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of issues to be taken up in connection with the consideration of the third periodic
report of Canada : Canada. 10/06/98 E/C.12/Q/CAN/1 on Canada's third report
on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/1994/104/Add17)
INTERPRETATION OF THE CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
1. What is the status of the Covenant in cases of conflict with federal, provincial and territorial legislation? Please provide information on the implementation of the Covenant by the courts in Canada.
International treaties such as the Covenant cannot form the direct basis of an action under Quebec law, given the dualistic nature of Canada's legal system.(1) Treaties must be implemented through legislation(2) in order to be justiciable, and this implementation is based on the division of legislative powers between the two orders of government (federal and provincial).(3) In Canada, the human rights field falls primarily within the federal domain.
The Government of Quebec declared itself bound by the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by adopting Order-in-Council 1438-76 on April 21, 1976. Before doing so, it reviewed compliance of provincial legislation with the rights and obligations set forth in the Covenant. Although our laws are intended to be interpreted in accordance with Canada's international commitments, domestic law prevails in the case of an obvious inconsistency between a treaty provision and domestic law.(4)
Based on the jurisprudence,(5) international standards may be used to interpret domestic law. Quebec courts may refer, particularly when interpreting the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms(6) or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,(7) to various international instruments, including the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.(8) Furthermore, there is always a presumption that the government intends to respect its obligations.
4. Please provide details as to how the Government responded in cases where plaintiffs invoked their rights under the Covenant to interpret Charter rights and provide any information about cases in which the Government or the court interpreted the Charter in light of the Covenant. Please include information about: Masse v. Attorney-General of Ontario, Clarke v. Peterborough Utilities Commission, Falkiner v. Attorney-General of Ontario and Gosselin v. Quebec.
As previously mentioned (response to Question 1), no civil action based solely on a right recognized by the Covenant may be sanctioned by domestic courts. Applicants must seek redress under domestic law and may invoke the Covenant to encourage the court to interpret the legislative or constitutional provisions on which this reference is based to support their claims.
The courts tend to refer to international instruments in supporting an interpretation that appears consistent with international commitments entered into by the government responsible for implementing the law in dispute.(9) Accordingly, they occasionally interpret such commitments (see jurisprudence listed at the end of this question).
In Gosselin c. Québec (Procureur général)(10) we have an example of this approach. Here, a class action was launched on behalf of a group of social assistance recipients under age 30 to contest the validity of provisions of the Quebec Social Aid Act. These clauses provided, from 1985 to 1989, for measures intended to develop and encourage the employability of social assistance recipients below age 30.
The schedule for the monthly social assistance benefits took into account the voluntary participation by employable individuals under age 30 in programs intended to encourage their entry into the labour force. Social assistance benefits could be raised as a result of such participation, and programs were not accessible to individuals over the age of 30. The class action was based on the right to equality (age) and the right to be protected against any government infringement on security that failed to respect the principles of fundamental justice, i.e., mainly on sections 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter.
The trial judge dismissed the action, largely on the grounds of the absence of evidence of prejudice against the recipients or infringement of their security by the State.
On page 1669 of the judgement, he referred to Articles 2, 9, 11 and 12 of the Covenant, noting that these provisions did not apply immediately. He ruled that the right to social security and social benefits is not included in the concepts of life, liberty and security of the person protected by section 7 of the Canadian Charter. This judgement was appealed. The case has been argued and the Court of Appeal is still considering it at this time.
HUMAN RIGHTS LEGISLATION
8. Will the Government of Canada be acting on the recommendation of the Canadian Human Rights Commission that the ambit of human rights protections in Canada be expanded to include economic and social rights? What are the views of the provincial Commissioners on this issue?
The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse has provided the following main comments:
As regards the second part of this question, it should be emphasized that Quebec is the only Canadian jurisdiction to include economic and social rights in its human rights legislation. In fact, the Quebec Charter includes a chapter entirely dedicated to economic and social rights,(11) including the right of children to protection, security and attention; the right to free public education; the right of parents to choose between religious and moral education for their children; the right to choose private education; the right of ethnic minorities to maintain and develop their own cultural interests; the right to information; the right to measures of financial assistance and social measures capable of ensuring an acceptable standard of living; the right to fair and reasonable working conditions; the equality of rights, obligations and responsibilities within marriage; and, finally, the right of all senior citizens and people with disabilities to protection against exploitation. In addition to these rights is the prohibition against discrimination based on social condition,(12) which applies to all rights and liberties guaranteed.
On the other hand, the Quebec Charter does not include certain economic and social rights recognized by the Covenant, in particular, the right to work and the right to health.(13)
Enshrinement in a charter of rights is by no means essential to the recognition of economic and social rights in substantive law: the development of Quebec social law, in fact, predated the adoption of the Charter. However, the inclusion of economic and social rights in a document which, like the Charter, solemnly affirms fundamental liberties and rights, cannot be inconsequential. At the very least, such enshrinement requires economic and social rights protection to be considered from a qualitatively different standpoint, one appropriate to a semi-constitutional text. It is also consistent with the major declarations by the international community on the indivisibility and interdependence of rights.(14)
From a practical point of view, the recognition of economic and social rights is also significant. For example, certain economic and social rights recognized by the Charter have been successfully invoked, either as the main or supporting arguments, in private legal actions.(15) Quebec courts have also recognized the symbiotic relationship between section 10 of the Charter (prohibition against discrimination) and the Chapter on economic and social rights, which allows for a critical review of social legislation from the standpoint of the right to equality.(16)
For the reasons just stated, the legislative recognition of economic and social rights should be considered a positive development by any national human rights protection organization.
9. 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 Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse has provided the following main comments:
Reference to the Covenant in interpreting and implementing the Charter is part of a growing trend by human rights tribunals to use international legal human rights instruments. In the case of the Charter, this may be partly explained by the importance accorded to such instruments during the preparatory work that led to its adoption, as well as to the similar language shared by the Quebec and international standards.(17)
In recent years, three decisions by the Human Rights Tribunal have confirmed the relevance of referring to the Covenant when interpreting and implementing the Charter.
In Commission des droits de la personne du Québec c. J.M. Brouillette Inc.,(18) when an application was submitted by the Commission on behalf of a social assistance recipient who had been refused housing, the Tribunal cited the provisions of Article 11 of the Covenant on the right to adequate housing. Citing the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights and freedoms, the Tribunal stated that the right to human dignity, the principle of non-discrimination, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to choose one's residence, the right to security of the person and the right to privacy are essential for the maintenance, enjoyment and full exercise of the right to adequate housing.(19) It concluded that, in the case at hand, the landlord had not made the effort to inquire as to the renter's ability to pay and that the complainant had been the victim of discrimination based on her social condition.
In Lambert c. Québec (Ministère du Tourisme),(20) the Tribunal ruled on the provisions of previous social assistance legislation that exempted "employability development programs" from, inter alia, minimum wage standards. Deeming that such programs were, in fact, employment, the Tribunal ruled that these provisions created discrimination based on social condition as regards wages and working conditions, in violation of the Charter. In the grounds for its decision, the Tribunal referred to the provisions of Article 7 of the Covenant, which recognizes the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work that ensure, in particular, fair wages. This case is currently under appeal.
