A Hard Won Victory for Housing


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)


Tell the City of Toronto that housing is a human right

Right to Housing in Toronto banner image

The City of Toronto is in the midst of consultations on their upcoming 10 year housing and homelessness plan – HousingTO – and they have received direction from City Council to consult on a rights-based approach to housing. This is a great chance to finally have housing as a human right recognized in Toronto, especially since it can build on the right to housing work that looks to be moving forward through the national housing strategy.

Similar to the TO Housing Pledge, a few of us have come together again to call for changes at the City – this time focusing on the right to housing. We’ve created a website – www.Right2HousingTO.ca – with information on what a rights-approach to the HousingTO plan should include, as well as pathways to the City’s consultation process where people can also indicate their support for a right to housing in Toronto (it also includes some information on the right to housing federally).

There is an opportunity for real movement on a right to housing in Toronto through this new 10 year housing and homelessness plan.

Learn more here and find out what you can do to tell the City that housing is a right!

Recognize the Right to Housing in Law

Canadians have been urging their governments to recognize housing as a human right for over a decade. Last year, the federal government introduced Canada’s National Housing Strategy and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that “housing rights are human rights”. Now public consultations on the National Housing Strategy’s human rights-based approach to housing are underway until June 2018. The Government of Canada wants to hear what you have to say about the key elements of a human rights-based approach to housing, the proposed approach to new legislation, and new concepts to be explored.

We believe that the federal government MUST recognize that housing is a human right in law. Canada signed international agreements that must be upheld. We need clear remedies to hold our government accountable to their promise. Without recognition of the right to housing in law, a human-rights based approach to housing is merely symbolic.

Click on this link to send an email to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and tell them to recognize housing as a right in law.

Right to Housing Forum

On April 30, 2018, we organized the Right to Housing Forum. Panelists discussed solutions to Ontario’s affordable rental housing crisis and what the right to housing should look like in Canada – if you couldn’t make it in person, watch the forum here:

The Government of Canada is currently in the midst of a national consultation for their human rights-based approach to housing. Consultations will end on June 1, 2018. We encourage everyone to engage in this process through written submissions.

Here are two resources to help you with your submission:

1 – ACTO’s ideas paper on the human rights-based approach: Questions on the Way to the Right to Housing.

2 – Emily Paradis, Research Consultant at the University of Toronto and Bruce Porter, the Executive Director of the Social Rights Advocacy Centre have prepared a summary paper that sets out key elements for implementing the right to housing: Implementing the Human Right to Housing in Canada’s National Housing Strategy.

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


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.

Join us in delivering the UN report on Canada’s human rights record to the Finance Minister!

DSCN4544(photo credit: John Bonnar)

We sent two delegates to Geneva in February to address the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights during its review of Canada. The UN committee’s concluding observations will be released to the Canadian government on Monday, March 7th at 12:00pm ET, and we plan to bring attention to this! Join us that day at 2:00pm as we deliver the UN report to the Finance Minister, two weeks ahead of the federal budget! Help us show the government that housing is a human right!

If you can’t make it in person, you can still make your voice heard, wherever you live! Call, email or visit your local MP that day to tell them you want them to act on the recommendations in the UN report on Canada’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Ask them what they plan to do about Canada’s poor track record on the housing and homelessness crisis. You can locate the contact information for your local MP by entering your postal code here.

What: We will be “delivering” the UN report to Finance Minister Bill Morneau and have speakers who will give statements to the media and answer media questions.

Who: Speakers representing the Right to Housing Coalition, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, Working for Change, Chiefs of OntarioODSP Action Coalition, and Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation. Everyone joining us on the street can help us deliver the report!

When: Monday, March 7th from 2:00-2:30pm

Where: Outside on the sidewalk in front of Bill Morneau’s office, 430 Parliament St. (between Gerrard and Carleton), Toronto

Why: Canada has been ignoring the fact that it signed this international human rights covenant for far too long. After the last UN review in 2006, the CESCR slammed Canada on its poor track record, noting that most of its recommendations from previous reviews in 1993 and 1998 had not been implemented, and referring to the inadequate housing and homelessness crisis as a “national emergency.” Canada’s new Liberal government promises to deliver “real change” but what we heard from the government’s representatives during this year’s review was sadly business as usual. We will not accept business as usual because everyone who lives in Canada deserves the right to housing! Real change will only happen if Canadians speak up and tell the government that it’s time to comply with our international human rights obligations. Public pressure and media attention on the issue will make it hard for Canada to ignore the UN report again – so join us in making sure our message is heard!

Read our media advisory here.

Right to Housing Forum: September 30th

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.

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

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

Angela Robertson, Central Toronto Community Health Centres


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

Toronto: RALLY for National Housing Day!


We have a housing and homelessness crisis in Canada.

November 21st: We will be heard.

Speak up for an end to the housing crisis!
Speak out for an end to homelessness!

The Toronto rally is part of a National Day of Action taking place across Canada to send a message to the Federal government that we are calling for a national housing strategy and a stop to the cuts now!

For more information or to endorse the rally as a group or organization: righttohousingcoalition@gmail.com.
View the press release here.
Don’t forget to join us at our Right to Housing Forum after the rally!
You can download (and print!) pdf versions of the flyer here:
poster (8.5″ x 11″)
half-sized flyers (change the settings to print 2 to a page before printing)

In Canada, we have 150,000 to 300,000 people who are visibly homeless, plus 450,000 to 900,000 people who are among the “hidden homeless.”

The homelessness crisis may soon get even worse.

In Canada, 365,000 low income households are at risk of losing their homes because the Federal government refuses to renew subsidies for social housing. Meanwhile, the waiting list for social housing continues to grow: there are over 165,000 households on the waiting list in Ontario alone.

In 2009, Miloon Kothari, the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing, called the housing and homelessness crisis in Canada a “national emergency.” Yet, Canada remains the only G8 nation in the world without a national housing strategy, and our government continues to cut funding to housing and homelessness programs.

Join us on November 21st as we raise our voices collectively to say enough is enough!
Stop the cuts!
We need a national housing strategy now!

Toronto rally endorsed by 38 groups and organizations:
Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario
Street Health
Federation of Metro Tenants Association
Toronto Drop-in Network
Houselink Community Homes
Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario
Homelessness and Housing Umbrella Group
Oak Street Housing Co-operative
Young Parents No Fixed Address
Toronto ACORN
The Dream Team
Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness
Grey-Bruce Community Legal Clinic
Women Speak Out
Voices from the Street
Working for Change

Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation
ODSP Action Coalition
Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change
Ve’ahavta:The Canadian Jewish Humanitarian and Relief Committee
Parkdale Community Legal Services
Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Ontario Regional Council
Children’s Aid Society of Toronto

Canadian Observatory on Homelessness
Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto
Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto
Parkdale Activity – Recreation Centre
The Centre for Research on Inner City Health
MultiFaith Alliance to End Homelessness
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
TCHC Hydro Block Tenants
Covenant House Toronto
Canadian Unitarian Council
Maggie’s: The Toronto Sex Workers’ Action Project
Housing Action Now

(This is a growing list! To endorse the rally as a group or organization: righttohousingcoalition@gmail.com)

For a list of sources for the figures mentioned, please visit this page.
On social media? Use the hashtag #right2housing on Nov 21st to join in the conversation!
Join us on Facebook here and help spread the word by inviting your FB friends!
Don’t forget to join us at our Right to Housing Forum after the rally –  see the event page here.