The federal and provincial leaders of North Turtle Island (Canada) have been recently been getting a kick in the ass from several angles for our Apartheid State.
On Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his (neo-)Conservatives’ watch, despite his seemingly sincere Apology to First Nations, their plight is growing from bad to worse.
Now we have recently had UN special envoy Olivier De Schutter, whose responsibility is monitoring the “right to food” internationally, visiting us to check out the situation. And here’s what he discovered:
UN right-to-food envoy Olivier De Schutter: “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.” – National Post, May 15, 2012, accessed Aug 6, 2012, http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/05/15/un-envoy-blasts-canada-for-self-righteous-attitude-over-hunger-poverty/
OTTAWA — Canada needs to drop its “self-righteous” attitude about how great a country it is and start dealing with its widespread problem of food insecurity, the United Nations right-to-food envoy says.
In a hard-hitting interview this week with Postmedia News, Olivier De Schutter also blasted Canada for its “appallingly poor” record of taking recommendations from UN human-rights bodies seriously.
De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, has been on an 11-day mission to Canada, his first to a developed country.
It’s taken him to poor inner-city neighbourhoods in Central Canada, where he said he’s heard from families on social assistance who can’t afford to feed their children healthy foods.
He’s also travelled to remote aboriginal communities in Manitoba and Alberta, where he said he has seen “very desperate conditions and people who are in extremely dire straits.”
The envoy will give his preliminary assessment Wednesday as he wraps up his mission and addresses national media.
His report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council and will form part of Canada’s official international human rights record.
But the question is: Will it matter? Furthermore, some have questioned whether De Schutter should even be probing the state of such a wealthy country in the first place, given the scale of poverty and hunger in famine-stricken nations?
De Schutter is the first to admit that Canada’s record is wanton when it comes to responding to concerns flagged by UN human rights bodies. But he bristles at any suggestion that he has no business in Canada.
“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.”
Yet that rosy picture is what’s being promoted by the Conservative government.
In a statement to Postmedia News, a spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan emphasized that, since 2006, the government 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.”
Meanwhile, federal officials have provided the envoy with “detailed briefings on the programs and initiatives in place to ensure First Nations have access to healthy, affordable food,” he said.
Chris Wattie/Reuters files, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan – National Post, May 15, 2012, accessed Aug 6, 2012, http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/05/15/un-envoy-blasts-canada-for-self-righteous-attitude-over-hunger-poverty/
However, the Conservative government has declined to set up any meetings between cabinet ministers and De Schutter, something he described as highly unusual for UN special rapporteur missions.
“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 servant, 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.”
Bruce Porter, who monitors Canada’s track record at the UN Human Rights Council as a director at the Social Rights Advocacy Centre, says this attitude is reflected in Canada’s unease with seeing the right to food as a human right and its refusal to declare social and economic rights as on par with political and civil rights.
This well-entrenched position, which has been building for many years, is the underlying reason why the Canadian government often ignores recommendations of UN human rights bodies and lauds the high average standard of living in Canada when facing criticism, Porter said.
“It has been evolving; it’s not just the Conservative government. It’s been an attitude that started to emerge in Canada’s position internationally around 2000. Canada started to take positions at the UN, which were not favourable to treating economic and social right as rights that can be claimed and enforced,” Porter said.
For example, Canada decided in 2008 not to ratify a complaints procedure as part of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to permit a person to seek a remedy in the international arena if they’ve exhausted domestic options.
Canada ratified a similar complaints procedure for political and civil rights in 1976.
Canada also rejected key recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in 2009, including one calling on Canada to develop a national strategy to reduce poverty based on human rights.
“Canada has shifted toward a very stubborn insistence that these are to be treated as just policy issues, and governments will decide how seriously to take them, and in some ways, that’s really the core of the problem between Canada and the UN,” Porter said.
Despite Canada’s record, De Schutter said he’s actually feeling hopeful as his Canadian missions comes to a close.
“I think it’s a serious difficulty that the UN human rights bodies, who sit in Geneva and New York and can’t do much to change things if the government is reluctant to effectively implement those recommendations. I have, however, one advantage over those committees, which is that I am present in the country,” De Schutter.
“I believe that there is now such a large coalition of groups coming from different sectors of society in Canada, that pressure from below can be exercised.”
Diana Bronson certainly saw this on display during the 11-day mission. The executive director of Food Secure Canada attended De Schutter meetings in Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg, and was amazed that people had to be turned away because the level of interest was so high.
Plus, De Schutter will be back in Canada for a followup visit to assess progress in tackling hunger and food insecurity.
F*ing smug leaders we have here on the Sinking Titanic which we call Canada!
Can’t even admit that its people are increasing in poverty, especially the rightful owners of the land, the First Nations of Canada!
Watch out, (neo-)Conversatives and all you Redneck supporters out there! The people who back Social Justice are rising up! Judgment Day is coming!
I myself and the Liberationists promote non-violent overthrow of tyranny, so you’d better be ready! We’re coming for you!
Now one of main aboriginal leaders in Canada, Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, the head of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, was dismayed over the De Schutter Report, as could be expected. Here is the Winnipeg Free Press article about it:
Ottawa turning blind eye to hunger, poverty: Grand Chief
OTTAWA – The federal government is being willfully blind to poverty and hunger in its own backyard, the head of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said Wednesday.
Grand Chief Derek Nepinak was dismayed by comments made by Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney about a report on access to food in Canada by the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food.
Olivier Schutter completed his 11-day official visit to Canada by delivering a preliminary report in Ottawa Wednesday morning. Canada is the first developed nation De Schutter has visited.
He said Canada is basking in the glow of its wealthy while nearly two million Canadians are left to wonder where their next meal is coming from.
“I have to say my concerns are extremely severe, and I don’t see why I should mince my words,” he said.
