Social Rights Accountability Research Project (SRAP) – Issues And Challenges

Social Rights Accountability Research Project (SRAP) – Issues And Challenges

Social Rights Issues And Challenges In Canada

With the passing of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on April 17, 1982, there were hopes that the numerous social issues that had plagued many sectors of Canadian society would finally be addressed. Signed into law by Queen Elizabeth II, the Charter after all guaranteed specific political rights to Canadian citizens, and for all inhabitants of the country, civil rights from government policies and actions on all levels.

However, more than thirty years after the passing of the Charter, Canada’s marginalized segments continue to struggle with the very problems that the law was supposed to have addressed. Economic inequality remains a constant issue, and violations of social rights goes on unabated in many communities and among specific groups of people.

Aboriginal people deal with a disproportionately large share of these issues, but there are many others who face similar struggles as well, such as mothers who provide sole support to their children, people with disabilities, racially-segmented groups, and new immigrants. Among these people, the continuing issues related to social and human rights stand as stark reminders of the ineffectiveness of the Charter.

Some of the most significant challenges faced by these groups are poverty, high rates of unemployment, insufficient or poor quality food, dilapidated housing, and housing shortages. Many communities–in the Canadian North in particular–live their lives with insufficient access to basic services such as education, health care, and livelihoods. These conditions do not only run counter to the very ideals that the Charter sought to promote; they are also fundamental human and social rights violations.

The problem is so significant and widespread that human rights departments under the UN have expressed concern about the situation faced by many of Canada’s marginalized communities. In light of the large numbers of people affected by poverty, hunger, and homelessness, the UN has urged the federal and provincial/territorial governments to initiate necessary action as soon as possible.

There are those who believe that the situation is not as dire as the media focus would suggest. Some government officials have expressed the opinion that the UN directive was misplaced, with some even suggesting that the international governing body was mistakenly likening the hunger and homelessness issues in Canada to those in African and Asian countries.

However, it may be argued that the issues facing Canada’s marginalized populations are more untenable because of the country’s considerable economic prosperity compared to those other countries. For a country with such affluence and economic clout, the widespread chronic poverty and housing issues experienced by the marginalized are difficult to explain or justify.

At this point in the worsening crisis, it is all too easy to point the finger of blame at governmental policies and the gradual erosion of respect for social rights values, both of which are factors that have unfortunately become characteristic of Canada in the years after World War II to the present. Unless decisive and effective action is taken, the total loss of social rights will be the country's lasting legacy.