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Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considers report of Canada

GENEVA (25 February 2016) - The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Canada on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
 
Rachel Wernick, Assistant Deputy Minister for Strategic Policy, Planning and Corporate Affairs, Canadian Heritage, presenting the report, stated that Canada’s commitment to the respect for diversity was reaffirmed in the current composition of the federal Cabinet, which was composed of 50 per cent of women and 17 per cent of visible minorities.  The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which formed a part of its Constitution, guaranteed equality and non-discrimination.  The Charter protected a number of rights from the Covenant, such as the right to form and join labour unions and the right to strike.  The Federal Government was currently developing a national poverty reduction strategy, which would align those already existing in provinces, territories and municipalities.  Federal leadership in supporting affordable housing would be re-established.  Canada was taking steps to ensure that its immigration and refugee policies remained open, accepting and generous.
 
In the discussion which followed, Committee Experts stressed the importance of the justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights as listed in the Covenant, and encouraged Canada to take steps in that direction.  While they expressed optimism regarding the new Federal Government’s recommitment to Canada’s international obligations and human rights, they said that it would need to be judged by its actions.  Experts asked questions on the treatment of indigenous communities, cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, the pervasive problem of homelessness, adequacy of social benefits and steps taken to close the gender pay gap.  Other questions raised by the Committee included environmental protection, particularly of lands and waters in indigenous communities, food programmes and policies, unemployment and poverty, and the discriminatory practices in the Indian Act.
 
Mikel Mancisidor de la Fuente, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Canada, said in concluding remarks that important and interesting information had indeed been received on the commitments by the State party, but some of it remained rather generic and not tangible.  It was hoped that some ambitious statements would be put into practice. 
 
In concluding remarks, Ms. Wernick said that the Committee had identified a number of problems in Canada, and the work would continue with the energy and enthusiasm of the new Government.
 
The delegation of Canada included representatives of Canadian Heritage, Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Employment and Social Development, the Public Health Agency, the Department of Justice, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Quebec, the Government of British Columbia and the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
 
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today to start its consideration of the combined second to fifth periodic report of Kenya (E/C/12/KEN/2-5). 

Report
 
The sixth periodic report of Canada can be read here: E/C/12/CAN/6.
 
Presentation of the Report
 
RACHEL WERNICK, Assistant Deputy Minister for Strategic Policy, Planning and Corporate Affairs, Canadian Heritage, said that all governments in Canada, federal, provincial and territorial, had worked together to prepare the presentation.  In 2017, Canada would mark the 170th anniversary of the Confederation, which provided an opportunity to reflect on Canada’s long-standing commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.  Canada’s commitment to the respect for diversity was reaffirmed in the current composition of the federal Cabinet, which was composed of 50 per cent of women and 17 per cent of visible minorities.  The indigenous peoples of Canada made up a total of 1.4 million out of the total Canadian population of 35 million people.  All governments in Canada – federal, ten provincial and three territorial – consulted with civil society, community groups and indigenous organizations on specific policies and programmes that served to implement human rights.
 
Within Canada, the Covenant was primarily implemented through a multitude of laws, policies and programmes across all orders of government, and various jurisdictions often worked together to address challenges in relevant areas.  The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which formed a part of its Constitution, guaranteed equality and non-discrimination.  The Charter protected a number of rights from the Covenant, such as the right to form and join labour unions and the right to strike.  The Constitution of Canada recognized and confirmed the existing rights of indigenous peoples.  Canada was committed to a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples, built on a foundation of recognition, rights and respect.  Reconciliation started with recognizing and respecting Aboriginal titles and rights.  Priorities in that regard included putting children and youth first, improving the quality of life for the Métis and fostering a strong and vibrant North.  A national public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls was one of the key components of that approach. 
 
Canada had a comprehensive social protection and assistance framework; Canadians were living longer and were more prosperous than ever in their history.  In order to have access to the most up-to-date and accurate data possible, Canada would restore its long-term census.  The Federal Government was currently developing a national poverty reduction strategy, which would align those already existing in provinces, territories and municipalities.  Federal leadership in supporting affordable housing would be re-established.  New initiatives included an early learning and child care framework, child benefits and a multi-year health accord with provincial and territorial governments.  Canada’s publicly funded universal health care system was a source of pride for Canadians.  Efforts would be made to make post-secondary education more affordable for students from low and middle income families.  The employment insurance system would be strengthened to make sure that it best served both the Canadian economy and all Canadians who needed it.  Among other things, that system would help remove barriers to the employment and upward mobility facing four designated groups: women, Aboriginals, persons with disabilities and visible minorities.
 
