Call Canadian NGO Reps 17 Nov Re: UN human rights Covenant

Tom Boland (
Tue, 17 Nov 1998 20:55:08 -0400

Subject: Call Canadian NGO Representatives 17 Nov, Geneva
Author: Bob Olsen
Date: 1998/11/17
Forums: flora.mai-not


        The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
        in Geneva is hearing from Canadian NGOs November 16-17 and will hear
        from the Government in another 10 days.

        You can call the Canadian NGO representatives in Geneva at the
        phone number listed below. [011-41-79-629-3812]

 The Canadian government, like other governments, is examined for its'
 compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
 Cultural Rights by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social
 and Cultural Rights, once every five years.  Canada failed its exam
 in 1993.  Canada is up for examination again in November 1998.
Date:   Mon, 16 Nov 1998 21:58:22 -0500
From: Eric Fawcett <>
To: Bob Olsen <>

Please telephone Geneva: 011-41-79-629-3812

to interview Canadian NGO reps meeting UN Committee [see names below]

Subject: Canada faces the music in Geneva before UN Cttee on ESOC Rights

Press release                                          Monday, November 16

UN Cttee to hear strong criticism of Canada's human rights record from NGOs
Jean Chretien may be getting international media attention dealing with
human rights issues abroad, but Canada is about to be subjected to severe
challenges to its own human rights record at home. Today, an unprecedented
number of groups representing women, First Nations, poor people, homeless
people, immigrants and refugees will appear before a United Nations committee
in Geneva. They will allege that widespread poverty, hunger, homelessness,
and massive cuts to social programs violate commitments Canada has made
under the international Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Adopted by the United Nations in 1966, the Covenant is one of the
of international human rights law guaranteeing the right to adequate food,
clothing, housing, health care, education, and other rights also contained
in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The UN committee's review of Canada is the first since 1993, when Canada
was severely criticized for its unsatisfactory record on poverty. Longtime
observer of the committee, Bruce Porter, predicts that Canada may be the
first ever affluent country to be found in violation of the Covenant. "The
committee will be very concerned that Canada has allowed these problems to
grow to such disastrous proportions when, unlike many countries, we clearly
have the resources to eradicate them," said Porter. The United States
remains one of the few countries which has failed to sign the Covenant.

According to Vince Calderhead, representative of the Charter Committee on
Poverty Issues, "governments in Canada have not only slashed spending, but
have stripped people in poverty, women, and people with disabilities of
fundamental economic and social rights, which, up to this point, Canada has
told the UN were a major cornerstone of Canada's social security system."

The committee is scheduled to begin hearing from Canadians at 11am Geneva
time (5am Eastern Standard Time). Canadian representatives may be reached
directly at the committee hearings for interviews by cell phone by calling

Available for interviews:
Shelagh Day - National Association of Women and the Law

Vince Calderhead - Charter Committee on Poverty Issues

Bruce Porter - Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation

Tanya Pash - Grand Council of the Cree

Jackie Ackerly - National Anti-Poverty Organization

Chantal Tie - Inter-Church Council on Immigrants and Refugees

John Foster - Ad Hoc Committee on Trade and Investment
Globe and Mail, Thursday, November 12

"Canada evasive in report on socila issues"
by Margaret Philp, Socil Policy Reporter

  Canada defended its human-rights record to the U.N. in a report sent to
Geneva last week that skates around some of the country's most glaring
social problems. The report was filed less than 3 weeks before Canada is
slated to appear before the UN Cttee on Economoic, Social and Cultural
Rights, in a review of the country's human-rights protections that is
conducted every 5 years under an international treaty Canada signed
some 15 years ago.

 The report comprises the federal and provincial governments'responses to
81 follow-up questions after Canada submitted a report last year covering
the years between 1989 and 1994--a report that was 2 years behind schedule.
The pointed questions uncomfortably probe Canada's social problems--including
poverty, homelessness, shortage of low-rental housing and unemployment
among disabled people.

  >> Bob Olsen adds that the 81 UN questions are available at:

[several examples are given of evasive answers, or deferred--which means
no answer at all; eg, when asked about homelessness and at what point the
country would describe the problem as a national emergency, Canada replies
that there are no reliable statistics, and ignores the second part of the

  "I find this report extremely slippery and in some cases dishonest,"
said Josephine Grey, Exec Dir of Low-Incomes Families Together in Toronto.
"Where they couldn't afford to answer the question they pretended they
didn't know how to measure it, therefore it wasn't an issue."

  >> Bob Olsen adds that Josephine Grey can be reached at
        416-597-2128            416-597-9400

  "Ontario is almost breathtaking in not just its indifference, but also
its arrogance," said Vince Calderhead, a legal-aid lawyer and member of
the Charter Cttee on Poverty Issues. The Ontario government is saying
homelessness is not something they bother to look at, while Toronto
Council is declaring it a national crisis."

 Bob Olsen      Toronto   (:-)

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