Finally, in Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse c. Maksteel Québec Inc.,(21) the Tribunal analyzed the right to work in the context of Article 6 of the Covenant, in which the States Parties recognize this right and agree to take the appropriate steps to safeguard it. Emphasizing the importance of work in the life of all people, the Tribunal deemed that the provisions of the Charter prohibiting discrimination founded on the existence of criminal charges should apply "[translation] not only to individuals found guilty, who are often excluded or forced out of the labour market because of prejudice, irrational fears and ignorance of their real skills, but should also extend to accused persons who are awaiting trial, as well as to those who are acquitted."(22) The Tribunal refused to accept that the inability of an employee to work because of incarceration constitutes automatic justification for termination. Under such circumstances, employers must demonstrate that they have tried to accommodate the complainant and that no such accommodation was possible without causing excessive difficulties.(23)
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 Commission's General Comment No. 3,
The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse has provided the following main comments:
In order to understand the particular characteristics of the Quebec system, it must be realized that all violations of Charter rights do not lead to investigation and adjudication as provided for in that Comment. In fact, a case can be investigated by the Commission and heard by the Human Rights Tribunal only when there is an allegation of discrimination or of exploitation of senior citizens or people with disabilities. Ordinary law courts hear all other disputes in which it is alleged that a Charter right has been violated. As regards discrimination and exploitation, the Human Rights Tribunal and ordinary law courts have concurrent jurisdiction. This should be noted when determining the compatibility of Quebec's system with the requirements of the Covenant.
Furthermore, the Commission has no adjudicative function. Upon receiving a complaint, its role is to seek evidence and determine whether to encourage the negotiation of a settlement between the parties, propose arbitration of the dispute, or submit the outstanding issues to a court. It does not, therefore, "dismiss" complaints in the real sense of the term.
Although Commission statistics do not make it possible to identify trends in a cohort of complaints over time, the gross figures reveal that the number of judgements rendered annually is approximately equal to 2% of the number of files open.(24) However, this figure does not take the true usefulness of the mechanism instituted by the Charter into account. When the Commission closes a file, this is subsequent to a negotiated settlement in more than 20% of all cases.(25) The redress obtained as part of such a settlement, whether financial compensation, the cessation of the acts on which the complaint was based, or the pro-active implementation of certain measures, is similar to, if not even more varied than, that which might be sought through legal action. The unique contribution of mediation to the advancement of human rights, as well as the comparative limitations of a strictly legal approach, should not be forgotten.
The Charter also provides routes other than legal action to implement the right to equality. It specifically states that one of the Commission's responsibilities is to encourage a settlement between the parties involved. In the absence of such a settlement, the Commission must propose arbitration. Only when the parties refuse negotiation or arbitration can the Commission appeal to a tribunal. The Charter is therefore consistent with the Committee's General Comment No. 3, which establishes that the "appropriate measures" under the Covenant include not only legal remedies as such, but also "other effective remedies."(26)
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?
As with human rights commissions in other provinces of Canada, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse is empowered primarily to hear cases of discrimination involving the recognition and exercise of human rights. So-called "legal action" by the Commission is therefore taken exclusively in the area of the right to equality.
The specific nature of the system for handling discrimination complaints in Quebec is based on the particular role of the Commission and the existence of a specialized tribunal, the Human Rights Tribunal.
As stipulated in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, the Commission's mandate is to examine the many complaints it receives with a view to eliminating futile complaints or those that are clearly outside its jurisdiction. Its main function, however, is to investigate the merits of complaints it considers serious. This investigative role is vital because it allows for the collection and evaluation of all facts pertaining to alleged discrimination in employment, housing, and services provided to the public. The Commission is also responsible for encouraging the parties to settle their dispute amicably.
When the evidence collected is considered sufficient and no agreement between the parties is possible, only the Commission, with certain specific exemptions, can bring the case before the Human Rights Tribunal. It is the responsibility of this Tribunal, which is composed of judges from the Court of Quebec appointed because of their sensitivity and interest and expertise in human rights, to judge the merits of each dispute brought before it. When the Tribunal rules on a dispute it renders an enforceable judgement, which may include an order to end a discriminatory situation and the granting of general, compensatory, moral or exemplary damages, in accordance with the principles of civil liability applied to each particular case.
DISCRIMINATION BASED ON INCOME OR SOCIAL CONDITION
12. What is the position of the Federal Government and each provincial government with respect to whether "workfare" programs discriminate against welfare recipients and are contrary to article 2 of the Covenant.
It is out of the question for the Government of Quebec to force welfare recipients into workfare programs in exchange for their social assistance benefits. Rather, recipients are required to make reasonable efforts to regain their economic and social independence. Participation in the programs offered is voluntary. In the case of non-participation, basic benefits and certain special benefits continue to be paid. The only portion not paid is that associated with program participation.
Over a period of some years, the Government of Quebec has conducted a major reform of its labour market policy. This reform is supported by a range of active measures based, in particular, on the finding that it is desirable to provide a work income supplement. The OECD findings also demonstrate that the strategies that have the highest chances of successfully combatting the social and economic exclusion of social assistance recipients are based on the principle of reciprocity. In accordance with this principle, the State must provide recipients with benefits that meet their basic needs while maintaining labour-force entry as a desirable option. At the same time, any efforts made by recipients to regain their financial independence, particularly through work, must be supported.
Accordingly, adults receiving social assistance must be available for employment unless there are temporary or permanent constraints preventing them from doing so. They must also take the appropriate steps to find suitable employment and comply with any instructions given to that end by the Minister of Employment and Solidarity.
Please explain the Government
of Quebec's position in the Lambert case.
The Attorney General of Quebec defended section 24 of the Act Respecting Income Security, which was at issue in the Lambert case, essentially by arguing that this provision does not result in discrimination against participants in the Stages en milieu de travail program.(27)
The position of the Attorney General of Quebec was that section 24 of the Act Respecting Income Security, which exempts participants in employability development measures from the application of labour legislation, does not create a discriminatory distinction based on social condition. Rather, these programs take into account each participant's ability and individual circumstances, including any barriers to labour-market entry.
Furthermore, it was argued that this distinction is not based on any kind of prejudice, given that the range of measures applicable to income security recipients made their general situation comparable, according to the evidence, to that of workers paid the minimum wage.
What is more, employability development measures such as the Stages en milieu de travail program do not constitute employment. If the opposite were true, recipients who turn to social assistance because of obstacles to employability would lose their right to benefits and associated advantages, such as the right to legal aid and certain health benefits free of charge.
Mr. Lambert won his case before the Human Rights Tribunal. The Attorney General has, however, appealed this decision, and the case is currently before the Quebec Court of Appeal.
Section 24 was amended in 1995 and appears in the new Act Respecting Income Support, Employment Assistance and Social Security, where it stipulates that labour legislation applies to any activity engaged in as part of an employment-assistance measure or program, except in the cases and to the extent provided for by regulation. These amendments will come into force once the Regulation is adopted.
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
While legislation on government services in Quebec provides for differential access to health, education and social services based on foreign-national status, this does not deprive children of their rights to protection, assistance or education.
Children with landing rights, moreover, have access to a full range of government services under the same conditions as Canadian citizens residing in Quebec. With respect to individuals wishing to settle in Quebec permanently, the major distinction involves refugee status claimants, who are not eligible for services under the same conditions as individuals who have obtained such status.
Specific programs and exceptional measures are in effect to meet the basic education and protection needs of children claiming refugee status.
Accordingly, they have access to free education services until they reach 18 years of age, at which time the right to academic instruction in Quebec ceases. Although they are not eligible for Quebec health insurance, they have access, as in all other Canadian provinces, to the Interim Federal Health (IFH) program, which covers essential emergency health services. However, their parents may take advantage of specific income security benefits that take the presence of children into consideration, as well as the Logirente program and legal aid.
