We’re at the United Nations’ review of Canada!

We’ve sent two delegates to Geneva! The United Nation’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) for Canada’s Sixth Periodic Review started today and Right to Housing Coalition member, Mike Creek, had this to say to them this morning:

___

Good Morning:

Committee Members, Delegates, Members of non-governmental organizations and friends. My Name is Michael Creek and I’m here in Geneva with you as a person who has a lived experience of homelessness. Thank you for this opportunity to share my message.

My slide into poverty and homelessness took place over time as I recovered from cancer. Because of the long-term and physically devastating impacts of chemotherapy, I was unable to work and then unable to pay my rent. The day I was evicted, I found myself homeless. Never did I realize that those first nights living in a city ravine would leave deep scars on my soul. No one heard or felt the tears those first nights on the street. I was never alone in this large ravine; others used this as their home, some had tents and camps, others just a blanket or sleeping bag. We were hidden under bridges, covered by nature, hidden out of sight of society, people whose rights and dignity was forgotten by most of society and failed by their government which did not provide rights and protections.

Our shelters are filled to capacity and our Out of the Cold Programs have men and woman sleeping in church basements, inches apart. I spent a night in one of those shelters, a horrible place that I later avoided at all costs.

We have a housing crisis in Canada. It is a National Disaster that is ignored by our governments. In Ontario, my province, we have 168,711 Ontarians on active waiting lists for affordable housing. In Canada we have a minimum of 235,000 people who will experience homelessness in a given year and 35,000 homeless people on any given night. In Toronto, we have a Homeless Memorial, a rectangular wooden box, tucked away and hidden from most in our city. In the box, there are 794 names of people who have died on our streets in Toronto. Once a month, advocates and community members meet to update the list of men and woman whose voices have been silenced by death, their human rights denied.

In 2009, I joined The Right to Housing Coalition coordinated by the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario. Our coalition includes community activists, Indigenous groups, lawyers, academics, and those with lived experience of homelessness. In Canada, persons affected by homelessness and the lack of affordable housing are disproportionately members of groups protected from discrimination under s. 15(1) of the charter, including women, single mothers, persons with mental and physical disabilities, Indigenous persons, seniors, youth, racialized persons, newcomers and person in receipt of social assistance. In this context of inaction by the government, increasing homelessness and critical shortages of affordable housing, we launched a charter challenge. The bases of the claim was that Ontario and Canada were violating the Charter by withdrawing government funding for affordable and adequate housing and failing to take action to address the growing crisis of homelessness.

In May 2012, the Ontario and Federal governments brought a motion to “strike” the application on the ground that it disclosed “no reasonable cause of action” which meant that not a single piece of evidence could be heard. Voices were silenced, expert witness and applicant affidavits detailing the devastating impacts of homelessness and the government’s actions and inactions which led to this crisis, would not be heard; not a single word. Human Rights denied by our government and courts. 10,000 pages of evidence not allowed before the court. It remains a very sad and disappointing day for many of us who believe in the Right to Housing. That motion felt like we were being kicked again, denied even a hearing in the court of laws, our own governments fighting against us. I felt such shame that I lived in a country that would not recognize these very fundamental rights.

Finally, in closing, I think about the men and woman who I see on our streets every day. I think about the men and women who struggle with poverty, who are steps away from being homeless. I think of the systemic discrimination experienced by those living at the bottom of society.

Homeless people often feel disillusioned, often bashed into silence. When you are beaten down by homelessness, you sometimes stop struggling and give into the feeling that nothing can change. Rights matter, all people matter, it is time that our country Canada lived up to the right to housing and security of the person. It is time we lived up to our international obligations and our Canadian Charter of Rights should reflect these obligations. Will the darkness of homelessness continue or will our new Prime Minister’s Sunny Ways reach down to the bottom and recognize that we have rights that are being denied.

I found my way out of poverty and homelessness. I have a home. I have a good job that is rewarding. I belong to a community and advocate for those whose voice has been silenced. I have a voice which I try to use to influence policy on poverty and homelessness. My organization Working for Change supports me in this work every day. I have a life worth living again.

I hope that this review of my country will state in the strongest terms possible that Canada must do more, that Article 11, the right to adequate housing, must be entrenched in our Charter. Human Rights matter. They are more than just words.

Read our written submission here.