Turning to the issue of migrants and refugees, Ms. Wernick stated that for a long time Canada had represented a destination of choice for immigrants and it was one of the countries which welcomed most immigrants.  In November 2015, the Federal Government had committed to increasing the resettlement of refugees from Syria, and as of today, more than 23,000 Syrian refugees had been resettled across more than 100 communities in Canada.  Canada was also taking steps to ensure that its immigration and refugee policies remained open, accepting and generous, reflecting its belief that a pluralistic society strengthened Canada.  Canada was currently developing initiatives to help ensure that those immigrating to Canada were able to reunite with their families, including doubling, in 2016, the number of places for parents and grandparents of immigrants.  Canada had also fully restored the Interim Federal Health Program which provided limited and temporary benefits to resettled refugees and asylum claimants.
 
Questions by Experts
 
MIKEL MANCISIDOR DE LA FUENTE, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Canada, welcomed the fact that the new Federal Government had renewed Canada’s commitment to the international norms.
 
He said that civil and political rights in Canada seemed to be given priority over economic, social and cultural rights, which were not given such a consolidated protection.  The Constitution and the Charter did not cover all of those rights.  Was it not the right time for Canada to undertake a more brave interpretation of the Charter to ensure full protection of all economic, social and cultural rights?
 
Did Canada intend to look into signing and ratifying the Optional Protocol, which would demonstrate that Canada gave the same importance to all rights.
 
The Expert raised the issue of prior and informed consultation with indigenous peoples, which was reportedly carried out in reality.  Would that legal duty need to be broadened?
 
Despite the budgetary increase in some areas, it seemed that an ever-smaller proportion of the state budget went to social spending.  Could the delegation provide details and explain what proportion of the GDP went for that purpose?
 
There was an imbalance between Canada’s high position on the Human Development Index and the relatively modest position on the Gender Inequality Index ranking.
 
An Expert said that Canada’s ideological objection to treating economic, social and cultural rights as justiciable rights was a fundamental problem. Why did Government officials argue in courts that those rights were not justiciable at all? Another Expert asked whether the Government would change its strategy in front of the courts.  The new Canadian Government was encouraged to make those rights truly justiciable.
 
The issue of regularization and monitoring of the activities of Canadian companies abroad was raised by another Expert.
 
He also asked whether any change had been made to the legislation on refugees and immigrants in recent years.
 
More details were asked about the corporate social responsibility strategy.  Was it an implicit way for Canada to accept extra-territorial human rights obligations? Was there a plan to create an ombudsman to hear complaints against Canadian companies abroad?
 
Was there an intention by the new Government to return to the 0.7 per cent level of official development assistance?
 
Another Expert brought up the issue of social conditions as grounds for discrimination, which could be found in Quebec’s Charter.  Could it be invoked in any other province?
 
In terms of discrimination, there was no other way to identify problematic areas if data was not disaggregated.  Would that be the case in the next census?
 
She asked how municipalities and provinces were made aware of the human rights standards as defined in the Covenant.
 
There was no adequate system for sharing responsibilities between various levels of government on compliance with Canada’s international human rights obligations, an Expert commented.  While there were a range of poverty reduction strategies across Canada, none used the human rights framework.  Human rights capacities of municipalities ought to be strengthened.
 
Tar sands contributed significantly to the production of greenhouse gases and led to numerous adverse health effects.  Fracking techniques also had negative environmental consequences.  Were there plans to move away from the current situation?
 
Had any human rights assessment been conducted with regard to Canada’s joining international trade agreements? Another Expert raised the issue of balancing between entrepreneurial freedoms and the protection of human rights.  A monitoring system of business activities could be introduced, as it did not interfere with economic freedoms.
 
An Expert said that on one hand, Canada was one of the pioneers in promoting women’s rights and fighting violence against women, but on the other, the country had seen a regression in funding and attention paid to women’s rights.  Women’s issues were not even mentioned in the report.  Why would Canada not revise its still discriminatory Indian Act?  Was there any formal, pro-active process of consultation of the Federal Government with civil society?
 
Moving to the second cluster of questions, an Expert inquired about the statistics on capacity building and training for First Nations.
 
The issue of the right to work was brought up by another Expert, who asked about the impact and country-wide applicability of the 1986 Federal Employment Equity Act. 
 