Certain emergency social services are also available: these are services required to meet basic needs, such as temporary accommodation, measures for unaccompanied minors, and the family income supplement, which is paid after the birth of a fourth child. Finally, a certain number of social and community services are provided by local community service centres (CLSCs) to everyone residing in their area of coverage, regardless of status.
BILL C-67 AND THE REPEAL OF THE CANADA
ASSISTANCE PLAN ACT
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.
Changes to social assistance since April 1995 include reductions totalling $95.5 million in 1996-1997 and $52.6 million in 1997-1998. These are targeted reductions, however: basic benefits have been maintained. Furthermore, in the fall of 1996, the government made a commitment to "zero poverty" for the most needy, i.e., those with severe employability constraints.
In addition, the most recent income security reform was embodied in June 1998 in the Act Respecting Income Support, Employment Assistance and Social Security, which is intended to simplify the income security system, make it more equitable, and have it reflect the reorganization of public employment services in Quebec. To that end, the Act provides for "measures, programs and services in the areas of manpower and employment to foster the economic and social autonomy of individuals and to assist individuals in their efforts to enter, re-enter or remain on the labour market." It also includes financial assistance programs that focus on social and/or economic reintegration and that recognize specific needs.
The reform does not involve any reductions in social assistance benefits. On the contrary, it provides for increases in assistance totalling approximately $55 million, under financial assistance programs alone. These include:
19. To what extent does the revoking of CAP represent a retreat from the idea of financial assistance when in need as a universal entitlement, as described in previous reports to the Committee?
The Canada Assistance Plan (CAP), which came into force in 1967, covered 50% of the provinces' income security expenditures. However, this plan was not well equipped to respond to the increase in the number of social assistance recipients caused by the last two recessions. These individuals are experiencing types of poverty in which lengthy periods of joblessness and unstable employment play a determining role. The funding provided by CAP was paid only if income security was limited to passive assistance. Even though the new Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) gives Quebec a certain amount of latitude as regards labour-force entry, it remains true that its introduction was accompanied by a significant shortfall for Quebec.
Recognition of the right to assistance for all persons in need, regardless of the cause of that need, has existed in Quebec since the Social Aid Act came into effect in November 1970. This legislation was the result of work by the Study Committee on Public Assistance (the Boucher Report) which in 1963 (i.e., prior to the adoption of CAP in 1996) recommended the integration of all social assistance measures within a comprehensive, universally-accessible legal framework based on the principle of need and not on the cause of the need.(29)
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 Government of Quebec is not involved in these negotiations since, like all previous Quebec governments, it believes that social programs fall exclusively within provincial jurisdiction and that it is best placed to meet the specific needs of Quebeckers.
Moreover, since Question 20 relates to the repeal of the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP) and the introduction of the Canada Health and Social Transfer, it should be noted that CAP never guaranteed the right to "adequate assistance." The establishment of benefit levels was left to the complete discretion of the provinces, which did not have to adhere to any minimum standard.
21. Describe any monitoring procedures established by Governments as well
as non-governmental agencies to measure the effect of the 40 per cent ($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 Quebec Department of Finance is responsible for evaluating the impact of cuts in transfer payments from the federal government to the Government of Quebec.
The $6 billion reduction in transfer payments to the provinces since April 1995 has translated into a shortfall of $1.7 billion for Quebec.
Trends in Transfer Payments to Provinces for Major Social Programs
(in billions of dollars)
Moreover, these cuts represent only a part of
the reductions in federal transfers effected since the beginning of the 1980s.
The following table provides a breakdown of the impact of the cuts on activities
the federal transfers help fund, namely health, post-secondary education and income
security. These three activities constitute almost 70% of the program expenditures
of the Government of Quebec. This proportion is similar to that in other Canadian
Impact of Cuts in Transfers by the Federal Government to the Government of Quebec Since 1982-1983, by Sector of Activity
(in billions of dollars)
|Total Federal Cuts||2.2||3.2||4.0||4.4||4.5|
In 1998-1999, these cuts translate into a shortfall of
$4.4 billion for Quebec.
The cuts have significantly reduced the financial resources available for social programs in Quebec. All provinces are facing the same constraints. In Quebec, for example:
24. Please provide information on any provinces that require participation in "workfare"or similar programmes 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?
There is not currently any "workfare" program in Quebec, and this type of program is not provided for in the new Act.
25. For provinces applying a "work for welfare" program, such as Quebec
and Ontario, please provide information concerning the application of labour standards
including minimum wage and any discriminatory criteria that are applied such as
There is not currently any "work for welfare" program in Quebec, and this type of program is not provided for in either the existing legislation or the new Act.
However, the Committee appears to equate certain measures taken in Quebec to a workfare program. Given these circumstances, it would seem useful to provide information on these measures.
The existing legislation obliges recipients with no constraints on employability to take the appropriate steps, given their circumstances, to find a job that will allow them to regain their independence. The Minister may instruct recipients accordingly. Furthermore, recipients are obliged to accept any job offered, unless they have serious cause for refusing. In the event these obligations are not met, recipients may have their benefits reduced. This reduction may be the subject of an administrative review and an appeal before the Administrative Tribunal of Quebec.
The new Act Respecting Income Support, Employment Assistance and Social Security renews these obligations. The causes for refusing employment are specified in the Act, along with the instructions that may be given to recipients. These instructions relate, essentially, to registration with a placement service, attendance at an interview to evaluate the appropriate steps to be taken, and participation in a structured job-search activity.
The Act, which was adopted on June 19, 1998 (although not yet in force) stipulates that recipients under 25 years of age who have no children and no employability constraints must, at the earliest by September 1, 2000, take part in an Individualized Integration, Training and Employment Plan.
These plans offer measures customized to the needs of those individuals who are most vulnerable and disadvantaged in terms of employment, and who are at risk of being excluded from the labour force and society. These are mainly young people. Studies conducted by the Department of Employment and Solidarity reveal an inter-generational dependence problem: in 1997, 62% of income security recipients under age 21 came from families with a welfare history. The Plan is a dynamic support process that rewards effort and optimizes chances for success. It also reflects an awareness of the risks associated with continued reliance on income security. Some participants will opt for academic instruction; others will choose on-the-job training, apprenticeship programs, job-readiness activities, or group projects. In short, the Plan helps meet the specific needs of young people, and does not constitute a compulsory "workfare" program.
Once these measures are in effect, refusal to participate in the program without serious cause will result, not in the termination of assistance, but only in a benefit reduction. Individuals will first be given the opportunity to present their observations during an administrative review and an appeal before the Administrative Tribunal of Quebec. However, benefits will not be reduced if Plan activities are not appropriate to the circumstances or if the person had serious cause for refusing to participate.
Anyone who undertakes training or job-entry activities, for example, under the Plan, will receive an additional allowance of at least $120 per month.
The new Act also provides that, except in the cases and to the extent determined by regulation, labour law will apply to any activity engaged in as part of an employment-assistance measure or program. These aspects have been discussed in our reply to Question 12.
27. According to Statistics Canada, in 1991 over 40
per cent of people with disabilities received no employment income compared to
18.5 per cent 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?
With respect to employment, various measures facilitate increased labour-force participation, both qualitative and quantitative, of people with disabilities.
1. Programme des Services externes de main-d'oeuvre
The Programme des Services externes de main-d'oeuvre (approximately $5,500,000 per year) provides specialized services to people with disabilities by means of a network of some 20 establishments throughout Quebec.
2. Access to Services and Universal Measures
People with disabilities have access to the active employment services and measures offered to all residents through Employment Quebec, an independent administrative unit of the Department of Employment and Solidarity. A maximum of $10,000 is available for each participant under all these measures.
