Harper government slammed by UN over access to food
The United Nations right-to-food envoy says the Harper government's decisions will make it tougher to fight poverty in Canada.
A series of cutting observation comes from Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations' special rapporteur on the right to food. His report will be released Monday at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The report calls on Ottawa to create a national food strategy to fight hunger among a growing number of vulnerable groups, including aboriginals & people on social assistance. It says the strategy should spell out the levels of responsibility between federal, provincial & municipal governments.
Throughout the 21-page report, De Schutter also takes direct aim at some of the core items of the Harper government's agenda, saying they undermine access to food.
These include the controversial move to cancel the long-form census in 2009, the ongoing Canada-EU free trade negotiations, the scrapping of the Canadian Wheat Board & how Ottawa oversees the
money it transfers to provinces for social services.
The report essentially serves as De Schutter's rebuttal to the bitter & personal public criticism he faced from Harper cabinet ministers during his 11-day fact-finding visit to Canada last May.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said De Schutter was "ill-informed" & "patronizing". Immigration Minister Jason Kenney called him "completely ridiculous."
The report says Canada has fared "reasonably well compared to its peers'' in weathering the global economic downturn, "however, the gaps between those living in poverty and the middle- and high-income segments of the population are widening".
It calls on the federal government to do more in a time of relative prosperity.
It concludes that a growing number of people across Canada remain unable to meet their basic food needs.
De Schutter said a significant number of people are living on welfare and, because of the increased cost of housing, they don't have adequate access to a well-balanced diet.
The report says Canada is not meeting its obligations under international conventions it has signed.
It singles out Canada for not acknowledging the right to food under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"The special rapporteur is concerned about the growing gap between Canada's international human rights commitments and their implementation domestically,'' the report says.
De Schutter said last year that his report will play a role in defining Canada's international reputation & will come up during assessments of Canada's human rights protections.
Ottawa, however, has repeatedly dismissed appeals for national strategies on poverty & housing, saying that's an issue best left to the provinces. Past pleas to the UN by First Nations for changes
to public policy have also fallen on deaf ears.
(The Canadian Press)