De Schutter doesn’t understand Canada, federal statement says
“Canada is a federal state”
In a two-page response issued March 4, Canada’s federal government said Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the right to food, displayed “a regrettable lack of understanding” of Canada’s federalist constitution in a report De Schutter presented that day to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
“Canada is a federal state,” the response said, pointing out that De Schutter recommends Ottawa “interfere in the jurisdiction of other orders of government despite the separation of powers set out in Canada’s constitution.”
That’s likely a reaction to a recommendation by De Schutter that the federal government use its spending power to force provinces to offer better social programs.
Ottawa transfers billions of dollars to provinces and territories each year to pay for health and social programs, but by convention, usually takes a hands-off approach on how that money is spent by provincial and territorial governments.
At a webcast seminar broadcast in Iqaluit and many other locations across Canada, De Schutter said when making those transfers, Ottawa should “tell the provinces to do more.”
But the federal government said statements like this show the UN fails “to appreciate the co-operative nature of our multi-faceted and complex system of government.”
De Schutter also said it’s disappointing that Section 15 of the Charter of Rights, which guarantees equality under the law, could be used to enforce the right to food.
And he told Canadian audiences March 4 that the section is weak because it does not included poverty as a prohibited ground of discrimination.
But the federal government said the UN official went well beyond his mandate on that and other issues.
For example, De Schutter speculated that a free trade agreement with the European Union, now in its advanced stages, could increase food insecurity in Canada.
“Canada is of the view that an assessment of the domestic implementation of the right to food does not require an examination of the constitutional status of Canada’s indigenous people or unfound criticisms of Canada’s trade or international assistance policy,” the federal statement said.
The government also said Canada is “deeply committed” to programs like Nutrition North Canada, which is aimed at promoting better access to healthy foods for Aboriginal peoples.
And the statement said the food security of Aboriginal people in Canada is still linked to country food.
“People continue to eat traditional food which is central to individual and community health,” the statement said.
And the sale of traditional food products made from animal skins and other parts “is an important traditional industry that allows people to earn a living and support their families.”
The statement also said De Schutter should have visited the Arctic “to better understand the Inuit culture and the challenges and opportunities the people face.”