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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)

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Nova Scotia 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 this question?

The goals of economic growth (global and domestic) , expanded production and employment opportunities , and non-discrimination are considered to be compatible and complementary to the objectives and obligations of the Covenant. As such, there are no processes at present to review the effects of such agreements on the Covenant. It is recognized , however, that negotiations will in future increasingly need to grapple with the realities of North-South issues , the rights of transnational enterprises vis-a-vis nation states, and the enhancement and enforcement of standards (e.g. health, environmental , work-related, educational, consumer protection) which should benefit the citizens of all countries.

10. Please provide the Committee with information from each Human Rights commission in Canada about cases in which the Covenant has been used in interpreting or applying human rights legislation.

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has had no such cases.

Discrimination because of income or social condition

12. What is the Federal Governmen''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? Please explain the Government of Quebec's position in the Lambert case.

The Province of Nova Scotia does not require individuals to work in order to receive welfare. Nova Scotia has an employment support program to assist individuals to move to self reliance.

14. What is the position of each Human Rights Commission (with the exception of Quebec=s) on whether Asocial 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 Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has not submitted additional grounds of discrimination for consideration by the Nova Scotia legislature.

The Human Rights Act meets the obligation listed in Article 2 as it relates to "social origin"

The Human Rights Act does prohibit discrimination on the basis of source of income. The majority of the persons who lodge complaints on this ground are individuals who are in receipt of social assistance. The Human Rights Act also prohibits discrimination on the basis of family status, marital status and physical or mental disability which provides additional protection in areas linked to social origin or social condition.

18. Have provinces responded by cutting social assistance rates or entitlements? 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 Nova Scotia has increased not decreased social assistance rates. Individuals who require assistance to meet basic needs and special needs are provided with that assistance.

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?

Provincial Premiers, at their 1997 meeting, approved a set of principles to generate the negotiations on Social Policy Renewal, included the principle that, ASocial Programs must be accessible and serve the basic needs of all Canadians@.

21. Describe any monitoring procedures established by governments as well as non-governmental agencies 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 the fiscal year 1999-2000. What common effects have become evidence throughout Canada?

In the area of education, monitoring has been addressed regionally through the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, with our colleagues in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Together we have produced the Survey of 1995 University Graduates and the Survey of 1996 University Graduates, and completed the Accessibility to Post-Secondary Education in the Maritimes in October 1997.

The most noticeable effects of the reduction to government funding for budgets of educational institutions have been significant increases in tuition fees and a greater disparity in average faculty salary levels as compared to other jurisdictions. Nova Scotia has attempted to compensate for the effect of tuition fee increases upon students with the Student Loan Remission Program (refer to response to question 59 for further details).

In the area of health, the impacts of the changes to provincial revenues resulting from the CHST is determined in Nova Scotia at the provincial level, rather than by individual departments. Thus, all aspects of government expenditure shared in the impact of these funding reductions. In terms of the services provided under the auspices of the Department of Health, the impacts have been hospital bed reductions, hospital closures or conversions to community health centres, wage freezes and roll-backs, increased mobility of physicians and other health care service providers, increased co-pay for some supplementary health programs, etc. However, there is no evidence to suggest that health status or health care outcomes have been impacted. It should also be noted that there has been a net increase in provincial health care funding to health, not a decrease, as the question seems to suggest.

There is increased interest and activity across Canada in the area of evaluating the effectiveness and outcomes of the health care system. Statistics in Nova Scotia show that waiting times for a number of elective surgical procedures have actually declined over the past several years.

22. Did the previous cost-sharing of all social assistance costs and specific social programs for vulnerable groups mean that in times of greater need or in regions of greater needs, the Federal Government contributed more? Please provide information on the types of services which are no longer 50:50 cost shared, report on any reductions in those services since 1995 and provide information about the effects of any changes on vulnerable groups.

Prior to the onset of Established Programs Financing in 1977, most provincial health spending on hospitals and physicians was 50:50 cost shared between the two levels of government. As beneficial as this was, it did create an incentive, often inappropriately, to spend in these areas rather than in other areas which might have exerted a greater impact on the health of the population. With the advent of the CHST which replaced earlier EPF arrangements and the CAP program for social programs, there are no longer any 50:50 cost sharing schemes.

24. Please provide information on any provinces which require participation in Aworkfare@ 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?

Nova Scotia does not require social assistance recipients to participate in workfare.

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?

The Province of Nova Scotia continues to provide employment focussed support through a federally funded program, the Employment Assistance for People with Disabilities (EAPD). The social assistance delivery system encourages and supports people with disabilities to move toward self-reliance. Additionally, federal and provincial authorities have worked collaboratively to jointly deliver similar programs and services to people with disabilities.

28. Please provide information as to the minimum wage rate in various provincials 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?

