June 21, 2019 (Toronto, ON) – An important milestone has been achieved in Canada as Parliament formally recognizes that housing is a fundamental human right. Bill C-97, which includes the National Housing Strategy Act, received Royal Assent today. For over a decade, the right to housing movement across the country demanded the creation of a National Housing Strategy and the recognition of the right to housing in law. The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) and the Right to Housing (R2H) Coalition celebrate that millions of people can now hold their government accountable for addressing their housing needs.
The R2H Coalition and ACTO’s historic Charter challenge inspired public awareness of what a right to safe, secure and adequate housing could mean for those living in Canada. Five applicants bravely shared their life experience of struggling with inadequate housing and homelessness, while many social justice organizations intervened to echo the call for the right to housing. “Taking the government to court for failing to address growing homelessness and the affordable housing crisis was a colossal task,” explains Kenneth Hale, the Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at ACTO. “As a specialty legal clinic committed to representing the needs of low-income Ontarians, we had to show Canadians and the world that too many vulnerable lives were being harmed.”
Across Canada, 1.7 million people are living in unaffordable and inadequate homes. Mass homelessness is disproportionally impacting Indigenous people, people living with disabilities, women, lone-parent households, racialized and immigrant communities. “It’s been proven that safe and secure housing is a step further to socioeconomic well-being,” says Lubna Khalid a member of the R2H Coalition. “It builds people’s self-esteem and confidence while improving mental and physical health.”
After the R2H Coalition and ACTO highlighted Canada’s failure to adequately house its vulnerable residents before a United Nations committee in Geneva, Canada was told that it must adopt a human-rights based national housing strategy and collaborate with affected communities. With the right to housing now legislated, people will have a new Federal Housing Advocate and the National Housing Council to hold the government accountable for systemic violations of their right to adequate housing. “We see the terrible consequences to people who experience homelessness every day,” says Mike Creek, a member of the R2H Coalition who attended the UN meeting. “The right to housing will change lives and how we view housing. Canadians should celebrate that housing is recognized as a human right. This is something to be proud of.”
So what does this new legislation mean?
Read ACTO’s blog post: We got the Right to Housing. Now What? (June 27, 2019)
Read CHRA’s blog post: Right to Housing is Now Law in Canada: So Now What? (July 5, 2019)