3. A Unique Model of Cooperation
All major social stakeholders involved in promoting labour-force participation for people with disabilities work together on the Comité d'adaptation de la main-d'oeuvre pour personnes handicapées (CAMOPH).
As part of its active labour market policy, the Department of Employment and Solidarity has established a sector-based committee to find innovative, effective means of helping people with disabilities enter the labour market. CAMOPH's Board of Directors includes representatives from the disabled community, who total seven out of 15 votes, as well as management and union associations.
4. Income Security Reform
The new Act Respecting Income Support, Employment Assistance and Social Security, which was given assent on June 20, 1998, takes into account the circumstances of individuals with permanent or indefinitely limited capacity for employment, such as people with disabilities, by offering a choice of equal benefits under either the Employment Assistance Program or the Social Welfare Program.
Furthermore, if individuals with such constraints re-enter the labour market, under certain conditions they remain eligible for benefits for four years after the beginning of the employment period, just as if they were registered for last-resort assistance (dental and prescription-drug services, etc.).
The Office des personnes handicapées du Québec offers various programs and activities aimed at facilitating labour market access and promoting job placement and entry.
Contrat d'intégration au travail (CIT) Program
The CIT promotes labour-force entry for people with disabilities through subsidies to employers other than an adapted work centre. This program compensates employers for expenses relating to the limitations of the individuals hired, and also provides funds for disabled access to the workplace, workstation adjustments, support, skills assessment, interpretation, and medical treatment.
The program had a budget of $10,373,770 for 1997-1998, and was given an additional $740,400 for the employment of Soutien financier program recipients under a joint project involving the Office, the Department of Employment and Solidarity, and the Department of Health and Social Services. Since April 1, 1997, this project has made it possible to convert Soutien financier program income-security benefits into wage subsidies through a CIT. The project hopes to create 300 jobs per year between 1997 and the year 2000.
Since October 1996, the program has been regionalized. As CIT grant applications are now received and examined by regional Office staff, files are processed much more quickly.
Adapted Work Centre (AWC) Program
For almost 20 years, the Office has supported the development of an AWC network. These non-profit organizations employ mainly individuals whose functional limitations prevent them from being competitive in a normal business situation but who are able to work in a specially adapted environment. The Office subsidized 40 workshops in 1997-1998 under the AWC program, with a budget of $25,605,687. The program also received $2,161,893 for the employment of Soutien financier program recipients under a joint project involving the Office, the Department of Employment and Solidarity, the Department of Health and Social Services, and the Conseil Québécois des entreprises adaptées (CQEA). This project makes it possible to convert Soutien financier program income-security benefits into wage subsidies for AWC employment, and hopes to create 350 jobs per year between 1997 and the year 2000.
Plan d'embauche program
Under the Plan d'embauche program, all employers with 50 or more employees must, in cooperation with the employee association representative, submit a plan to the Office with a view to ensuring that a certain number of people with disabilities are hired within a reasonable time. As at March 31, 1996, there were 3,200 approved plans, covering 10,000 establishments, still active. The facets involved include recruitment, selection, job entry, re-entry of employees with disabilities regardless of the reason for the handicap, employment development for people with disabilities and job skills development.
In 1996-1997, the Office terminated the administrative operations related to the Plan d'embauche program, as the staff and effort required outweighed the largely unquantifiable results. The stakeholders agreed that the program had not produced the outcome anticipated, and that the Office should work with its partners to develop a results-based approach. Consequently, the Office has adopted a strategy consistent with the broad employment sector reform adopted by the Quebec government in 1997 when it gave assent to the Act Respecting the Ministère de l'Emploi et de la Solidarité and Establishing the Commission des partenaires du marché du travail (S.Q. 1997, c. 63).
Regional Labour-force Entry Coordination Committees
With the recent establishment of the Montreal coordination committee on employment for the disabled, a job entry advocate for the disabled now exists in every region of Quebec. Operated by the Office, these committees are composed primarily of partners such as community-based organizations, rehabilitation centres, employment and education network resources, and employer and employee associations.
As their name suggests, these committees have been founded to promote joint action on employment for people with disabilities. They develop employment-support and job-readiness projects.
RIGHT TO JUST
AND FAVOURABLE CONDITIONS OF WORK
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 a minimum wage compares with the poverty line. What do the federal and provincial governments intend to do to ensure that minimum wages are adequate?
Minimum Wage and Changes in Real Value Over the Last Few Years
Below is a summary of the main variables analyzed for the purposes of Question 28:
|1. General Rate (October 1)|
|Minimum Wage ($)||6.00||6.45||6.70||6.80|
|Relative Gain (%)||2.6||7.5||3.9||1.5|
|Value in 1986 $||4.60||4.85||4.96||4.95|
|2. Weekly Earnings|
|Relative Gain (%)||0.8||0.5||0.9||1.9|
|3. Hourly Wage|
|Average Hourly Wage ($) |
|Relative Gain (%)||1.0||0.6||2.4||1.3|
|Minimum Wage in Relation to Average Hourly Wage (%)||44.0||47.0||47.6||47.8|
|4. Growth in Consumer Price Index (CPI) - Quebec|
|Relative Gain (%)||-1.4||1.8||1.6||1.4|
|5. Growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (%) - Quebec|
As this table shows, the relative gain in the minimum wage
was higher in 1994, 1995 and 1996 than the relative gain in average weekly earnings
for Quebec employees, and higher than the growth in Quebec's CPI in 1994, 1995,
1996 and 1997.
As to the real value of the minimum wage, the table shows that changes made over the years resulted in an increase from 44% of average annual hourly wages paid in 1994 to 47% in 1995, 47.6% in 1996, and 47.8% in 1997.
Income From a Full-time Job at a Minimum Wage in Relation to the Poverty Line
In 1998, a single, unemployed individual had an annual disposable income provided by the Department of Income Security of $7,700. To this must be added a number of special benefits related to the purchase of certain dental services, glasses, protheses, and orthoses. Furthermore, because of their level of income, most recipients are exempt from paying drug-insurance plan premiums, and receive an allowance for participating in active employment or job-search measures.
If such an individual works:
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
UPDATE - Labour Market Developments
Economic globalization and tertiarization, together with the ever-increasing use of technological innovations by business, have considerably modified the labour market. This in turn has resulted in the appearance of new, generally more flexible but less secure forms of employment. These new "atypical" forms--so called because they involve any job that is not a permanent full-time position--are primarily part-time work, temporary work, contract work and self-employment. Quebec has seen a rapid increase in such jobs, which in 1995 accounted for 29% to 36% of total employment figures.
In Quebec, between 1976 and 1997, the proportion of part-time employees (i.e., those working less than 30 hours per week at their main job) rose from 9% to 18%.(30)
Part-time employment is a phenomenon largely associated with the service sector, in which women predominate. In 1997, women constituted 69% of part-time employees, or almost the same proportion as in 1976 (68%), even though they accounted for only 44% of the labour force.
The proportion of women occupying a part-time job rose from 17% to 27% between 1976 and 1997. As we can see today, this is often not by choice. The figure for women working part-time because they could not find full-time work was 38% in 1995, as compared to 14% in 1976.(31)
It is believed that part-time work reduces access to upgrading and promotion, which in turn decreases the likelihood of higher wages and enhanced benefits.(32)
Temporary work represents another form of atypical employment that is becoming increasingly widespread. Although this type of employment involves a greater degree of insecurity than full-time work, because of unstable wages and fewer benefits, there are few studies or data on the matter. Overall, however, we know that the proportion of temporary jobs occupied by women fell from 67% to 41% between 1989 and 1994.
