It is a matter of rights: Improving the protection of economic, social and cultural rights in Canada. Briefing to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the occasion of the review of Canada’s fourth and fifth periodic reports concerning rights referred in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Canada prides itself, with good reason, on its overall domestic record of protecting human rights generally, including economic, social and cultural rights, as well as its commitment to promoting stronger human rights protection abroad. Amnesty International recognizes that Canada has done much in both regards.
Over the last two decades Canada has set ambitious goals aimed at improving the lives of those most vulnerable, at home and around the world. But only limited progress has been made. For example, in 1989, the House of Commons unanimously agreed to eliminate child poverty by 2000. But since then poverty among children has increased by 21% and one in six children, or 1,139,000 children, still lives in poverty in Canada.1 In 1995, Canada supported the platforms for action on the Beijing and Copenhagen commitments to reduce poverty and enhance women’s equality. But since then, poverty has risen among many groups, most dramatically among recentimmigrants, often women.
The occasion of the review of Canada’s 4th and 5th periodic reports concerning the rights referred to in articles 1-15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), provides an important reminder that there are a number of areas where improvements in Canada’s human rights performance are needed. Some, such as the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants are areas where the failure of the state to adequately protect the rights of vulnerable groups have long been the subject of concern. There are also related and often overlapping concerns about the state’s role in ensuring that private actors, including individuals and corporations, don’t undermine the realization and enjoyment of economic, social
and cultural rights. These shortfalls occur against a backdrop of Canada being reluctant to agreeto strong domestic and international measures that would strengthen the legal enforceability of economic, social and cultural rights.
This submission highlights Amnesty International’s concerns and recommendations for improvement in six principal areas. It is not an exhaustive review of concerns with respect to the protection of economic, social and cultural rights in Canada. Other important issues, such as ongoing concerns about levels of child poverty, are highlighted in submissions the Committee will receive from other organizations.
1. The economic, social and cultural rights of indigenous peoples
2. The rights of migrants
3. Trade, investment and development assistance
4. Private companies and the realization of economic, social and cultural rights
5. The ratification and implementation gap
6. Strengthening enforcement: key to effective protection of economic, social and cultural rights
To read the full report, please click here (pdf)
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