UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights slams Canada's position on growing racial inequality



March 7, 2016

Today, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) released its Concluding Observations for Canada's 10 year review at the 57th Session of the CESCR, which took place on February 24th and 25th, 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.

A coalition of organizations made up of Colour of Poverty - Colour of Change (COP-COC) Steering Committee members - the Metro Toronto Chinese & South East Asian Legal Clinic (MTCSEALC), OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants and the African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) - were on hand in Geneva to highlight the growing colour-coded poverty rates and other race related disparities experienced by Canada's First Peoples & peoples of colour, as well as how these inequities are particularly hard felt by immigrants and migrants.

It was the first time that several of these NGOs had presented to the UN CESCR. The coalition was also the only group at Canada's review which specifically brought forward issues facing peoples of colour, immigrants, and migrants, ensuring that issues concerning these oft-excluded groups had a fair opportunity to be heard by the UN.

Concerned about the socio-economic disparities/disadvantages/exclusions of racialized communities in general, the coalition called on the Government of Canada to address growing racial inequities throughout the country.

Specifically, the coalition called upon governments in Canada to take concrete action to address growing racialized and related immigration-based inequalities by, among other proposals, strengthening the Federal Employment Equity Act, building capacity for more robust ethno-racial and other socio-demographic data collection and analysis, expanding family reunification, creating pathways to permanent residency for all temporary foreign workers, and reforming Child Welfare programs to address the over-representation of Indigenous and African Canadian children in those systems.

In its Concluding Observations, the UN CESCR adopted a number of key recommendations advanced by the Coalition.  For instance, the UN CESCR recommended the Government to “step up its efforts to address unemployment faced by disadvantaged and marginalized groups and individuals: and to “strengthen the enforcement and monitoring of the Employment Equity Act and take all appropriate measures to strengthen and expand its coverage.”  The Committee further recommended Canada to “take measures to ensure the adoption of employment equity legislative and policy measures in all jurisdictions, in collaboration with the provinces and territories.”

The UN CESCR also called on the Government of Canada, in collaboration with provinces, territories, and Indigenous peoples and consultation with civil society organizations, to “implement a human-rights based national anti-poverty strategy, which includes measureable goals and timelines as well as independent monitoring mechanisms” that pay needed and particular attention to marginalized groups and individuals that are most vulnerable to poverty and to “ensure that provinces and territories' anti-poverty policies are human-rights based and aligned with the national Strategy.”

On the issue of homelessness, the Committee recommended Canada to adopt a national strategy on homelessness and to “collect data on the extent of homelessness disaggregated by geographic location, ethnicity, sex and social condition, and to combat homelessness.”

“We are very pleased to see the UN Committee adopts many of our key recommendations with respect to employment equity as well as the need for disaggregated data,” said Avvy Go, Clinic Director, Metro Toronto Chinese & South East Asian Legal Clinic.  “The new Federal Government has time and again affirmed that it takes its international obligations seriously.  They can demonstrate their commitment by immediately adopting the Committee's recommendations and taking concrete action to implement them,” said Go.

“We particularly welcome the Committee's recommendations to prevent labour exploitation of temporary and seasonal migrant workers, by increasing inspection visits, improving regulation of recruitment agencies, and replacing the employer-specific work permit with a type-of-work permit,” said Amy Casipullai, Senior Coordinator Policy and Communications at OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.  “Similarly, the Committee's call for ensuring access to the Interim Federal Health Program benefits without discrimination based on immigration status will help improve the lives of many refugees and refugee claimants in Canada,” said Casipullai.

“The African Canadian Legal Clinic shares the same concerns as our community partners, and are equally excited to see the many constructive recommendations made by the Committee to address racial inequality in Canada,” echoed Anthony Morgan, Policy & Research Lawyer at the ACLC.  “In addition, we are pleased that many of the ACLC's recommendations in such areas as education, child welfare, health, employment and cultural rights, have also been specifically adopted,” added Morgan.

The Coalition calls on all orders of government in Canada to work with civil society and its Indigenous counterparts on developing an action plan to implement all of the recommendations made by the UN Committee.

For more information, please contact:
Avvy Go, Clinic Director, Metro Toronto Chinese & South East Asian Legal Clinic, at (416) 971-9674,
Amy Casipullai, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, at (416) 524-4950
Anthony Morgan, African Canadian Legal Clinic, at (416) 214-4747 or (416) 578-9014

Click here for the Concluding Observations for Canada from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)

Click here for the joint submission by Colour of Poverty - Colour of Change