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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)

Government Response to the List of Issues
9. Please provide to 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.

In the event that the Committee would like to pursue this matter with the Fair Practices Office, the address is:
Fair Practices Office of the Northwest Territories
Box 1920
Yellowknife, NT
X1A 2P4
Tel: 867-920-8764
Fax: 867-873-0489

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. Can the Government of Quebec explain how its system is different and provide an estimate of the percentage of human rights complaints in Quebec that are not dismissed?

The population of the Northwest Territories is small. Accordingly, the number of complaints filed is very small. Few result in hearings. For those complaints that fit within the ambit of the Fair Practices Act, negotiated settlements are encouraged.

 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?

An official position does not exist in the Northwest Territories on whether Asocial condition@ should be added to the Fair Practices Act as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

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 fiscal year 1999-2000. What common effects have become evident throughout Canada?

The Government of the Northwest Territories did not see an effect in the areas of health and social services due to the cut in the amount of cash transferred by the Federal Government. In 96-97 the Canada Health and Social Transfer funding replaced it and is still ongoing.

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?

The current minimum wage rates in the Northwest Territories came into effect on April 1, 1991 and were set out in Canada=s Third Report at paragraph 1740.

As minimum wages are established in the Labour Standards Act, the valuation of minimum wages is determined by the Legislative Assembly.

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?

There is no legislative impediment that would limit or stop farm workers or domestic workers from organizing themselves in collective bargaining units. The Labour Standards Act is the legislation of most import to workers in the Northwest Territories. It recognizes "trade unions" without limiting who may participate in these.

On a practical level, there are not sufficient farm workers in the Northwest Territories to make it likely or feasible that they would organize and bargain collectively.

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?

Changes in cost-sharing arrangements in respect of legal aid may have had an adverse effect upon the public=s ability to seek civil remedies in respect of social or economic rights such as seeking or varying child support, custody or access. The Legal Services Board is concerned about maintaining the level of service to the public.

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 11.1 Is that still the position of all governments in Canada?

An official position does not exist in the Northwest Territories on the interpretation of whether section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms includes the protection of social and economic rights.

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?

There are no identified restrictions in access to health care for the poor in the Northwest Territories.

55. The Committee understands that a high percentage if 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 doe to address it.

The percentage of discharged psychiatric patients that end up homeless is very small, but for those who do there are group homes and local support mechanisms.

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 Northwest Territories has a small population, and the amount of homeless people is also very small. There is no collected data on the particular health problems of the homeless.

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 number of people taking drug therapy for HIV/AIDS is very small; therefore, the costs are negligible for the Government of the Northwest Territories.

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?

One way that changes in health service delivery are addressed so that the impact on vulnerable groups is minimal, is the participation of committees in health care delivery so that many interests are represented. Committees can assess the impact on the population and make the necessary modifications before changes are implemented.

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 to all, regardless of income?

Aboriginal students and students who have attended school in the NWT are eligible for a basic grant that covers tuition for up to $1250 per semester. All students may also apply for a needs assessed loan to cover high tuition expenses. A public consultation and review of the current NWT Student Financial Assistance Program has led to the development of a redesigned program model. If approved it will include increased grants for tuition, remissible loans for living expenses, and new debt reduction and repayment measures.

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?

The following strategies address literacy:

The Adult Basic Education program is delivered primarily through the 38 community learning centres of the two public colleges as well as through some community based agencies. The program provides academic preparation from a basic literacy level to a Grade 12 level. This program prepares students for further education, training, employment and community participation. Approximately 400 students participate annually in Adult Basic Education on a full-time basis.

The goals of the Community Literacy Programs Fund and Aboriginal Languages Literacy Projects are to encourage the active involvement of community organizations in the development and support of local literacy education. Approximately 300 individuals participate annually in literacy related activities, primarily on a part-time or short term basis.

For the academic years of 1994 to 1999, the Northern Skills Development Program has funded the public colleges to provide literacy, life skills and employment preparation for income support recipients. In 1997 to 1998 24 communities, without base funded adult education services, received funding under this program so that full or part-time adult basic education programming would be available in all communities. Approximately 200 individuals participated in these programs last year.

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

In the establishment policy for the former Department of Culture and Communications, currently part of the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, the GNWT identified the following principles in directing the Department to carry out its mandate:

  • Preservation, development and revitalization of Aboriginal languages in the Northwest Territories is vital to cultural enhancement and the provision of multilingual services.
  • Support for cultural and artistic endeavours encourages the preservation and promotion of cultural diversity and lifestyles in the Northwest Territories.
  • Professional museum and heritage programs assist people to protect and interpret their own history and preserve and strengthen their traditional knowledge and culture.

  • Several Government of the Northwest Territories Policies and Directives support grants, contributions and services for arts, cultural and heritage activities including (numbers preceding titles are policy numbers):
      17.00 Establishment Policy, Culture and Communications, January 10, 1989
    17.01 Culture and Communications Grants and Contributions Policy, April 6 1990
    17.02 Northwest Territories Arts Council, May 16, 1989
    17.03 Geographical and Community Names Policy, May 28, 1990
    17.05 Heritage Services Policy, October 20, 1993
    17.06 Northwest Territories Archives Policy, October 20, 1993
    17.07 Collections Disposal Policy, October 20, 1993
    17.08 Heritage Grants and Contributions Policy, October 20, 1993
    Knowledge of and respect for the culture of Aboriginal people is also extended through the school curriculum.

    80. The new welfare program of the NWT provides for a shelter provision limited to $450 per month for single persons. This is less than what was provided in 1997. Explain how this situation is compatible with the rights of NWT residents to housing and to adequate standard of living.

    The Income Support Program in the Northwest Territories placed a cap on the allowable housing allowance for single persons in January, 1997.

    Since the implementation of this policy there have been no appeals on the basis that clientele are unable to obtain suitable housing. The lack of appeals is attributed to the Social Housing Program in the Northwest Territories that has a rent scale based on income. For those housing clients who are eligible for Income Support, the rent is $32. This rent is well within the $450 rental cap. For those who cannot obtain public housing, the $450 allowance is determined to be adequate to cover the cost of room rental or shared accommodation. This allowance is the highest in Canada. It is to be noted that the program pays full utility costs.

    The policy capping the housing allowance for single persons does not apply to persons with disabilities or to those who can demonstrate a need that will necessitate a greater expenditure.

    81. Has the positive trend in the reduction of school drop-outs in the NWT been upheld since 1991?

    Participation rates in high school have been increasing. Grade extensions in communities that previously did not have local high schools have been the means for many people to finish their high school education. As a result, the graduation rate in the Northwest Territories is now increasing. The graduation rate for the Northwest Territories was 27% for 1997 and is expected to rise above 30% for 1998.

    This year the Department of Education, Culture and Employment has also asked schools and boards to track the reasons why students leave the system so that the department can distinguish between the people who have dropped out of school and those who have moved to other locations.



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