From the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario
September 6, 2013
Homeless Canadians Denied Their Day in Court
Judge Accepts Government Motion to Quash Historic Case
(Toronto) Today, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that homeless and inadequately housed Ontarians should be denied a chance to have their landmark legal challenge heard.
“This case is about the fundamental principle of access to justice in our society,” said Tracy Heffernan, staff lawyer for the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, who represents the applicants. “By denying them the chance to present their evidence, the Court suggests that poor people cannot rely on Charter protection.”
Joined by housing advocates from the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA), the individuals filed the case in 2010, seeking a Court order requiring Federal and Provincial governments to implement a national housing strategy. They argued that Canada and Ontario have violated their rights under section 7 and section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by creating and maintaining conditions that lead to and sustain homelessness.
In May of this year, the governments of Canada and Ontario argued that the case should be struck down before any evidence was heard. Several interveners, including Amnesty International, underscored the importance of allowing the challenge to move forward. Today’s decision accepted government arguments that “it is plain and obvious that the Application cannot succeed” and dismissed the case.
“The decision reflects a narrow view of the Charter that seems to be applied when the poor seek judicial relief,” said Peter Rosenthal, lawyer for the applicants.
In his decision, Justice Lederer said that courts in Canada have no role in reviewing critical human rights issues such as “the basis on which people may be evicted from where they live and the treatment of those with psycho-social and intellectual disabilities”.
“This will come as a shock to those in Canada and the international community who have been assured that Canada recognizes access to adequate housing as a fundamental human right and that the most marginalized are protected under the Charter,” said Leilani Farha of CERA. “This decision, if allowed to stand, denies any protection under the Charter to the most vulnerable groups in Canada – those devastated by homelessness and inadequate housing. We welcome the opportunity to have these critical issues considered on appeal.”
To schedule interviews with spokespeople contact: Yutaka Dirks 416-597-5855 x.5243 or 1-866-245-4182 x.5243 email: dirksy[at]lao.on.ca http://www.acto.ca/en/cases/right-to-housing.html