___

Follow the action on Twitter:

#EyesOnCanada
#CESCR2016
#Right2Housing

Media coverage:
February 18, 2016, Canadian Press: Coalition to urge UN committee to press Canada on affordable housing
February 20, 2016, Toronto Star: Advocates take Canada’s housing policy to the UN
February 29, 2016, rabble.ca: The ‘right’ time to act on poverty

CESCR submission on the Right to Adequate Housing

nina

We’re going international! The Right to Housing Coalition just sent in a submission on the Right to Adequate Housing to the United Nations’ Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) for Canada’s Sixth Periodic Review. We’re also sending two people to  Geneva, Switzerland from February 24th-25th to make sure they hear us!

Download the full written submission here.

Excerpt from the submission:

Recommendations for Action

Canada

  • Canada must ensure access to justice for marginalized groups. We urge Canada to allow individuals and organizations to claim social and economic rights before courts and tribunals on full evidentiary records.
  • Canada must clarify its housing commitments. In particular we urge the federal government to adopt a rights-based definition of affordable housing that defines affordability as 30% of household income, as part of a commitment to the right to adequate, affordable, and accessible housing for all, and especially for the most vulnerable and marginalized communities.
  • Canada must articulate its commitments to producing non-profit, social, co-operative, and supportive housing, and to build on commitments in the mandate letters provided to federal Ministers in 2015 to develop a comprehensive, funded, rights-based National Housing Strategy with targets and timelines for implementation.

Ontario

  • Ontario must ensure access to justice for marginalized groups. We urge Ontario to allow individuals and organizations to claim social and economic rights before courts and tribunals on full evidentiary records.
  • Ontario must address inadequate social assistance amounts, in particular, Ontario must ensure that shelter allowances reflect average market rents. Ontario should set targets and implementation dates to increase social assistance levels and shelter allowances to reflect market basket expenses and market rents.
  • Ontario must implement planning regulations that ensure all new developments include a percentage of affordable housing units.
  • Ontario must develop, implement and fund strategies to address eviction prevention and homelessness prevention.
  • Ontario must implement a rent control system to prevent economic evictions in private rental housing.
  • Ontario must ensure access to adequate affordable housing for all low income communities.

Municipalities

  • Municipalities must develop and implement a protocol for extreme cold weather alerts that is evidence-based and includes global best practices.
  • Municipalities must implement planning regulations that ensure all new developments include a percentage of affordable housing units.
  • Municipalities must develop strategies to address eviction prevention, homelessness prevention, and access to affordable housing.

___

Media coverage:
February 18, 2016, Canadian Press: Coalition to urge UN committee to press Canada on affordable housing
February 20, 2016, Toronto Star: Advocates take Canada’s housing policy to the UN
February 29, 2016, rabble.ca: The ‘right’ time to act on poverty

After National Housing Day: TAKE ACTION!


image4

Thank you to everyone who took taking part in our National Housing Day event on November 20th in Toronto!

If you attended the march and/or the People’s Assembly, we would like to get your feedback – please take 5 minutes to fill out this online survey:
National Housing Day event survey

Next Steps… Let’s continue to build and TAKE ACTION!
On November 20th, about 300+ people took part in a powerful day, speaking up and marching for the right to housing, and being “spect-actors” in a forum theatre play based on people’s real lived experiences of homelessness and housing struggles. We then joined together in a legislative theatre process to brainstorm policy solutions that will help solve the affordable housing and homelessness crisis, and these are the three that we collectively voted to pass:

      1. The Government of Canada must implement a national housing strategy
      2.  

      3. People are forced to wait many years for social housing because the waiting list is too long. The provincial government must make private market rents more affordable and raise the shelter allowance for people on social assistance to an adequate amount that meets real need.

      4.  

      5. The provincial and municipal governments must pass and implement inclusionary housing laws that require affordable housing in all new developments.

We will be following up with policymakers and legislators (including but not limited to those in attendance: MP Adam Vaughan, MPP Cheri DiNovo, and Toronto City Councillor Joe Cressy). We encourage you to also contact your local politicians at all levels of government  to push for these necessary policy solutions:

Federal:
Your local MP
Amarjeet Sohi (Minister of Infrastructure and Communities)
Jean-Yves Duclos (Minister of Families, Children and Social Development)
Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister of Canada)

Provincial:
Your local MPP
Ted McMeekin (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing)
Kathleen Wynne (Premier of Ontario)

Municipal:
Your local City Councillor
Ana Bailão (City Councillor & Chair of the Affordable Housing Committee)
John Tory (Mayor of Toronto)

shelter allowance chart 2014

Graph: Current shelter allowance rates in Ontario are inadequate

Media about our National Housing Day event:
Faces of Toronto’s housing and homelessness crisis (Now Magazine)
National Housing Day Rally 2015 (Urban SimpliCity)
Housing Advocates Continue to Push for a National Housing Strategy (JustWords)

View more photos of the march here, here and here.

