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6/25/2019: (En Francais) GREAT NEWS! Bill C-97 containing the National Housing Strategy Act and the right to housing passed the Senate on June 20. The bill received Royal Assent Friday, June 21. 

Thank you!!

Achieving the right to housing in Canada is the product of advocacy by thousands of people from coast to coast to coast. Groups like the Right to Housing Coalition and countless individuals and organizations have fought tenaciously - against very long odds - for decades with protest, advocacy and court challenges to make this day possible.

This is just the beginning. As the the National Housing Strategy Act becomes law, efforts will now have to shift to making sure the right to housing becomes real. We have to ensure the right to housing survives the coming federal election, that the federal government builds a strong Housing Council and advocate, that these accountability mechanisms are tested and the government honours their right to housing commitments and works to eliminate homelessness and address many housing inequities and the acute housing needs faced by millions of people. We also have to continue to build support for the right to housing and ensure it lives in provincial and municipal jurisdiction and applies to Indigenous Peoples.

But now is a time for celebration! We have achieved a major milestone for housing rights in Canada - a milestone that would not have been possible without you. 

Thank you!

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.

QUICK FACTS

  • 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.

5/14/2019: Today, more Housing Rights Advocates appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance to discuss the right to housing commitment in the National Housing Strategy Act (included in the Budget Implementation Act, 2019).

The advocates echoed calls for the federal government to introduce amendments to strengthen the proposed right to housing in Canada.

  • LISTEN to Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, or READ her statement.
  • LISTEN to Michele Biss, Policy Director and Human Rights Lawyer with Canada Without Poverty, or READ her statement.

Members of the Right to Housing Campaign have been meeting with senior government officials and Parliamentarians on the amendments and have been getting positive feedback. For amendments to be made, they will have to be supported by the Standing Committee. If the committee votes in support of the amendments, they would be sent with the rest of Bill C-97 (Budget Implementation Act, 2019) back to the House of Commons for a final vote, and from there to the Senate.  

5/10/2019: (En Francais) On May 8, Right to Housing Campaign advocates appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance to give oral presentations regarding necessary amendments that would strengthen the federal right to housing commitment in the National Housing Strategy Act.

The housing rights advocates shared the amendments put forward by the Right to Housing Campaign as put outlined in this previous post.

Members of the campaign have been meeting with senior government officials and Parliamentarians on the amendments and have been getting positive feedback. For amendments to be made, they will have to be supported by the Standing Committee. If the committee votes in support of the amendments, they would be sent with the rest of Bill C-97 (Budget Implementation Act, 2019) back to the House of Commons for a final vote, and from there to the Senate.  

4/16/2019: (En Francais) Advocates today released an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau urging minor but essential amendments to the National Housing Strategy Act in Bill C-97. In Bill C-97 (Budget Implementation Act, 2019) tabled Monday, April 8, Canada took a major step forward toward legislating housing rights for the first time in its history. The National Housing Strategy Act reflects recommendations made by housing rights advocates. However, more needs to be done to ensure that key accountability mechanisms are included in the legislation and the right to housing is implemented as the government intended. The legislation is also missing a requirement for housing strategies to identify and address the distinctive barriers, needs and rights of Indigenous peoples, including urban Indigenous peoples consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

READ the Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau Urging Amendments to National Housing Strategy Act

READ Mark-up of the National Housing Strategy Act with Proposed Amendments

Why does the National Housing Strategy Act as written need to be amended? 

The legislation as currently drafted has some of the key ingredients necessary for an effective rights-based approach, but it has been drafted in a way that does not implement the approach the government intended. The act fails to provide for key, minimal requirements identified by civil society in a letter to the Prime Minister signed and endorsed by over 1,100 individuals and organizations, including prominent experts such as Professor Irwin Cotler. It also does not comply with international human rights law, as clarified by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing in official communications to the government of Canada. Most importantly, it does not establish the rights-based procedures that are necessary for the government’s declared commitment to the progressive realization of the right to housing to be effective in addressing the housing and human rights crisis of homelessness and housing unaffordability in Canada.

We are urging MPs to amend the National Housing Strategy Act so that it accomplishes what the government intended it to do.

What does the legislation do and what is needed to make it effective?

It is a positive and historic step that the legislation declares a “housing policy” to further the “progressive realization of the right to housing.” The problem is that the legislation contains no measures to monitor, promote or hold anyone accountable for compliance with the housing policy.

