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Economic Rights in Canada and the United States

Economic Rights in Canada and the United States

Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann
Claude E. Welch
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Economic Rights in Canada and the United States
    Book Description:

    Readers in Western developed countries are most familiar with abuses of political and civil rights, but the international human rights regime also embraces a set of laws regarding economic rights. These rights include the right to work and to just and favorable working conditions; the right to join and form trade unions; the right to social security; specific rights for the family; the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, clothing, housing, and "the continuous improvement of living conditions"; and the right to "the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health." In original essays by scholars senior and junior, this volume explains how these rights are realized-or violated-in Canada and the United States. Contributors analyze the philosophy, law, and politics of economic rights and discuss specific issues such as poverty, health care, and the rights of people with disabilities. Central to the problems of both countries are the human rights abuses evident in all contemporary capitalist societies. When the inequalities among citizens are not cushioned by a national commitment to economic rights, or when governments fail to maintain social safety nets for all citizens, economic rights are at risk. Contributors consider the problem from the perspective of their own countries: Canada, the United States, and, for contrast, the Netherlands. They do so in order to explore whether their own countries fall short of meeting international standards of economic rights. They also address the criticism often made by non-Western scholars of human rights-that their Western colleagues preach human rights abroad without regard to the human rights flaws at home.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0478-0
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: Looking at Ourselves
    (pp. 1-22)
    Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann and Claude E. Welch Jr.

    In 1910, the novelist Anatole France wrote of his country, “We in France are . . . citizens. Our citizenship is [an] . . . occasion for pride! For the poor it consists in supporting and maintaining the rich in their power and their idleness. At this task they must labor in the face of the majestic equality of the laws, which forbid rich and poor alike to sleep under the bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.”¹ Only the poor were inconvenienced by the prohibition on sleeping under bridges.

    Anatole France’s aphorism shows the danger...

  4. Part I. Philosophy, Law, and Politics of Economic Rights

    • Chapter 1 Justifying Socioeconomic Rights
      (pp. 25-40)
      Brian Orend

      Justifying socioeconomic rights—rights to things like subsistence income, education, and health care—is difficult, but doable. It is difficult, especially in North America, because there is substantial suspicion to deal with. The suspicion is mainly twofold: of the concept itself; and of the cost of its implementation.

      Those suspicious of the concept itself tend to have no problems whatsoever with civil and political rights. Such rights, also called “first-generation rights,” involve claims to security of the person, property, due process, and standard political and social liberties, such as freedom of speech and religion. Critics of the concept of socioeconomic...

    • Chapter 2 International Law of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: A U.S. Perspective
      (pp. 41-54)
      David Weissbrodt

      The first part of this chapter traces the history of the U.S. approach to international law, particularly in regard to economic, social, and cultural rights and notes the important role that the United States has played in the development of relevant international human rights treaties and institutions. The second part shows that the United States has been, nonetheless, extraordinarily reluctant to submit itself to legal obligations under those treaties, related standards, and institutions. The third part reflects how U.S. judges have occasionally used international human rights law, including economic, social, and cultural rights. The chapter concludes that the United States...

    • Chapter 3 On the Margins of the Human Rights Discourse: Foreign Policy and International Welfare Rights
      (pp. 55-70)
      David P. Forsythe and Eric A. Heinze

      The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) has always been the stepchild of international human rights law, drawing much less attention most of the time than the companion covenant on civil and political rights—at least in the West. If we look at the antecedent 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its provisions concerning international welfare or subsistence rights (to food, clothing, shelter, and health) have likewise usually drawn less attention than the provisions pertaining to civil-political rights—again, at least in the West.¹

      The studies that exist about the secondary status of international subsistence rights have...

  5. Part II. Poverty

    • Chapter 4 Homelessness in Canada and the United States
      (pp. 73-86)
      Barbara Wake Carroll

      Section 11.1 of the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognizes the right to shelter. Yet in both Canada and the United States more and more people are homeless. Even though it is a not a signatory to this Covenant, in the United States, the Fourteenth Amendment, which could provide for the “right to housing,” has consistently been interpreted narrowly by the Supreme Court.¹ In Canada, which is a signatory, the Hellyer Report of 1969 affirmed the right to decent housing,² but it has not been acted upon by successive governments. This could arguably be...