National Housing Day in Toronto: The People’s Assembly on the Right to Housing

NationalHousingDay2015_R2HPeoplesAssembly

Join the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario and the Right to Housing Coalition in Toronto for a march and People’s Assembly on Friday November 20th to mark National Housing Day!‎

“We are all actors: being a citizen is not living in society, it is changing it.” – Augusto Boal

If you were in charge, what would you change?

On June 25th, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that a Charter challenge holding governments responsible for the crisis in affordable housing and homelessness will never be heard in Canadian courts. The courts refuse to hear the people, but the people will be heard! We will continue to take to the streets until we have a national housing strategy. The new Liberal government campaigned with a promise to fix our affordable housing crisis and we will hold them to this. We are calling for the government to ensure that everyone has the right to housing.  Join the People’s Assembly on the Right to Housing to help imagine what a national housing strategy will look like.

To register: https://nationalhousingday2015.eventbrite.ca
(If you need assistance with registration, call 416-597-5855 or toll free 1-866-245-4182)

11:00am – March!
Location: meet outside the Superior Court of Justice, 361 University Ave. (north of Queen St. W)

12:30pm–3:30pm – People’s Assembly!
Location: Church of the Holy Trinity, 10 Trinity Square (behind Eaton Centre)
Rise up, speak up! Be a “spect-actor” in our legislative theatre chambers and join our collective voices for an end to the affordable housing and homelessness crisis!
Watch a short play based on local community members’ lived experiences of homelessness and housing struggles. Act onstage to offer alternative solutions to this systemic problem – on the individual, institutional and government levels. Propose policy ideas which will be heard by housing advocates, policymakers, legislators and others witnessing the process. Vote on the laws you want to see passed.
An interactive performance/community dialogue performed and facilitated by Branch Out Theatre.

Free – all welcome! Wheelchair accessible. ASL interpretation provided.
A light, hot lunch will be served at Church of the Holy Trinity at 12:00pm.
This event is part of a national day of action.

Help us share the event on Facebook!: https://www.facebook.com/events/420537858147673/

Right to Housing Forum: September 30th

VoteHousing4All_ACTOForum_flyer
We have an affordable housing and homelessness crisis in Canada and the government is doing little to fix it. The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) and the Right to Housing Coalition are joining groups and individuals across Canada in a national week of action. Make affordable housing an election issue and vote housing for all!

Join us for our Right to Housing Forum to talk about the affordable housing and homelessness crisis in the context of housing as a right.

SPEAKERS:
Leilani Farha, United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada
Christa Big Canoe, Legal Advocacy Director, Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto

COMMENTATORS:
Mike Creek, Working for Change
Cheyanne Ratnam, What’s The Map: Mobilizing Newcomer Homeless Youth

MODERATOR:
Angela Robertson, Central Toronto Community Health Centres

THIS EVENT IS FREE! ALL WELCOME!

Date: Wednesday, September 30th from 6:30pm-8:30pm
Location: Ryerson University, Library Building, 350 Victoria St., Room 72
The forum will also be broadcast live online here.

Wheelchair accessible and ASL interpretation provided.
Invite your friends and share our Facebook event page here.
Downloads: poster (pdf) / flyer (pdf)

Co-sponsored by the Unifor-Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy at Ryerson University.

As the October 2015 federal election approaches, send a strong message to all political parties: we want a national housing strategy now! This event is part of a national week of action, Sep 23rd-30th. For more information: https://righttohousing.wordpress.com/take-action.
Use the hashtag #votehousing4all

Tools & Resources: Join our collective voices across Canada to call for the right to housing!

LOGO_Housing_for_all_english

We have an affordable housing and homelessness crisis in Canada and the government is doing little to fix it. As the October 2015 federal election approaches, use and share these tools & resources in your local campaigns and advocacy efforts to send a strong message to all political parties: we want a national housing strategy now!