In the public sector, for example, there are more women in this category. In 1997, the total number of public service employees, including regular and casual staff, was 63,944, of which slightly more than half were women (50.5%). However, of that number, 13,560 were casual employees, of which 63.4% were women.(33)
Self-employment has also witnessed considerable growth over the past few years. In Quebec, the number of self-employed individuals doubled between 1976 and 1997. In 1997, 19% of men and 11% of women were considered self-employed (as compared to 11% and 6%, respectively, in 1976).(34) In 1996, women accounted for 31.2% of the self-employed, as compared with 19.6% in 1976.
Although this form of employment can raise a number of problems, especially as regards income stability and benefits, it remains a viable option for women who are trying to re-enter the labour force or make a career change.(35)
Changes in Women's Poverty Status
Between 1973 and 1995, poverty among Quebec families experienced an overall decline,(36) falling from 24.3% in 1973 to 16.8% by 1995. Single-parent families have the highest poverty rates.
In 1995, in families headed by a single mother with children under 18 years of age, the poverty rate was 51%. After family structure, age is the second most important factor in determining poverty status: the rate increases as the age of the household head decreases. In 1995, the poverty rate among families headed by a single mother between 15 and 24 years of age stood at 95.3%, as compared with a figure of 50.4% for mothers between 25 and 44. There is also an important relationship between poverty and labour force participation: poverty is less likely to occur when the household head has a full-time job, has been unemployed for less than 30 weeks at a time, and when the household has two or more breadwinners.
While it is logical to assume that there is a link between unstable employment and poverty among single mothers, it is difficult to isolate the net impact of the rise in atypical employment on their income status. Factors such as the deteriorating global economy may have also helped increase poverty over the past 20 years. On the other hand, elements such as higher education levels among women and the increase in their general labour-force participation rate may have had the opposite effect.
Action taken by the government of quebec
The Government of Quebec acknowledges the reality of the increase in atypical employment and the worrisome poverty rate among female single parents. Accordingly, it has continued to implement measures to promote women's economic independence and reduce their level of poverty.
In May 1997, the Government of Quebec adopted the Action Plan for Women Throughout Quebec 1997-2000. In all, 34 government departments and organizations participated in program development. Several measures involve employment and entrepreneurship, as well as the fight against poverty and social inequity, in particular:
THE RIGHT TO FORM AND JOIN TRADE UNIONS
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?
Quebec's Labour Code does not discriminate between these categories of workers, and does not prohibit them from organizing or engaging in collective bargaining. Neither are any legislative amendments currently planned to limit these rights.
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.
In Quebec, social assistance can be discontinued only where the Department is informed that the individual does not meet the needs criteria justifying the amount received. In such cases (unless it is the recipient who has provided the information), if social assistance is terminated or reduced by the Department, the latter must always give the recipient an opportunity to present observations and produce documents needed to complete the file. The recipient can then submit an application for review, at which he or she will again be able to present observations and may even be represented by legal counsel. If the recipient is dissatisfied with the decision, an appeal may be filed with the Administrative Tribunal of Quebec. While awaiting a hearing, an application for interim assistance may be filed with the Tribunal, which will then decide if such assistance should be granted. If assistance is terminated and the review is not made within 10 days, assistance is reinstated automatically.
36. Please estimate
what it costs on average to meet the special needs arising from pregnancy and
caring and providing for a newborn, 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.
In Quebec, most health-care expenses are assumed by the government, in particular:
As from November 1, 1998, the income security system will provide special benefits for:
RIGHT TO AN ADEQUATE STANDARD OF LIVING
37. The Committee has received information that food bank use has continued to increase in Canada and has approximately doubled over the last 10 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?
The first Quebec food bank opened its doors in 1984. Since that time, ten others have been established, for a total of 11. In 1996, food banks belonging to the Fédération des Moissons du Québec distributed 19,725,000 kilos of food, as compared to 3,600,000 in 1990, for an increase of more than 500% in six years.
Quebec food banks collect unused surpluses from the food industry (manufacturers, distribution companies, wholesalers, retailers, producers) and redistribute them free of charge to agencies with direct public contact.
Food banks collect any items that are edible and healthy (dairy products, bread, cereal, pasta, meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables) but which, because of their expiry date, labelling, packaging or other slight flaws, no longer meet market standards.
Far from being negative, the existence of food banks demonstrates a society's willingness to share its resources with its poorest citizens, voluntarily and free from state intervention. Food banks constitute valuable means of resource redistribution, much like government programs but without government intervention. Through their action, these agencies also help reduce waste by recycling goods that would otherwise have been lost.
Furthermore, although still growing, food banks complement and sometimes even replace certain less well-known but long-established services such as those provided by religious communities.
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.
In its policy paper on income security reform,(37) the Government of Quebec recognized that certain amounts are needed to cover housing requirements. These sums vary from $325 for a single person to $484 for a couple with two or more children. The government has also established a housing allowance enabling families with one or more dependent children, and whose housing expenses exceed a certain maximum, to obtain additional rental assistance of up to $60 per month. In one year, this measure provided 120,483 households with an average annual allowance of $564. In 1997,(38) 465,178 households receiving income security benefits declared average housing costs of $341 per month. In 1998,(39) 435,557 households declared the same monthly average.
39. What proportion of children who use
food banks go hungry and how often do parents go hungry?
There are no statistics available on the use of food banks by children. However, a number of organizations exist specifically to meet the food requirements of underprivileged children. Government funds also support food services in schools, holiday camps, playgrounds and day cares.
40 . Explain how school food programmes
fit into federal and provincial strategies to address hunger and how the government
intends to ensure that the dignity of children and their parents is respected
in those programmes.
School boards, which are responsible for delivering educational services to the primary and secondary students within their boundaries, are given supplementary allowances by the Department of Education to establish food programs such as the "school milk" program, where necessary.
School boards establish their own food policies. For example, the Montreal School Board, which governs 75% of the schools in disadvantaged areas, asks the schools themselves or community agencies to identify low-income families. Meals are provided to all children, but only those whose parents meet the relevant income criteria are allowed to take advantage of meals that are almost wholly subsidized. However, in order to allow parents to keep their dignity and to encourage a certain degree of responsibility, a small contribution is required ($.50 per pupil). This contribution is collected from all families in the same way, and the amount is paid on behalf of the parents directly to the school. In other words, neither the students nor the staff know which individuals are benefitting from the program.
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?
It is difficult, if not hazardous, to determine the exact size of the homeless population; those figures available tend merely to constitute a rough estimate. In Quebec, the latest studies estimate that 15,000 people are temporarily or permanently without shelter in a given year.
The definition given to "homeless" obviously affects the findings. Thus, even though a figure of 10,000 is sometimes put forward for Montreal, the number of people who sleep in shelters or the streets every night probably varies between 2,000 and 3,000. The figure of 15,000 mentioned above therefore applies to all those with unstable living arrangements (homeless and/or with no fixed abode).
A recent evaluation by specialists indicates that the phenomenon has not grown significantly over the past few years. However, there has been an increase in the number of homeless women, and this population is increasingly young. The policy of de-institutionalization and increased poverty among single people with multiple problems (alcoholism, drug addiction, mental health, etc.) are also exerting pressure on existing agencies and resources.
The government has not established critical thresholds in this area. Rather, it has adopted an ongoing approach to promote cooperation among public agencies, community organizations and charities, with a view to enhancing both prevention and direct intervention.
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
Quebec participated in the discussions and agreed with the recommendations adopted at the 1976 Habitat I conference in Vancouver and the 1996 Habitat II conference in Turkey.
