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Submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition has collaborated with  Canada without Povertythe Canadian Poverty Institute, the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network, the MacKillop Centre for Social Justice and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives to prepare a 35 page written submission for the UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Along with recommendations for change, the written submission gives a broad overview of the conditions and systemic causes of poverty across the country. Among the many issues highlighted in the submission, here are some key points:

  1. Canada must ensure that a national anti-poverty plan is based in human rights. In late November 2015, the public release of the mandate letter to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development marked the State Party’s first significant step towards a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy and the realization of the government’s human rights obligations. While this announcement is a positive step towards fulfilling Canada’s international human rights obligations, we are concerned that there has been no mention of such obligations in relation to the forthcoming Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy.
  1. Provinces and territories must begin to embrace their human rights obligations related to poverty. No subnational level poverty reduction strategy (save for Québec) includes any reference to international human rights principles or standards. Additionally, while twelve out of thirteen of Canada’s provinces and territories have taken steps toward the creation of regional poverty reduction strategies, the province of British Columbia has yet to make a commitment to develop such a strategy.
  1. Social assistance rates must be reviewed to ensure that all persons in Canada have access to an adequate standard of living. Social assistance rates are woefully inadequate and continue to fall well below any measure of poverty used in this country. Most welfare recipients are worse off than recipients in previous decades because welfare incomes have not increased alongside inflation. In many cases rates are 20% lower than in the past.
  1. The Income Tax Act must be reviewed so that charitable organizations are able to push for measures to challenge patterns of political marginalization to re-engage people living in poverty in the political processes and decisions that affect their lives. Currently, the Income Tax Act is being applied in a manner that may restrict organizations from pursuing the relief of poverty – a long recognized charitable purpose. To relieve poverty, charitable organizations must be allowed to advocate for changes to policy and legislation that cause or contribute to poverty and to adopt new legislation.

In two weeks, CWP is taking these key recommendations, among many others, to Geneva. This Committee has not reviewed Canada for ten years, and with the new federal government, this is a great opportunity to make sure that the government is on the record for their commitments to address poverty.

Stay tuned the week of February 22nd as CWP’s President of our Board of Directors, Harriett McLachlan, delivers our message to the Committee in Geneva. Harriett has over 30 years of experience living in poverty. Her perspective will provide a detailed picture of the struggle, stress, and challenges of poverty that almost 5 million people face daily here in Canada.

To read the full written submission, click here.