[ Go to Canadian Social Research Links Home Page

List of issues to be taken up in connection with the consideration of the third periodic report of Canada :

 United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - Implementation of the International
                  Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (June 10, 1998)
Page 2

29. Please provide information as to the transformation of women's work to more precarious forms (part-time, homework, etc) and the economic consequence of these changes on the poverty of women, particularly young single women with dependent children.

Increasing competition from the global market place coupled with technological innovations has led to changes in the nature of work in Canada. More flexible forms of employment - such as part-time and contingent positions, telework, and other forms of non-standard work - have become more prevalent in the Canadian labour market in recent years and growth in these areas continues.

In 1994, 33% of those employed between the ages of 15 and 64 were employed in some form of non-standard work, an increase of 5% from 1989 figures(1). This trend is more pronounced for youth and women. For example, in 1995, over 24% of employed women engaged in part-time work, compared with 8% of men(2). Women also predominate in the growing area of home-based work.

Non-standard forms of work can offer some advantages for women who want greater flexibility in balancing their family and paid work responsibilities. With increasing numbers of women with young children entering the labour force, this type of work may become increasingly necessary in order to balance child care and work responsibilities, especially for female lone parents.

While women may benefit from the flexibility of this type of work, it can also render them economically vulnerable. Generally, these forms of work offer lower wages and fewer benefits.

In Setting the Stage for the Next Century: the Federal Plan for Gender Equality, the Government of Canada recognizes the need to monitor and assess the economic and social vulnerability of non-standard workers in Canada, particularly women working in home-based, piece-rate assembly, clerical, textile and other low income jobs. One initiative which responds to this commitment is the report of the Advisory Committee on the Changing Workplace, entitled Collective Reflection. This report, released by the Minister of Labour in June 1997, examines the changing nature of work and considers how workplace change might better meet the needs of both workers and employers in Canada.

Recent reforms to Canada's Employment Insurance system (1996) incorporate measures which address the needs of non-standard workers and benefit women in a number of ways. The new Employment Insurance system ensures that eligible part-time workers and multiple job holders are fully covered, that active employment benefits help women find jobs and that low income claimants with children, two-thirds of whom are women, receive the Family Income Supplement. In addition, the Canada and Quebec Pension Plans recognize that women's patterns of non-market work, employment and remuneration are very different from those of men. The Plans includes features such as the child-rearing drop out provision, credit-splitting (of pension credits upon divorce and separation) and survivor's benefits (upon the death of a spouse) which recognize women's role as the primary care-givers in the household.

30. What steps have been taken by the Federal Government to implement the recommendation of the Canadian Human Rights Commission so that employers' and workers' representatives are required to take the initiative to implement pay parity between men and women?

The Commission recommends proactive legislation parallel to that in the recent Employment Equity Act because it believes that this approach is preferable to a complaints based system in dealing with systemic discrimination such as employment or pay equity. This would be an extremely significant legislative initiative which requires consultation and analysis. Until recently, the government's priority was Bill S-5, amending the Canadian Human Rights Act by adding the duty to accommodate, making the Tribunal more efficient and improving other aspects of the Act. The government is in the process of completing implementation of Bill S-5 and is now turning its mind to the new priority: a comprehensive review of the Canadian Human Rights Act, to ensure that it is effective in promoting human rights in the new millennium. One of the key aspects to be considered is how best to redress systemic discrimination.

31. Please provide information regarding the rights of farm workers and domestic workers to organize and bargain collectively and identify any changes in provincial labour legislation which has affected these rights. is there any other justification for denying these workers collective bargaining rights accorded to other workers?

See provincial and territorial input.
32. How does the Canadian Government explain the dramatic decreases in the percentage of unemployed workers receiving Employment Insurance benefits from 83% in 1990 to 43% in 1997? Have the changes in the EI program disproportionately affected vulnerable groups in Canada? Has there been any decline in the number of women receiving maternity benefits?

Although the percentage of unemployed workers receiving EI benefits (B/U ratio) is commonly used to measure program coverage, it is an imperfect measure. Some beneficiaries are not considered unemployed (e.g., they work while on claim or indicate they are not looking for work) and some are only temporarily ineligible for benefits (e.g., they are receiving severance pay or are in the 2-week waiting period before benefits begin). In addition, not all unemployment results from job loss. Many of the unemployed have little or no previous work or voluntarily left their employment.

The decline in the B/U ratio is attributable to changes in the labour market (e.g., the growth in long-term unemployment, the growth in non-insured work such as self-employment, and the increase in new entrants and re-entrants to the labour market) as well as changes to the Unemployment Insurance/Employment Insurance program (e.g., higher entrance requirements, cuts in duration of benefits, and exclusion of those who quit their jobs without just cause). In order to pinpoint the reasons for the declining B/U ratio, the government is undertaking an in-depth analysis of the issue and its implications for the EI program; a paper based on this analysis will be released in late 1998.

In the first year following the 1996 EI reform, there were larger than expected declines in the number of claims and the amount paid out in benefits. Program changes were just one factor,; the improving economy, stronger job creation and the decline in job losses also contributed to this decline.

The reform was designed to protect the benefits of those most in need. For example, the maximum benefit rate for claimants eligible for the new family income supplement for low-income claimants with children is 70% of average earnings in 1998 and will rise to 80% of the maximum benefit allowed by 2000. For all other claimants, the benefit rate is 55%. About two-thirds of those receiving the family income supplement are women, and overall the decline in benefits was somewhat less for women than for men. Young people experienced a greater than average decline in benefits, but continue to be a top priority for employment programs funded from outside the EI system.

The new EI Act requires the government to monitor and assess the impacts of EI reform on individuals, communities, and the economy and make annual reports to Parliament for the years 1997 to 2001. Analysis of the impacts of the reform on vulnerable groups is an integral part of this process.

