Statement delivered on 22 February 2016 by Action Canada before the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in advance of Canada’s review.
We have identified a number of concerns regarding Canada’s obligations under articles 2, 10 and 13 of the covenant.
Regarding Article 2, the Governments’ response to the List of Issues indicates it is satisfied with the low levels of ODA which hover at 1/3 of the global target of 0.7% GNI, which the UK government achieved under austerity measures. Canadian aid has plateaued at 0.24%. The government has yet to signal if or when it will increase this budget.
On the issue of discrimination experienced by trans individuals, the government’s response recognizes progress made at provincial and territorial levels to recognize gender identity, and in some cases, expression. While critical, these efforts create discrepancies between levels of government, which can result in further discrimination.
Regarding Article 10, as the government recognizes in the response to the List of Issues, there are differences in access to the abortion services depending where you live. Some individuals have to: pay out of pocket for travel and procedural costs of C$600-$1,500, experience physicians refusing to provide services on moral or religious grounds, or turn to unsafe methods to terminate unwanted pregnancies. The government’s response fails to indicate what steps it will take to address these challenges.
Regarding physicians’ refusal to provide health care on moral and religious beliefs, the Committee calls on states to implement a mechanism of timely and systematic referral in such cases. The Code of Ethics of the Canadian Medical Association contravenes international best practice and the Committee’s jurisprudence in that it does not require practitioners to provide timely referrals.
On the issue of Indigenous peoples’ access to health care, particularly sexual and reproductive health, Canada’s response to the List of Issues fails to acknowledge the longstanding forms of systemic racism and discrimination that have resulted in limited access to services which contributes to poor health outcomes. There are recent reports of forced sterilization, the over-prescription of injectable contraceptives to Indigenous youth, which can cause infertility, the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women while in labor, sexual violence from prison guards and the absence of facilities for incarcerated mothers.
Regarding Article 13, youth in Canada demonstrate an overall lack of knowledge on sexual and reproductive health made evident by increasing rates of STI and HIV diagnoses since the 1990s. Yet the government has allowed the uneven implementation of sexuality education curricula across the country which has resulted in severe discrepancies in delivery and no national standards through which such curricula can be monitored and evaluated. There is also a lack of regularly collected, disaggregated data to monitor sexual health trends.
Canada’s response to the List of Issues fails to consider its obligations under the Covenant in this regard. We urge the Committee to raise these issues during Canada’s review. We have prepared a brief, accompanied by a summary of recommendations directed at the Government of Canada. I would be happy to share these resources with members of the Committee.