* U.N. official says 800,000 households are "food insecure"
* Canada questions use of official's time
* Health minister dismisses him as ill-informed academic
(Adds details and comments from health minister)
OTTAWA, May 16 A U.N. official criticized Canada
on Wednesday for allowing some of its people to go hungry, but
the government dismissed him as a "patronizing academic" and
said there are more pressing food concerns in other countries.
"Canada has long been seen as a land of plenty. Yet today
one in 10 families with a child under six is unable to meet
their daily food needs," Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations
special rapporteur on the right to food, said in a statement.
"These rates of food insecurity are unacceptable, and it is
time for Canada to adopt a national right to food strategy."
He said 800,000 households in the country are "food
insecure". Canada has a population of 34 million.
De Schutter also raised concerns about the treatment of the
country's aboriginal peoples.
Canada is the first developed country on which De Schutter
has reported. U.N. spokeswoman Yoonie Kim said Canada has a
standing invitation to U.N. human rights officials to visit.
Reacting to De Schutter's report, Canadian Foreign Minister
John Baird told reporters the country's federal and provincial
governments are focused on improving the lives of Canadians and
their ability to provide for themselves.
"There are, what, 193 members of the U.N.? I think most
Canadians would think that spending 11 days in Canada on this
issue - his time would be better spent elsewhere," Baird said.
After De Schutter complained in a newspaper interview that
no federal cabinet minister had agreed to meet him, Health
Minister Leona Aglukkaq, from Canada's aboriginal Inuit
population, met him on Wednesday.
But the meeting did not seem to go well.
"I met with the individual this morning and I found him to
be an ill-informed, patronizing academic studying, once again,
the aboriginal people, Inuit and Canada's Arctic from afar,"
Aglukkaq told Parliament.
"I took the opportunity to educate him about Canada's north
and the aboriginal people who depend on the wildlife that they
hunt every day for food security."
(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Peter Galloway)