November 22 is National Housing Day, but today, we are joining our partners in instead honouring National Right to Housing Day, to highlight that housing is a human right for every person in and across Canada (and must be treated as such)!
In the face on an ongoing pandemic and growing housing and homelessness crisis, working to realize the human right to housing is more important than ever.
The right to housing helps us to address the systemic causes of housing need and homelessness, so that all people have equitable and safe access to adequate (i.e. habitable, affordable, accessible, culturally adequate, well located, and secure) housing.
In honour of National Right to Housing Day, we’re reflecting on some of the successes within Canada’s right to housing movement over the last year:
November 22, 2020:
- Exactly one year ago and after strong advocacy from the sector, the National Housing Council was appointed—a key mechanism for monitoring and advancing the progressive realization of the right to housing across Canada. This Council will begin holding open hearings on systemic housing issues within the next year, in which they will hear from Canadians affected by the housing crisis!
January 20, 2021:
- Because the National Housing Council initially lacked adequate representation of people with lived experience of homelessness and housing need, the sector mobilized again, and even hosted a webinar (with over 200 attendees!) during which the former Parliamentary Secretary for Housing announced that lived experience representation would be added to the Council!
February 18, 2021:
- As the pandemic raged on and the arrears and evictions crisis worsened for tenants across the country, we and over 120 experts came together to produce the first systemic case submission under the National Housing Strategy Act (NHSA), which proposed a practical Residential Tenant Support Benefit to prevent evictions into homelessness. This Benefit was recently featured and costed out in the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative’s Alternative Federal Budget.
May 25, 2021:
- Alongside over 30 major organizations across Canada, the Network made a submission to the UN Human Rights Committee on how Canada’s housing and homelessness crisis violates various international human rights obligations (like the right to life) under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This submission will help inform Canada’s upcoming review by the Committee.
June 24, 2021:
- The National Housing Council released its three priorities for 2021-22, which included the progressive realization of the right to housing.
August 15, 2021:
- A snap federal election was called, but the Vote Housing campaign was already moving full-steam ahead, ensuring that housing—including commitments to the right to housing—would rise to the top of election issues and party platforms.
September 20, 2021:
- With housing dominating the election discourse, each party made platform commitments to housing and ending homelessness—including the incoming Liberal government, which among other things, committed to launching an Urban, Rural, and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy and appointing a Federal Housing Advocate within 100 days of their new mandate.
October 14, 2021:
- With the support of the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate, we and the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network released three major papers outlining how Canada can practically end widespread homelessness and housing need by meaningfully applying a human rights-based approach to housing, as required by the 2019 NHSA (i.e. domestic legislation) and international law. We are now holding meetings with Federal departments to help put this rights-based approach in motion.
October 26, 2021:
- Canada’s new federal cabinet was announced, which (thanks to extensive advocacy during the election and beyond) included the new dedicated position of a Housing, Diversity, and Inclusion Minister—the Honorable Ahmed Hussen!
- Throughout the past year, we and the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation have been holding a series of regional workshops with local partners across Canada to identify systemic issues that prevent people from accessing adequate housing. These engagements and associated reports will help our Network to build systemic case submissions for the incoming Federal Housing Advocate, so that they are ready to hit the ground running once appointed.
Of course, so much more has happened at local levels and in courtrooms! Just last month, thanks to the effort of our partners, Nova Scotia’s highest court ruled that the province has systematically discriminated against persons with disabilities who are seeking housing and accompanying supports. Right to Housing Toronto is also doing incredible work to establish Canada’s first ever municipal Housing Commissioner.
We have achieved so much together in the past year, and the momentum of our right to housing movement is only growing! Stay engaged with our Network for more news and opportunities to get involved, and subscribe to our newsletter here.
We all have a role to play in ending homelessness and housing need. You can start now by taking these few actions to make a difference:
Tell Parliament: we need urgent action to end homelessness and housing need. Send a letter to MPs telling them to support the Immediate Actions laid out clearly by the Vote Housing campaign.
Register: Join us for a National Right to Housing Network Membership Meeting on November 30, where we’ll strategize together and create systems for ongoing engagement and collaboration, to strengthen Canada’s right to housing movement and culture. Please contact for any accessibility accommodations and register here.
Read: For National Housing Day, the CAEH released a list of 11 key actions that the federal government can take immediately to address housing need and homelessness. Read it now.
Read: We and the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network recently released three major papers on what a rights-based approach to housing looks like, and how it can be applied to Canada’s housing policies and programs to end homelessness and housing need. Learn more about the papers here.
Tell your MP: Current definitions of homelessness leave out the often hidden and unseen experiences faced by many women and gender-diverse people across the country. We need a new and inclusive definition of homelessness! Call on the federal government to change its narrow definition of homelessness to include the experiences of women, girls, and gender-diverse people.
Join Vote Housing: A national non-partisan campaign to end homelessness and make housing safe and affordable in Canada. Join here.