Statement - Canada’s human rights challenges need coordinated approach, not piecemeal solutions

May 11, 2018 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

Following Canada’s third Universal Periodic Review at the UN in Geneva today, Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, issues the following statement:

“Canada’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) confirms that our country is still failing millions of Canadians by denying them an equal chance to succeed and thrive. It is unacceptable that in a country that offers so much opportunity, there is such abject poverty and stark inequality facing so many people in Canada.

“The recommendations in this third UPR are not a surprise to anyone. For the most part, they are largely the same as those presented to Canada in 2013. This latest review is evidence that despite best efforts at all levels of government; Canada continues to struggle to address this country’s most urgent human rights issues.

“This government has put human rights in Canada back on the agenda. We have seen an encouraging shift to prioritize women’s equality, accessibility for persons with disabilities, reconciliation, homelessness, poverty reduction, LGBTQ2I rights and other social justice issues.

“But while the will to make change is there, the approach isn’t having the impact it could. Poverty, inadequate housing, lack of access to education, lack of opportunity in the workforce, and gender inequality are interrelated. And yet the solutions designed to address these issues are not.

“Canada’s National Housing Strategy, the much anticipated accessibility legislation, efforts to renew relations with Indigenous peoples, and most recently, a “gender equality” budget fail to work together to address inequality. In many cases, various solutions aim to help the same people, but don’t talk to each other. If these efforts are to be effective in addressing inequality, there must be coordinated oversight and accountability based on a human rights framework.

“It is also important to recognize that Canada’s Universal Periodic Review implicates all Canadians. Meaningful progress demands cooperation from provinces and territories, Indigenous governments, municipalities, community organizations and civil societies. I am optimistic that Canada will take the UPR recommendations seriously.

“Canadians are very good at speaking the language of human rights – it is part of who we are. But with Indigenous communities still living without clean water, Indigenous women still facing disproportionate levels of violence, homelessness shelters constantly under strain, people with physical and mental disabilities still denied access to education and employment, and millions living in poverty, words alone are not enough. If we are to achieve equality for everyone in Canada, we must be willing to be innovative in our approach. That means ensuring that each step in every solution is grounded in human rights.

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