The current minimum wage was set at$5.50 an hour for experienced employees on February 1, 1997. This rate is currently under review. Previous rate increases were made on October 1, 1996 and January 1, 1993. The Labour Standards Code requires the Minister of Labour to conduct an annual review of the Minimum Wage Rate. One of the factors considered in setting the rate is the Consumer Price Index which takes into account the change in real value. Although the Minimum Wage is considered by leading experts to be a poor anti-poverty tool, the Minister is informed of Statistics Canada's low income measures at the time of the minimum wage review. Currently, the low income cut-off for a family of one is between $11,839-$14,694 depending on the geographic area. Assuming a 37 hour work week the annual income for an individual receiving the minimum wage is: $10,582.

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

Data not available.

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?

Under the Trade Union Act domestic workers and farm workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively. Currently there are no certifications from the Department of Labour for either farm workers or domestic workers employed in private homes. It is reasonable to assume that this is due in part to the fact that these types of operations do not generally employ large numbers of employees.

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.

There are various levels of internal review mechanisms before a final decision is made with respect to denial or termination of assistance. In some cases where assistance in terminated or denied, emergency assistance can be provided pending an independent review by an appeal tribunal.

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.

Twenty-nine dollars per month is provided to income assistance and family benefits clients for maternal nutritional allowance during pregnancy and up to four months after the birth of a child. Nutritional counselling is also available from the Department of Health. Pregnant women are also eligible to receive additional funds for special diets which are medically prescribed.

The costs associated with medical care alone (delivery as well as pre- and post-natal care) are well over $1,000. An expectant mother=s diet based on Canada=s Food Guide with milk products, meant and meat alternatives, grain products, fruit and vegetables is essential. Extra amounts of calcium, iron and folic acid are necessary during pregnancy. Breast milk is the only food ideally suited to the needs of newborns. Breast-feeding women require an adequate diet to sustain this. The 1995 Nova Scotia Health Survey showed that breastfeeding levels have risen, with more than 40% of new mothers breastfeeding for at least one month.

Social assistance rates are adjusted according to family size, but not in response to the nutritional requirements of pregnancy.

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 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?

Nova Scotia does not collect or maintain data on food bank usage and cannot verify or negate the correctness of the statements contained in the questions.

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.

Data not available; see response to question 37.

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

Data not available; see response to question 37.

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?

Many of the programs are supported by donations and staffed by volunteers and community service groups. This allows them to operate at minimal or no cost to the participants. The schools are responsible for ensuring discretion is used in program delivery so that the dignity of the children is protected. School guidance counsellors play a significant role in this by protecting the recipient students' self-esteem.

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?

No one in Nova Scotia needs to be without a home. Funding is available to provide for basic shelter costs and items of basic need, i.e., food, clothing as well as special needs items, e.g., prescription drugs.

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.

The Nova Scotia Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs does not have detailed data on provincial housing programs that differentiates indicators of adequacy between Aboriginal housing and other types of housing.

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 Amaximum 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 Nova Scotia Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs has no official position on the matter.
 

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 1992, 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?

Nova Scotia provides funding to meet an individual=s basic needs for food, clothing and shelter.

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 no, what is the explanation for the government=s failure to address this pressing need during a time of relative economic prosperity?

See answer to Question 48.
 

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 governments to remedy this situation?

Persons with disabilities are entitled to receive allowances for basic needs i.e., food, clothing and shelter. As well as items of special needs, e.g., special diets. They are also eligible for employment assistance to assist them in becoming self-reliant.

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 Ahierarchy of rights@ with respect to access to justice?

Civil legal aid continues to be funded through the Canada Health and Social Transfer payments. Nova Scotia continues to provide an extensive civil legal aid program. In the last fiscal year - 1997-98, 49% of provincial legal aid funding was applied to the civil legal aid program. This program, with other options that may be available including class action proceedings, contingency fee arrangements and pro bono legal services provide a variety of avenues for persons to resource the conduct of litigation to seek remedies for the violation of economic and social rights.

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?

It remains the position of Nova Scotia.

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?

Two of the principles of the Canada Health Act are universality (every citizen is eligible) and accessibility (access is based on medical need, not ability to pay). However, some studies have suggested an inverse relation between income levels and utilization of health care services. People residing in rural or isolated areas often utilize health care services less because they have to travel further to access them.

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.

The requested data is not available for Nova Scotia.

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.

Adequate housing, employment, nutrition, hygiene and social supports are very important determinants of health status in any population. Higher rates of many diseases are commonly associated with low socio-economic status. Tuberculosis has not been seen among the homeless in Nova Scotia.

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?

The cost and accessibility of high cost drugs is major concern for the Department of Health. However, the costs associated with these drugs have been adding to the cost, rather than eroding access to other services. All provinces in Canada are facing the same challenges in this regard and have begun some discussions with the federal government around options for a national pharmacare program. Currently, high cost drugs are covered under a variety of programs for clients in particular target categories.

