Tory reaction disappointing

KamloopsNews.ca – opinion/editorial
May 19, 2012.

Oh, to be a Conservative MP in Ottawa these days. Majority government. Fat pension benefits waiting in the wings. No real need to respond to criticism, however constructive it might be.

Tory politicians addressing comments made by a United Nations food envoy this week hardly stopped to give what he had to say much consideration before going on a mean-spirited attack.

They called Olivier De Schutter, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, ill-informed and patronizing for daring to suggest Canada has a ways to go before it can truly lay claim to greatness as a fair and equitable nation, despite its wealth.

Speaking to reporters after an 11-day visit, De Schutter mentioned the fact that too many Canadians can’t afford to sustain a nutritional diet and pointed out the fact that there is a huge discrepancy between rich and poor and lamented the fact that far too many of our First Nations people live in Third World conditions on remote reserves and northern communities.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was one of the first to speak out, clearly insulted that someone — anyone, for that matter — had the audacity to remind the world of Canada’s shortcomings.

The UN should “focus its efforts on those countries where there is widespread hunger, widespread material poverty and not get into political exercises in developed democracies like Canada,” he said.

“I think this is completely ridiculous. Canada is one of the wealthiest, most democratic countries in the world. According to us, we believe that the UN should focus on development in countries where people are starving and we think it’s simply a waste of resources to come to Canada to give them political lecturing.”

De Schutter, whose report will eventually form part of Canada’s official international human rights record, apparently rated such indignant scorn because he wondered out loud about the 900,000 households and 2.5 million people here who are too poor to have adequate diets.

Rather than be shocked by the chilly reception he has had from the federal Conservatives, De Schutter said he hopes his findings spark a national conversation about the issue and highlight the need to develop a national food strategy.

He’s right to be concerned. And according to Food Banks Canada, politicians should be anything but smug when it comes to hunger.

Each month, the agency says, about 900,000 Canadians are assisted by food banks, with 38 per cent of those children and youth.

Politicians are right when they say Canada is a great place to live, but they’re wrong if they think it’s perfect.

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