Regarding maternity benefits, the change in entrance requirements from as few as 300 hours (20 weeks of 15 hours each) to 700 hours of work (the equivalent of 20 weeks of 35 hours each) under EI reform was expected to affect very few maternity claimants because they typically have a strong labour force attachment (on average, they work 45 weeks before applying for benefits). There was a slight decrease in the number of claims for maternity benefits in the first year following EI reform.

33. In light of the surplus in the Employment Insurance Program that is expected to reach $20 billion by the end of 1998, has the Government considered expanding coverage?

A surplus is being built in the EI Account so that, in the event of an economic downturn, benefits can be maintained and premiums would not have to rise. It should be noted that the government is obliged to continue to pay benefits even when program costs exceed contributions, as was the case during the last recession.

As previously mentioned under Q.32, an in-depth analysis of the B/U ratio issue and its implications for the EI program is under way and will help the government pinpoint the reasons for the decline. As well, the monitoring and assessment provisions introduced as part of EI reform will help to measure the impact of program changes on individuals, communities, and the economy. The second of five annual monitoring and assessment reports required under the new EI Act is now being prepared. It would be premature to consider expanding the program before the results of the B/U study and the 1998 monitoring and assessment report have been completed and evaluated.

34. Under the new legislation, is the federal government using any surplus funds to subsidize provincial workfare schemes? Since the Employment program has been solely paid for by the contributions of workers and employers since 1990, this seems to suggest a privatization of social assistance. What are the implications of this in terms of state responsibility for guaranteeing the rights in article 11?

Workfare schemes would not meet the criteria set out in the Employment Insurance Act and so could not be supported.

Under the new Act, contributions collected from workers and employers can be used only to fund the EI program. That is, the funds can be used to pay income benefits under Part I of the Act and to provide active re-employment measures under Part II of the Act.

EI reform expanded eligibility for active measures under Part II. Unemployed individuals are now eligible for these active measures if they have collected regular EI benefits in the past 3 years or maternity or parental benefits in the past 5 years. Therefore, individuals receiving social assistance may be eligible for active measures.

Under the new Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs) between the federal and provincial and territorial governments, responsibility for the design and delivery of Part II active measures either rests solely with the provincial or territorial government or is shared by the two levels of government.

Active measures administered by the provinces and territories and funded from the EI Account must be similar to the employment benefits and support measures provided for under Part II of the EI Act and respect the objectives and guidelines set out in Part II.

37. The Committee has received information that food bank use has continued to increase in Canada and has approximately doubled over the last ten years. Can the Government explain why the number and the use of food banks has continued to increase? Does the Government consider the need for food banks in so affluent a country as Canada consistent with article 11 of the Covenant?

The establishment of food banks by Canadian charities since 1981 demonstrates the type of compassion and mutual assistance ever present in the Canadian tradition.  The focus of efforts by the Government of Canada in relation to food security has been primarily on providing income benefits and supports.  Canada is now developing  its Action Plan for Food Security as follow up to the 1996 World Food Summit.

38. Please provide information as to the number of people paying more than their shelter allowance for housing and indicate whether paying for housing out of money needed for food may lead to hunger in these households.

As shelter allowances are components within provincially-provided social assistance programs, data relating to such allowances, including effects on household food expenditures, are not available at the national level.

National estimates of housing need are available which take into account the relationship between expenditure on housing and household income. These estimates rely on a set of criteria relating to housing affordability, adequacy (physical condition) and suitability (crowding).  The affordability component measures whether a household is paying 30% or more of their total income for shelter.  Households occupying housing that does not meet these criteria, and who cannot afford to rent adequate, uncrowded housing in their market area for less than 30% of income, are said to experience core housing need.  In the ten provinces in 1991, a total of 1.16 million households (about 12%) were in core housing need. About three-quarters of these households were renters while the other one-quarter were owners.

More details on core housing need can be found in the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation's (CMHC) Background Report to the Committee.

41. Please provide any available data on the extent of homelessness in various cities in Canada. At what point would the government consider homelessness in Canada to constitute a national emergency?

At present there are no comprehensive data on the extent of homelessness in Canada. Although there have been attempts to gather national data in the past, they were not statistically reliable or representative. As CMHC's Background Report points out, gathering data on homelessness is inherently difficult. Even at the conceptual level, there is no common agreement about how to define or measure homelessness.

Some cities, including Calgary and Ottawa, have attempted to develop estimates, but the methods of gathering the data vary so widely that comparison among cities is impossible. The new City of Toronto has the largest and probably the most robust data series in the country with regard to homeless persons. Based on this data set, the Interim Report of the Mayor's Homelessness Action Task Force states that just under 26,000 individuals used shelters in Toronto during the year 1996.

A significant element of CMHC's research program on homelessness is a multi-phase project to develop a computerized tool for assisting local shelters and agencies in standardizing the collection and management of data on homeless shelter users. This approach was taken following a consensus among a panel of experts that the best way to enumerate the homeless would be to partner with local services. The tool is currently under development and the next stage will involve pilot testing the software in various cities across the country.

42. Please provide information on any disparities between Aboriginal housing and other housing with respect to piped water, flush toilets, need for repairs and other indicators of adequacy.

CMHC's Background Report provides details on the housing situations of all Aboriginal people in Canada, both on and off reserve and in comparison to the general population. Aboriginal people experience significantly more housing adequacy problems than the rest of the Canadian population. The adequacy component of CMHC's core housing need model measures whether a dwelling has all basic plumbing facilities (hot and cold running water, indoor toilet, and bath or shower) and does not require major repairs. About 9% of all non-Aboriginal households in Canada live in homes that do not meet this criterion (11% in rural areas and 7% in urban areas). In contrast, almost one-quarter (23%) of all Aboriginal households' dwellings are inadequate according to this criterion.