More information on what we are calling for:
Right to Housing – take action!
Vote Housing For All Network

Campaign logo:
Download the Vote Housing For All logo (right click and choose “save image as”) in English or French/Français

Social media hashtags:
#votehousing4all (English)
#logementundroit (Français)
#housing4all
#right2housing

Resources for the elections:
Housing For All – news & resources
Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa – federal elections tips & resources
Canadian Association of Community Health Centres – report card & petition
Federation of Canadian Municipalities – petition & policy tracker & election toolkit
Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario – one page info sheet & national poll press release & report card on party platforms
Call for Housing – campaign page & petition
Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada/Vote Co-op Housing – campaign tools
College of Family Physicians of Canada – report card on each party’s stance on homelessness
Homeless Hub – election guide & party platforms on housing
The Housing Fix (The Tyee) – investigative media project on housing + party platforms summary + election candidates look-up tool
FRAPRU – bulletin de fin de campagne

Visual tools on affordable housing and homelessness in Canada:
Infographic: Homelessness in Canada by the numbers (Homeless Hub)
Infographic: Affordable housing for Ontario (a series of infographics by ONPHA)
Infographic: Did you know: Canada is only G8 country without national housing strategy (CACHC)
Infographic: Affordable Housing in Canada (CPJ)
Infographic: Urban Aboriginal homelessness in Canada (Homeless Hub)
Infographic: The real cost of homelessness (Homeless Hub)
Infographic: Housing and mental health – .pdf version / .jpg version page 1 & page 2 (CAMH)
Infographic info sheet: Housing For All (CHRA)
Infographic/statistics: The state of housing in Canada (CHRA)
Infographic/statistics: Average cost of rental housing across Canada (RentSeeker)
Infographic/statistics: Why Canada Needs a National Housing Strategy (YWCA Toronto)
Infographic/statistics: Women and shelter use in Canada (YWCA Toronto)
Infographic/statistics: Canada Needs a National Housing Strategy (Campaign 2000)
Graphic: Over half of Canadians would support a political party that makes housing a priority (ONPHA)
Video: Housing For All (CHRA)
Videos: Why Housing Matters for Families / Seniors / Youth (ECOHH)
Videos: Le logement social, pour les femmes, c’est vital! (FRAPRU)

Policy briefs and reports:
Winnipeg Right to Housing Coalition – federal brief on housing
Dignity for All – national anti-poverty plan for Canada
Registered Nurses of Ontario – Why Health Matters guide to the elections
Canadian Rental Housing Index (detailed analysis of affordability and suitability of rental housing across Canada)
Canadian Observatory on Homelessness – State of Homelessness in Canada 2014 report
Vote Housing For All Network – poll on national attitudes towards affordable housing as election issue
Wellesley Institute – Health Equity Impact Assessment on housing + analysis of party platforms

Last updated: October 15, 2015.
More resources will be added as they become available – please visit again!
Contact us if you would like your federal election & housing related tool or resource to be shared on this page.

We are part of the Vote Housing For All network. Join the campaign!

Supreme Court Slams Door Shut on Canada’s Housing Crisis

TORONTO, June 25, 2015 – The Supreme Court of Canada ruled today that a Charter challenge holding governments responsible for the crisis in affordable housing and homelessness will never be heard in Canadian courts.

With no evidence before them, two out of three judges at the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a controversial lower court decision that issues of homelessness do not belong in the courtroom. The Supreme Court decision affirms this ruling and brings to a close the five year wait by homeless and precariously housed applicants to have 10,000 pages of evidence detailing the impact of homelessness on hundreds of thousands of people across the country presented to the court.

“The housing and homelessness crisis is directly related to policy decisions that governments make every day,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, one of sixteen organizations that intervened in the case. “The Supreme Court’s ruling means that the troubling ways that those decisions impact and even violate the rights of some of the most marginalized communities in Canada remain unexamined.”

There continues to be a worsening housing crisis in Canada. Over the past five years, Ontario’s affordable housing waiting list has ballooned to 168,711 households, the Federal government has announced the revocation of 365,000 housing subsidies for low income households across the country, and the cost of keeping people homeless has continued to skyrocket. It is currently estimated at $7 billion annually.

“Housing should be a fundamental human right,” asserts Janice Arsenault, an applicant in the case. “It is shameful that disadvantaged people like me have been refused access to court on issues basic to our health, life and well-being. But if the courts think this is a political issue, it’s time for the government to sit up and do something.”

For more information on the Right to Housing Charter Challenge:
http://www.acto.ca/en/cases/right-to-housing.html

Official press release on today’s ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada:
Supreme Court Slams Door Shut on Canada’s Housing Crisis

Media coverage:
Supreme Court tosses out affordable housing case (iPolitics – Thursday, June 25, 2015)
Homeless Denied Day in Court (Toronto Star – Thursday, June 25, 2015)