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.
Official press release can be found in English here (ou en Français ici).
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 – CBC News: UN critical of Canada’s record on housing, homelessness
March 15, 2016 – L’Express: Logement et sans-abri: le Canada réprimandé