He said Canada is ignoring its obligations under several UN conventions under which the government has a responsibility to protect the right to food. The country needs a national right to food strategy.
But Aglukkaq said De Schutter was “patronizing” and “ill-informed” and Kenney said he was wasting his time in Canada when there are countries out there with real famines.
“I think this is completely ridiculous,” Kenney said. “Canada is one of the wealthiest and most democratic countries in the world,” said Kenney. “We believe that the UN should focus on development in countries where people are starving. We think it’s simply a waste of resources to come to Canada to give political lectures.”
Nepinak said those comments were unfortunate.
“He’s relying on the presumption that in a place like Canada we don’t have the poverty, we don’t have hungry kids.”
De Schutter said there are 800,000 households that have food insecurity, and that social assistance and minimum wage rates are simply not enough to ensure people have access to food.
The situation is particularly atrocious on northern First Nations where remoteness causes a spike in the prices of food and federal subsidies to keep food costs down aren’t monitored properly.
“I am struck by the desperate situation in which many find themselves,” he said of the reserves he visited.
De Schutter spent two days of his Canadian tour in Manitoba last weekend. His visit included meetings with provincial and aboriginal leaders in Winnipeg, and trips to Peguis, Sagkeeng, God’s River and Wasagamack First Nations.
Nepinak said Ottawa needs to reconsider the entire Nutrition North program, with a view to what communities really need to be more affordable.
The program was introduced last year to replace the old food mail program. Nutrition North subsidizes the cost of certain foods between five cents a kilogram and $1.60 a kilogram in 14 Manitoba First Nations. The amount depends on the location of the reserve and the type of food.
But the list of eligible foods definitely needs reworking, said Nepinak.
Among the foods which receive a subsidy are macaroni and cheese, garlic bread, boxed pasta dinners, frozen pizza and processed cheese spreads.
Plain water gets no subsidy.
High-sugar cereals get the same subsidy as healthier, whole grain cereal, and fresh vegetables and fruit.
Despite the subsidy to try and make fresh food more affordable, it’s still far more expensive to buy healthy options than processed food, said Nepinak.
“It’s cheaper to buy pop and chips,” he said.
Mostly that’s because pop and chips and other processed foods which can be stored for months on end can be shipped up on winter roads at far less cost than the air shipping required for perishables such as milk, meat and produce.
Nepinak also agreed with De Schutter that the program needs better monitoring and compliance. There is nobody watching to ensure the subsidies applied to food retailers and shippers is passed on to consumers.
Nepinak said he was skeptical last week when one store on a reserve amended their price tags to suddenly reflect what the food would have cost without the subsidy.
He said those price tags were created specifically for De Schutter’s visit.
And lastly, I’d like to echo the comments of this author of a letter to the Editor of Peterborough This Week in Ontario, Canada :
Canada should be ashamed of poverty within First Nation communities
To the editor:
It is embarrassing that Canada’s Immigration Minister labelled United Nations’ Envoy de Schutter’s criticism of poverty in Canada as “a discredit to the U.N.”
This is the equivalent of denouncing an oncologist for diagnosing a potentially curable tumour.
The Canadian government is well aware of Canada’s dirty little secret — that the far north is populated by many of the First People of this land who years ago were displaced to barren land where they have struggled to survive in isolation from southern prosperity.
Then the government realized there were rich resources in the wilderness so it constructed roads allowing mining and lumber companies to pillage these resources. None of the resulting jobs went to the local Native people who continue to live in fragmented communities with deplorable housing, inferior education, minimal health care and massive unemployment.
Despair and hopelessness among the young have led to a continuing epidemic of addiction and suicide.
Instead of denouncing the envoy for exposing these disgraceful conditions we should respond positively to his valid concerns. If our government retains any scrap of moral integrity it should dust off the long-ignored Erasmus report on aboriginal poverty and immediately initiate efforts to relieve the Northern Apartheid which condemns First Peoples of this land to live in inhuman Third World conditions that lead to broken lives and early death.
RISE UP, FIRST NATIONS! WE ARE ON YOUR SIDE!
NO MORE SETTLER PRIVILEGE IN CANADA!
|“Our instincts kicked in and we said the women have to go to the front, because it’s our obligation to do that, to protect the land, to protect our Mother. And I can remember looking at the faces of the S.W.A.T. team and they were all scared. They were like young babies who had never met something so strong; who had never met a spirit, because we were fighting something without a spirit.
There was no thought to it; they were like robots.”
-Katsi’tsákwas (Mohawk Nation), 1990.
Here is the trailer:
Synopsis of Canada: Apartheid Nation
Canada: Apartheid Nation exposes the truth about Canada’s remote northern First Nation communities: third world conditions in a first world country. While living next to one of the richest diamond mines in the world, the community faces poverty, homelessness, substandard education and infrastructure.
The Attawapiskat First Nation is representative of the product of an archaic federal government department ‘Indian Affairs’ whose policies propel discrimination against Canada’s First Nations People. There are heroes working quietly and surely to effect great change. From small children to Chiefs, this story will move you with their dignity and hope for a better future.
Only morons and boneheads accept APARTHEID as the normal state of affairs in a nation.
For an excellent series on this Canadian APARTHEID, check out John Stackhouse’s articles at the Globe and Mail.
Apartheid runs deep in Canada. Did you know that South Africa actually modelled their Bantustans, the set-aside territories for segregating native Africans, after Canada’s reserve system? Check it out here.
Also check out “Apartheid, Canada’s Ugly Secret”by Tanis Fiss, Director of Centre for Aboriginal Policy Change at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in Calgary, Alberta.
The Non-Violent War against Canadian oppression may not be won in a day, but victory is ever closer as we “eat the elephant one bite at a time”!