The federal government continues to place a priority on health and safety, and, as such, the need to improve housing and water and sewer services on Indian reserves. Over the past several years, DIAND has reallocated close to $400 million in additional spending in support of water and sewer projects and has committed an additional $160 million for the implementation of a new on-reserve housing policy. The capital budget for major water and sewer projects on reserve is expected to be almost $175 million annually. In 1998-99 approximately $450 million will be spent for on-reserve housing by CMHC and DIAND. It is estimated that nearly 4,600 new housing units will be constructed and about 3,800 homes will be repaired during the current fiscal year.

The new on-reserve housing policy was announced in 1996 following extensive consultations with First Nations. The policy provides a solid framework within which First Nations can bring about overall and sustainable improvements in on-reserve housing condition. Under the policy, First Nation communities develop community-based housing programs and multi-year housing plans to maintain and rehabilitate existing housing and construct quality, affordable new housing. These housing plans are also linked with community training, job creation and business development initiatives to help maximize local benefits. Furthermore, improving community infrastructure is also a priority under Gathering Strength and An Agenda for Action.

43. At paragraph 275, the Report states that federal funding for new social housing units was terminated in 1993. How can this be justified when so many households are unable to secure appropriate housing in the private market?

As described in detail in CMHC's Background Report to the Committee, the Government of Canada continues to provide support for affordable housing in a number of ways.

The federal government, through CMHC, continues to provide approximately $1.9 billion annually to subsidize about 645,000 existing housing units, mainly for low income households. The federal government also emphasizes the preservation of the existing affordable housing stock through such programs as the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP), the Emergency Repair Program (ERP) and Home Adaptations for Seniors Independence (HASI), and on January 30, 1998 announced an extension of funding for these programs for five years at a cost of $250 million ($50 million per year). The CMHC Background Report notes that over 124,000 units were assisted under federal and joint federal-provincial-territorial rehabilitation programs between 1990 and 1995.

Further, the provision of National Housing Act (NHA) mortgage loan insurance enables persons to purchase homes with low down payments and at favourable mortgage interest rates. The NHA Mortgage-Backed Securities program ensures the supply of low-cost funds for mortgages.

The federal government continues to provide funding for housing on Indian reserves. In 1998-99 approximately $450 million will be spent for on-reserve housing by CMHC and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. It is estimated that nearly 4,600 new housing units will be constructed and about 3,800 homes will be repaired during the current fiscal year.

CMHC is also engaged in a number of partnership activities that support the production of affordable housing. The Canadian Centre for Public-Private Partnerships in Housing (CCPPPH) helps community-based groups to develop affordable housing without long-term government subsidies. Homegrown Solutions encourages the development of innovative housing solutions at the local level. Affordability and Choice Today (ACT) promotes changes to planning and building regulations that will eliminate barriers to housing innovation and improve housing affordability.

44. According to information provided to the Committee from Statistics Canada, the percentage of government expenditure on housing has declined since 1993. There has been extensive media coverage of a growing crisis of homelessness in Toronto, Vancouver and elsewhere, emphasizing primarily charity-based efforts to address the problems. Is the Government applying the "maximum of available resources" to eliminating homelessness and does it agree that guaranteeing the right to housing is a core responsibility of governments and a matter of the highest priority?

The Government of Canada continues to play an important role in fostering a strong economy that sustains and creates jobs, which in turn enable the vast majority of Canadians to address their own housing needs without direct government subsidy. In fact, over a quarter of a million new jobs were created in Canada in 1997. Moreover, the Government actively cultivates a stable financial environment that promotes excellent housing affordability, including access to home ownership for most Canadians. Inflation rates have remained low, and mortgage interest rates have been the lowest in over 30 years. These combined with an abundant supply of affordable homes on the market have led to record levels of first-time buying. Recently released Census data indicate that the home ownership rate in Canada was 63.6% in 1996, compared to 62.6% in 1991 and 62.1% in 1986.

Canada has a federal system with more than one "level" of government having independent responsibilities with regard to housing issues. Most assistance for shelter needs flows through income support channels rather than bricks-and-mortar approaches. As Table 22 of the CMHC background report shows, the combined direct government expenditure on housing in Canada has risen since 1990 from $3.5 billion to approximately $4 billion per year. In addition, income support provided through the Canada Assistance Plan is estimated to have provided another $5.2 billion specifically for shelter in 1993, bringing the total expenditure on housing to $9.2 billion for that year. Total government expenditure on housing is actually higher than this because of expenditures through other components of the national income security system, but no reliable estimates for these components are available. Also not included in these totals are the tax expenditures made by the Canadian government in support of housing. Estimates for 1997, for instance, indicate that non-taxation of capital gains on principal residences amounted to as much as $1.5 billion, the GST rebate on new housing cost $505 million, and the tax exemption on residential rents totalled $1.6 billion.

The existing social housing stock supported by the Government of Canada at a cost of $1.9 billion per year includes facilities for homeless people and those at risk of becoming homeless. Federal transfers to the provinces through the CHST also provide funding to support a broad range of programs for the homeless. Further, the federal government provides $2 million annually for upgrading or constructing shelters for victims of domestic violence who might otherwise not have access to appropriate accommodation.

The Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP) and the Emergency Repair Program (ERP), also referenced in the response to Question 43, both benefit the homeless. RRAP provides assistance to low income home-owners to bring their homes up to basic health and safety standards, and to persons with disabilities to make their homes accessible. A special component of RRAP is targeted to improving rental housing and rooming houses occupied by low income tenants. ERP provides assistance to undertake emergency repairs on homes located in rural areas to ensure continued safe occupancy.

