Canadian Human Rights Commission Head says Human Rights Law can be a Tool to Fight Poverty

OTTAWA, May 28, 2012 – The Canadian Human Rights Acthas the potential to be a component of new solutions and approaches to bring about improvements in living conditions for First Nations and other Aboriginal communities, Acting Chief Commissioner David Langtry told a conference at York University today.

“I believe that the Canadian Human Rights Act is potentially a new tool to address poverty in Canada’s First Nations communities,” he told participants in the conference, entitled “Poverty Eradication through Education.” 

Thanks to an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act in 2008, people governed by the Indian Act can bring complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission when they feel they have been discriminated against by the Government of Canada or by First Nations governments on matters under the Indian Act. This includes funding for basic services, such as safe drinking water, housing, and education.

Disparities in funding for these services contribute to social problems on reserve, Mr. Langtry said. To the extent that such disparities can be linked to discriminatory policies, he said, human rights law can be used to level the playing field. Mr. Langtry noted, however, that the Commission’s jurisdiction in these matters is currently being challenged in court.

Mr. Langtry credited the Government of Canada for announcing its plan to table the First Nations Education Act, intended as a blueprint for an Aboriginal-run education system.

“I am encouraged by the growing recognition that proper education is necessary to provide First Nations children with the tools and skills to become self-sufficient members of society,” Mr. Langtry said. “A child growing up on a reserve should have the same opportunities in life as every other child in Canada.”

The full text of Mr. Langtry’s speech is available on the Commission website.

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For more information:

Canadian Human Rights Commission
Media Relations
(613) 943-9118