CESCR Day One: Why doesn’t the Government of Canada want to talk about economic, social and cultural rights?

In Geneva today, representatives from Canadian human rights and Indigenous organizations delivered opening statements before members of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Committee is set to review Canada’s efforts to meet obligations under the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In preparation for the review, Action Canada submitted a report to the Committee which focuses specifically on Canada’s violations of Articles 2 (maximum available resources and non-discrimination), 12 (health) and 13 (education) of the Covenant. Specific issues raised in the report include Canada’s obligation to realize social, economic and cultural rights through international development cooperation, discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, access to sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion services, the denial of services on moral and religious grounds, Indigenous Peoples’ access to care, and comprehensive sexuality education. The report lays out clear evidence demonstrating the Government of Canada’s failure to take measures to address barriers, including discriminatory policies, despite having the responsibility and authority to do so.

In advance of Canada’s review, the Committee asked the Government of Canada to provide information on the legal framework regulating abortion and discrepancies in access to legal abortion services and expenses coverage. The Committee also asked the Government of Canada to indicate if sexual and reproductive health information and services – including age-appropriate sexual education – are available and accessible to all in Canada. Canada provided a response to these questions, click here to read the response.

Today, Action Canada took the opportunity to comment on Canada’s response to questions posed by the Committee. Specifically, Action Canada raised concern regarding the Government of Canada’s:

  • Lack of commitment to realize the global 0.7% GNI target for Official Development Assistance,
  • Discrepancies that exist between levels of government regarding non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, which can result in further discrimination, and questioned the Canada’s on its statement that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has specifically concluded that gender based discrimination is protected under federal human rights legislation,
  • Failure to indicate what steps it will take to address the acknowledged challenges regarding access to abortion services throughout the country,
  • Lack of attention paid to the issue of physicians refusal to provide sexual and reproductive health information and services on moral and religious grounds,
  • Failure to acknowledge the longstanding forms of systemic racism and discrimination that have resulted in limited access to services which contributes to poor health outcomes (including sexual and reproductive health outcomes), and
  • Lack of attention paid to the role of the federal government in creating a national framework for the delivery, monitoring and evaluation of comprehensive sexuality education, and regular collection of disaggregated data to monitor sexual health trends.

Other groups in attendance are raising issues related to the right to housing, rights of refugees and immigrants (including their right to health care), gender equality, and structural and systemic inequalities facing Indigenous women and girls. We will continue to work in collaboration with these groups to ensure Canada is held accountable to its obligations under the Covenant.

Canada will officially appear before the Committee beginning Wednesday, Feb. 24th. Action Canada will continue to live tweet information from @action_canada. Highlights will also be available on the Action Canada website.

Posted on 2016-02-22
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