Media release

Maytree submission to UN review looks at how to strengthen the capacity of cities to fulfil economic and social rights

Published on 17/02/2016

Are Canada and its cities doing enough to protect everyone’s economic and social rights, including the rights of our most vulnerable populations? A review by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, taking place from February 22 – March 4 in Geneva, will soon let us know.

Maytree believes that economic and social rights should be part of all poverty reduction strategies. It is particularly concerned with how cities and municipalities embrace their obligations to protect these rights.

Together with representatives from a number of civil society organizations, Maytree chair Alan Broadbent and president Elizabeth McIsaac will be in Geneva to participate in this review.

Canada’s obligations to protect the economic and social rights of all individuals are outlined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), signed by Canada in 1976. While the Covenant was signed by the federal government, it is understood that the obligation to protect and secure these rights applies to all levels of government, including cities and municipalities.

In its submission to the committee, Maytree lists the following four recommendations on how cities in Canada can become key stakeholders and participants in delivering on the state obligations of the ICESCR:

  1. Reflect the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in public policy, budgets and strategies: Federal, provincial and municipal policies, including budgets and poverty eradication strategies, should be based on the Covenant and other relevant human rights instruments and approaches.
  2. Ensure effective transfer of funding and capacity: Canada should ensure that provinces and municipalities have adequate financial and other resources to respond to needs at the local level, particularly of marginalized and disadvantaged groups.
  3. Enable legislation: To harness the maximum available resources at the local level, provincial governments in Canada should review existing municipal Acts and implement enabling legislation to strengthen the capacity of local governments to generate revenue, particularly large revenue instruments like sales and income taxes.
  4. Encourage the adoption of City Charters of Rights: Canada should encourage cities and municipalities to adopt charters with explicit guarantees of Covenant rights.

Download a PDF of the submission.

For more information on the submission and the work of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, visit Maytree’s submission web page.