Skip to content

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.

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.