Canada responds to years of pressure from community advocates by recognizing housing as a human right

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ACTO and the Right to Housing Coalition applaud recognition of right to housing in National Housing Strategy

November 24, 2017 (TORONTO) — For over seven years, the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) and the Right to Housing Coalition – alongside housing advocates from across the country, including those with lived experience of homelessness – have pressed for a National Housing Strategy and the recognition in law of the right to housing. Those demands have finally been heard by the federal government in their announcement of a National Housing Strategy.

“The courts repeatedly blocked our efforts to have these rights recognized under existing laws. But the community organizing on the ground sent a loud message to the government that enough is enough,” says ACTO lawyer Tracy Heffernan, one of the legal counsel in the historic Charter challenge. “The fight isn’t over just yet. Until new legislation is adopted by Parliament, we have to keep up the pressure to ensure that our government stays true to their promise of legally recognizing that housing is a human right.”

From 2010 to 2015, the Right to Housing Coalition worked tirelessly to have the voices of those impacted by the affordable housing crisis heard by the courts through the Charter case called Tanudajaja vs. Canada. 10,000 pages of evidence never heard by the court demonstrated:

Five applicants bravely shared their life stories of struggling with inadequate housing and homelessness, while many social justice organizations intervened in the case to echo the call for the right to housing, backed up by a National Housing Strategy.

In 2016, ACTO, the Right to Housing Coalition and others went to Geneva to make the case before the United Nations’ Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) that people were suffering from governments’ broken promises and to push for the right to housing in Canada.

Details of the National Housing Strategy unclear

While we celebrate the recognition of the right to housing and the creation of the first National Housing Strategy, we are also waiting for more details of how it will be implemented, to verify that it actually meets the needs of those living on lower incomes in Canada. The affordable housing crisis most adversely impacts hundreds of thousands of people living on lower incomes and fighting to keep a roof over their heads. These people cannot wait several years for the bulk of the money to be spent.

“Committing to a national strategy is an important step toward ending the affordable housing crisis, but a generation has gone by without meaningful spending and the time is now to invest in building communities,” says Kenneth Hale, the Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at ACTO. “We must continue to advocate for the rights of the most marginalized members of our society and work in partnership with people whose lives are being thrown off course by a lack of housing opportunities.”

See official press release here.

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Tell Canada’s Prime Minister to make affordable housing a human right!

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The Canadian government has promised to fix the affordable housing crisis with Canada’s first ever National Housing Strategy. From June to October 2016, the Federal government asked Canadians to share their thought on the future of housing in Canada. They summarized their findings in What We Heard: Shaping Canada’s National Housing Strategy.

The federal government promised to invest new funds in the next 11 years through the National Housing Strategy, to tackle the affordable housing crisis.  This fall, they will unveil the National Housing Strategy.

We believe that access to safe, adequate and affordable housing is a basic human right. And we want to make sure that our National Housing Strategy will guarantee everyone the fundamental right to housing.

Take action now! Click here to tell PM Justin Trudeau to make safe, adequate and affordable housing for all in Canada a legislated human right.

For more information:
Mind the Gap: Repairing Canada’s Social Safety Net with Human Rights
R2H Coalition submission to the Government of Canada on a National Housing Strategy
R2H Coalition submission to the UN’s CESCR on the Right to Adequate Housing

“Canada’s housing safety net is full of holes, that can and should be fixed, because access to clean, safe and affordable housing shouldn’t be considered a privilege, it is a human right. That was the message sent by advocates, supporters and activists who gathered on the lawn of Queen’s Park on Friday afternoon, before marching through Toronto in support of the National Housing Day of Action. . . ”

Read the full article here.

Follow-up story:
Toronto Star – November 22, 2016: “Report on Canada’s national housing strategy released

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MARCH for the Right to Housing!

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Food, water and shelter are some of the most fundamental human rights, yet Canada is facing an affordable housing and homelessness crisis. Everything begins with housing – without it, no one can truly live life with dignity.

On Friday November 18th, take the people’s pledge and join our National Housing Day of Action – take to the streets and march for the right to housing! 

See details of the march here.

We encourage you to bring noise makers – pots, pants, cans, shakers, drums, etc. and join the drummers as we march!

To endorse the march as a group or organization, please contact: righttohousingcoalition@gmail.com
(Endorsers will be listed here)

The Canadian government has promised to fix the affordable housing crisis with Canada’s first ever National Housing Strategy. On November 22nd, they will announce what they have heard people across Canada say is needed in a National Housing Strategy. We are calling for the government to ensure our National Housing Strategy will guarantee everyone the right to safe, adequate, and affordable housing.

We are here, loud and clear. Our message to the government is simple:

“This is Canada’s moment to make history. The federal and provincial governments have made the commitment to provide adequate housing to all. We, the people, are here to make a pledge that we will hold the government accountable to their promise.

  • No one shall ever feel a loss of their dignity because they don’t have a home.
  • No one shall ever have to choose between adequate food and housing.
  • No one shall ever have to live on our streets and sidewalks, or worry they may end up there.
  • No one shall ever have to pass on life’s opportunities because they don’t have a place to call home.

This is our pledge to everyone in Canada. Join our movement. Make your voice heard. Together let’s make a commitment that we will hold the government accountable.”

Please download this flyer and share within your network.
Share and invite your friends on our Facebook event page.