The gender-pay gap had remained at the same level for the past 20 years, she noted.  Did the failure to decrease the gap stem from the lack of coordination in that regard?
 
Social assistance benefits appeared to be below the poverty level in every jurisdiction, with a few exceptions.  Why did they remain so inadequate?  The same was the case for persons with disabilities.  The unemployment rate of persons with disabilities had been reported to be close to 50 per cent – could an update be provided and what was the State party doing to improve the situation?
 
An update was requested regarding child benefits.  Did the new Government intend to establish a national child care programme?
 
An Expert asked for disaggregated data on the unemployment rates of immigrants.  What share of unemployed Canadians were eligible for receiving benefits, and how did the current unemployment benefits compare to subsistence levels?
 
Statistics were requested on how the minimum wage was related to the minimum cost of living.  Most minimum wage workers in Canada were reported to be women.
 
Young people most affected by unemployment were those from Aboriginal and immigrant backgrounds.  Were there any specific actions for the needs of those groups?
 
Another Expert asked how the Government defined “maximum available resources”, against which social giving was measured, in line with the Covenant.
 
What indicators could be used to assess whether the minimum wage provided for the basic standard of living, asked an Expert.
 
Replies by the Delegation
 
The delegation underscored the fact that the new Government had made public over 300 commitments, of which at least 60 related to economic, social and cultural rights.  A new budget would soon be revealed, which would include significant investment in those rights.  The Government would work in a way that engaged Canadians from all spheres of society.  Canada had recommitted itself to the global system and multilateralism.
 
On gender equality, a delegate said Canada was very proud of the gender parity in the Cabinet, and targets had been set for women’s representation in other spheres.  A record number of female Members of Parliament had been elected.  The Government was committed to taking actions to address the persisting gender gap.  The Government had also made a commitment to larger workplace flexibility. 
 
In relation to the murdered and missing indigenous women and girls, it was explained that an inquiry had been launched in early December, since when the Government had very pro-actively engaged with the victims’ families.  The issue was taken exceedingly seriously by the current Government, which saw it in a broader context of the reconciliation agenda with the indigenous community.
 
The Indian Act, which was complex and could not be reformed quickly, did not respond to the needs of the First Nations in today’s context, the delegation said.  The Government had launched an exploratory process, which had brought forward many issues, including for the protection of women. 
 
The delegation said that the Government was committed to the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including free, prior and informed consent.  Indigenous peoples would be heard on how best to move forward.   
 
Canada had not changed its position with regard to extraterritoriality.  The Government expected all Canadian companies operating abroad to respect the laws of the countries where they were operating.  Companies received guidance on corporate social responsibility, while anti-corruption and anti-bribery laws were enacted. 
 
Canada’s Official Development Assistance was working on increasing capacities of recipient governments.  The ratio of official development assistance would be evaluated in line with the circumstances.  The official development assistance Accountability Act provided that assistance could be provided only if and when appropriate human rights standards were applied. 
 
On youth unemployment, a delegate informed that the Prime Minister was also responsible for youth issues.  He was planning of having an advisory committee on youth established.  The Government had committed to review the employment insurance programme to make sure it was modern and in line with the needs of Canadians.  There was an intention to work on increasing the number of good permanent jobs for young workers.
 
For the first time in Canadian history, there was a Minister completely responsible for people with disabilities, who would lead the engagement process with provinces, territories and other stakeholders, with the view of creating a disability act.  An enabling fund for persons with disabilities was also in place.
 
The Government was currently reviewing its position on the ratification of international treaties to which it was not a party.
 
The Charter was one of the implementation measures used by Canada to put into practice provisions from the Covenant.  Various avenues of redress for the violation of those rights were available; they included, inter alia, access to courts to challenge and rescind administrative decisions and bringing up issues before human rights commissions and tribunals across Canada.  Some of the rights from Covenant were explicitly protected under the Charter.   Recently, some decisions on shelters for homeless persons had been found to be unconstitutional by courts.  Courts in Canada were independent adjudicators.  The Ministry of Justice was currently conducting review to the litigation practices.
 
Questions by Experts
 
An Expert said that the situation on homelessness had deteriorated in recent years.  How could the homeless be criminalized in certain municipalities?  It was hoped that the Federal Government would put a stop to that shameful practice.  There were reports that many Canadians were at the risk of homelessness because of the high costs of housing.   Did the State have data on homeless people and what was the Government’s policy to decrease homelessness and improve the health of the homeless.
 
