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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)


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

Yukon has no official position on this question.

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.

There have been no such cases in Yukon.

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 committee may wish directly to contact:

Yukon Human Rights Commission
205 Rogers Street
Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
YlA IXI
(867) 667-6226
(867) 667-2662 (fax)
e-mail: humanrights@yhrc.yk.ca
Attn: Heather MacFadgen, Executive Director
 
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, para. 5.

See answer to question 8.

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

Yukon has no recorded official position on this issue.

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.

Rates have not changed since April 1995, when certain social assistance reforms became effective, including:

$ reducing the length of time a parent caring for a young child is exempt from job search requirements from two to six years after the birth of a child - and exempting a parent of a child with severe disabilities from job search requirements;

$ restricting emergency assistance to situations where there exists a risk to health and safety;

$ requiring employable adults to wait six months before being eligible for assistance for items of supplementary needs;

$ increasing asset exemptions and instituting an income and earnings exemption which are not counted as financial resources when determining the amount of assistance;

$ introducing requirements and actions to reduce such problems as overpayments and fraud;

$ increasing situations requiring agreements to pay;

$ assigning Unemployment Insurance benefits to recover social assistance payments made as advances;

$ eliminating the discretion of appeal bodies to make decisions inconsistent with the Regulations;

$ increasing assistance for some items of supplementary need;

$ instituting transitional benefits to aid welfare to work periods;

$ increasing allowances for unemployable clients with disabilities; and

$ increasing work and training opportunities for social assistance clients through a three-year cost-shared agreement with the federal government.

 
Recent regulatory changes have also been instituted to accommodate the new National Child Benefit and to consider it a financial resource when determining the amount of social assistance payments. Finally, the effect on the extent and depth of poverty as a result of these measures is unknown at this time.
 
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?

Yukon has no recorded official position on this matter.

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?

Yukon has no monitoring procedures in place.

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 programmes applied to single parents and, if so, what exceptions apply? Is the Committee correct to assume that these programmes would have been illegal under CAP?

Yukon does not have any "workfare" programs.

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

Recent steps in Yukon include:

$ enhancing partnerships with community agencies;
$ restructuring the administration of the "Supported Independent Living" program; and
$ transferring greater responsibility for vocational rehabilitation to "Challenge, " a non-government organisation funded through the Yukon government's Department of Health and Social Services.
 
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?

The Yukon minimum wage is adjusted on the basis of increases in the cost of living (i.e. inflation). Two increases are scheduled for 1998:

$ April 1 $7.06; and
$ October 1 $7.20.
The first rate reflects inflationary increases of 1.3 per cent for 1995 and 1.6 per cent for 1996. The latter rate reflects an increase of 2 per cent for 1997. The Employment Standards Board makes recommendations on the minimum wage to the Minister of Justice. As a matter of policy, it would prefer to pin the amount to the annual rate of inflation. If the Minister agrees with this, then the minimum wage for 1999 can be expected to increase based on the 1998 inflationary rate. These calculations, however, do take into consideration a Yukon "poverty line." Formal poverty lines are not recognised in the territory because poverty is a relative state. Those whose minimum wage earnings supplement household earnings may well be better off than those who rely on minimum wage earnings for all of their income. For example, a minimum wage earner with dependents will likely require income supplements from such sources as social assistance - if that person is the only household member with employment income. A full-time minimum wage earner currently makes $14,684 per annum.

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

No data are available. The Yukon government's Women's Directorate, however, is compiling a "Statistical Profile of Yukon Women." This profile will include data on the participation of women in the labour market, their wages, hours of work and so forth. Over a period of time, workforce changes will be documented and further research may then be undertaken to determine the economic consequences of present labour market conditions on women.

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

The application of collective bargaining rights to farm and domestic workers is the responsibility of the federal government under the Canada Labour Code.

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.

Decisions by staff can be appealed to independent appeal committees and boards. Financial assistance can be made available on an emergency basis for health and safety reasons. There have been no Yukon court actions on this matter.

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

Cost estimates are not available. Special needs related to pregnancy, however, are considered a supplementary benefit in the amounts of $28 a month for dietary needs and $78 for a layette following the birth of a child.

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

Yukon has no data on food banks and has no recorded official position on the question.

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

Data not available.

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

Data not available.

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

The Yukon government works in partnership with "Food for Learning Yukon" in planning and delivering school food programs. Design and delivery is controlled by individual school councils - which address questions of dignity within their own programs.

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

Data not available.

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

Data not available.

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

Data not available.

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

Data are not available, but the Yukon government is researching questions related to poverty as part of its "Anti-poverty Strategy" scheduled for release in the fall of 1998.

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?

Data not available.

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

See question 27. In addition, the government's "Anti-poverty Strategy" will include input from the Yukon Council on 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 Yukon government's Labour Services has at its disposal all the necessary legal tools to enforce the payment of wages and other employment standards.

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?

Yukon has no recorded official position on this matter.

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?

No access restrictions based on low income exist in Yukon for publicly-funded health services.

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.