The legislation establishes a “National Housing Council.” However, the Council as described currently will only “advise” the Minister. For a rights-based approach, the Council needs to be clearly mandated to monitor and review the implementation of the housing strategy and provide advice about compliance with the commitment to the progressive realization of the right to housing.

The legislation creates a “Federal Housing Advocate” who receives administrative support from the Canadian Human Rights Commission. However, as currently written, the legislation doesn’t give the Federal Housing Advocate any role in promoting or ensuring compliance with the commitment to the progressive realization of the right to housing. The Housing Advocate is only mandated to “receive submissions” about systemic issues, to consult with groups, to do research and submit an annual report to the Minister. If it is to be rights-based, the Housing Advocate needs to assess compliance with the housing policy through the kinds of procedures that a rights-based approach requires. Submissions should be transmitted as “petitions” identifying specific areas of concern about compliance with the right to housing; the Housing Advocate should be mandated to investigate the petitions, to provide for public hearings where appropriate, and to make specific recommendations about what needs to be done to ensure compliance with the housing policy. These are fundamental to a meaningful rights-based approach, and they are conspicuously absent in the current draft.

What specific amendments are required?

The attached amendments work within the confines of what can be amended at the committee stage. They clarify the roles of the Housing Council and, most importantly, of the Housing Advocate to be consistent with the purpose of the legislation and the housing policy of furthering the progressive realization of the right to housing. 

Our proposed amendments:

  1. Clarify that the National Housing Council doesn’t just “advise the Minister,” but also monitors progress towards the goals of the housing policy;
  2. Clarify that the Federal Housing Advocate doesn’t just receive submissions from vulnerable groups, consult with them and submit a report to the Minister every year, but rather receives petitions about specific concerns regarding compliance with the housing policy (petitions), reviews programs and policies and areas of concern and makes specific recommendations about what is required for compliance with the housing policy;
  3. Provide for informal hearings before a three-person panel into important systemic issues, where the Housing Advocate considers this to be warranted, and ensures that those affected will have a meaningful voice in these hearings; and,
  4. Require the Minister not only to respond to annual reports from the Housing Advocate, but also to specific recommendations addressing areas of concern.

We have also suggested that the legislation be amended to include reference to Indigenous peoples and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to refer to the “community initiatives” that were promised in the National Housing Strategy. 

Are these types of amendments permitted at this stage and could they be done later by regulation?

None of the proposed amendments alter the scope and principle of the legislation and none require any public expenditure that is not already provided for in the legislation. The amendments are necessary to clarify what is currently unclear, and to bring the roles of the Housing Council and the Housing Advocate in line with the purpose of the legislation and the commitment to a rights-based approach based on international human rights. These changes are within the scope and purpose of the Act but they are substantive changes to the legislation that must be made by parliament, not deferred to regulations.

We need your help!

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. 

This is the first time in Canada’s history that legislation implementing the right to housing has been introduced, and it is critical that this be done right.

Please take a few minutes to email the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Families Children and Social Development and your Member of Parliament urging their support for our amendments to the National Housing Strategy Act. 

DOWNLOAD A SAMPLE LETTER

Getting amendments to the federal budget implementation act will not be easy, but it is critically important to get the right to housing right. Please help us maximize our impact during this critical window by sharing this campaign with your networks via email or social media. Find more online at housingrights.ca or on Facebook and Twitter @legislateR2H.

Federal government takes a big step forward on legislating housing rights | Droit au logement – Mise à jour

4/11/2019: In Bill C-97 (Budget Implementation Act, 2019) tabled Monday, April 8, Canada took a major step forward to enshrining the right to housing in federal legislation for the first time in its history. The National Housing Strategy Act reflects many of the recommendations made by housing rights advocates. However, more needs to be done to ensure that key accountability mechanisms are consistent with international standards and to protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples.


11/04/2019 :     Dans le projet de loi C-97 (Loi d’exécution du budget de 2019) déposé le lundi 8 avril, le Canada a fait un grand pas vers l’inscription du droit au logement dans les lois fédérales pour la première fois de son histoire. La Loi relative à la Stratégie nationale sur le logement tient compte de bon nombre de recommandations formulées par les défenseurs du droit au logement. Toutefois, il faudra en faire davantage pour assurer la cohérence des mécanismes de reddition de comptes à l’égard des normes internationales et pour protéger les droits des peuples autochtones.