She also asked about the repatriation of migrants after they suffered work-related injuries.
 
There were certain groups of people disproportionately affected by poverty, including Afro-Canadians, immigrants, indigenous peoples and single mothers.  Had the State party carried out an assessment of its poverty reduction strategies?
 
There was no legislation to the effect that if one was evicted, one should not be allowed to become homeless.  Another Expert asked if there were new plans by the Government to combat poverty
 
Discrimination against women also persisted despite various efforts made by Canada.  Should the Federal Plan on Gender Equality  be revised and made more comprehensive. 
 
A question was asked about Canada’s drug policy, the effects of which were very bad.  Were there plans to rethink that policy and make it more human?
 
An Expert welcomed the announced development of an integrated food policy.  Could the information be provided on how it would be shaped?  Would it be holistic and rights-based?  There were a number of concerns regarding the Nutrition North Canada programme, launched in 2011, including its transparency and accountability. 
 
One in four adult Canadians were obese, said the Expert.  Had the programme on curbing child obesity been evaluated and did it involve agricultural policies?
 
An Expert inquired whether the current Government would seek the input of indigenous peoples when formulating policies.
 
What was the impact of the legislation introducing more strict punishments for domestic violence, asked another Expert.
 
He expressed concern over corporal punishment of children, which was authorized by the Penal Code.  Would that provision be repealed?
 
An Expert encouraged the State party to make the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women really effective and thus contribute to reconciliation.  The inquiry provided a good opportunity to look into the broader situation and root causes.
 
She also raised the issue of abortions in places where there were no facilities and if there were conscientious objections by medical personnel.
 
Another Expert brought up the issue of mercury poisoning in the waters of north-western Ontario and asked what the Government was doing about that.
 
What was the position of indigenous languages in Canada’s education system?
 
Replies by the Delegation
 
Responding to the questions on federalism, the delegation said that Canada’s approach was unique in the world.  There were common goals and commitments, while local and provincial governments responded to particular and distinct needs of their communities.  There were still many areas in which Canada needed to improve, and in that regard, the help of the civil sector was very much needed and welcome. 
 
On poverty, it was explained that the Federal Government supported Canadians through their life course.  It was also committed to strengthening programmes, by introducing some new benefits, such as those for children, and increasing the existing benefits for seniors.  The employment insurance benefit rate stood at 55 per cent of weekly earning rates.  There was also a family supplement providing top-ups for low-income families.  The Government of Canada had proposed to decrease personal income tax rates and increase those rates on persons earning more than 200,000 dollars per year. 
 
The General Social Survey was conducted every five years and covered a broad array of issues, including victimization.  Canadians were asked whether they were discriminated against on the ground of ten different categories.
 
The Poverty Reduction Strategy would align with the existing provincial and territorial strategies.  Various stakeholders would be engaged in defining the Strategy.  In 2008, the Government of Ontario had decided to consolidate child benefits into one to streamline support for children.  With the introduction of the Ontario child benefit, it had been taken out of social assistance and placed under a separate child benefit programme.  British Columbia, for its part, had made child payments fully tax exempt and exemptions had been doubled for families with children with disabilities.  In Quebec, the minimum wage was revised with the use of 13 social and economic indicators, which allowed for a relatively adequate income.  Quebec met its international obligations in line with its human rights commitments.
 
Turning to the issue of homelessness, the delegation said that it remained a serious issue, with 150,000 people using the emergency shelter system every year.  The Federal Government worked with territories, provinces and municipalities to focus on the housing first approach.  A strategy in place – Housing First Approach  –  helped numerous local communities address their needs; it moved chronically homeless people into housing units.  Ontario, for example, was supporting creation of more than 20,000 affordable housing units.  Ontario had also established an expert panel on homelessness.  British Columbia offered 24/7 emergency housing shelters, homeless outreach projects connecting homeless people to housing, and homelessness prevention programmes. Affordable housing would be addressed by a new strategy of the Federal Government.
 
On health issues, it was explained that the publicly funded health system was a source of pride for the country.  The Government was committed to a renewed relationship with the indigenous people, which would also focus on health.  The universal health system would be further strengthened; quality mental health services would be made more available to Canadians who needed it.  The Government understood that mental health had to be given the same attention as physical health.  The Government was also committed to improving access to information on sexual and reproductive health.  Various Ministers of Health worked together on collecting information and formulating strategies to fight obesity.  A task force to suggest a way forward regarding marijuana was being currently formed.
 
