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Canada should drop 'self-righteous' attitude over food: UN Rapporteur

The UN's Right-to-Food Rapporteur Olivier De Schutter wrapped up his ten-day mission to Canada with recommendations to create a national food strategy that would address "the reality of the challenges it faces" when it comes to food security.

De Schutter highlighted three areas of concern: the large number of Canadians that are too poor to afford adequate diets, rising rates of obesity and related diseases, and the particular challenges faced by remote first nations communities.

"800,000 households are food insecure in Canada," noted De Schutter in his end-of-mission statement. "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. Food banks that depend on charity are not a solution: they are a symptom of failing social safety nets that the Government must address."

De Schutter met with civil society groups in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg to discuss a range of issues related to food security; including poverty and hunger, GMOs, migrant worker policies and foreign investment in Canadian farmland.

It's the first time the UN has sent such a mission to a wealthy nation, a dubious distinction some say Canada doesn't deserve. An editorial in the Calgary Herald compared De Schutter's visit to a doctor prioritizing a hangnail over a gunshot wound and opined that Harper showed "good sense" in not making ministers available to meet with the special rapporteur.

In an interview with Postmedia News, De Schutter said that Canada needs to drop its "self-righteous" attitude.

"It's not because the country is a wealthy country that there are no problems," said De Schutter. "In fact, the problems are very significant and, frankly, this sort of self-righteousness about the situation being good in Canada is not corresponding to what I saw on the ground, not at all."

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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