CMHC has funded a number of research projects on homelessness, with recent emphasis on ways the problem could be better quantified. A national forum for research on homelessness was established by CMHC in 1994. This includes representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations. In 1999, CMHC plans to sponsor a forum on "best practices" for addressing homelessness. CMHC is currently working with several major cities on initiatives designed to address homelessness, including Toronto, where CMHC is supporting the work of the Mayor's Homelessness Action Task Force, and Vancouver, where CMHC is working with the City to determine if the rental component of RRAP could be used to rehabilitate two inner-city apartment hotels.

The CMHC Background Report contains a section on homelessness and a section on housing-related expenditures by governments in Canada.

47. Does the Government support the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples that the Canadian Human Rights Act be amended to authorize inquiries into whether relocations of Aboriginal peoples were legal and permit court action to obtain redress?

This recommendation proposes a significant new role for the Commission and further, that the Commission be given the power to apply its act retroactively, that is, prior to 1978. One of the key aspects of the upcoming comprehensive review of the Canadian Human Rights Acts will be the role of the Commission.

Canada works with Aboriginal communities on a case-by-case basis to address any problems and issues which may exist as a result of past relocations. The criteria for relocations outlined in the RCAP report are useful and consistent with the approach that the federal governments now takes in any relocations. In the case of the relocation of the Davis Inlet community, for example, the community gave their free and informed consent through a public ratification process, and community planning was carried out jointly over a reasonable period of time. In this way, it is possible to find solutions that meet the unique needs and circumstances of the individual communities involved.

The federal government is currently working with one community to document the story of their relocation in order to inform any remedial measures the government may determine as necessary. In the meantime, Canada has provided significant resources to the First Nation to assist in providing better housing, water treatment, education, health and policing services to its community.

48. Although the last recession ended in 1991, poverty rates have risen steadily since then. Please provide to the Committee the most up to date information on single parents, children, people with disabilities and Aboriginal people and explain how this unacceptable situation has been allowed to occur.

Despite the lack of an official measure of poverty (whether poverty rates or poverty line), the Government of Canada does recognize that many individuals and families in Canada are living in relative poverty. Statistics Canada produces annual data on persons and families who appear substantially worse off than average Canadians according to a statistical norm called the Low Income Cut-Offs (LICOs)(3). These are used as indicators of those segments of the population most in need of government assistance.

The latest LICO data relate to 1996. These estimates use the 1992 base year, which considers as having low income those families or persons who spend 54.7% or more of their income on food, shelter and clothing.

According to these figures, in 1996, there were 21% of children less than 18 years of age who lived in low-income families. Nearly 57% of all single parent families (headed by a person aged less than 65) were low income. As well, about 31% of male-headed lone parent families were low income while more than 60% of female-headed lone parent families were in the same situation. It is worth noting that in that year, single parent families represented 18.6% of all families with children (headed by people younger than 65). Source: Statistics Canada catalogue 13-207-XPB - Income distribution by Size in Canada, 1996

While no equivalent and as timely data on Aboriginal peoples are available, the RCAP Report documented some of the conditions they face. For example, based on 1991 census information, RCAP told us that in Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon, more than 60% of Aboriginal households were below the LICOs. For single-parent households headed by women, the situation was worse. Source: Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996

With respect to disability, the most recent data are from the 1991 Health and Activity Limitation survey. These data show that almost 22% of disabled persons between the ages of 15 and 64 had incomes below the LICO. Source : Living with Disability in Canada : an Economic Portrait. HRDC, Office for Disability Issues, 1996

Based on these indicators, low income families with children, Aboriginal peoples, and persons with disabilities are more vulnerable than other Canadians. This is why new initiatives have been put in place expressly for them. Canada is taking action on many fronts.

Families & Children:

First, Canada is concerned about the well-being of its children. This is why children are a public priority for the Government of Canada and the provinces, as evidenced by the National Child Benefit (NCB) introduced in 1998. The NCB is designed to improve services and benefits for low income families with children. It will contribute to reduce the depth of child poverty and promote attachment to the workforce by ensuring that families will always be better off as a result of working (see response to Q. 50 and Child Benefit documentation provided separately).

Several other programs help support children from low income families; for example the family income supplement for low income Employment Insurance recipients with children.

The Government of Canada is working with provincial and territorial governments, and others, on the development of a National Children's Agenda, to include a shared vision and values for children. Over the coming months, the Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform will be considering ways to involve Canadians, to make this a truly national undertaking.

Aboriginal Peoples:

Second, Canada is concerned about the well being of Aboriginal families. The federal government is committed to working with First Nations on implementing the NCB in ways that address the complex nature of social development on reserves.

In a broader context, Gathering Strength, the formal response to the RCAP Final Report, and the ensuing Agenda for Action with First Nations outline the objectives and specific initiatives to reflect the mutual commitment of Aboriginal leaders and the federal government to a renewed relationship. One of the four major themes of the Agenda for Action is support to stronger First Nations communities and people. Included are measures to support healthy sustainable communities, enhance economic development, and increase individual and community self-reliance.

These initiatives also include measures to support the development of an economic base on reserves, through activities which build local capacities to encourage and facilitate welfare-to-work transitions. The federal government is working with First Nations to reform the on-reserve welfare system from passive to active case management, develop a new framework for the Social Assistance Program administered by the First Nations, and increase the First Nations' capacity to reduce welfare dependency through measures to increase employability and reduce poverty on reserves. Additional measures to support the labour market participation of Aboriginals are described under Q. 26.

Persons with Disabilities:

Third, Canada has taken steps to reduce the poverty conditions experienced by persons with disabilities. In March 1998, Canada received the UN Franklin Delano Roosevelt Award in recognition of its achievement over the years at integrating persons with disabilities to the social and economic life of the country. In receiving this award, the Prime Minister acknowledged that much remained to be done for Canadians with disabilities. As evidenced by their December 1997 commitment, First Ministers throughout Canada remain set on further progress for disabled persons (see Q. 27). Both the federal-provincial-territorial initiatives and the federal strategy for persons with disabilities will address the needs of Aboriginal people.
49. The Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission was quoted in the Globe and Mail on March 25, 1998 as saying: Poverty is a serious breach of equality rights which I believe has no place in a country as prosperous as ours. Does the Government agree with this statement?