Gender parity was a priority for Canada both nationally and internationally.  Gender-based analysis needed to be included in all policies proposed to the Cabinet.  The issue of gender discrimination in the Indian Act would now be addressed head on.  Quebec had taken legislative measures to ensure parity representation between the two sexes on boards of state companies. 
 
A national round table on murdered and missing indigenous women was taking place today and tomorrow, with the participation of three Ministers.  The inquiry needed to address all factors which had contributed to the tragedy under consideration.  Ontario was deeply troubled by the violence against indigenous women and girls.  British Columbia had also made efforts to support recommendations of the report on missing women; it had also passed the Missing Persons Act allowing the police to identify missing women sooner.  The Government was reviewing the laws of the previous ten years in order to ensure that they had indeed included consultation of indigenous communities.
 
On the issue of climate change, the delegation said that a significant indigenous contingent had attended the COP21 conference.  The Government had stated clearly that it recognized the unique approach of the indigenous people to the land.  Indigenous peoples would be consulted in the forthcoming process.  Their particular vulnerabilities were being mapped. 
 
The delegation said that the Government was committed to developing a food policy which would ensure healthy food on the tables of Canadian families.  The scope and direction of that policy would be decided in consultation with provinces and territories.  The Nutrition North Programme provided support to isolated northern communities; eligible retailers  had to provide information on their profit margins.  The Programme was also supported by advisory boards ensuring that the voices of the northerners were heard.  Nonetheless, it was recognized that not all the needs had been met through that programme, and the Government was looking into revising the programme accordingly.
 
Mercury poisoning of waters in north-western Ontario remained a serious issue which both the Federal and provincial Governments had to look into.  There were also some concerns on water quality in First Nations.
 
On migrant and refugee issues, a delegate said that Canada was one of the few countries in the world where immigration enjoyed broad support; each year Canada welcomed more than 250,000 immigrants.  Almost one billion dollars was spent every year to support the integration of the newly arrived immigrants.  Information on the unemployment rate of migrants would be provided in writing.  Canada had already taken in more than 23,000 Syrian refugees, which would not have been possible without the active contribution of various levels of government and citizens at large.  The Government had recently announced a contribution of more than one billion dollars for Syrian refugees dispersed in the Middle East.
 
All temporary foreign workers had the same protection as Canadian workers, the delegate said.  Agricultural workers had to be registered by their employers for health insurance; if they were injured, the employer needed to ensure that they received medical care in a swift manner. 
 
Questions by Experts
 
On the right to education, an Expert noted that it was the only country where the Federal Government did not provide any guidance regarding school curricula.  The Committee was concerned with the difficulty of Afro-Canadians to access education.  A targeted programme was perhaps needed to improve conditions for that and other underprivileged groups, including migrant children.  The budget allocated to education at the federal level did not seem to cover higher education – was that correct?  What did the Federal Government do when it came to the oversight of education systems in provinces?  Questions were also asked about what was being done to promote inclusive education.
 
Another Expert raised the question of the cost of post-secondary education, which had a disproportionate effect on low-income students and their families.  Should the federal support for the education of the First Nations not be higher, as their schools seemed to be underfunded?   Would the Government consider developing a strategy to combat discrimination against Canadians of African descent?
 
The issue of clean water was brought up by an Expert, who asked about the Government’s plans to work with indigenous peoples on upholding the right of access to safe water across the country.
 
An Expert said that more statistics ought to be provided on unemployment.  There seemed to be whole occupations in Canada which were barred from forming trade unions, such as medical, dental, legal and others.  Would the new Government consider changing that policy?
 
What was Canada’s understanding of its duty and responsibility to protect against violations by Canadian companies abroad, in cases when the host country did not act?
 
The Expert reiterated her question on why policies on narrowing the gender pay gap had not worked so far. 
 
Would the Government consider providing more funding for African cultural projects given it was the Decade of People of African Descent?
 
Another Expert noted that the numbers of persons experiencing homelessness was reportedly much higher than what the delegation said.  He stressed that all the recommendations made by the Committee in 2006 were still valid.  The Federal Government had to live up to its obligations under the Covenant and ensure that homelessness was decriminalized across the country.
 
Since 2012, there had been a number of environmental laws which had been seriously weakened because of the Federal Omnibus Budget Bill.  The Ocean’s Act was largely unimplemented.  What would the current administration do to strengthen environmental protection?
 