R2H Coalition submission on a National Housing Strategy

(Photo by John Bonnar)

(Photo credit: John Bonnar)

Download the Right to Housing Coalition’s written submission for the Government of Canada’s “Let’s Talk Housing” consultation:

Full submission
2-page summary

We encourage you to widely share, print and distribute our submission and/or summary. We welcome everyone to use them in your own efforts to call for an adequate National Housing Strategy that centers housing as a human right!

We also feel that this consultation process has been inadequate so far (details can be found in our full submission). It should not be a one-time consultation that wraps up on November 22nd, 2016 with a summary report and an announcement. The federal government needs to make a commitment to meaningfully engage and involve those with lived experience of precarious housing, housing inadequacy or homelessness, and those who work with vulnerable tenants and homeless people. This must happen throughout all stages of development, implementation and evaluation of the National Housing Strategy.

Tell your MP what you think – find your local MP here.
Send your feedback by October 21st to the “Let’s Talk Housing” consultation here.

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New UN report slams Canada for persistent housing & homelessness crisis

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Toronto (March 7, 2016) – In a new United Nations report released today, Canada is criticized harshly for its ongoing housing and homelessness crisis. Some of the problems identified by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights include: absence of a national housing strategy; insufficient funding for housing; inadequate housing subsidy within the social assistance benefit; shortage of social housing units; increased evictions related to rental arrears; increased numbers of homeless and lack of homelessness prevention; shortage of emergency shelters; laws that penalize people for being homeless; lack of adequate housing for people with psycho-social and intellectual disabilities; and the poor housing conditions of Canada’s indigenous peoples.

After the Supreme Court ruled that homeless Canadians could not present their evidence in court, a group of affordable housing advocates took their concerns to the UN. The UN Committee reviewed Canada in February on its compliance as a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a legally binding international treaty that outlines specific human rights obligations, including the right to an adequate standard of living.

“A committee of international human rights experts was able to see what Canadians and their political representatives refuse to see – that we are failing to protect a large and vulnerable portion of our population from violations of their fundamental right to housing,” commented Legal Director at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, Kenneth Hale, who was part of the NGO delegation that met with the Committee in Geneva last month.

Recommendations in the UN report include: implement a rights-based national housing strategy; increase federal and provincial resources for housing; increase availability of social housing and adequate emergency shelters across the country; intensify efforts to address indigenous peoples’ housing crisis; and integrate a disability perspective in all housing plans and policies. The report also sharply criticizes the barriers to disadvantaged groups accessing legal rights through the courts, and recommends that Canada broaden its interpretation of sections 7, 12 and 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include economic, social and cultural rights.

“Canada’s international reputation has taken an embarrassing nosedive over the past decade. All eyes are on Canada now to see if the new Liberal government will show that it is indeed serious about real change by complying with its international human rights obligations,” said Helen Luu of the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario and Right to Housing Coalition.

The UN Committee’s full report (concluding observations) can be found here.
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Official press release can be found in English here (ou en Français ici).

Media coverage:
March 7, 2016 – Toronto Star: UN raises concern over Canada’s persistent ‘housing crisis’
March 7, 2016 – Ici Radio-Canada: Stratégie nationale du logement : le Canada réprimandé par l’ONU
March 8, 2016 – Huffington Post: UN Warns of ‘Persistent Housing Crisis’ in Canada
March 8, 2016 – CBC News: UN critical of Canada’s record on housing, homelessness
March 15, 2016 – L’Express: Logement et sans-abri: le Canada réprimandé

 

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Housing Advocates Deliver New UN Report on Canada’s Troubled Human Rights Record to Finance Minister Ahead of the Federal Budget

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Toronto (March 7, 2016) – After the Supreme Court ruled that homeless Canadians could not present their evidence in court, a group of affordable housing advocates recently took their concerns about Canada’s failed housing policies to a United Nations committee. These advocates will be making comments to the media about the UN report being released today as they deliver it in person to the Finance Minister’s office.

The United Nations reviewed Canada on February 24th and 25th on its compliance as a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and will be releasing its concluding observations to the Canadian government this afternoon. The last review by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), held in 2006, had recommended that Canada address homelessness and inadequate housing as a national emergency, but advocates say Canada has repeatedly failed to do this.

“For some time, Canada’s international reputation has been in serious decline and we’ve really gone from being a beacon of human rights globally to a country whose reputation is very much in question,” said University of Toronto senior researcher Emily Paradis, who presented Canada’s record on housing to the UN committee in 2006. “I would certainly hope that this review offers an opportunity for Canada to redeem itself if our new government is serious about its international human rights obligations.”

The Right to Housing Coalition, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, Working for Change, ODSP Action Coalition, Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, and Colour of Povery – Colour of Change will be delivering the concluding observations of the CESCR to the office of Finance Minister Bill Morneau, two weeks ahead of the federal budget. Most of these groups went to Geneva last month to address the CESCR and made detailed written submissions about Canada’s housing and homelessness crisis. After delivering the UN report to the Minister’s office, representatives of the groups will give statements to the media and answer questions.

Where: Outside Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s office, 430 Parliament Street, Toronto

When: Monday, March 7th at 2:00pm

Why: To provide an expert overview of the CESCR’s concluding observations about Canada’s housing and homelessness crisis

The CESCR’s concluding observations may be found here after 12:00pm ET.

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Official press release can be found here.