Skip to content

This is a critical moment: legislation for the National Housing Strategy is being drafted right now and with the government's historic promise to recognize the right to housing, we want to ensure we get this right.

Tell your MP you support the legislated right to housing!

We are calling on all parties to support the meaningful, effective legislation of the right to housing, as outlined in our open letter and draft legislation.

Let your MP know this is an issue that matters to you and that you're expecting some follow-up on its progress. We've heard their commitment, now let's get the NHS right(s)!

Nous nous trouvons à un moment historique: le gouvernement est en train d'écrire la législation pour la Stratégie nationale sur le logement, après avoir promis d'élaborer et de mettre en œuvre progressivement une approche du logement au Canada axée sur les droits de la personne.

Nous voulons assurer que cette législation répond à leur promesse.

Envoyez une lettre à votre député avec notre outil facile!

Nous demandons que les députés de chaque partie politique soutiennent la législation significative et effective du droit au logement comme décrit dans notre lettre ouverte et notre ébauche de projet de loi.

Dites a votre député que le droit au logement est un sujet important pour vous et que vous attendez les nouvelles du progrès de cette législation. Nous avons entendu leur promesse, maintenant encourageons la mise en pratique!

At a press conference in Ottawa today advocates released an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau signed by over 170 organizations and prominent Canadians 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 was penned by Amnesty International Canada, Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty in Canada, 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, the letter outlines key requirements of right to housing legislation consistent with international human rights law.
"We've come together to show the Prime Minister that there is broad-based support for legislated recognition of the right to housing and to offer a way forward," said Tim Richter, President of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. "Canada's housing and homelessness crisis is the result of a failure to protect human rights. If we're serious about fixing this crisis, then Canada must live up to our international human rights commitments and have a legislated right to housing as the foundation of our National Housing Strategy."

Among the letter's signatories are national organizations including the Canadian Housing & Renewal Association, the Canadian Medical Association, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Canadian Lived Experience Advisory Council and the United Church of Canada along with prominent Canadians like street nurse and advocate Cathy Crowe, former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, and former Liberal cabinet ministers Claudette Bradshaw and Irwin Cotler.

Every year over 235,000 people experience homelessness in Canada. Today, over 1.7 million Canadian households are living in unsafe, unsuitable, 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 members of racialized communities. All these people are experiencing the effects of a systemic crisis - a failure to protect and implement their human rights.

"Canada has an opportunity for international human rights leadership with a clear, decisive and unambiguous commitment in legislation to the right to housing," says Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing. "The National Housing Strategy made an historic commitment to progressively implement the right to housing; what's needed now is legislation that ensures meaningful accountability to that right."

Draft legislation prepared by legal scholars and civil society experts is also available. This draft legislation offers suggestions on how the right to housing could be incorporated into the proposed National Housing Strategy legislation, consistent with international human rights law, and including mechanisms through which people affected by homelessness and inadequate housing can bring complaints about systemic violations and require the government to respond.

Read the Open Letter and list of signatories | Lisez la lettre ouverte et la liste de signataires

Add your name to the Open Letter | Ajoutez votre nom à la lettre ouverte

On 22 November 2017 the Government of Canada announced a National Housing Strategy based on its commitment to “progressively implement the right of every Canadian to access adequate housing.” Consultations held in recent months regarding the National Housing Strategy demonstrated a strong consensus that implementing legislation must explicitly recognize the right to housing as defined in international human rights law.

The following is a list of key commitments integral to the meaningful implementation of the right to housing. They were recently presented to Prime Minister Trudeau in an Open Letter signed by over 170 individuals and organizations across the country. You can add your name here.

We call on the federal government to ensure that Canada's National Housing Strategy legislation:

  • affirms the recognition of the right to housing as a fundamental human right;
  • implements accountability mechanisms through which those affected by homelessness or inadequate housing can hold governments accountable for the progressive realization of the right to housing;
  • ensures that the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate and National Housing Council are independent, adequately resourced and given authority to make recommendations and require remedial action for compliance with the right to housing;
  • provides for an adjudication body which includes both experts in human rights and persons with lived experience of homelessness or inadequate housing, to hold accessible hearings into systemic issues affecting the progressive realization of the right to housing and to recommend effective remedies;
  • requires goals and timelines for the elimination of homelessness and access to adequate housing, in accordance with Canada’s obligations under international human rights law and commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals;
  • provides resources and support for local lived-experienced-led monitoring of NHS programmes and for community initiatives to promote the right to adequate housing engaging all levels of government.

We believe the legislation implementing a rights-based national housing strategy provides an historic opportunity for the federal government to address, as a priority, a critical human rights issue at home and at the same time to provide leadership in human rights internationally.  It is the first time that legislation implementing the right to housing has been contemplated in Canada, and it is critical that this be done right.

After being cited by Parliamentary Secretary, Adam Vaughan, and Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation President, Evan Siddall, for her endorsement of the forthcoming National Housing Strategy (NHS), UN Special Rapporteur on Housing, Leilani Farha, issued an open letter clarifying her position that "it is impossible to have a human rights based housing strategy that does not recognize the primacy of the right to housing as a legal right subject to effective remedies". Her support of the strategy, she asserts, was based on the understanding that the government had committed to recognize the right to housing, and that it would ensure effective remedies and accountability for systemic violations of the right by way of a Housing Advocate, a Housing Council and Community Initiatives.

The letter came after comments by Mr. Vaughan and Mr. Siddall that the NHS need not recognize the right to housing in legislation or provide for effective remedies, suggesting that to do so would not help people access housing at all, but would simply engage them in expensive legal battles. These comments bely either a serious misunderstanding or grave misrepresentation of what the right to housing would mean for the estimated 1.7 million people in housing need and the 25,000 chronically homeless across Canada.

The letter outlines five consensus points adopted by civil society groups and other stakeholders with respect to the development of the NHS, supported by the UN Special Rapporteur:

  1. Explicit recognition in the legislation – and not just in preambular text – of the right to adequate housing as defined in international law and of the obligation of governments to progressively implement the right within a reasonable period of time.
  2. A commitment to address systemic inequality on the basis of race, gender, disability, and other grounds, the impacts of colonization, and the rights of Indigenous communities, including those in urban centres.
  3. Prioritization of those in most urgent housing need and a commitment to eliminate homelessness by 2030 as Canada has agreed to under the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  4. An accessible process through which systemic issues are subject to public hearings, adjudication and remedies.
  5. Independent monitoring of progress and accountability based on human rights-based goals and timelines.

Ms Farha further notes that these proposals would provide for hearings and remedies for systemic issues affecting the progressive
realization of the right to housing, by way of a Housing Advocate and Housing Council and would not rely on individual claims before courts.

"It is inappropriate, therefore, for the government to continue to state that recognizing the right to housing and ensuring effective remedies in the NHS legislation would require individuals to “prosecute their way into housing” using lawyers and courts."

To read the full text of the letter, please click here.

See also, UN watchdog chides Liberals for watering down rights in housing strategy