An Expert wondered whether the State party recognized the right to water as such.
 
Questions on abortion and reproductive rights were reiterated by another Expert.
 
Was there a constitutional commitment by the Federal or provincial governments to provide essential services as specified by the Covenant?
 
The Committee was quite adamant that the Covenant’s provisions were justiciable.  The fact that Canada was ready to protect and progressively realize those rights did not go far enough. 
 
Was it true that the quality of medical care had gone down and that some very expensive procedures were not covered, asked an Expert.
 
Was it the case that persons with disabilities were excluded from the minimum wage protection, which could lead to double discrimination? Would that be reversed?
 
Replies by the Delegation
 
Canada ranked first among the OECD countries when it came to post-secondary education. The number of Canadians without school diplomas had declined over the last two decades.  There were a variety of measures in place to help Canadians finance their post-secondary education.  Canada’s student grants for low income students would be expanded, while repayment policies would be adjusted so that students started repaying their loans only when they started earning 25,000 dollars. 
 
Provinces and territories were sovereign powers when it came to education, the delegation said - that was how the system was set up.  It did not mean that there was no coordination between different levels of government.  In Quebec, for example, the Provincial Government had supported black students, who had witnessed a significant rise in the number of post-secondary diplomas.  Those in state service in Quebec could unionize, a delegate explained.  The Government of Ontario had been consistently investing significant sums into education; quality education was provided to vulnerable groups, including Aboriginal students, in line with well-defined frameworks.  There were a number of proactive measures targeting African-Canadian students.  There was no doubt that the current education system did not serve the First Nations fully adequately, said another delegate.
 
The delegation stated that one of the key commitments of the Government of Canada was lifting the two per cent escalator of funding for the First Nations, which had become a true constraint on funding.  It would also change the fiscal relationship between the Government and the First Nations.
 
There was a strong governmental commitment to support housing on reserves.  Ministerial loan guarantees were frequently offered to support First Nations housing.  The Government was strongly committed to securing access to water.  The delegation emphasized that Canada recognized the human right of everyone to safe drinking water and sanitation.
 
All Canadians enjoyed good health services.  Under Canada’s health transfers, some 130 billion dollars were transferred across the country for health service delivery.  On indigenous health, the delegation said that more than 2.5 billion dollars were invested every year to the First Nations’ health.  The Government was committed to supporting quality services for all indigenous peoples, including those who lived in geographically remote areas.  Health Canada was collaborating with the Assembly of First Nations.
 
Abortion was legal in Canada, and it was ensured that it was covered through provincial and territorial laws.  Provincial and territorial authorities had the primary responsibility in delivering health services, including abortion. 
 
The delegation stated that the Minister of Environment’s decision to immediately review Canada’s assessment processes with the view of ensuring that decisions were based on science and evidence served public interest and included public input.
 
Courts had not recognized to date homelessness as a violation of the Charter or the Covenant.  Any individual could bring a claim before a tribunal.  Several provinces recognized the source of income as a prohibitive ground for discrimination.  The figure of 150,000 referred to those who were using emergency shelter services; the total number of the homeless would be higher than that. 
 
It was stated that people with disabilities enjoyed the same benefits and privileges as other Canadians.
 
Concluding Remarks
 
MIKEL MANCISIDOR DE LA FUENTE, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Canada, said that the dialogue had begun with high expectations that some critical matters would be identified.  Important and interesting information had indeed been received on the commitments by the State party, but some of it remained rather generic and not tangible, such as the legal duty to consult Aboriginal peoples.  Some questions remained unanswered or not fully answered.  It was hoped that some ambitious statements would be put into practice.  It was laudable that the country was committed to the United Nations and the human rights system.
 
RACHEL WERNICK, Assistant Deputy Minister for Strategic Policy, Planning and Corporate Affairs, Canadian Heritage, thanked the Committee for the thorough interventions.  The delegation regretted that it could not provide all the replies, but would provide additional information in the coming days.  The new Prime Minister had said that the Government should be more open by default.  The Committee had identified a number of problems in Canada, and the work would continue with the energy and enthusiasm of the new Government.
 
WALEED SADI, Committee Chairperson, informed that the concluding observations would be adopted on 4 March and sent to the Permanent Mission of Canada on 7 March.  If the delegation wanted to provide any additional information, it could do so within 48 hours.

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