Thursday, May 17, 2012

The People They Don't See

 When Stephen Harper appears on an international stage these days, he likes to toot his own horn. Canada, he says, is the best of the best.

But, yesterday, Olivier de Schutter -- the United Nations special reporter on the right to food -- gave Canadians and the rest of the world some disturbing and embarrassing information:

He said he was particularly concerned about the large number of people living on social assistance who see their income drained away by housing, and can’t afford to provide an adequate diet for their families.

“Here I have to say my concerns are extremely severe, and I don’t see why I should mince my words,” he said.

“People are simply too poor to eat decently.”

The simple truth is that income inequality leads to hunger and malnutrition. That used to be the case in Third World countries. It's now becoming the status quo in "the best of the best."

The Harper government -- which is absolutely unconcerned about income inequality -- responded with typical smugness. Jason Kenny personified that smugness:

“I think this is completely ridiculous,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said just before the envoy presented his report.

“Canada is one of the wealthiest and most democratic countries in the world. We believe that the UN should focus on development … in countries where people are starving. We think it’s simply a waste of resources to come to Canada to give political lectures.”

When Attawapiskat was in crisis earlier this year, the Harper government responded by sending in an accountant. Now it proposes to get rid of the accountants.

One wonders if the Harperites -- most of whom claim to be Christians -- are familiar with the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man only saw Lazarus when it was too late.


Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

It is disappointing and disturbing to see the messenger being attacked with no response to the actual message. The UN Report did not say anything new. While the Conservative government may be ignorant of the facts anyone who cared to look would know that the message was correct. It is criminal that food banks have become permanent pieces of the welfare support system. They were meant to fill a gap, instead the government has used them to ignore a permanent solution. Shame on all of us. The dreadful state of housing on remote First Nations communities is a well known fact except apparently to the Minister in charge of Indian Affairs. He seems to have thought Attawapiskat was an exception. He needs to get out and visit the communities he is mandated to serve. The cost of food in the far North is outrageous. There need to be ways of making it available at similar costs paid in Southern Canada, particularly for healthy food. It is a crime that children can be kept full (that is not nutritiously fed) with junk none food.

Owen Gray said...

You're right, Philip. Anyone who has visited a native reserve knows that what Canada is promoting there are Third World conditions.

We also have many urban poor -- particularly poor children.

But there are none so blind as those who will not see.

Beijing York said...

I hope the world hears of how pathetic this so-called first world, affluent nation is when it comes to feeding its own people. Phillip is absolutely right - food banks were supposed to be a stop-gap measure and not a permanent fixture. And access to healthy, affordable food and decent housing on Reserves is dismal.

Owen Gray said...

What the UN official's report underscores, Bejiing, is the moral bankruptcy of the Harper government.

They don't see a problem. I'm willing to bet that the majority of Harper"s caucus has never darkened the door of a food bank.

karen said...

There was a good comment about this on the BC Interior afternoon show on the CBC yesterday (May 17). An elementary school principal talked about the breakfast and hot lunch programs that volunteers instituted at one of her schools for students who had "forgotten" their lunches. She said the results were dramatic and measurable: test scores went up, fewer children were falling asleep in the afternoons. I imagine that "discipline problems" probably declined too, although I don't think she specifically said that.
That Kenney just dismisses the report is appalling, but certainly not surprising. He (and his tribe) are incapable of seeing that the world is different for anyone or that any other view might have merit.

Owen Gray said...

From where I sit, Karen, Mr. Harper and Mr. Kenny look well fed -- extremely well fed.

I doubt they have ever known hunger -- and that they empathize with the hungry.

e.a.f. said...

Kenny's suggestion the U.N. not look at canada regarding hunger is just a way to deflect from the message. Kenny is an idiot. We have hunger all over Canada.

I've seen the prices of food in the North & there is no way people can afford to feed themselves & their children properly on the small amount of money they have.

In every town in B.C. we have food banks. They are the only expanding industry we have. They not only provide food for people on welfare but working families who simply do not have enough money to pay for food.

It is criminal that in a country like Canada people go hungry. I guess these well fed idiot conservative/harperits are under the delusion people are hungry only when they look like they have been through a famine.

Well get with the real world. It would be interesting to see how these Harperits do if they have to go without food for 24 hrs.

Some of these people even consider themselves christians. I've got news for them. They are not Christians because they do not follow the teachings of the Bible when it comes to charity.

Keeping children hungry so they can swan about the globe stuffing their faces is an abomanation

Owen Gray said...

Abomination is exactly the right word, e.a.f.

The UN had the Harper government's number when it voted against Canada's bid for a seat on the Security Council.