Recent efforts by the Yukon government related to mental health services include research on psychiatric admissions to Whitehorse General Hospital and community and support services to persons with severe and persistent mental health problems.
Funding of two new positions at the outpatient mental health clinic will increase services for persons with severe and persistent mental illnesses. The Yukon Family Services Association currently provides counselling services in Whitehorse and in the communities - with services to children and youth on a priority basis. Research on hearing procedures pursuant to the Mental Health Act is also scheduled to be undertaken.

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.

Data not available.

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?

Data not available.

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

The Yukon government maintains universal access to public health care services to ensure protection of the most vulnerable in society.

59. The Committee has received information that between 1990 and 1995, the average tuition fees for postsecondary 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 postsecondary education remains equally accessible to all, regardless of income?

The following initiatives are designed to ensure equal post-secondary accessibility:

$ Canada Student Loans Program;
$ Yukon Grant;
$ Student Training Allowance;
$ Yukon Excellence Awards;
$ funding to Yukon College in the annual amount of $12 million (approx.);
$ no increase in post-secondary tuition fees since 1996-97; and
$ scholarships (various).
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 the 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?

Raising literacy levels in Yukon is a priority of the Yukon government - as indicated in its training strategy. The government sponsors literacy programs that Yukon communities create for themselves. By allowing communities to define, construct and implement their literacy programs, learners and coordinators engage in the process of community redefinition, as well as social and economic development. Learners not only learn how to read and write but also how to become active participants in their respective communities. Current literacy programs include:

$ literacy through drama - young people from the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation in Dawson are developing reading and writing skills through the dramatization of their traditional stories and songs;
$ tutor training for individuals who tutor people with disabilities; and
$ workplace literacy support in rural communities where individuals can develop their reading and writing skills in the context of their own working environments.
61 The Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement, and to the extent that individual land claims agreements have incorporated this language, provides a number of steps designed to extend the knowledge of and respect for the culture of Aboriginal people: $ to promote public awareness, appreciation and understanding of all aspects of culture and heritage in Yukon and, in particular, to respect and foster the culture and heritage of Yukon Indian People;

$ to promote the recording and preservation of traditional languages, beliefs, oral histories (including legends), and cultural knowledge of Yukon Indian People for the benefit of future generations;

$ to involve equitably Yukon First Nations and government in the management of the heritage resources of Yukon, consistent with a respect for Yukon Indian values and culture;

$ to promote the use of generally accepted standards of heritage resources management to ensure the protection and conservation of heritage resources;

$ to manage heritage resources owned by, or in the custody of, Yukon First Nations and related to the culture and history of Yukon Indian People in a manner consistent with their values and, where appropriate, to adopt the standards of international, national and territorial heritage resource collections and programs;

$ to manage heritage resources owned by, or in the custody of, government and related to the culture and history of Yukon Indian People, with respect for their values and culture and the maintenance of the integrity of national and territorial heritage resource collections and programs;

$ to facilitate reasonable public access, except where the nature of the heritage resource or other special circumstances warrant otherwise;

$ to identify and mitigate the impact of development on heritage resources through integrated resource management including land use planning and development assessment processes;

$ to facilitate research into, and the management of, heritage resources of special interest to Yukon First Nations;

$ to incorporate, where practicable, the related traditional knowledge of a Yukon First Nation in government research reports and displays which concern heritage resources of that First Nation;

$ to recognise that oral history is a valid and relevant form of research for establishing the historical significance of heritage sites and moveable heritage resources directly related to the history of Yukon Indian People; and $ to recognise the interest of Yukon Indian People in the interpretation of Aboriginal place names and heritage resources directly related to the culture of Yukon Indian People.
 

77. In Yukon, no one is eligible for full social assistance benefits unless they are deemed a permanent exclusion from the workforce. Single parents are deemed exclusion until their children reach the age of two but they are required to wait for a six-month period before they receive full benefits. The cost of living in Yukon is higher than in most areas of Canada. Explain how this situation is compatible with the right to an adequate standard of living.

The description of the situation in Yukon contained in question 77 is incorrect. According to criteria set forth in the Regulations, full financial assistance is available to recipients of all categories, not only to permanent labour force exclusions. In families with children, for example, supplementary benefits are provided for children without a six-month waiting period. Moreover, the higher cost of living in Yukon is reflected in higher rates of assistance to recipients of all categories.

78. Please explain what measures are planned or taken to reduce the very considerable lower lone-parent family incomes in Yukon.

Attachment to the workforce is facilitated through generous child care subsidy programs. The minimum wage was also increased in 1998 (see supra at 28). As part of the implementation of the National Child Benefit in 1998, the Yukon government introduced a children's drug and optical program for low-income families to assist with the costs of prescription drugs, eye exams and the purchase of glasses. In addition, the government's scheduled release in the fall of 1998 of its "Anti-poverty Strategy" will detail government-wide initiatives to address poverty issues in the territory.

79. Please provide more data as regards literacy programs in Yukon.

The Yukon government provides significant financial resources to support "Yukon Learn," a non-profit literacy organisation in Whitehorse. This organisation seeks to provide tutorial support to learners, to advocate literacy in Yukon, to establish a literacy library, and to furnish materials-based support to literacy projects developed outside Whitehorse. In addition to formal literacy programs, the Yukon government encourages all employment and educational programs to contain significant literacy components.

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