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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)

Saskatchewan 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?

As yet, there has been no conflict evident between Saskatchewan's human rights obligations and the trade and investment agreements mentioned in the question. While there is no formal process in place, there is considerable consultation between officials responsible for trade and those responsible for human rights policy.
8. Will the Government of Canada be acting on the recommendations of the Canadian Human Rights Commission that the ambit of human rights protections in Canada be expanded to include social and economic rights? What are the views of the provincial commissioners on this issue?

The views of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission can be obtained by contacting:

Ms. Donna Scott
Chief Commissioner and Director
Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission
8th Floor, Sturdy Stone Building
122 - 3rd Avenue North
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
S7K 2H6

9. Please provide to the Committee with information from each Human Rights Commission in Canada about cases in which the Covenant has been used in interpreting or applying human rights legislation.

See answer to 8, above.

10. Please provide an estimate of the percentage of human rights complaints filed with each Human Rights Commission in Canada which are adjudicated and explain how this is consistent with the Committee's General Comment No. 3 para 5. Can the Government of Quebec explain how its system is different and provide an estimate of the percentage of human rights complaints in Quebec that are not dismissed?

Very few complaints brought to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission are "adjudicated" in the sense that they are subject to a formal hearing before a Board of Inquiry. Historically, only about 4% of complaints reach this stage. The vast majority of complaints that are not dismissed or withdrawn, are settled either by way of a early resolution-mediation process, prior to investigation, or by negotiation following an investigation. Excerpts from the 1996-97 Annual Report of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission are attached (Appendix 1).

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.

Saskatchewan does not have "workfare".

14. What is the position of each Human Rights Commission (with the exception of Quebec's) on whether "social condition" should be added as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the light of article 2 of the Covenant, and what is the position of the provincial and federal governments on this question?

In 1993, The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code was amended to add "receipt of public assistance" as a prohibited ground of discrimination. The Commission has not publicly disclosed any official position on whether "social condition" should be added.

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.

No. Social assistance rates have not changed as a result of the repeal of the Canada Assistance Plan Act.

24. Please provide information on any provinces which require participation in "workfare" or similar programs and describe the appeal procedures in place with respect to any disentitlement from basis 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?

Saskatchewan concurs with the answer given in the Federal section.

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?

In Saskatchewan, The Trade Union Act does not exclude farm workers or domestic workers.

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.

If for any reason a person receiving social assistance is determined to be ineligible, there is a right to appeal that determination. The first appeal is to a local appeal committee. A further appeal lies to the Social Services Appeal Board. Interim assistance is available pending the outcome of those appeals, but it is not automatic - there is an element of discretion involved. If, for example, there is a "budget surplus" (i.e., more income than the amount of the basic allowance); or where non-exempt assets are readily available; or where the recipient is a university student, interim assistance can be denied.

There have been no court cases on this particular issue in Saskatchewan.

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.

A pregnant woman receives $41.50 monthly over and above other entitlements. Once the child is born, the mother receives an additional $47.25 per month. These special allowances are intended to cover the increased nutritional needs of women during pregnancy and lactation. During pregnancy, a women recipient is entitled to a special clothing allowance of $150.00.

When the baby is brought home, there is a $110.00 one-time grant for settlement. Prior to the National Child Benefit Program being instituted, the child received the same basic allowance as an individual adult. Once the child is home, the shelter rate goes from a maximum of $210.00 to $385.00 per month. Details on social assistance rates is contained in Appendix 2.

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.

Saskatchewan does not have reliable information on the number of recipients paying more for housing than their shelter allowance.

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.

It is up to individual Boards of Education to decide whether they wish to offer a lunch program in some or all of their schools. Presumably, such a program could be offered in conjunction with a local community agency.

There are a number of schools, primarily in urban school divisions, which are designated by the Department of Education as "community schools" and which receive special additional funding. One program element in these schools is often some type of lunch program.

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?

The Saskatchewan Department of Social Services supplements the basic allowance for disabled recipients of social assistance to cover a variety of special needs. Details are provided in the chart attached as Appendix 3.

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?

There have been no changes to the civil law services provided by the Saskatchewan Legal Aid Commission as a result of the new cost-sharing arrangements.

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?

The Saskatchewan government has no official position on whether section 7 of the Charter can be interpreted to protect rights under the Covenant. The Department of Justice responds to section 7 claims on a case-by-case basis.

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?

Saskatchewan would refer to paragraph 729 of the Third Report on a Covenant, which contains information pertaining to the availability of the Saskatchewan Drug Plan.

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?

Saskatchewan's submission to the Third Report contains a detailed section on the provision of health care.

59. The Committee has received information that between 1990 and 1995 the average tuition fees for post-secondary education rose by 62% in real terms. The average student debt at graduation seems to have almost tripled since 1990. What are the steps taken to ensure that post-secondary education remains equally accessible to all, regardless of income?

Changes made to the Saskatchewan Student Assistance Program in 1998-99 have promoted equal accessibility to post-secondary education by addressing the issues of adequacy of assistance and debt load. Recognizing that students with dependent children require higher levels of assistance to cover the living costs of their families as well as themselves during periods of study, the maximum assistance levels for students with dependent children is increased to $400 per week of study. The maximum assistance levels for students without dependent children remain at $275 per week of study for regular students and $385 for week of study for some disadvantaged groups (non status Indians and Metis, northerners). At the same time, Saskatchewan introduced new debt reduction benefits (Saskatchewan Student Bursary and the Saskatchewan Study Grant, along with a new federal Canada Study Grant) that will result in a maximum debt load of $180 per week of study for all students for the first 170 weeks of study (5 university academic years).

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

People of Aboriginal ancestry account for a significant and increasing portion of the Saskatchewan population. Given the importance of Aboriginal people to the well-being of Saskatchewan as a whole, much of the Saskatchewan government=s public policy is directed towards extending knowledge of and respect for the culture of Aboriginal people and involving Aboriginal communities in that task. Saskatchewan would refer the committee to paragraphs 774, 775, 776, 780, 782 and 783 of the Third Report on the Covenant for more detailed information. In addition, Saskatchewan=s contributions to Canada=s reports on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination are devoted, in a large measure, to outlining programs, policy and legislation specific to the presence in Saskatchewan of a significant Aboriginal population.

64. Can the government explain if the provincial social assistance rate has contributed to the increased reliance on food banks considering that the rate had remained very low in the last decade.

Saskatchewan is unaware of any information that suggests that increasing welfare rates would diminish food bank use.


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