From Geneva

Monday, May 01, 2006

Arrival in Geneva

Since I have just arrived in Geneva after a long trip, and since there is nothing official planned regarding the Committee at this time, I think I will seize the opportunity to talk about how the Income Security Working group produced the report,, "The Right to an Adequate Standard of Living in Hamilton". I will also tell the story of how a lawyer from Hamilton ended up in Geneva, report in hand, with an opportunity to address the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UNCESCR). In short, I have been given this wonderful opportunity to represent the ISWG and Hamilton on this issue, due to the tireless work of a group of advocates, and because I have the good fortune to work for an agency whose Board of Directors is interested in seeing the report in Geneva.The report really owes its genesis to the particular opportunities provided by the Income Security Working Group (ISWG). The ISWG provides a wonderful forum and vehicle for individuals, grassroots groups and community agencies interested in working on anti-poverty issues in Hamilton. The Group includes working committees, one of which was the former Human Rights Committee which came together to work on human rights issues as they relate to poverty (the Committee eventually produced the report). After a summer meeting in 2005 with Josephine Grey at Low-Income Families Together in Toronto at which time she provided invaluable advice on putting together a report for the CommitteeNot long after, a young Australian lawyer named Chabriol Colebatch moved to Hamilton and began volunteering at McQuesten Legal & Community Services. It was through Chabriol’s excellent research and organizational skills that we were able to put together the basic plans for a report. Shortly thereafter, the three authors (Chabriol, myself and Deirdre Pike of the Social Planning an Research Council) each took on some specific areas of the report and started writing.I go through the details of the process behind this report to give some credit where credit is clearly due. The report was produced as a team efforts, a draft was read by the entire ISWG, This was an extremely important step as ISWG members made significant additions and corrections to the draft.The report was then presented to a special meeting of the Committee of the Whole at Hamilton City Council on February 10, 2006. Council met that day to hear a major report from the Hamilton Roundtable on Poverty and to hear from a number of community agencies, and from individuals, including moving presentations by grassroot activists who were living in poverty.Hamilton City Council endorsed the report unanimously and wrote to the Secretary of the UNCESCR, the Prime Minister and the Premier of Ontario setting out their support.It was the volunteer Board of Directors at McQuesten Legal & Community Services who then championed the idea of sending an employee to present the report to the UN Committee. Ultimately, I end up being the lucky stiff who had the enormous fortune to have a Board of Directors interesting in taking a leadership role and further forcing the issue of the right to an adequate standard of living in Hamilton.Here it is. Sorry it isn't more exciting but I am dog tired. Left Hamilton yesterday at 2pm, and it is now 8:30 pm geneva time on Sunday and I haven't slept yet. Gonna hit the sack now for an early morning.
Cheers Craig


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