What we’re doing

While domestic protections have lagged behind, the high rates of poverty in the province violate B.C.’s obligations to respect people’s right to an adequate standard of living as enshrined in international law. BCOHRC is committed to working towards effective and meaningful domestic protections for economic rights, engaging in poverty as a human rights issue, dismantling discrimination against people living in poverty and advocating for policy change.

Below are some of the examples of our work in this area.

Bringing international protections for economic rights home

In support of the Office’s mandate to promote compliance with international human rights obligations, our first report to the United Nations periodic review process occurred in February of 2020 on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Under international law, economic rights—like the right to an “adequate standard of living” through necessities like food, water and housing—are protected. These basic rights, as well as rights to education, health care, work and more, are contained within the ICESCR, which Canada ratified in 1976.

However, these rights are not currently protected under Canadian domestic law, which makes them difficult to enforce. B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner is committed to ensuring that there are domestic protections for economic rights. One way we work towards this is by engaging with the United Nation’s periodic review process, which looks at how countries are doing in relation to the rights outlined in the ICESCR.

B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner is concerned that economic, social and cultural rights, such as access to necessities like food, water and housing, continue to be routinely violated in Canada. Poverty in British Columbia is high: one in 10 residents live in poverty, and those receiving basic assistance are still left with an annualized income less than 50 per cent of the poverty line threshold.

What we know


children in B.C. grow up living in poverty.

Studies show there are long-term impacts on children’s health and development. (Source 1, Source 2)


queer, transgender and Two-Spirit youth are forced out of their homes.

Studies show that queer and trans youth homelessness is often caused by severe family conflict. (Source)


of seniors in B.C. live in poverty.

B.C. has the highest seniors’ poverty rate in Canada at eight per cent. (Source)


single senior women in B.C. were poor

in 2014 (33.8 per cent) compared to 22.5 per cent of senior men. (Source)