As regards action and measures for the homeless, efforts have been heightened since 1987, the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless. Since that time and until the federal government withdrew from the Private Non-Profit Housing Program, the Société d'habitation du Québec (SHQ) used the Program to build accommodation for people with special needs--a total of 1,091 units (105 projects) for low-income individuals.
Furthermore, the SHQ has provided agencies offering temporary shelter for the needy with ad hoc financial assistance. More recently, the Québec Social Housing Fund has established a program for low-income earners in need of both housing and special housing assistance.
The SHQ has also assisted a Montreal agency that manages a 193-unit development for single, homeless individuals with multiple problems. A recently-completed impact assessment indicates that housing and community support contribute significantly to the quality of life of these individuals.
The SHQ is currently working with a provincial research sub-committee and the Quebec City coordination committee on the homeless, ensuring liaison with community organizations. More recently, another committee composed of representatives from the SHQ, the Department of Health and Social Services, and the Department of Public Security was created to assess the interdependence of sectoral policies in this regard.
The problem of the homeless is of major concern in Quebec, and has consistently formed a vital aspect of government deliberations and action, especially since 1987.
to the 1996 Report of the National Council of Welfare (Poverty Profile 1996),
91.3 per cent 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 per cent meaning
that nearly 1.5 million children live in poverty in Canada. 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?
Our data is no more recent than that furnished by the National Council of Welfare.
However, driven by the 1990-1991 recession and major modifications to the federal employment insurance program, as a result of which barely 40% of all unemployed are now eligible for benefits, the number of households on social assistance reached a high of 486,217 in February 1996--for a welfare rate of 12.6%. During that time, those most affected were families with children, applicants between 30 and 55 years of age, and women. The answer to Question 29 also contains pertinent information with respect to the status of women.
In March 1997 the trend was reversed, and in May 1998(40) there were 435,577 households receiving income security benefits, for a total of 711,989 individuals. Although high, this figure marks a major decline in the number of households that depend on social assistance--a decline due mainly to the economic recovery. Of that number, there were 85,717 single-parent families (19.7% of all income security recipients), 217,090 children (30.5%), 4,515 natives and 109,993 adults with physical or mental disabilities. Taking into account the total population of Quebec in 1997,(41) approximately 9.6% of Quebeckers receive financial assistance in the form of income security.
It should be noted that the number of individuals who depend on income security fell below 700,000 in July 1998.
Among the reforms of the past few years, one has been directed specifically at child poverty. A new family allowance has been established to direct financial assistance to families who are most in need. Comparable rights and benefits are granted to all families according to income, regardless of employment or social assistance status, to meet the basic needs of their children. By combining the new family allowance with the federal child tax benefit, the basic needs of children of single-parent families can be met up to a maximum of $15,332. Above this threshold, the allowance is reduced progressively. Program design also encourages household heads to keep working or re-enter the labour force.
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?
As stated previously, Statistics Canada's low-income cutoff is a line below which more than 20%-above-average levels is spent on food, housing and clothing.
By way of information, the reports of the National Council of Welfare(42) indicate that the difference between social assistance benefits and Statistics Canada's low-income cutoff remained almost constant in Quebec from 1993 to 1995. In Quebec, benefit amounts are based on a study of expenses incurred by a reference group of low-income workers to meet basic needs (food, housing, personal care, clothing, recreation, culture, etc.). In the case of employable recipients, these needs are met by government benefits and work income that can be earned without reducing benefits.
In our response to Question 18 we described in detail the features of the latest income security reform, which tends to make it more worthwhile for recipients, when they are able, to take active measures to enter the labour force and regain their independence, while at the same time increasing their benefits. However, if they do not take advantage of such measures, no cuts are made to their basic benefits.
Lastly, we should mention that the tax system can have a major impact on poverty, especially as regards the working poor. Further to the tax reform announced in the last budget speech, 200,000 households were exempted from paying income tax.
51. It has been reported
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?
Assistance under the Soutien financier program, which is granted to a number of people with disabilities, is indexed on an annual basis. This is justified by the "zero poverty" clause, a commitment made at the Summit on the Economy and Employment, which brought together government, business, union and community group representatives in the fall of 1996.
Summit participants agreed on the need to convert social benefits into active employment measures. Access to paid employment, where possible, represents the principal means of eliminating poverty for people with disabilities. Various measures taken by the Department of Employment and Solidarity and the Office des personnes handicapées facilitate labour-force entry and access to higher income.
Both the Contrat d'intégration au travail (CIT) program and the Adapted Work Centre (AWC) program also help people with disabilities enter the job market and earn more. As mentioned previously in our answer to Question 27, additional budgets available under these programs since April 1, 1997 are aimed specifically at Soutien financier program income-security recipients.
Once it was established, the Office des personnes handicapées du Québec developed material resource programs to offset the supplementary costs related to disabilities and impairments, regardless of income. At present, the Office is completing program transfers to the individual departments involved. People with disabilities now have access to basic assistance for independent living (e.g., home-care services, family support offered by the health and social services network) as well as home and vehicle adaptation programs, etc.
Other government measures also target the poor, including people with disabilities. Following the Summit on the Economy and Employment the commitment to zero poverty, the government created the Anti-Poverty Fund. The new integrated family allowance provides greater support for all needy parents, and the housing allowance is offered to any disadvantaged individual caring for a dependent child or adult over 55 years of age.
As regards specific action to offset the costs associated with impairments and disabilities, two changes have occurred over the past year: improvements to certain fiscal measures for people with disabilities, and the establishment of a public drug-insurance plan.
In their 1997 budget speeches, both the federal and Quebec governments announced broader eligibility criteria for costs under the existing medical expense tax credit. Individuals may now deduct expenses such as the purchase of an adapted minivan or air-conditioner, a move to more accessible accommodation, modifications to the access to a principal residence, the hiring of a sign-language interpreter, etc. As of the 1998 tax year, anyone who takes a training course to give care to a spouse or dependent may include the cost of that training under medical expenses.
For people with disabilities who have no health-care insurance or were not insurable by private insurance companies, the new drug-insurance plan constitutes a major improvement to their financial status.
Given that the government is attempting to promote the social integration of people with disabilities and fully supports all attempts at independent living, it must establish conditions that are conducive to the accomplishment of its objectives and help those who, alone, are unable to surmount the obstacles involved in daily life.
To that end, the government has developed standards and regulations governing universal accessibility to buildings, and has introduced new tax credits to compensate individuals who assume major medical expenses. It subsidizes private home adaptations through the Residential Adaptation Assistance Program (RAAP) and the Home Adaptations for Seniors Independence program (HASI), and has made specially adapted public housing available to people with disabilities. The government also supports research, disseminates information, and makes its partners aware of the problems of such individuals.
More specifically, the SHQ provides support for people with disabilities and those with a limited capacity for self-supervision and self-care through the following programs:
1. Residential Adaptation Assistance Program (RAAP)
In 1997, the SHQ subsidized the adaptation of 588 housing units at a total cost of $5.4 million. Since 1991, the year the program was transferred to the SHQ, about 5,000 units have received funding for such work.
2. Public Non-profit (low-cost) Housing Program managed by municipal housing authorities
As of December 1997, there were 977 low-cost housing units adapted for people with disabilities, and 189 for seniors with a limited capacity for self-supervision and self-care.
Since 1992, all new projects for seniors have complied with the concept of universal accessibility. As regards those for families, only ground-floor units offer universal accessibility, when there is no elevator.
3. Private Non-profit Housing Program
As of December 1997, among those housing units managed by cooperatives and non-profit organizations, 1,326 were adapted, including 805 intended specifically for seniors with a limited capacity for self-supervision and self-care and 521 for people with disabilities or temporary clients. There were also 518 non-adapted units for seniors with a limited capacity for self-supervision and self-care.
