On August 14, advocates released an open letter urging the Prime Minister to make good on his commitment to the right to housing by enshrining that right in upcoming National Housing Strategy legislation.
The letter has been signed by over 170 organizations and prominent Canadians, including Maytree. It was launched by Amnesty International Canada, Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty, Canada Without Poverty, the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, housing and homelessness researcher Emily Paradis, and the Social Rights Advocacy Centre, supported by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing.
Canada’s housing and homelessness crisis is the result of a failure to protect human rights. At last, with the launch of the National Housing Strategy in November 2017, the federal government has committed for the first time to “progressively implement the right of every Canadian to access adequate housing.” To make this commitment meaningful, though, it must be recognized in law.
It is critical the government sees there is widespread support to ensure the right to housing becomes a reality in Canada.
Frequently Asked Questions
Isn’t housing already a right in Canada?
Though Canada has committed to the right to adequate housing through international treaties including the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the right has not been recognized in Canadian law. Canada’s housing and homelessness crisis is the result of a failure to protect human rights.
Why is the right to housing important?
Canada is experiencing a housing and homelessness crisis. Every year over 235,000 people experience homelessness in Canada. Today, over 1.7 million households are living in unsafe, inadequate or unaffordable housing without better options available to them. These households are disproportionately led by women, and feature overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, immigrants and refugees, youth and older adults, and groups facing racial discrimination. Legislating the right to housing would require governments to fix the broken housing system that is failing so many people, and to prioritize resources for those most in need.
How will the right to housing make things better for people who are facing homelessness and inadequate housing?
The right to housing gives people living in homelessness or housing instability a voice in the policy decisions that impact them, creates legal protections against the policy decisions that may harm them, and creates accountability mechanisms to ensure there is federal action to address Canada’s housing and homelessness crisis.
Will the proposed legislation enforce the right to housing through the courts?
No, remedies would be ensured through other means than courts. Consensus proposals as well as draft legislation have been developed to demonstrate how the legislation could ensure that those affected are able to identify systemic issues and hold governments accountable drawing on the government’s proposed Federal Housing Advocate, Housing Council, community initiatives and programmes.
Why must this happen now?
It is critical the government sees there is widespread support to ensure the right to housing becomes a reality in Canada. With the National Housing Strategy, the federal government is recognizing its responsibility to ensure that everyone in Canada has access to adequate housing. Legislating the right to housing would put the force of law behind the government’s funding and policy commitments and maintain consistency across changes in government.