Calgary, May 31 (EN FRANCAIS)– Housing rights advocates across Canada welcomed amendments to the National Housing Strategy Act introduced by the government in the House of Commons today. The amendments introduced by Minister Maryam Monsef accompany right to housing amendments proposed by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance May 29. Together, these amendments make a strong and clear federal commitment to housing as a fundamental human right and add an innovative new rights-based accountability model that gives a meaningful voice and role to people with experience of homelessness and housing need.
The Government of Canada introduced the National Housing Strategy Act in the Budget Implementation Act, 2019 on April 8. This historic legislation requires governments to “further the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing” as recognized by international human rights laws.
“This is an historic moment in Canada,” says Tim Richter, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness President & CEO with the Right to Housing Campaign. “If and when the National Housing Strategy Act is passed with these amendments, the federal government would take on international human rights leadership with a clear, decisive and unambiguous commitment in legislation to the right to housing.
“This legislation lays the groundwork for a more effective National Housing Strategy, cements long-term federal leadership on housing, and sets Canada on a path for the elimination of homelessness.”
The amendments were necessary to clarify and strengthen the rights-based approach. They reflect recommendations made by a broad range of civil society organizations and housing experts as well as by United Nations human rights bodies.
“The government made an important commitment to the right to housing when it introduced the National Housing Strategy,” said Elizabeth McIsaac, President of Maytree. “These amendments and this legislation show the government is willing to listen, take the time to get it right, and is serious about tackling Canada’s housing crisis.”
The proposed amendments make clear and direct commitments to adequate housing as a fundamental human right, the National Housing Council with a role to monitor progress on the progressive realization of the right to housing and provide advice to the designated federal Minister, strengthen the oversight role of an independent federal Housing Advocate, provide for a review panel to hold hearings into selective systemic issues relating to the right to housing, and require the Minister to respond to recommendations from that panel within 90 days.
For more information: Click this link for a downloadable Backgrounder and Fact Sheet PDF on the right to housing in this Canadian context.
- The proposed amendments:
- Declare that it is the policy of the Government of Canada to recognize housing as a fundamental human right.
- Establish that the National Housing Council will monitor progress and advise the Minister regarding the progressive realization of the right to housing.
- Strengthen the federal Housing Advocate who will:
- assess and advise the Federal Government on the implementation of the housing policy;
- initiate inquiries into incidents or conditions in a community, institution, industry or economic sector;
- monitor progress in meeting goals and timelines of the housing policy;
- receive and investigate submissions from affected groups;
- issue opinions about compliance with the right to housing; and
- refer key systemic issues for accessible hearings before a Review Panel.
- Provide for a Review Panel, made up of three members appointed from the National Housing Council, to hold hearings into selective systemic issues and submit reports and remedial recommendations to the designated federal Minister.
- Require the Minister to respond to recommendations within 90 days.
- This innovative model does not give rise to legally binding orders from a court or an official tribunal, but it creates meaningful accountability and access to justice for the right to housing through other means.
- On August 14, 2018 advocates released an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, signed by over 170 organizations and prominent Canadians, urging him to make good on his commitment to the Right to Housing by enshrining that right in National Housing Strategy legislation. Since then, a diverse community of over 1,100 individuals and organizations from across Canada joined the call.
- The National Housing Strategy (NHS) introduced on November 22, 2017 promised rights-based legislation to implement the government’s commitment to the progressive implementation of the right to housing, as guaranteed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
- Across Canada, over 235,000 Canadians are experiencing homelessness and 1.7 million Canadians live in core housing need living in homes that are inadequate or unaffordable.
- Homelessness costs Canadians over $7 billion per year.