The Government is committed to ensuring that all Canadians have a decent standard of living, with appropriate health care and education. Canada is fulfilling these commitments primarily through social benefits legislation and programs, bearing in mind the economic realities and the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments.
 50. What measures did the federal and provincial governments take to follow up on the recommendations of the Committee in 1993 to reduce the gap between welfare rates and the poverty line? Has this gap been reduced? If not, what is the explanation for the Government's failure to address this pressing need during a time of relative economic prosperity?

The design and administration of social assistance programs falls under the jurisdiction of provincial and territorial governments, and each provincial and territorial authority establishes its own social assistance benefit levels.

While the Federal Government plays no role in establishing social assistance benefit levels, it is committed to helping Canadians achieve a good standard of living. The Government has successfully put the nation's fiscal house in order and the prospects for long-term economic growth and employment are good. In keeping with the belief that the best solution to poverty is jobs, the Government has invested in a number of major initiatives to support labour market participation and thereby address poverty.

First, federal, provincial and territorial Ministers responsible for Social Services have agreed to an innovative and progressive approach for investing in children. Effective in July 1998, The National Child Benefit (NCB) expands and enhances the $7 billion that governments have provided for low- and middle-income families with children. The objectives of the NCB are to reduce the incidence and depth of child poverty and to promote attachment to the workforce - resulting in fewer families having to rely on provincial or territorial social assistance programs - by ensuring that families are better off as a result of employment.

As its initial participation to this initiative, the federal government is already providing $850 million to enhance the Canada Child Tax Benefit as a common income platform across the country. The federal government also undertook to increase its investment in the Canada Child Tax Benefit by another $850 million ($425 million in 1999 and $425 million in 2000). As Government of Canada funding for children's income support increases, provinces and territories will decrease social assistance payments for families with children and have begun to reinvest these newly available funds. These investments are targeted for improving work incentives, benefits and services for low income families with children. Overall income support to families on social assistance will remain at least the same. And when parents move from welfare to work, the NCB will ensure their children continue to receive needed financial assistance. (See National Child Benefit information kit provided separately for details on how the new program mentioned in paragraph 98 of the Report has been implemented.)

Canada's Youth Employment Strategy, the Canadian Opportunities Fund (described under Q.59), the Aboriginal Human Resources Development Strategy and Agenda for Action with First Nations (described under Q.48) and the new employability initiatives for persons with disabilities (described under Q.27), as well as recent reforms to Canada's Employment Insurance system (described in Q.32) are all examples of targeted Government measures which are contributing to labour market participation and the fight against poverty.

As well, the Old Age Security program and the maturing of the Canada and Quebec Pension Plans have helped to significantly reduce poverty among Canadian seniors. Rates of low income among seniors have declined from 33.6% in 1980 to 18.9% in 1996, reflecting improvements in Canada's pension systems.
51. It has been reported that in Canada, close to one in four persons with disabilities lives below the poverty line. What are the steps taken by the federal, provincial and territorial government to remedy this situation?

In 1991, there were almost twice as many adults with disabilities living in poverty as there were adults without disabilities (21.9 compared to 12.6%) in Canada. This is a serious concern for all levels of government, and a variety of measures have been taken on various fronts. The Government of Canada has introduced tax measures in each of its recent budgets to reduce the additional costs of having a disability. Federal, provincial and territorial governments are working to make disability supports and services available to those who need them and to make them portable across the various stages of life - from home to school to work - in order to reduce duplication of costs.

Because persons with disabilities who have paid employment are less likely to have low income than those who are unemployed or out of the labour force, governments have put an emphasis on active employment measures as described in response to Q.27. In Unison recognizes that disincentives to work compromise the economic independence of persons with disabilities. It supports more flexible and client-focused income programs that support incentives to work. Many government initiatives, while working at eliminating disincentives to work and encouraging economic independence, will continue to provide financial assistance when labour market participation of persons with disabilities is interrupted or not possible.

52. What are the implications of removing civil legal aid from federal-provincial cost-sharing which was previously under CAP? Do restrictions on civil legal aid deny the right to benefit from effective remedies in the case of violation of their economic and social rights or result in a hierarchy of rights with respect to access to justice?

Civil legal aid was previously funded under the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP) as an item of special need and since 1996-97 forms part of the block-funded Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST). The CHST provides provincial and territorial governments with greater flexibility to innovate and improve social programs. Administration of the programs, both civil and criminal legal aid, remains a provincial and territorial responsibility.

The Supreme Court of Canada will soon be considering whether s. 7 of the Charter guarantees a right to state-funded counsel in a non-criminal context. New Brunswick (Minister of Health and Community Services) v. J.G., which is scheduled for hearing this Fall, concerns the right of a parent to state-funded legal counsel to oppose a custody application by the Minister of Health and Community Services.
53. In 1993 the Government informed the Committee that section 7 of the Charter at least guaranteed that people are not to be deprived of basic necessities and may be interpreted to include rights under the Covenant, such as rights under article 11. Is that still the position of all governments in Canada?

The Supreme Court of Canada has stated that section 7 of the Charter may be interpreted to include the rights protected under the Covenant (see decision of Slaight Communications v. Davidson [1989] 1 S.C.R. 1038). The Supreme Court has also held section 7 as guaranteeing that people are not to be deprived of basic necessities (see decision of Irwin Toy v. A.-G. Québec, [1989] 1 S.C.R. 927). The Government of Canada is bound by these interpretations of section 7 of the Charter.
54. Does the Canadian government have any evidence of restrictions in access to health care for the poor? If so, what is the government doing to remedy this situation?

Canada has a publicly financed health care system that is best described as an interlocking set of ten provincial and two territorial health insurance plans, better known as "medicare". This system provides all residents of Canada with reasonable access to medically necessary hospital and physician services on a prepaid basis, and on uniform terms and conditions (patients are not required to pay at the time they receive medical attention). Under this universal system, rationing of health care services occurs on the basis of need, not financial means. As a result, waiting periods do exist for certain health care services. However, as reported in a recent study by the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy and Evaluation on waiting times for selected services in that province, waiting periods are fairly stable and not increasing. Rural residents do not wait longer for services than urban residents, women do not wait longer than men, and wealthy residents are not "bumped up" ahead of middle-or low income patients.

The Canada Health Act stipulates the criteria that provincial health insurance plans must meet in order for a province to The Canada Health Act stipulates the criteria that provincial health insurance plans must meet in order for a province to qualify for its full federal transfer payments. The five criteria are known as the principles of Canada's national health care system:

Public Administration

The health insurance plan of a province must be administered and operated on a non-profit basis by a public authority accountable to the provincial government.


The plan must insure all medically necessary services provided by hospitals and physicians. Insured hospital services include in-patient care at the ward level (unless private or semi-private rooms are medically necessary) and all necessary drugs, supplies and diagnostic tests, as well as a broad range of out-patient services. Chronic care services are also insured, although some payment in respect of accommodation costs may be required by patients who are more or less permanently resident in the institution.

The plan must entitle 100 percent of the insured population (i.e, eligible residents) to insured health services on uniform terms and conditions.


The plan must provide, on uniform terms and conditions, reasonable access to insured hospital and physician services without barriers. Additional charges to insured patients for insured services are not allowed. No one may be discriminated against on the basis of income, age, health status, etc.


Residents are entitled to coverage when they move to another province within Canada or when they travel within Canada or abroad. All provinces have some limits on coverage for services provided outside Canada, and may require prior approval for non-emergency out-of-province services.

Health Canada, as the federal department responsible for health, has also developed partnerships with provinces, territories, and key professional and grass-roots organizations to develop approaches to removing barriers to income support and non-insured medical services. Some examples of these approaches are: recognizing HIV/AIDS as a disability; improving coverage for food supplements and nutrition; improving outreach to marginalized persons and their families; and reviewing inequities between rural and urban services and services in different regions, including services to Aboriginal peoples.

55. The Committee understands that a high percentage of discharged psychiatric patients are ending up homeless. Please provide as accurate evidence as is available in relation to this problem and explain what is being done to address it.

Health Canada is not directly involved in issues dealing with the discharge of psychiatric patients. This is a matter dealt with primarily by provincial ministries of health, municipalities and hospitals.
56. Please provide any information available on the particular health problems of the homeless, including tuberculosis rates and identify any barriers faced by the homeless in getting access to appropriate health care.

Tuberculosis is an airborne infectious disease. Most individuals who are exposed to the bacteria that causes this disease and become infected do not go on to develop active infectious disease if they are in generally good health. Homeless individuals, however, are considered to be a high risk group for this disease. They are more likely to become exposed to this disease as a result of environmental conditions (e.g. overcrowding in shelters) and their general level of health and immunity is poorer (e.g. poor nutrition, other medical conditions), thus making them more likely to go on and develop active TB disease following infection compared to the general population.

Currently, no data are collected at the national level regarding TB cases among homeless individuals.

The total reported number of cases in Canada and the corresponding incidence rate per 100,000 over the past several years are as follows:

Year No. of cases Rate per 100,000

1990 - 1,997 7.2
1991 - 2,018 7.2
1992 - 2,108 7.4
1993 - 2,012 7.0
1994 - 2,074 7.1
1995 - 1,930 6.5
1996 - 1,849 6.2 (1996 figures due to be released publicly shortly)
 57. To what extent is increased reliance on expensive drug therapy for HIV/AIDS and other illnesses eroding universal access to health care? Will programs such as pharmacare be introduced to cover drug costs?

There is no evidence that increased reliance on expensive drug therapy for HIV/AIDS is eroding universal access to health care. However, for the working poor without a drug plan, access to these drugs is limited. This increases the likelihood that they will need more care and treatment than those who have easier access to required drug therapies. As well, the expanding HIV epidemics and advent of rapid HIV testing have implications on the demand and access to drug therapies. Health Canada is considering these implications through collaborative efforts with the Federal Provincial Territorial Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS and the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Pharmaceutical Issues.

Canadians' access to high cost drug therapies (e.g., for HIV/AIDS, Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis etc.), and the affordability of these drugs for public and private payers, are important issues facing Canada's health system.

The Canada Health Act (CHA) is the federal legislation which sets out the basic criteria and conditions that provincial and territorial health insurance plans must meet to qualify for federal transfer payments under the Canada Health and Social Transfer. Under the Act, provincial and territorial health insurance plans are required to provide their residents with medically necessary drugs received in the hospital free of charge. There is, however, no requirement for drugs received outside of hospitals.

Consequently, drugs outside of a hospital setting are financed by a combination of public and private payers, including federal, provincial and territorial governments (through pharmacare programs), private insurers (insurance companies, employers and unions), and individuals paying out-of-pocket.

The trend towards shorter hospital stays has resulted in a greater share of prescription drugs being financed outside of a hospital setting - effectively transferring drug costs from the institution to individuals. At the same time, the increasing role of drug therapy in health care (including increasing numbers of innovative, expensive drug therapies), and increasing spending on drugs (due to demographic, price and utilization factors) has placed pressure on public and private drug programs, and on individuals.

The National Forum on Health (1997) recommended establishing a single-payer, publicly financed system for pharmaceuticals. The federal government has since committed to "developing a national plan, timetable and a fiscal framework for providing Canadians with better access to medically necessary drugs" (Speech from the Throne, September 23, 1997).

The federal government's primary partner on any health issue, including pharmacare, is always the provinces and territories, given their jurisdiction in the delivery of health care. Health Canada is collaborating with provinces and territories to address important issues common to all of Canada's publicly financed drug programs, both through federal-provincial task forces and working groups, and by funding projects on pharmacare (one of four priority areas) under a $150 million Health Transition Fund. Consultations with the various other stakeholders will also be important.

How quickly the objective of national approaches to pharmacare can be achieved will depend on the availability of resources, the government's ability to fill the information gaps, and whether the federal government can reach agreement with provincial and territorial governments and other stakeholders.

58. What steps are being taken in Canada to ensure that charges in health service delivery do not adversely affect the most vulnerable groups in society?

The universality of Canada's health care system is the primary mechanism to ensure that changes in health service delivery do not adversely affect the most vulnerable groups in society. The federal health insurance legislation, the Canada Health Act (CHA), requires that medically necessary hospital and physician services be insured on a prepaid basis, and on uniform terms and conditions. The determination of medical necessity falls under provincial and territorial jurisdiction, as does the administration and delivery of health care services. Any service provided by a physician or in a hospital that is considered to be medically necessary in the treatment of disease or condition would be covered by provincial and territorial health insurance plans.

In addition to the provision of medically necessary hospital and physician services, provincial and territorial governments may also offer "additional benefits" at their own discretion. The decision whether to insure these additional services is made on the basis of population needs. One example of such services is prescription drug benefits.

In general terms, the combination of universal physician and hospital services and the additional benefits provided by the provinces and territories ensure that vulnerable groups in Canadian society are not denied access to quality care. Recent surveys on waits for a range of health care procedures, both urgent and non-urgent, demonstrate that there are not significant barriers to access.

However, there are always challenges related to the delivery of care. To meet these challenges, the federal, provincial and territorial governments continue to address a range of issues facing the health system. In 1997, federal, provincial and territorial Health Ministers established five working groups. One of which was to look at current difficulties in providing access to medical care in rural and remote areas.

Home and community care are already a vital and integral part of the health care system. In March 1998, the federal and provincial governments co-hosted a national conference on home care where delegates stressed the need to develop a common approach to home and community care.

Early FPT discussions are also underway on the development of selected system performance indicators which could be monitored both provincially and nationally to assess the quality of health services and help identify priorities for action to improve the overall care Canadians receive.

The increasing complexity of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Canada is making it harder to care for individuals and support their caregivers. More and more, these individuals exist outside the mainstream of our society, socially, economically and culturally. Under the Canadian Strategy on HIV/AIDS, poverty, inadequate housing, poor nutrition and financial need are being addressed through a national framework on HIV/AIDS and Mental Health and through a variety of education, prevention, research and community development initiatives.

As well, the Strategy's focus on facilitating access to equitable, timely and affordable HIV treatments influences much of the work undertaken on this issue by Health Canada in collaboration with its many partners under the Strategy including provinces and territories, community groups, individuals living with HIV/AIDS and the research and medical communities.

From a non-governmental perspective, there are a number of health policy and anti-poverty organizations, as well as other advocacy groups dealing with specific health issues, that play a role in monitoring shifts in health care delivery as they affect the marginalized in Canada.
59. The Committee has received information that between 1990 and 1995 the average tuition fees for post-secondary education rose by 62% in real terms. The average student debt at graduation seems to have almost tripled since 1990. What the steps taken to ensure that post-secondary education remains equally accessible to all, regardless of income?

According to Statistics Canada, average undergraduate tuition fees in Canada have increased by 51.2% not 62%, in real terms, during the period 1990 to 1995.

Canadian post-secondary students, historically, have paid a small proportion of the total costs of their education. This proportion, it is true, has been increasing in recent years, from 18% in 1993-94 to an estimated 24% in 1996-97. The remainder of direct operating costs is funded primarily through provincial education budgets.

It is should be noted that tuition fees are regulated by provinces or set by individual post-secondary institutions within provincial guidelines. The federal government recognizes provincial jurisdiction in this area and will not dictate tuition fee policy to the provinces.

Accurate figures on total student debt loads for the period in question have not been complied nationally due to the lack of data for provincial student assistance programs. Many provinces are now providing loans under these programs rather than grants and the impact of these on student debt loads is not yet known. However, based on data for the federal portion of the Canada Student Loans the average student debt load has increased from $9,382.00 in 1989-90 to $13,561 in 1996-97. This represents an increase of approximately 45%.

The Government of Canada has long been committed to equitable access to quality post-secondary education. Historically, it has provided substantial transfer payments to the provinces for education. Currently, under the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST), it provides a minimum of $25 billion per year to the provinces for health, education and other valued programs. A significant portion of these funds are directed to post-secondary education.

As well, the federal government historically has provided assistance directly to post-secondary students. Many students qualify for loans or grants under the Canada Student Loans program, 40 % of the funding for which is provided by the federal government, the remainder coming from provincial governments.

In addition, tuition fees are tax deductible in Canada and the average post-secondary student obtains a tax deduction amounting to approximately 25% of the cost of their fees. Students are also entitled to an education tax credit for each month in which they are enrolled in a post-secondary program. Both of these measures reduce the net costs to students of post-secondary education.

The Government of Canada recognizes that the recent increases in university tuition fees have increased the financial burden of obtaining a post-secondary education and has taken steps to reduce or eliminate financial barriers to post-secondary education. Among recent measures were the following.

1996 and 1997 Budgets

Increase in education tax credit from $80 to $200 per month;
Tuition tax credit extended to include mandatory fees;
Students allowed to carry forward unused portions of tax credits;
Interest relief on student loans extended for borrowers experiencing hardship;
Increase in contribution and lifetime limits for Registered Education Savings Plans;
Increase in internships and summer job placements provided through strengthening of Youth Employment Strategy.

1998 Budget

Under the Canadian Opportunities Strategy, announced in this budget, a comprehensive set of measures were provided to ensure all Canadians have equitable access to post-secondary education. These included:

Financial Assistance to Students: Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation of an average $3,000 per year to over 100,000 students starting in 2000; Canada Study Grants of up to $3,000 per year to needy students with children or other dependents

Support for Advanced Research and Graduate Students: Increased funding to granting councils.

Helping students manage debt loads: Tax relief for interest on student loans; improvements to Canada Student Loans Program to help individuals facing financial difficulties.

Helping Canadians to upgrade their skills: Tax-free withdrawals from RRSPs for life-long learning; tax relief for part-time students.

Encouraging families to save for education through Canada Education Savings Grants (20% of contributions to RESP, up to maximum of $400 per year).
The government also directly supports First Nations and Inuit access to post-secondary education. Support for education at the post-secondary level is available to eligible Treaty and status Indians and Inuit through DIAND's Post-Secondary Education (PSE) Program. It provides assistance with the cost of tuition fees, books and travel and living allowances when applicable. The objective is to support the increased participation and success of Indian and Inuit students in recognized PSE courses of study. From 1990 to 1995, the PSE budget increased by 38.4% from $189 to $263 million and the number of students assisted rose from 21,300 to 26,305.
60. At paragraph 372 of the Report, the Government reports on the results of the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) conducted in 1994 in Canada. Almost half of Canadians would appear to lack the minimal literacy skills necessary for coping and managing in such basic activities as, for example, comprehending a bus schedule. Can the Government provide the Committee with an estimate of the number of Canadians who are currently receiving literacy training and describe any strategies that are being considered to deal with this problem?

Canada was a leader among OECD nations in the development and management of the IALS. This survey has enabled us to understand the complex nature of literacy skills and their impact on the social and economic well-being of individuals. Through the IALS we have learned that industrialized nations around the world face a serious literacy challenge.

While the IALS reveals that there are a significant number of Canadians with low levels of literacy, Canada's literacy levels are strong overall. Among the English speaking nations participating in the IALS, Canada has the highest proportion of individuals scoring above Level 2.

Through the National Literacy Secretariat (NLS), created in 1987, the Federal Government has the mandate to act as a catalyst for literacy in Canada. The NLS works in partnership with provinces, the private sector, and voluntary organizations to develop resources to ensure that Canadians have access to the literacy skills that are the prerequisites for participation in a modern information society. The Government respects the provinces' and territories' jurisdiction over education and their mandate to deliver literacy training to Canadians. The Federal Government has no role in the direct delivery of literacy programs.

Since its creation, the NLS has been key to ensuring that literacy remains on the public agenda through support for the development of learning materials, increasing public awareness, supporting research, and the co-ordination of information sharing. In the changing environment of the 1990's, the NLS has fine-tuned its efforts to meet new challenges. New initiatives, supported by increased funding received through the 1997 Federal budget ($7 million), are acting to: strengthen and encourage literacy in the workplace; encourage workers to sustain an interest in learning throughout their careers and beyond; support the development of essential skills by low-literacy parents through the encouragement of the literacy skills of their children; and, strengthen literacy support mechanisms.

Each province delivers literacy training differently and has its own way of measuring success. It would be extremely difficult to determine how many Canadians currently receive literacy training. An analysis of one province demonstrates the complexity of this task, while providing some indication of numbers. In 1994-95, the province of Alberta had approximately 5,000 adult learners in academic upgrading programs, 2,000 adult learners in 14 skills training or ESL programs, 734 adult welfare recipients in literacy programs in post secondary institutions, 3,055 adult learners in government sponsored volunteer literacy programs, and 235 learners in Community Consortia programs. These numbers do not include literacy programs in the prisons, seniors' homes, and in many non government-sponsored programs (e.g. YMCA).

Strategies to help improve the literacy skills of Canadians are varied. A main challenge is to ensure that all Canadians have the necessary skills to adapt to an emerging knowledge-based economy and society. Under its Human Development Agenda, the Government has chosen to target Canadians with low skills and wages and those directly affected by the consequences of multiple barriers. Implementation of these priorities takes into account the needs of all Canadians at every stage of life; children, youth, adults of working age and seniors. The development of a lifelong learning culture in Canada is key to realizing this Human Development Agenda. Canadians must be encouraged to develop the essential skills that are the foundation for lifelong learning. Without essential skills such as literacy, Canadians cannot take advantage of life's opportunities.
61. What steps have been taken in Canada to extend knowledge of, and respect for, the culture of Aboriginal people?

A number of initiatives have been undertaken in recent years. RCAP had a very broad mandate and undertook extensive research and consultations. The government's response, Gathering Strength, included a Statement of Reconciliation, which said in part:

As Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians seek to move forward together in a process of renewal, it is essential that we deal with the legacies of the past affecting the Aboriginal peoples of Canada... Our purpose is not to rewrite history but, rather, to learn from our past and to find ways to deal with the negative impacts that certain historical decisions continue to have in our society today...

Some programs provide financial assistance to Indian and Inuit groups to preserve, develop, promote and express their cultural heritage. For example, the Cultural/Educational Centres Program provides funds to two national associations and 77 Indian and Inuit centres.

National Aboriginal Day, the International Day of the World's Indigenous People and the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards (NAAA) are celebrated in Canada. They are intended to celebrate and raise public awareness of Aboriginal culture, contributions and achievements
1. 0

Krahn, Harvey. "Non-standard work on the rise" in Perspectives. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. Winter 1995.

2. 0 ibid.

3. 3 The LICOs vary by family size and size of area of residence. They have no officially recognized status as measure of actual poverty, nor does Statistics Canada promote their use as poverty thresholds. However, they are often portrayed as such by advocacy organizations and the media.




[ Go to Canadian Social Research Links Home Page