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NEWS: 150 groups call on Harper to apologize to UN special rapporteur

The Canadian Press reports, “A long list of human-rights groups, lawyers and activists wants the federal government to apologize for trashing the UN food envoy during his recent visit to Canada. Signatories include former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, former Progressive Conservative minister Flora Macdonald, as well as organizations such as Amnesty International (and the Council of Canadians).”

“Earlier this month, several cabinet ministers lashed out at the special rapporteur, Olivier De Schutter, after his trip across Canada led him to express ‘extremely severe’ concerns about the ability of aboriginal people and families on social assistance to afford the food they need to stay healthy. In an open letter issued Wednesday, more than 150 organizations and individuals say Ottawa is undermining the authority of the United Nations by publicly attacking its envoys to Canada. The letter points to personal attacks against De Schutter by Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and others, in which the ministers said the UN envoy was ‘ill-informed’ and ‘patronizing’, and his mission was ‘completely ridiculous’.”

“The attack on De Schutter was not the first time the Conservatives have tried to undermine UN experts involved in Canadian policy, the letter adds. Last year, James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples, wrote to say he was concerned about living conditions at the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario. But Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan dismissed his statements, saying it was a ‘publicity stunt’.”

“A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird dismissed the letter, and said the UN has better things to do.”

For campaign blogs by Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew on De Schutter’s visit to Canada, please go to ‘UN human rights envoy highlights trade impacts on local food systems; country-of-origin labelling dispute at WTO proves his point’ at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=15312 and ‘Harper government ignores Canada’s obligation to perform human rights impact assessment of Canada-Colombia FTA’ at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=15118.