From Geneva

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Day Four: Will Canada take responsibility for not providing an adequate standard of living for its citizens?

Today, the Canadian NGOs hosted a number of Members of the UN Committee for a working lunch in the Committee room. Last night, we were all working until about 2am on to provide documentation to the committee. Some of the NGOs had just arrived in Geneva yesterday, and therefore hadn’t slept for over 24 hours. We were all up first thing this morning and headed back up to the UN building to continue frantically preparing documentation for the meeting.

At the lunchtime session, a number of Canadian NGOs had their first opportunity to address members of the UN Committee. These NGO groups included Alain Roy of Amnesty international, Vince Calderhead and Bonnie Morton of the Charter Committee on Poverty Issues, Vincent Greason of la Ligue des droits et libertés, and others.

The Committee members present were quite receptive to the messages from the Canadian delegation,. It seems clear that the Committee is aware that Canada has clearly not followed up on the concluding comments of 1998. There was some discussion from Canadian NGOs around the fact that the committee tasked in Canada with looking at this issue is totally non-transparent, and apparently ineffective. One Canadian NGO commented that they could not find out the name of the members of this secretive committee. The lunchtime session was chaired by Bruce Porter, of the Social Rights Advocacy Centre. Bruce is really one of the moving forces behind the NGO delegation as he and others selflessly organized many issues for the NGOs with regard to the Committee meeting, both here and back in Canada.

Tomorrow, the Canadian government delegation will go in front of the UN Committee, and the Canadian part of the 36th session will continue on Monday. However, tomorrow will be my last day in Geneva. It was thought in planning this trip that it was most important for me to be present in Geneva to present to the Committee, provide information to members as needed, and be involved in generating needed documentation for the Committee.

Besides, I sorely miss my partner Lynn, and am anxious to get home (Lynn, and I are expecting our first child in June). So, I will provide an update on the goings-on at the Committee tomorrow, then I will be leaving on a jet-plane.

The next stage of work on this issue will occur when the Committee issues their concluding observations on Canada later this month. We hope that the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living is addressed in the report, and that Canada is taken to task for ignoring this important UN Committee and this crucial UN Document.

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