4. Rent Supplement Program
As of December 1997, there were 1,420 housing units covered by this program adapted to the needs of disabled people.
5. Housing Program for Native People Living Off-Reserve
As of December 1997, there were 42 housing units adapted to the needs of native people with disabilities.
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?
The federal government's withdrawal from civil legal aid cost-sharing has obliged the Government of Quebec to review coverage for eligible services.
This review was conducted so as to ensure that those members of the public qualifying for Quebec legal aid could continue to be represented by counsel before the courts and government bodies. Civil legal aid includes exercising the right to "useful" remedy in the event of a violation of economic of social rights, before the courts or government bodies (including departments). Access to consultation with counsel for a civil action is also covered by the Quebec plan.
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 scope of the protection specifically granted under section 7 of the Canadian Charter, as regards certain economic rights related to the security of the person, has not yet been established in Supreme Court jurisprudence. In Quebec, section 45 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms guarantees that:
"45. Every person in need has a right, for himself and his family, to measures of financial assistance and to social measures provided for by law, susceptible of ensuring such person an acceptable standard of living."
Since June 1998, the legislative framework to which this section refers has been the Act Respecting Income Support, Employment Assistance and Social Solidarity. In addition to this basic framework, several social measures in Quebec help ensure an adequate standard of living for all individuals and their families, including sufficient food, clothing and shelter, as well as the continued improvement of living conditions (section 11 of the Covenant). For example, like the other Canadian provinces, Quebec has both a universal health-care system and a drug-insurance plan. A number of laws are geared to ensuring income replacement and compensation benefits for victims of crime, automobile accidents and occupational injuries. Quebec has a public education system that gives all children access to free primary and secondary instruction, and a system of loans and bursaries is available to those who wish to pursue their studies at the university level. Quebec has recently established a universal system of child-support payment collection. Under this system, payments are based on the fair and equitable amounts both parents must contribute in order to meet the needs of their children, in accordance with the means at their disposal.
RIGHT TO HEALTH
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?
Access to health care in Quebec is a universal right for all Quebeckers, regardless of income. We have no evidence of restrictions on access to health care for the poor.
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.
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.
With respect to the two questions above, it is well known that psychiatric patients comprise a certain proportion of the homeless population. In Quebec, changes to the mental health system, which will be undertaken shortly in each region, are geared toward the transfer of mental health services and their respective budgets to community institutions and agencies. This exercise is intended to reduce or eliminate the problem.
A survey is now being conducted by Santé Québec in Montreal and throughout Quebec to determine the characteristics of health problems among the homeless. Once the findings are known, the appropriate measures will be taken.
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 Quebec drug-insurance plan, which became effective on January 1, 1997, covers all drugs needed to treat all diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
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?
Modifications to Quebec's health and social services network were required to adapt services to changing needs and technological developments.
As stated in a report by the Quebec College of Physicians (August 31, 1998), despite the usual inconveniences related to such a transformation, service quality has been maintained.
Furthermore, in order to counter certain related accessibility problems, the government has re-injected some $100 million dollars into specific sectors such as youth services, front-line care, and measures to reduce waiting lists.
In another vein, the government also made the maximum contribution to the drug-insurance plan payable monthly for everyone ensured by the Régie de l'assurance-maladie du Québec, i.e., income security recipients, seniors, and all those not covered by group insurance, which includes a large number of unemployed, adult students and hard-to-ensure individuals (pre-existing conditions).
The Department of Health and Social Services has also announced four groups that are to receive special government attention: youth, seniors, people with disabilities and people with mental health or drug-addiction problems.
RIGHT TO EDUCATION
59. The Committee has received information that between 1990 and 1995 the average tuition fees for post-secondary education rose by 62 per cent in real terms. The average student debt at graduation seems to have almost tripled since 1990. What steps are being taken to ensure that post-secondary education remains equally accessible to all, regardless of income?
Data on tuition fees in Canadian universities indicate that Quebec fees for full-time students rose from $948 in 1990-1991 to $1,682 in 1994-1995, for an increase of 77.4%. In the other provinces, average tuition fees over the same period rose from $1,662 to $2,386, or 43.6%.
However, tuition fees in Quebec universities remain substantially lower than those now in effect in the other provinces.
Quebec fees, which had remained at the same level from 1968 to 1989, "caught up" between 1990 and 1995. Since 1995 they have been frozen, whereas they have risen an average of 10% annually outside the province. In 1990-1991, Quebec tuition fees represented 57% of the average figure for universities elsewhere in Canada; in 1997-1998 the figure was 53%.
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?
Since 1987, Quebec's Department of Education has offered a literacy program that was updated in 1992 with the coming into force of the Basic School Regulation Respecting Educational Services for Adults in General Education.
Over the years the range of service delivery sites has been broadened considerably, and instructional tools have been adapted to need, particularly as regards workplace literacy and prevention.
In 1998, the Department undertook a complete review of the literacy program with a view to extending goals and content beyond the simple acquisition of reading, writing and math skills. Accordingly, greater emphasis will now be placed on scientific, computer and political literacy.
In 1998-1999, Quebec intends to propose a government policy on continuing education, a priority of which will be literacy. The policy involves action in the fields of illiteracy prevention, growth and diversification of adult services, and maintenance of reading skills among youth and adults.
In 1996-1997, more than 38,000 people were enrolled in literacy activities offered by school boards and community organizations alike.
61. What steps have been taken in Canada to extend knowledge of, and respect for, the culture of Aboriginal people?
In Quebec, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (1975) and the Northeastern Quebec Agreement (1978) resulted in the creation of school boards specifically for the Inuit, Cree and Naskapi Nations. These bodies operate much as other school boards in the province, however, they have specific powers allowing them, in particular, to conclude agreements on postsecondary education and to develop courses, manuals and teaching materials designed to preserve and perpetuate Aboriginal culture and language.
For almost 20 years, Quebec's Education Department has promoted materials and events describing the current way of life of the Aboriginal Nations. These materials are distributed in schools throughout the province.
II. Other matters
70. The new legislation in Quebec relating to social assistance provides for the Minister responsible for social security to order that part of the social assistance accruing to a beneficiary be used to pay for his or her unpaid rent. This provision applies only to beneficiaries of social assistance. Is this not a discriminatory measure on the ground of the social condition of the recipients?
First, the Minister does not order recipients to use a portion of their benefits to pay rent. The issue is submitted to a tribunal -- the Régie des Logement -- which, in the event of a failure to pay rent, determines if the Minister responsible should be ordered to pay a part of the benefit directly to the lessor for rent owing, if there is security of tenure.
This measure is intended to counter the discrimination to which social assistance recipients may be exposed by landlords, who refuse to rent them accommodation on the pretext that there is no recourse in the event of unpaid rent.
The measure is also subject to the following conditions:
72. Apart from the "Programme d'enseignement des langues d'origine
(PELO)" what has Quebec done to provide educational services to Aboriginal(43)
minorities, other than French- or English-speaking Québecois?
Almost all Quebec Aboriginal communities have schools providing primary and secondary instruction. The curricula offered are adapted to the culture and language of the various Nations in question.
For postsecondary students, Quebec's Department of Education provides funding to colleges and universities servicing an Aboriginal clientele for orientation and integration structures and specific programs.
