Right to food expert generally meets with federal ministers
Several federal ministers have declined requests to meet with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food as part of his first-ever probe of a developed country.
Olivier De Schutter's mission brings him to Ottawa next week as part of an 11-day tour that includes visits to aboriginal communities in Manitoba and Alberta.
He had requested meetings with the ministers of health, aboriginal affairs, agriculture, fisheries, foreign affairs or international co-operation, as well as departmental experts.
The UN's right to food expert, who usually meets with government ministers and technical experts within the civil service during his missions, was informed departmental officials would be available, but no meetings with ministers were arranged, his office said Friday.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which is co-ordinating De Schutter's meetings with federal officials, declined to say why no minister is available to meet with the UN Special Rapporteur.
Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, also declined to comment on the matter, but emphasized that department officials will "provide detailed briefings on the programs and initiatives in place to ensure First Nations have access to healthy, affordable food, and will respond to any questions the UN Special Rapporteur may have."
Jean Crowder, NDP aboriginal affairs critic, said the Conservative government's refusal to make a minister available to meet with the UN Special Rapporteur "is just another example in a long line of their lack of commitment" to tackling inequality and food insecurity.
"I think that the ministers have the ultimate responsibility for their departments, so they should meet with the Special Rapporteur.
By distancing themselves, I would suspect that they're not going to have any kind of official plan to deal with whatever his recommendations are," Crowder said Friday.
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and interim Liberal leader Bob Rae will be meeting with De Schutter during his two days in Ottawa next week. De Schutter will meet also with farmer, food, development and human rights organizations in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton.
Until now, the independent expert appointed by the UN's Human Rights Council has been dispatched to countries such as South Africa, Cuba and Lebanon to probe those nations' records on ensuring people have access to food. The report on the Canadian mission, to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council, will be part of Canada's official international human rights record.
In a statement on the eve of his Canadian mission, De Schutter said "challenges remain to ensure that food is adequate, accessible and affordable for marginalized groups, be they poor urban populations or Aboriginal peoples." Read the Article Here