Dear Ministers Wilson-Raybould, Dion, Joly and Bibeau,
We write urgently on behalf of a number of non-governmental organizations who are in Geneva attending the review of Canada’s compliance with the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
We are deeply disappointed that Canada is repeating the position it took in 1998 that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not protect the full range of economic, social and cultural rights. This is stated in paragraph 3 in Canada’s response to the List of Issues.
Paragraph 3 informs the Committee that the government does not interpret the Charter of Rights to include full protection of the economic and social rights of the most vulnerable people in Canada, including access to housing, food, water, and health care. This suggests that the government does not consider social and economic rights as real rights, subject to an effective remedy in Canada’s domestic legal framework. How can your government deny full human rights protection to those who need it most?
In light of Canada’s new commitment to respecting human rights and engaging with the United Nations, and in light of your government’s new commitment to addressing the profound socio-economic disadvantage of Indigenous peoples in Canada, this position is inconsistent and incoherent. This is particularly so given the recent statement of Ministers Dion and Bibeau on World Day of Social Justice that Canada is now “supporting efforts to ensure that people in need have fair access to education, decent work, food and shelter” and that “human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated.” We are expecting new, different and more forward-looking positions from your government.
In the mandate letter to the Minister of Justice, the Prime Minister called for a review of positions taken in litigation to ensure consistency “with the Charter and our values”. Our values include the rights contained in the ICESCR, ratified 40 years ago.
We are asking you urgently to instruct your officials attending the CESCR review this week to revise and clarify this statement. We further ask that you inform the Committee that Canada will immediately undertake a review of this position and of its litigation strategy regarding Charter protection of economic, social and cultural rights. Such a statement would send a sorely needed and long overdue message to both the international community and people in Canada that your government is prepared to give economic, social and cultural rights the recognition they need and deserve.
Thank you for your attention. We look forward to your response and to engaging in this crucial review with you. We consider this essential to Canada’s future.
CC: Hon. Minister Bennett, Hon. Minister Duclos, Hon. Minister Hajdu