In order to promote the integration of Aboriginal populations, and to give individuals with determination and ability access to postsecondary education, the Department has also developed the following programs:
Aboriginal Orientation And Integration Program
Members of Indian and Inuit communities have particular education needs that require certain adaptations be made to teaching and teaching-related practices, as well as special social support. This program is aimed at helping CEGEPs establish measures that facilitate access to postsecondary studies for Aboriginals in their first year of college. The program budget in 1997-1998 was $313,000, allocated among 10 CEGEPs.
Inuit Orientation And Integration Program
Since 1996-1997, the Department of Education has provided financial support to CEGEPs that offer experimental orientation and integration programs tailored to meet the needs of Inuit students. In order to encourage socialization and the gradual exploration of various courses of study, students can eventually elect to obtain their senior matriculation (DEC) or go back to their community equipped with valuable knowledge and skills. The program involves about 15 students annually, and the amount granted is approximately $70,000, in addition to a sum of $30,000 provided under the Aboriginal Orientation and Integration Program described above.
Special Support for Aboriginals
In addition to the specific training programs offered by universities, financial assistance is granted to related projects. In 1997-1998, the following activities were subsidized:
Certificate in Social Work (Inuit) $40,000
Certificate in Social Service (Mohawk) $72,000
Aboriginal Peoples' House $28,000
FSL Training for Aboriginals $15,000
Certificate in Social Work and Psychological
Re-education (Cree) $200,000
"Nionatta Project" - Abenaki Cultural Enhancement $25,000
Certificate for Economic Development Officers
in Aboriginal Communities (CANDO) $5,000
1. Arrow River Tributaries Slides Boom Company Ltd. v. Pigeon Timber Company Ltd.,  S.C.R. 495 and Les Entreprises de rebuts Sanipan c. Le Ministre de l'Environnement et de la Faune,  R.J.Q. 821 (C.S.).
2. Francis v. The Queen,  S.C.R. 618.
3. A.G. Canada v. A.G. Ontario (The Labour Conventions Case),  A.C. 326.
4. Les entreprises de rebuts Sanipan c. Le Ministre de l'Environnement et de la Faune, cited in footnote 2 [sic] above; National Corn Growers v. CIT,  2 S.C.R. 1324.
5. National Corn Growers v. CIT idem.
6. R.S.Q., c. C-12.
7. Constitution Act 1982, Schedule B, 1982 (UK), c. 11.
8. See the jurisprudence cited in Question 4.
9. Godbout v. Longueuil (Ville),  3 S.C.R. 895: Certain Supreme Court justices decided that the right to liberty, protected by section 7 of the Canadian Charter, includes the liberty to choose the place to establish one's residence. Justice La Forest added:
"Support for this view is found in the fact that the right to choose where to establish one's home is afforded explicit protection in the International Covenant 3 on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Can. T.S. 1976 No 47, to which Canada became a party in 1976. As the respondent informed us Article 12(1) of that convention reads as follows:
ART. 12 (1) Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.
While subsection (3) of that provision provides that the right at issue can be limited by States for certain stipulated reasons, the fact remains that the right to choose where to reside is itself enshrined as one of the Covenant's fundamental guarantees. Given this Court's previous recognition of the persuasive value of international covenants in defining the scope of the rights guaranteed by the Charter (see e.g. Reference re Public Service Employee Relations Act (Alta),  1 S.C.R. 313 at p. 348, per Dickson C.J. (Dissenting) cited with approval in Slaight, supra at pp. 1056-57), I regard Article 12 as strengthening my conclusion that the right to decide where to establish one's home forms part of the irreducible sphere of personal autonomy protected by the liberty guarantee in s. 7."
10. Gosselin c. Québec (Procureur général) (1992), R.J.Q. 1647.
11. Chapter IV, Part I (sections 39 to 48 inclusive).
12. Section 10.
13. The inclusion of these rights in the Charter was the subject of formal recommendations by the Commission. See: Commission des droits de la personne, Mémoire à la Commission permanente de la justice sur la Charte des droits et liberté de la personne, October 1981, pp. 147-151.
14. World Conference on Human Rights, Final Declaration, UN Doc., CONF./A 157/23, para 5 (1993).
15. See also Commission des droits de la personne du Québec c. Brzozowski (1994), R.J.Q. 1447 (T.D.P.Q.) [exploitation]; Droit de la famille 198,  C.S. 397 [rights of children to protection, security and the attention of their parents]; Commission des droits de la personne du Québec c. Commission scolaire Deux-Montagnes (1993), R.J.Q. 1297 (T.D.P.Q.) [fair and reasonable working conditions].
16. See Commission des droits de la personne du Québec c. Commission scolaire de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (1991), R.J.Q. 3003 p. 3037 (T.D.P.Q.), confirmed in (1994) R.J.Q. 1227 (C.A.).
17. Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse c. Montréal (Ville), C.A.M. No. 500-09-000602-953, February 13, 1998 (Philippon J.), p. 31.
18. (1996) 23 C.H.R.R. D/495.
19. See the Committee's General Comment No.4 (1991) on the right to adequate housing: Report of the Sixth Session, E/C.12/1991/4 Annex III, p. 121 (para. 9).
20. (1997) R.J.Q. 726, under appeal.
21. (1997) R.J.Q. 2891, under appeal.
22. Idem, p. 2895.
23. Idem, p. 2896.
24. From 1994 to 1997 inclusive, 3,529 Charter-based complaints were open at the Commission. Over the same period, the courts rendered 60 judgments on the merits.
25. Of the 3,416 files closed by the Commission between 1994 and 1997, a settlement was negotiated in 715 cases.
26. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 3 (The Nature of States Parties Obligations), Report on the Fifth Session, E/C.12/1990/8, para 5.
27. This program was ended as part of the overall reform of labour market policy.
28. Step two consisted in transforming Quebec's public employment services, which were formerly more passive and focused on income support, into pro-active, dynamic services designed to help people enter the labour force through personalized measures.
29. One of the Report's main recommendations (Recommendation No. 7) reads as follows: "The Quebec Government should recognize explicitly, in its social legislation as well as in the regulations governing its application, the principle according to which any individual in need is entitled to assistance from the state, whatever the immediate or remote cause of this need may be."
30. Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, 1997.
31. Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, 1995.
32. Government of Quebec, Policy Statement on the Status of Women, 1993.
33. Government of Quebec, Treasury Board, L'effectif de la fonction publique au Québec, 1997.
34. Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, 1997
35. Government of Quebec, Policy Statement on the Status of Women, 1997.
36. Government of Quebec, Department of Income Security, Statistiques sur la pauvreté au Québec en 1995 et son évolution depuis 1973 selon les seuils de faible revenu de Statistique Canada, 1998.
37. Income Security Reform: The Road to Labour Market Entry, Training and Employment. Appendix 12: Table of essential needs recognized in 1996. Department of Income Security of Quebec, 1996, 94 pp.
38. Statistiques officielles sur les prestataires de l'aide sociale. Direction générale des politiques et programmes de la sécurité du revenu. Direction de la recherche, de l'évaluation et de la statistique, May 1997.
39. Statistiques officielles sur les prestataires de l'aide sociale. Direction générale des politiques et programmes de la sécurité du revenu. Direction de la recherche, de l'évaluation et de la statistique, May 1998.
40. Statistiques officielles sur les prestataires de l'aide sociale. Direction générale des politiques et programmes de la sécurité du revenu. Direction de la recherche, de l'évaluation et de la statistique, May 1998.
41. Statistics Canada, Demographics Branch, Population Estimates, 1997.
42. National Council of Welfare, Welfare Incomes 1993 (and 1995). Supply and Services Canada, 1994 (and 1997).
43. "Minorités autochtones" in the French questions is a mistranslation of "indigenous minorities" in the original English questions - TR.