In a report released Monday, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed “concern about the persistence of a housing crisis” in Canada and called on Ottawa to bring in a national housing strategy that recognizes the right to housing.
The committee also urged Canada to ensure homeless people and other disadvantaged groups have access to the judicial system when they feel their rights are being violated.
“They were very courteous to Canada,” said Mike Creek of the Right to Housing Coalition, which held a news conference outside federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s downtown Toronto constituency office Monday.
“They gave Canada, in the nicest possible way, a boot in the butt and told them to get moving on these issues,” said Creek, a formerly homeless Toronto man, now working as an anti-poverty advocate.
Creek and lawyer Kenneth Hale took the coalition’s failed “right to housing” Charter challenge to the UN committee in Geneva last month for the 10-year review of Canada’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights.
They were joined by more than two dozen other Canadian groups concerned about the country’s inaction on homelessness, poverty and other social problems.
“I think the committee really listened to the Canadian non-governmental organizations across the spectrum … and took our concerns seriously,” said Hale, legal director of the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, a legal aid clinic serving tenants.
The group will use the UN report to press Ottawa and Queen’s Park to live up to their obligations to make sure people have a decent place to live, which is the foundation for other human rights, Hale added.