UN Slams Canada’s “Appallingly Poor” Food Record

Julian Wolfe
May 16th, 2012

UN Food Envoy Oliver De Schutter blasted Canada for its widespread problem of food insecurity, stating that the country needs to drop its “self-righteous” attitude about how great a country it is. The UN person in charge of the right of food spent 11 days touring our nation as his first developed nation.

His tour brought him to impoverished cities in central Canada that depend on social assistance and can’t afford to feed their families healthy food.

He has traveled to aboriginal communities in Manitoba and Alberta and saw “very desperate conditions and people who are in extremely dire straits.”

His report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council and put a black mark on Canada’s official human rights record.

“It’s even more shocking to me to see that there are 900,000 households in Canada that are food insecure and up to 2.5 million people precisely because this is a wealthy country. It’s even less excusable,” said De Schutter.

“It’s not because the country is a wealthy country that there are no problems. In fact, the problems are very significant and, frankly, this sort of self-righteousness about the situation being good in Canada is not corresponding to what I saw on the ground, not at all.”

This grim picture completely contradicts the rosy propaganda that has been spewed by the Conservative government which stated that since 2006, it has “worked with First Nations partners to ensure First Nations communities have access to healthy and affordable food, housing, education, and water, as well as economic opportunities.”

The Conservatives offered a “detailed” account of what it is doing but refused to set up meetings between cabinet ministers and De Schutter, claiming it was abnormal practice.

“Well, look, the tradition is that when I visit countries on official missions, I have meetings at cabinet level,” De Schutter said.

“The position of the Canadian government is that this mission is one that requires discussions to be had at the technical level with high-level public servants, with whom I did meet. And I’m of course grateful for their time and expertise, but frankly the question of hunger is not a technical question, it’s a political question and without speaking to ministers, you cannot create the kind of understanding by the government that things are not going in the right direction, that there are very important blind spots in the current policies that the government cannot continue to ignore.”

De Schutter added: “To improve things in Canada, you need much more political will to be invested in this issue and that is a message I regrettably cannot make to public servants, convinced though of they are of this. I need to speak to the ministers, and I think this betrays, if you wish, a lack of understanding of what hunger is about.”

De Schutter will come back to Canada to make a follow-up but as of yet no date has been stated.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives attacked De Schutter and his findings.

“Canada sends billions of dollars of food aid to developing countries around the world where people are starving,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said.

“It would be our hope that the contributions we make to the United Nations are used to help starving people in developing countries, not to give lectures to wealthy and developed countries like Canada. And I think this is a discredit to the United Nations.”

According to CTV News, Diana Bronson, of Food Secure Canada, said Kenney is refusing to acknowledge a very real problem in Canada.

“The problem of hunger in Canada is perhaps not on our front page news but there are 2 million people in this country who are food insecure and we have almost a million people who use food banks on a monthly basis. So we are indeed in a crisis and the terrible thing is we have no policy in place to deal with it,” Bronson said.

And one can only imagine what Employment Insurance changes will mean for the impoverished. Flaherty recently told Canadians that “There is no bad job; the only bad job is not having a job.” This statement was the justification for making EI harder to get and forcing the unemployed to find jobs outside their field and even outside their region – or face an empty hand from the Canadian government. Flaherty also targeted the disabled, “We need to get rid of disincentives in the employment insurance system to people joining the workforce,” Flaherty said.

While the Conservatives brag about job growth and a “strong economy,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Parliament that these measures were there to prepare Canadians for an upcoming serious labor shortage.

The Conservatives have failed with the economy and insulted human rights and now, they have not only given us a black mark on the environment on the world stage, but now one on something as basic as hunger and human rights. Canada is notably not the best country in the world and this is due to the failed and irresponsible leadership of the Conservative government.

How do you feel about De Schutter’s findings?

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