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U.N. to Canada: Ignoring Hunger Won’t Make It Go Away

U.N. to Canada: Ignoring Hunger Won’t Make It Go Away
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Before UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food even arrived in Canada, the Harper government let Olivier De Schutter know he was not welcome. The message was: we are a rich country. We send money to the United Nations to deal with real hunger. Don’t waste it on a trip to Canada, which has no hunger problems.

So De Schutter came. As expected, all but one federal minister refused to meet with him. When the Rapporteur dared criticize Canada, the government and some of Canada’s media let loose a torrent of invective. Others spoke strongly in support of the envoy, but Canada is left with egg on its face in international circles.

The Envoy’s Initial Reflections

Here is an excerpt from De Schutter’s initial reflections after his visit to Canada:

Canada has long been seen as a land of plenty. Yet today one in ten families with a child under six is unable to meet their daily food needs. These rates of food insecurity are unacceptable, and it is time for Canada to adopt a national right to food strategy.

What I’ve seen in Canada is a system that presents barriers for the poor to access nutritious diets and that tolerates increased inequalities between rich and poor, and Aboriginal non-Aboriginal peoples. Canada is much admired for its achievements in the area of human rights, which it has championed for many years. But hunger and access to adequate diets, too, are human rights issues — and here much remains to be done.

In a country as wealthy as Canada, hunger is the result of social policy. When government slashes spending on social programs, throws thousands of government workers out of jobs, tightens the noose around the unemployed, and ignores its stated commitments to improving the lives of First Nations people, food insecurity is one of the results. To pretend otherwise is cruel.

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Photo credits: 1,3 and 4 Thinkstock; Photo 2 from Walter Schwabe (@fusedlogic) via Flickr Creative Commons

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12:25PM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

And here I thought Canada was perfect; thanks for bursting that bubble. Seriousness: I don't think Canada's necessarily at fault here; and how does the UN have any say over the matter?

11:25AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

Very well said ... but is anybody listening?!!!!!!!!!!!

8:23PM PDT on May 26, 2012

Hi Amber,

The discussion of power-sources arose in a discussion of how to set up off-grid economies. One of the major issues with food-supplies is getting them to markets. They are extremely bulky and spoil, and the supply absolutely must be kept steady. On top of that, extreme-rural groups in Canada tend to be seriously poor. A functional small-scale economy permitting local production and wealth would go a long way towards improving conditions in general, though, after looking at the numbers, I still don't think Canadians actually have a problem with access to food whatever the UN Special Rapporteur says. I brought up the Gen4 reactors because they are designed not to need refuelling or repair for a decade, making them very good for powering off-grid economies and helping Canada's poorest people.

Hi Shirley,

The original industrial revolution nearly destroyed the artisan-class. However, the products were just repriced to be affordable to the poor. While the poor certainly had a smaller share of the wealth and power, looking at the goods and services to which they had access, they very quickly recovered the pre-industrial level of real personal wealth. For example, one of the major differences between the two periods, just before and after the revolution, is access to socks. Only the wealthy had them before. We don't generally think of it now, but socks move moisture away from the feet and prevent rubbing on the skin, preventing fungal and other infections as well a

7:28PM PDT on May 25, 2012

Yoo hoo Stephen,
Non-muscle power may make manufacturing cheaper ...but it can't purchase the goods it makes...ever. If the "muscle power" is put out of work for the sake of efficiency, honey, no one can buy the goods. Most of North American manufacturing has been put out of work based on that idea and on the fact that 3rd world workers are cheaper, and haven't the labor or health and safety protections that we consider part of the 20th century.The manufacturing cost of most 3rd world products is peanuts, the workers earn peanuts but the goods are sold at just enough cost to keep North American manufacturing dead. Lack of environmental law, means off-shore manufacturers aren't responsible for the messes they create and leave behind. Henry Ford understood that workers need to earn enough money to purchase the products they are making. That idea is the basis of all North America's past prosperity. In the 1970's, Trade barriers were dropped to allow a prosperity sell out of N.A. by our own governments.
Our own manufacturing corporations then moved off shore to participate in the easy wealth created by putting North Americans out of work. These ex-pat manufacturers are now super rich 1% and are not being taxed while the economy is progressively destroyed. There is a greater disparity of wealth now than in the Victorian era
Purchase of all the "goods" made above falls to accessing the good old North American consumer who 30 years ago was the envy of the world, and is

11:48AM PDT on May 25, 2012

Amber - scroll back and read the whole thread and it will make sense. The fact is, oil drives just about everything, including farming and food availability.

11:39AM PDT on May 25, 2012

@Stephen B.: What does THIS have to do with FOOD?! I donlt see that oil/nuke power has a damned thing to do with food unless you;re talking about that to GROW more food for those Candians suffering food insecurity.

12:20AM PDT on May 24, 2012

Hi Shirly,

Sorry about the cutoff:

There may be fairly good ways of doing this: I ran the numbers a while back and found that if the U.S. coal-plants went nuclear and used the waste-heat to turn coal into synthetic oil, they would roughly meet 10% of U.S. demand, which is about the same as Canada's oil-consumption or about 2% of global demand. It doesn't sound like much, but that is equivalent to Libyan or Albertan production. More importantly, China uses 3x as much coal as the U.S. and with a command-economy, it would probably have an easier time converting to nuclear. Of course, conversion on that scale would require that Australia open up its vast uranium and thorium reserves to mining.

12:16AM PDT on May 24, 2012

Hi Shirly,

Industrialization originally came from the steam-engine and the mechanization of farms that it allowed. That created a massive labour-surplus, eliminating labour-shortages and creating unemployment, tipping the labour-market to the buyer's (employer's) favour and allowing the creation of factories. The steam-engine's non-muscle-based energy and the relatively lower compensation of labourers allowed vastly increased production, leading to the modern economy (though with unions and specialization of labour the market has tipped back quite a lot). Oil is not necessarily central, but non-muscle-power is.

Companies say the break-even price of Alberta oil is $50-$75 per "barrel" (~160 liters). That would put it at below $0.50/liter. I don't know if the low end includes things like wages, property-tax, other fixed costs, transport-costs, or accounts for any special tax-credits, but it still seems so much lower than current prices (~$90-$100 / barrel) that even with those they should be fine even below current prices. ($1.3 billion per year in the oil sands would translate into $2.7 per barrel., or about $0.02 per liter) I do want to see a move to greater efficiency and other viable sources, but in the meantime the best bet is probably to increase the oil-supply until those other sources are mature and in place. There may be fairly good ways of doing this: I ran the numbers a while back and found that if the U.S. coal-plants went nuclear and used the waste-heat to tu

5:18AM PDT on May 23, 2012

Shirley H. If you are not already involved in politics, you should be!
We need bright intelligent young people who are capable of searching for rational solutions. Unlike the present government based on greed and American style politics! I would vote for you!

4:26AM PDT on May 23, 2012

Get to work UN!

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