(finally bringing myself back into paying attention to politics again. Hi!)
Federal ministers are scoffing at the findings of a United Nations right-to-food envoy who blasted Canada for tolerating inequality and lack of access to nutritious diets among its poor and First Nation citizens.
Olivier De Schutter, whose damning report is based on an 11-day visit to Canada, says the country’s rate of food insecurity is “unacceptable” and called on the federal government to adopt a national right-to-food strategy.
“What I’ve seen in Canada is a system that presents barriers for the poor to access nutritious diets and that tolerates increased inequalities between rich and poor, and aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples,” De Schutter told reporters in Ottawa Wednesday.
“Canada has long been seen as a land of plenty. Yet today one in 10 families with a child under six is unable to meet their daily food needs,” he said, noting that “people are simply too poor to eat decently.”
De Schutter said 800,000 Canadian households are “food insecure” because social assistance benefits and minimum wages have not kept up with the rising costs of basic necessities, such as food and housing.
“Food banks that depend on charity are not a solution: they are a symptom of failing social safety nets that the government must address,” he said.
“Here I have to say my concerns are extremely severe and I don’t see why I should mince my words.”
But Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said De Schutter is simply an “ill-informed” and “patronizing” academic who is “studying us from afar.”
De Schutter made recommendations about the diets of Canada’s First Nations without ever setting foot in the North, said Aglukkaq, a Nunavut MP.
“I found it insulting as an aboriginal person,” she told CTV’s Power Play Wednesday.
mmigration Minister Jason Kenney also lashed out at De Schutter, suggesting the envoy wasted both his time and the UN’s resources by spending 11 days here.
“It would be our hope that the contributions we make to the United Nations are used to help starving people in developing countries, not to give lectures to wealthy and developed countries like Canada and I think this is a discredit to the United Nations,” Kenney said, noting that Canada sends billions of dollars in food aid to the developing world each year.
When asked why no Conservative cabinet ministers met with De Schutter during his trip, Kenney responded that the trip was nothing more than a “political mission” and said the UN was out of line by investigating Canada.
“We think the UN (World) Food Program should focus its efforts on those countries where there is widespread hunger, widespread material poverty and not get into political exercises in developed democracies like Canada,” Kenney said.
Huh. The classic: “but there are starving kids in Africa!” argument. Complete with no statistics on how people are NOT starving in Canada.
As if living in a rich, democratic country were proof against starvation or even simply going hungry.