UN Special Rapporteur Speaks on Right to Housing in Canada

by | June 25, 2018


By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur, Leilani Farha, from a housing watchdog from the UN spoke on the federal Liberals’ failures in rights to housing.

The rights to housing remain human rights. Farha sent a letter. The housing strategy did not, according to Farha, recognize the right to housing for Canadians. This comes in the analysis of the 10-year program enshrined in legislation to likely enter into the law.

The program comes to $40-billion. The Globe and Mail article stated, “A Liberal point man on the housing file told the Commons last week that the government didn’t want to declare a right that creates a belief that people can ‘prosecute their way into housing’ and that they need landlords, not lawyers.”

However, Farha viewed the government as discriminatory and patronizing. She continued to note the creation of a rights-based housing strategy without formal enshrinement of housing as a human right cannot be done.

Farha, who also leads Canada Without Poverty, opined, “At a time when human rights are so fragile around the world, with populist governments reacting against the multilateral human rights system, I would think the government of Canada — which stands apart — would do everything it could to embrace human rights… Instead of embracing the recommendation and the right to housing, the government seems to be recoiling from it.”

Jean-Yves Duclos, who is in charge of the initiative and the Social Development Minister, described the plan of the federal Liberals as on to recognize and incrementally found the rights to access to affordable housing for every Canadian citizen.

The Globe and Mail continued, “The Liberals have promised to introduce legislation to make it difficult for any successive government to back out of the plan to help provinces and territories set long-term goals, instead of wondering how much they might receive year by year.”

The purpose of the letter from Farha remains the pressure on the federal government while it works on the bill throughout the summer. This would formulate a federal watchdog as well. One watchdog to monitor the progression of the housing strategy in addition to the identification of problems with housing rights for Canadians.

The frame of housing as a right gives recourse through tribunals.

As explained in the reportage, “Characterizing housing as a human right is meant to provide recourse, usually through tribunals, to anyone wrongfully denied a home for reasons such as ethnicity, religion, or gender identity, and to allow for watchdogs to conduct reviews to remove systemic barriers to housing.”

The Duclos parliamentary secretary on housing, Adam Vaughn, stated, “It’s never been proposed as a charter amendment, or as a court to correct individual grievances… It’s about building a housing system that realizes peoples right (to) housing (through) progressive measures.”

Karen Vecchio, a critic and Conservative, stated that the efforts of the federal Liberal government will not work so well on the various barriers to affordable housing, as a supply concern. The red tape, for instance, prevents builders too much at the municipal level.

Vecchio argues for opened avenues for rental housing or home ownership rather than housing as a right. The NDP, earlier in 2018, failed to have the right to housing placed in the Canadian Bill of Rights.

One housing critic, Sheri Benson, stated, “How are we going to hold a government to account for a 10-year strategy if you don’t really have good legislation…  There’s no way the public can hold the government to account if it (the legislation) doesn’t have teeth, if it doesn’t acknowledge that people have a right to housing.”

Farha voted in the confidence of the federal Liberals’ national housing based on the reveal in November 2017. However, this was based on the recognition of the right t housing to be in the legislation as well.

Now, with the letter and the use – even abuse – of the tacit support of Farha by the government when they were questioned on the national housing strategy and the right to housing, Farha “urged the government to stop using her words as a stamp of approval.”

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

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