UN food envoy blasts inequality, poverty in Canada

Les Whittington, Toronto Star

OTTAWA—Despite Canada’s riches, many Canadians are suffering from poverty, inequality and an inability to afford daily food needs, says a scathing United Nations report released Wednesday.

“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 non-aboriginal peoples,” said Olivier De Schutter, the UN right-to-food envoy…

His report was based on an 11-day mission to Canada, his first investigation of what he called “a rich, developed country.”

“This is a country that is rich but that fails to adapt the levels of social assistance benefits and its minimum wage to the rising costs of basic necessities, including food and housing,” De Schutter said.

Last year, he said, close to 900,000 Canadians were turning to food banks each month.

His report also described the situation in many of Canada’s aboriginal communities as desperate.

“A long history of political and economic marginalization,” it said, “has left many indigenous peoples with considerably lower levels of access to adequate food relative to the general population.”

De Schutter urged Canadian governments to work together to develop a national food strategy.