CESCR Day Three: Ups, downs and frustrating moments

Posted on February, 24 2016 by Action Canada


In large part due to Action Canada’s consistent advocacy, and support from civil society partners here in Geneva, we encouraged members of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to ask Canada specific questions on issues raised in our submission. Among the questions posed to Canada today:

  • In response to declining rates of Canadian ODA, does Canada seek to meet the 0.7% GNI global target?
  • Does Canada follow a human rights-based approach to the implementation of development initiatives?
  • Does Canada intend to meet the international commitment to spend at least 10% of ODA on sexual and reproductive health information and services?
  • Recognizing the discrepancies that exist in access to abortion services, how is Canada ensuring that women can access abortion services?
  • Does Canada intend to establish an effective mechanism for referrals from physicians in cases of conscientious objection?
  • Can Canada explain the situation of sexuality education, and reproductive rights and health issues, more broadly, across the country?

The fact that Committee members raised these issues during Canada’s review demonstrates the importance of our work and the real need for Canada to take immediate action to address economic, social and cultural rights violations – including the right to health and education.


Unfortunately, the government’s initial response to some of the issues raised, namely the question on Canada’s support for official development assistance, was disappointing. The issue of funding for sexual and reproductive health services and information was completely ignored, the government failed to comment on whether and when it planned to meet the 0.7% GNI target for ODA, and it claimed that all development initiatives are subject to the Official Development Accountability Act (ODAAA), which requires the adoption of a human-rights based approach to development.

Canada’s response to the country’s low rank on the gender equity index was limited to PM Trudeau’s gender parity commitments and child care. Both important issues – but they do not represent a long-term, sustained and visionary approach to addressing gender-based discrimination and inequality in Canada, nor do they address intersectional inequalities.

Eyes on Canada

The Committee will continue its review of Canada tomorrow from 10AM-11AM Geneva time. This is when we expect responses to questions related to health and education (including those above). From there, the Committee will draft its Concluding Observations to Canada. Canada, as signatory to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, is obligated to take steps to ensure that everyone in the country can enjoy the rights set out by the treaty – in part through the implementation of Concluding Observations following the periodic reviews.

Click here to read Canada’s opening statement before the Committee