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

The presence and enforcement of the Canada Health Act serves to prevent any significant reduction in hospital or medical services to any Canadian. Nova Scotia is working with other provinces and territories to persuade the federal government to restore a large portion of transfers which were lost under the CHST.

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 are the steps taken to ensure that post-secondary education remains equally accessible t all, regardless of income?

Nova Scotia recognized the potential threat to accessibility for low income students because of the increase in debt loads so implemented a Loan Remission Program. Students with the highest annual debt levels who successfully complete their year can apply to have their provincial debt repaid by as much as 70%. Students were slow to begin using this program so steps were taken to increase its profile. As a result, Loan Remission spending increased from $3.6 M in 1996-97 to $6.6 M in 1997-98.

In consultation with university officials, the Province has undertaken a study on student loan defaulters in an attempt to identify those at risk. This will assist in the development of public policy on debt management issues. As sixty percent of a student=s debt is federal student loan and there is an ongoing process to harmonize the Canada and Nova Scotia Student Loan Programs, one alternative to be considered is adopting the recently announced federal strategy of focussing debt reduction on the repayment stage, rather than during study, to assist those borrowers having difficulty meeting their payments.

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 to 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?

It is difficult to estimate the number of individuals who are engaged in literacy programs in Nova Scotia because of varying definitions of what literacy consists of and the numerous literacy service providers, some of which are not required to report their activities to the Department of Education and Culture. Based upon current information, we can estimate that over 3,500 Nova Scotians are currently enrolled in literacy and upgrading programs.

The following initiatives have been implemented to assist Nova Scotians in improving their literacy and numeracy skills :

Community Learning Initiative - provides grants, practitioner training, and support to 27 community-based Learning Networks for the delivery of adult literacy and upgrading.

Workplace Education Initiative - a partnership of business, labour, and government to provide grants and other supports for workplace education programs to upgrade essential workplace skills and community living.

Labour Market Development Secretariat - coordinates provincial activities related to the administration and implementation of the Canada-Nova Scotia Agreement on a Framework for Strategic Partnerships. Literacy has been identified as a key initiative under the Agreement for 1998-99.

Adult Education Initiative - a process under development to form a series of federal-provincial working committees to coordinate the existing life long learning continuum by identifying gaps and overlaps which currently exist in literacy and upgrading programs for adults.

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

The Council on Mi'kmaq Education makes recommendations to the Minister of Education and Culture for addressing the needs of Mi'kmaq students in public schools. The Department has also established the Mi'kmaq Services Division to provide leadership, direction, and planning for the development and implementation of programs and services to ensure Mi'kmaq Nova Scotians benefit from a fully supportive learning environment in the public schools and on adult education.

The Education Act defines Mi'kmaq education as the development of programs, resources, and learning materials that provide information about and promote understanding of the Mi'kmaq and their history, heritage, language, culture, traditions, and contributions to society, and that recognize their origins as First Nations people. Two initiatives which were implemented in September 1998 to address this objective were,

(1) Mi'kmaq Studies course - developed at the Grade 10 level to enable students (both Mi'kmaq and others) to achieve a greater understanding of, and respect for, Mi'kmaq contributions to society

(2) Mi'kmaq Language course - developed at the Grade 7 level to provide an option for non-Mi'kmaq speakers to study the language in place of the required French language course. Curriculum is currently being developed to continue this line of study at the Grade 8 and 9 levels.

Other initiatives include:

- development of a Bachelor of Education program which includes cultural diversity and Mi'kmaq language as required components to address the need for qualified Mi'kmaq teachers for the province's education system;

- training for Mi'kmaq Education Counsellors on career counselling for aboriginal youth;

- teaching permits provided to elders and other Mi'kmaq people with specialized arts, language, and cultural knowledge, providing the recipients with the means to take an active role in the province's schools, particularly during Mi'kmaq History Month in October of each year;

- appointment of a Mi'kmaq representative to regional school boards in the province to provide them a voice at the regional level;

- on February 14, 1997, a Tripartite Agreement with respect to Governance of Education was signed by Mi'kmaq First Nations of Nova Scotia, the Federal Government, and the Province of Nova Scotia acknowledging Mi'kmaq jurisdiction for education on-reserve in Nova Scotia.

74. In many rural areas, the Nova Scotia government cut back on access to specific health services such as dental care or medical transportation. How is this situation compatible with the right of all Nova Scotia residents to health?

The Department of Community Services provides transportation for medical and dental appointments to persons who are in financial need.

During the past few years, emergency health services, dental services and home care services, among others, have expanded. Although some rural hospitals have undergone changes in their roles, there have been no overall cutbacks to funding of health programs in rural areas.



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