CCLA Presents concerns at The UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
February 26, 2016
This week, Canada appeared before the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and CCLA was there in Geneva to present key concerns as part of the country’s sixth periodic review.
The Committee is the independent body of experts that oversees state parties’ compliance with the UN Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Every five years or so, state parties to the Covenant are required to provide a written report on how they are implementing it domestically and on where they are falling short. The Committee and state parties engage in a question and answer period known as a ‘constructive dialogue’ in which Committee members seek information directly from government delegations. The Committee then makes written recommendations known as “Concluding Observations”.
CCLA was part of a large delegation of Canadian civil society organizations that travelled to Geneva to provide the Committee with a more fully informed picture of the state of economic, social, and cultural rights in Canada. On Monday February 22nd, CCLA Executive Director and General Counsel Sukanya Pillay made a brief formal presentation to the Committee. Many of the other groups shared their expertise in such matters as fighting poverty, homelessness, discrimination against racialized groups, reproductive rights for women, gender equality, and more.
CCLA also submitted extensive written submissions to the Committee in the form of a 60-page brief, which highlighted many concerns, including:
- The criminalization of poverty, as demonstrated by discrimination in the criminal justice system against aboriginal persons, racialized groups, low-income Canadians, and individuals with mental health issues, addictions, and disabilities;
- Long-term involuntary detentions in mental health facilities of individuals with mental health issues;
- The overuse of segregation in prisons about which we argued that segregation should never be used against individuals with mental health issues;
- The right to work (protected in the Covenant), employer reliance on record checks and the disclosure by police of non-conviction records (including non-criminal police contacts and 911 calls) to the detriment of employment prospects — a practice which disproportionately impacts groups subject to racial profiling (for example, during street checks and carding), low-income persons, and those battling addiction or mental health issues;
- Privacy-invasive and potentially discriminatory tax reporting measures affecting a distinct group of Canadians as a result of an inter-governmental agreement between the United States and Canada to implement the former’s Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act domestically;
- Ending impunity for Canadian non-state actors who commit human rights violations abroad, such as Canadian mining and extractive corporations, and ensuring that victims have recourse to legal remedies;
- Ensuring that resource development projects in Canada obtain informed consent from aboriginal groups, and that those groups protesting such projects are not sanctioned.
At CCLA we believe in the indivisibility of all human rights, including civil and political rights, as well as the specific economic, social, and cultural rights protected by the Covenant. We reject any hierarchy between these rights and have found that certain rights violations can and frequently do impact the enjoyment of other rights. This is particularly true in Canada where violations of economic, social, and cultural rights can impact an individual’s ability to meaningfully participate in Canadian democracy.
During the constructive dialogue with Canada, the Committee raised many concerns shared by CCLA, including (but not limited to) the criminalization of poverty; concerns over lack of resources for the mentally ill and over their longterm detention in mental health facilities; and equality and non-discrimination concerns with respect to aboriginal, racialized, and disabled persons, as well as regarding reproductive rights and gender equality.
We look forward to receiving the Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations in March.