    • Chapter 5 Welfare Racism and Human Rights
      (pp. 87-102)
      Kenneth J. Neubeck

      The United States is among the most affluent of Western industrialized nations in per capita terms. However, it possesses marked inequalities in its distribution of income and wealth. Not only is the proportion of the United States population living in poverty high in comparison to other industrialized nations such as Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, and Norway,¹ but also the gap between the most affluent and the poorest members of United States society has been growing.² In 1990, the poorest fifth of United States families received 4.6 percent of the nation’s aggregate income, while the most affluent fifth...

    • Chapter 6 The Movement to End Poverty in the United States
      (pp. 103-118)
      Mary Bricker-Jenkins and Willie Baptist

      By 1967, having led the United States in a non-violent struggle for civil rights against Jim Crow segregation laws, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., saw clearly that the intertwined threats of militarism and poverty undermined the gains of the civil rights movement. In May, speaking to the leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. King asserted that it was “necessary for us to realize that we have moved from the era of civil rights to human rights.”¹ With this assessment, he saw the need to build a movement to end poverty; the movement would be based in the...

  6. Part III. Contentious and Emerging Issues

    • Chapter 7 So Close and Yet So Different: The Right to Health Care in the United States and Canada
      (pp. 121-136)
      Virginia A. Leary

      “Is there a right to health care?” I asked the students in my human rights seminar at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law several years ago. I was teaching in Saskatoon that year, on leave from SUNY-Buffalo Law School, and had previously asked the same question of the students in my SUNY class. In Saskatoon, the students replied that there was a right to health care; in Buffalo, they had replied there was no right to health care.

      Why such different responses from students in two similar, adjacent countries? Did the responses merely reflect the practical differences between the...

    • Chapter 8 International Labor Rights and North American Labor Law
      (pp. 137-148)
      James B. Atleson

      A number of writers sympathetic to labor have recently argued that the humanitarian and justice concerns that should, even they often do not, underlie American labor law or American judicial and administration decisions should again be stressed.¹ Historian Nelson Lichtenstein, for instance, argues that “questions involving the dignity and the value of work” should return to the national agenda. The goal is to once again make a resolution of the labor question seem “synonymous with the economic and civil health of the society as a whole.”² It is not uncommon for supporters of labor and unions in the United States...

    • Chapter 9 Deconstructing Barriers: The Promise of Socioeconomic Rights for People with Disabilities in Canada
      (pp. 149-168)
      Sarah Armstrong, Mindy Noble and Pauline Rosenbaum

      Canada acceded to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1976. Now, thirty years later, it is time to appraise our thinking, actions, and socioeconomic policies concerning people with disabilities in Canada to see how well we are living up to these commitments.

      The government of Canada’s voluminous reports and judicial decisions on disability issues indicate a shift in disability policy from a “worthy poor” approach to a human rights approach. This model may hold promise for disability equality. Indeed, the reports and the policies enacted pursuant to them suggest some willingness on the part of...

    • Chapter 10 The Economic Rights of Migrant and Immigrant Workers in Canada and the United States
      (pp. 169-186)
      Vic Satzewich

      Canada and the United States are widely recognized as “countries of immigration.”¹ Compared to other countries that do not have the same histories of in-migration, both are seen to have relatively open immigration policies, treat immigrants relatively fairly, and provide comparatively easy access to citizenship. In addition, they do not put significant legal obstacles in the way of legal permanent residents who want to move up the socioeconomic ladder. Both also use immigration as part of their respective self-understandings and nation and population building strategies,² and both define immigrants as economic agents who can and should contribute certain skills, talents...

  7. Part IV. A European Comparison

    • Chapter 11 The Netherlands: A Walhalla of Economic and Social Rights?
      (pp. 189-202)
      Peter R. Baehr

      This chapter deals with the role of economic and social rights in the Netherlands, a small¹ state in Western Europe with a strong human rights tradition, in its domestic as well as its foreign policy.² It is a relatively wealthy nation, ranking fifth on the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP’s) Human Development Index.³ The Netherlands is a prosperous and open economy, depending heavily on foreign trade. Its economy is noted for stable industrial relations, moderate unemployment and inflation, a sizable current account surplus, and an important role as a European transportation hub. Industrial activity is predominantly in food processing, chemicals,...

  8. Appendices

    • Appendix 1 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
      (pp. 203-210)
    • Appendix 2 Excerpts from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s State of the Union Address, January 6, 1941
      (pp. 211-212)
    • Appendix 3 Excerpts from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s State of the Union Address, January 11, 1944
      (pp. 213-214)
  9. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 215-216)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 217-260)
  11. List of Contributors
    (pp. 261-266)
  12. Index
    (pp. 267-274)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 275-276)
    Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann and Claude E. Welch Jr.