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