinator