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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) 
Newfoundland Government Response

3. What is the opinion of federal, provincial and municipal governments as to the effect of current or proposed trade and investment agreements such as NAFTA, FTAA and the MAI on their ability to fulfill obligations under the Covenant and what processes have been put in place to review these questions?

The Provincial Government states that there are no obligations set out in the Covenant which, on their face, cause any difficulties from the perspective of trade agreements although the broadness of the Convention could result in a party attempting measures to fulfill the intentions of the Covenant which would be contrary to trade obligations. Industry officials of the provincial Department of Trade and Technology are aware of the requirements of the Covenant.

The Municipal Governments have no recorded official opinion on this matter.

10. Please provide an estimate of the percentage of human rights complaints filed with each Human Rights Commission in Canada which are adjudicated and explain how this is consistent with the Committee's General Comment No. 3, para. 5.

The percentage of human rights complaints filed with the Newfoundland Human Rights Commission which are adjudicated is approximately 5%.

12. What is the Federal Government's and each provincial government's position with respect to whether "workfare" programs discriminate against welfare recipients and are contrary to article 2 of the Covenant?

Newfoundland does not participate in a workfare program for social assistance recipients. The Department of Human Resources and Employment is currently developing a case management approach which focuses on providing a continuum of services to allow an individual to move from dependence to permanent self-reliance.

14. What is the position of each Human Rights Commission (with the exception of Quebec's) on whether "social condition" should be added as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the light of article 2 of the Covenant, and what is the position of the provincial and federal governments on this question?

The Newfoundland Human Rights Commission has no recorded official position on this matter.

15. Please state whether children of non-nationals of Canada seeking to stay in Canada are denied access to social services and benefits, education or medical care which children of Canadians have access to.

Children of non-nationals have access to the social assistance program and services to health care and education.

18. Have provinces responded by cutting social assistance rates of entitlement? Please provide information from each province about changes which have occurred from April 1995 to the present day, and any effect on the extent or depth of poverty.

The only major change by Newfoundland was in response to the change in policy of the Canada Assistance Plan requiring consideration be given to family resources before allowing social assistance for a single able bodied person between ages 18-21.

20. With respect to the negotiations by the Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal mentioned in paragraph 86 of the Report, are the federal and provincial governments committed to restoring legal enforceability of the right to adequate financial assistance?

The Province is committed to the right of adequate financial assistance, however, adequate financial assistance is to be defined provincially and not based on a nationally applied standard.

21. Describe any monitoring procedures established by governments to measure the effect of the 40% (($6 Billion) cut in the amount of cash transferred by the Federal Government for social assistance, health and post secondary education between April 1995 and the end of fiscal year 1999-2000. What common effects have become evident throughout Canada?

There have been no new monitoring procedures developed since 1995/96. The Department of Human Resources & Employment continue to monitor and report as they did prior to the change.

24. Please provide information on any provinces which require participation in "workfare" or similar programs and describe the appeal procedures in place with respect to any disentitlement from basic necessities on this ground. Are these programs applied to single parents, and if so, what exceptions apply? Is the Committee correct to assume that these programs would have been illegal under CAP?

Newfoundland does not maintain a workfare program.

27. According to Statistics Canada, in 1991 over 40% of people with disabilities received no employment income compared to 18.5% for people without disabilities and the unemployment statistics for people with disabilities are among the highest of all minority groups. What are the steps taken by the federal, provincial and territorial governments to remedy this situation?

51. It has been reported that in Canada, close to one in four persons with disabilities live below the poverty line. What are the steps taken by the federal, provincial and territorial governments to remedy this situation?

Based on this 1991 survey, about 25% of disabled people in Newfoundland are employed. In May 1998 this Province and Human Resources and Development, Canada signed the Employability Assistance for Persons with Disabilities (EAPD) Agreement. The implementation of this Agreement will be guided by, among others, the following principles:

(a) direct support of employability through programs and services designed to reduce barriers to employment and enable people with disabilities to prepare for, obtain or maintain employment;

(b) focus on individual needs and participation through a range of measures from pre-employment support to short term assistance to employment support directed to the individual's needs; recognizing individuals' knowledge of their own employability and labour market requirements; with provision for appeal mechanisms to ensure fair application of provincial legislation and policies; and

(c) flexibility in the Province's development and delivery of programs and services appropriate to requirements of participants and to its labour market objectives, priorities and circumstances.

28. Please provide information as to the minimum wage rate in various provinces and territories and any changes in its real value over the last few years. Please indicate how the income from a full time job at minimum wage compares with the poverty line. What do the federal and provincial governments intend to do to ensure that minimum wages are adequate?

Newfoundland's minimum wage as of April 1, 1997 for persons 16 year of age and older was $5.25.

The Consumer Price Index for 1997 was $108.2 for Newfoundland and Labrador. The base year is 1992, i.e. 1992 = 100. This means that the cost of goods in this Province increased 8.2% from 1992 to 1997. Our minimum wage went from $4.75 on April 1, 1991 to $5.00 on September 1, 1996 to $5.25 on April 1, 1997 which is a 5% increase over a 6 year period.

Comparison between income from a full time job at minimum wage and the low income cut off level:

Minimum Wage Farmer Low-Income Cut-Off Level

40 hours per week at $5.25 per hour = 2 persons living in any rural area

$210 per week (gross) in Canada $14,799.00

210 x 52 weeks - $10,920.00 (gross)

*This amount is gross pay 2 persons living in any urban centre

CCP, EI and Income Tax have in Canada whose population is

to come out of this amount between 100,000-500,000 people


4 persons living in any rural area in Canada $22,279.00

4 persons living in any urban centre in Canada whose population is between 100,000 and 500,000


The Provincial Government under the authority of the Labour Standards Act has the Labour Standards Board conduct a review of the regulations made under the Labour Standards Act including minimum wage and make recommendations to the Minister.

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 justification for denying these workers collective bargaining rights accorded to other workers?

With respect to the rights of farm workers and domestic workers to organize and bargain collectively section 5(1) of the Labour Relations Act, RSN 6 ch. L-1 states that an employee has the right to be a member of a trade union and to participate in its activities. "Employee" as defined by the Labour Relations Act is a person employed to do skilled or unskilled manual, clerical or technical work and includes a professional employee and a manager or superintendent or other person who, in the opinion of the board, exercises management functions or is employed in a confidential capacity in matters relating to labour relations. There have been no changes to provincial labour legislation affecting the right of domestic workers or farm workers.

35. Are there any provinces in Canada in which a person in need of financial assistance may have such assistance discontinued without a hearing or be denied interim assistance for basic necessities pending a hearing before an impartial adjudicator? Please provide information as to any cases in which this issue has been considered by the court and the positions taken by responding governments in those cases.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the Social Assistance Appeal Board created under the authority of the Social Assistance Act 9 RSN ch. S-17 which deals with complaints with respect to financial assistance.

36. Please estimate what it costs on average to meet the special needs arising from pregnancy and caring and providing for a new born, including special dietary needs, etc. Are these special needs provided for in social assistance rates for pregnant women? Please provide information about any changes in those benefits.

There are three special benefits paid on top of regular benefits to expectant mothers who are in receipt of social assistance: 1) pregnancy allowance paid from date the Department is informed of the pregnancy to the date of birth - $45 per month; 2) mother, baby, food allowance for one year after child's birth - $45 per month; and 3) for single individuals with a new child a single parent supplement is allowed - $57 per month.

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.

39. What proportion of children who use food banks go hungry and how often do parents go hungry?

Data not available.

40. Explain how school food programs fit into federal and provincial strategies to address hunger and how the government intends to ensure that the dignity of children and their parents is respected in those programs?

In 1994 the School Children's Food Foundation was formed. The School Children's Food Foundation established Standards and Guidelines for Child Food Programs and will fund any program that meets these standards. The Foundation will consider any program where the need has been established and the community is willing to invest volunteer time and effort, but is unable to sustain the program financially due to economic circumstances in the area. There are currently fifty six programs across the province. This year the provincial government contributed $1,000,000. to the Foundation to establish and sustain child food programs for the next five to ten years.

Dignity of children and parents is respected in a couple of different ways. If there is a caterer currently in the school, parents can pick up tickets at the local food bank for their children to bring to school to use to purchase meals. Children can either pay for the meal or charge it. The tickets are the same as if the child were charging the meal and therefore not stigmatized in any way. As well, some schools that do not have caterers currently in place simply adopt an open door policy whereby students receive breakfast if they wish. This results in students arriving for breakfast for many reasons and not just those who can't afford it, thus creating a positive social climate.

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?

Data not available. However, there are very few homeless in this Province.

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.

Date not available.

48. According to the 1996 Report of the National Council of Welfare (Poverty Profile 1996), 91.3% of families led by single-parent mothers under 25 live below the level of poverty. Child poverty is at a 17 year high of 20.9% meaning that nearly 1.5 million children live in poverty in Canada. Although the last recession ended in 1991, poverty rated 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?

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 government has taken a number of steps to address poverty among social assistance recipients:

- monthly benefits were increased by 2% in 1998 with a further 2% increase scheduled for April 1999.

- increased earnings exemptions (to $150) for families with children.

- families allowed to keep benefits under the National Child Benefits Program which were originally to be clawed back.

- increased the monthly child care exemption.

- exploring extended drug card use after person exits social assistance program.

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 the situation?

Newfoundland provides medical care and hospital services in accordance with the Canada Health Act.

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.

The number of homeless in Newfoundland and Labrador is low. There is no information on any particular health problem of this group. There have been no barriers identified for the homeless getting access to appropriate health care.

59. The Committee has received information that between 1990 and 1995 the average tuition fees for post-secondary education rates rose by 62% in real terms. The average student debt at graduation seems to have almost tripled since 1990. What are the steps taken to ensure that post-secondary education remains equally accessible to all, regardless of income?

As reported in the public accountability document Postsecondary Indicators '98, post secondary tuition fees have indeed increased since 1990. Between 1991/92 and 1996/97 the tuition fees at Memorial University increased by 72.9%. The highest year to year increase in tuition (17.6%) occurred in 1993/94.

Basic tuition fees also increased steadily at public colleges in recent years. The annual percentage increases have been generally higher that at the university, but as tuition fees are much lower the increases in actual dollars have not been as large. Since 1989/90, fees increased by 175% from $480 to $1320 for two semesters.

Based on information supplied to the Department of Education, average per semester tuition fees in the private college system were the highest of all forms of post-secondary education. For 1996-97 per semester tuition was $4,594 or $9,188 for two semesters.

Student Debt

Student debt is becoming a significant social concern and is high on the public agenda. Government is becoming increasingly concerned with high default rates on loans combined with record levels of student borrowing. As is the case for the rest of Canada, the most current data show default ratios in Newfoundland lowest for the university graduates and highest for graduates of private colleges.

Equality and Accessibility

Both the Canada and Newfoundland Student Loan Programs are needs-based and are intended to supplement the resources of students and their families. An underlying principle of these programs is that financial need should not be a barrier to students wishing to pursue post-secondary education and training. However, not all students are eligible under the Loans Programs, and for those that are, the amount of assistance available may not be sufficient to cover all costs related to the program of studies.

Students apply for a loan for a designated institution (i.e. university, public college, private college, etc. ...) and the financial need is determined through a standard needs assessment which considers both the costs of studies (i.e. tuition, books, living costs, transportation, etc. ...) and the resources available to the student. For private colleges, most have an assessed need greater than the amount student aid can provide, thus resulting in an unmet need.

One way accessibility is increased is in the form of a federal grant available to students with dependants. Students with 1 or 2 children can receive $40 per week up to the maximum of the unmet need. Students with more than 2 children can receive $60 per week up to the maximum of the unmet need. Also, students with disabilities can receive up to $5000 per academic year. Lastly, there is a Special Opportunity Grant available for female doctoral students in specific fields of study (e.g. Engineering and Applied Sciences, Agricultural and Biological Sciences, Math and Physical Sciences, Arts, Social Sciences and Related Fields).

Loans Remission

Loan Remission is a form of loan forgiveness, whereby a payment of principal is made by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to the financial institution holding a student's loan. The initiative is an effort by government to reduce the loan debt of graduates meeting the eligibility criteria. In order to qualify for Loan Remission on Newfoundland & Labrador Student Loans, students must satisfy certain conditions:

- Graduation from a qualifying program of study of at least 80 weeks in duration.

- Graduation must have occurred within the number of study periods normally specified for completion of that program plus a grace period of one academic year.

- The combined Canada and Newfoundland Student Loan debt accumulated during the program of studies must exceed a minimum debt threshold.

Designation of Programs for Student Aid Eligibility

Provinces across the Country have engaged in a series of meetings and discussions aimed at adjusting Student Aid Programs to better meet the needs of students. This issue was also a highlight on the agenda of the Premiers meeting in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on August 6-7, 1998.

In an effort to restrict student loans to programs where there is a reasonable likelihood of sustained employment, the Department of Education in this province has established a working group to examine the issue of the designation and de-designation of post-secondary educational programs for student aid purposes. Programs would be closely monitored through graduate follow-up data and could be re-designated as student loans eligible, depending on graduate success in the workplace and ability to repay their loans.

Millennium Scholarship

In September 1997, the Government of Canada announced the creation of millennium scholarships. The goal is primarily to give as many people as possible access to post-secondary education. In the 1998 federal budget, the Government of Canada announced that it would make $2.5 billion available for millennium scholarships, beginning this year. This province will provide $4,000,000 for awards to students based on need and academic achievement. More than 4,000 awards of up to $1,000 each will be available over the next two years until the introduction of the Canada Millennium Scholarships.

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?

During the 1995-96 school year there were approximately 4100 students enrolled in Adult Basic Education programs in Newfoundland and Labrador in both the public and private colleges.

An extensive telephone survey was administered to over 2300 students involved in the Adult Basic Education program during the 1997-98 school year. Currently a report is being written describing the findings of this survey. In addition, there is a similar survey planned for the 1998-99 school year for Community Drop-In Centers offering Adult Basic Education.

At the beginning of the year, a Literacy Development Council of Newfoundland and Labrador was established to develop a Strategic Plan. The Plan will look at literacy for all ages, both within and outside the formal education system. A Literacy Strategic Planning Unit has been established and a Steering Committee consisting of stakeholders has been meeting on a regular basis to provide guidance.

As well, a provincial committee on early literacy has been established at the Department of Education to develop a strategic plan for early literacy.

61. What steps have been taken in Canada to extend knowledge of, and respect for, the culture of aboriginal people?

The Province is committed to a positive relationship with aboriginal peoples. This has been evidenced by the Province's participation in tripartite land claim negotiations with the Inuit and Innu and in ongoing self-government discussions with both groups. The Province has also indicated a willingness to participate to the extent of provincial jurisdictions and policies in judicial self-government initiatives with the Conne River Mikmaq Band on its reserve in Conne River. The Federal-Provincial-Aboriginal Memorandum of Understanding on the environmental assessment of the Voisey's Bay Nickel Development in 1997, marked a significant step in co-operation between governments and aboriginal groups. The MOU was the first time in the Province Aboriginal Groups involved in tripartite land claims negotiations participated in such a manner in the environmental assessment process.

The Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation has prepared a Heritage Guide which features aboriginal tourism aspects of the Province especially art and craft work from Labrador. Also, Mi'kmaq drumming is featured, an integral part of a new aboriginal tourism experience offered in the Province as part of the "Spirit Wind" performance, which has been supported by the provincial government under the Federal/Provincial Cultural Industries Agreement.

The brochure also features many of the Province's aboriginal archaeological sites, many of which are interpreted for visitors explaining the history of the several aboriginal peoples that have inhabited this geographic area.  


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