Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ”Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection”. Article 16 further states that “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State”. This is further affirmed by Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states that “The widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the family, which is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, particularly for its establishment and while it is responsible for the care and education of dependent children” (Article 10).
The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women requires States Parties to take all appropriate measures to ensure “a proper understanding of maternity as a social function and the recognition of the common responsibility of men and women in the upbringing and development of their children” (Article 5) and to “encourage the provision of the necessary supporting social services to enable parents to combine family obligations with work responsibilities and participation in public life” (Article 11). 
The Convention on the Rights of the Child requires states parties to render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities and to ensure the development of institutions, facilities and services for the care of children.
The 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development recognized the family as the basic unit of society, and that traditional notions of parental and domestic functions do not reflect current realities and aspirations. The Programme of Action called upon governments to cooperate with employers to provide and promote means to make participation in the labour force more compatible with parental responsibilities, especially for single-parent households with young children, and to take effective action to eliminate all forms of coercion and discrimination in policies and practices. The 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action recognized that the lack of a family-friendly workplace was a significant obstacle to women achieving their full potential, and set as a strategic objective the promotion of harmonization of work and family responsibilities for women and men.
U.N. treaty bodies have expressed concerns about Canada’s implementation of these rights, particularly with respect to sole-support mothers.
The January 1997 Report on Canada of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women expressed deep concern about the deepening poverty among single mothers, aggravated by the withdrawal, modification, or weakening of social assistance programmes. It suggested that the Government address urgently the factors that are responsible for increasing poverty among women and especially women single parents and that the Government develop programmes and policies to combat this poverty. It recommended that social assistance programmes directed at women be restored to an adequate level. 
Similarly, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in its 1998 observations on Canada’s implementation of the Covenant, stated that it was gravely concerned that the repeal of the Canada Assistance Program and cuts to social assistance rates, social services and programmes had had a particularly harsh impact on women, particularly single mothers, who are the majority of the poor, the majority of adults receiving social assistance, and the majority among users of social programmes.
The Committee expressed concern that cuts to social assistance programmes, the unavailability of affordable and appropriate housing, and widespread discrimination with respect to housing create obstacles to escaping domestic violence, such that many women are forced to choose between returning to or staying in a violent situation or homelessness, and inadequate food and clothing for themselves and their children. The Committee urged Canada to implement a national strategy for the reduction of homelessness and poverty, including dealing with issues surrounding social assistance and housing, and improving and properly enforcing anti-discrimination legislation.
These concerns were reinforced by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its 2003 Concluding Observations on Canada’s Report under the Convention. The Committee reiterated concerns regarding child poverty, and noted the impact of the deepening poverty among single mothers and other vulnerable groups on children. The Committee recommended that the Canadian government develop programmes and policies to ensure that all families have adequate resources and facilities, paying due attention to the situation of single mothers and other vulnerable groups.
 10 December 1948, General Assembly resolution 217A (III), UN Doc. A/810
 16 December 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Can. T.S. 1976 No. 47 (entered into force 23 March 1976, accession by Canada 19 May 1976).
 16 December 1966, 993 U.N.T.S. 3, Can. T.S. 1976 No. 46 (entered into force 03 January 1976, accession by Canada 19 August 1976).
 18 December 1979, GA Res. 34/180 (entered into force 03 September 1981) accession by Canada 09 January 1982).
 The Optional Protocol to this Convention permits the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to receive complaints; G.A. Res. A/54/4 (entered into force 22 December 2000), accession by Canada 18 January 2003.
 20 November 1989, GA Res. 44/25 (entered into force 02 September 1990) accession by Canada 12 January 1992, Article 18.
 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (September 1994)
 United Nations Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women (17 October 1995) A/CONF.177/20
 United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women: Canada, 12 August 1997, A/52/38/Rev.1, paras.306-343.
 “The Government informed the Committee in its 1993 report that CAP set national standards for social welfare, required that work by welfare recipients be freely chosen, guaranteed the right to an adequate standard of living, and facilitated court challenges to federally-funded provincial social assistance programs. In contrast the CHST [the Canada Health and Social Transfer, which replaced it] has eliminated each of these features and significantly reduced the amount of cash transfer payments provided to the provinces to cover social assistance”, ibid, para. 19.
 United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant (Concluding Observations – Canada), 10 December 1998, E/C/12/1/Add.31.
 United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Section 44 of the Convention: Concluding Observations on Canada , 27 October 2003, CRC/C/15/Add.215