Poverty and human rights

Canada’s obligations to protect the economic and social rights of all individuals are outlined in the United Nations (UN) International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), ratified by Canada in 1976. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights last reviewed Canada’s performance on protecting these rights on February 24 and 25, 2016.

Economic and social rights are those human rights that relate to our ability to live in dignity and participate fully in our society. They include rights related to the workplace, social security, and access to housing, food, water, health care and education. They include the right to fair wages and equal pay; the right to adequate protection of income in the event of unemployment, sickness or old age; and the right to an adequate standard of living.

Along with close to 50 representatives from non-governmental and Indigenous organizations, Maytree chair Alan Broadbent and president Elizabeth McIsaac spent the last week of February 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland, as observers and participants at the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ review of Canada.

The Committee’s concluding observations were released on March 7, 2016.


Maytree’s submission

Maytree has a keen interest in economic and social rights, and how they should be part of all poverty reduction strategies. We are particularly concerned with how cities and municipalities embrace their obligations to protect these rights.

In our submission to the committee, we listed four recommendations on how cities in Canada could become key stakeholders and participants in delivering on the state obligations of the ICESCR.

  1. Reflect the ICESCR in public policy, budgets and strategies.
  2. Ensure effective transfer of funding and capacity.
  3. Enable legislation.
  4. Encourage the adoption of City Charters of Rights.