[Hpn] Canada needs a housing bill of rights!

Ian Tay Landry tay@hfx.eastlink.ca
Tue, 13 Nov 2001 23:18:14 -0400

Canada needs a housing bill of rights!  Please circulate this message
far and wide. Feel free to post it on any Web sites, or pass along to
others on your lists who are concerned about housing and homelessness.
Housing is not only an absolute necessity, but it is a fundamental right
for everyone in Canada. While the federal government has adopted
numerous international covenants and other legal instruments that
recognize the right to housing, Ottawa has failed to explicitly
incorporate the right to housing into domestic law.  Libby Davies, MP
for Vancouver East, is planning to introduce a private members' bill
calling for a Housing Bill of Rights during November.  Many groups and
individuals across the country are backing this initiative. They are
calling on all political parties and all MPs to support the housing
bill.  Motions and bills from private members often fail to reach the
voting stage in the House of Commons, generally because the governing
party refuses to give its consent. But if there is strong support from
MPs of several parties, especially the Liberals, then there is a better
chance of moving the Housing Bill of Rights forward.  We know that many
MPs from several political parties agree that the federal government
needs to take strong action to address the nation-wide housing crisis
and homelessness disaster. Now is the time to call on those MPs to show
their support for this important initiative.  Here's what you can do to
help:  - call or fax your Member of Parliament and ask them to support
the Housing Bill of Rights when it comes in front of the Commons.  - ask
your MP to tell their caucus colleagues, the Minister Responsible for
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Prime Minister that they
support the Housing Bill of Rights.  It's important to act quickly,
since the bill is being introduced by the end of November. Every fax,
every letter will help.  Please e-mail Michael Shapcott of the National
Housing and Homelessness Network at
michael.shapcott@sympatico.ca with the response from your MP.

Thanks for helping in this critical campaign.

An Act to provide for adequate, accessible and affordable housing for


WHEREAS the provision of and access to adequate housing is a fundamental
human right according to Article 25(1) of the United Nations Declaration
of Human Rights, which states:  "Everyone has the right to a standard of
living adequate for the health and well-being of himself [or herself]
and of his [her] family, including food, clothing, housing and medical
care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the
event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other
lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his [her] control."

WHEREAS Canada signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights in 1976, a legally binding treaty, committing Canada to
make progress on fully realizing all economic, social and cultural
rights, including the right to adequate housing, as outlined in Article
11(1) of the Covenant:  "The States Parties to the present Covenant
recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for
himself [or herself] and his [her] family, including adequate food,
clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living
conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the
realization of this right ..."

WHEREAS the enjoyment of other human rights such as those to privacy, to
respect for the home, to freedom of movement, to be free from
discrimination, to environmental health, to security of the person, to
freedom of association, to equality before the law and other rights are
indivisible from and indispensable to the realization of the right to
adequate housing;

WHEREAS the immediate action required by State Parties to the Covenant
arises out of Article 2(2) of the Covenant which provides that State
Parties undertake to take steps to carry out its provisions by all
appropriate means, including particularly the adoption of legislative

WHEREAS the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights has interpreted this to mean that State Parties are obliged to
immediately begin to adopt measures towards the full enjoyment by
everyone of the right to housing.

WHEREAS the United Nations Committee has been highly critical of
Canada's failure to make progress on the provision of adequate housing
for all Canadian's, a criticism made most recently in its December 10,
1998 concluding observations, which state:  "The Committee is gravely
concerned that such a wealthy country as Canada has allowed the problem
of homelessness and inadequate housing to grow to such proportions that
the mayors of Canada's 10 largest cities have now declared homelessness
a national disaster."

WHEREAS the United Nations Committee issued a specific recommendation
that Canada implement a national strategy aimed at reducing homelessness
and poverty, stating:  "The Committee recommends that the federal,
provincial and territorial governments address homelessness and
inadequate housing as a national emergency by reinstating or increasing,
as the case may be, social housing programmes for those in need,
improving and properly enforcing anti-discrimination legislation in the
field of housing, increasing shelter allowances and social assistance
rates to realistic levels, providing adequate support services for
persons with disabilities, improving protection of security of tenure
for tenants and improving protection of affordable rental housing stock
from conversion to other uses. The Committee urges the State Party to
implement a national strategy for the reduction of homelessness and

WHEREAS Canada's wealth and national budget are more than adequate to
ensure that every woman, child, and man residing in Canada has secure,
adequate, accessible and affordable housing as part of a standard of
living that will provide healthy, physical, intellectual, emotional,
spiritual and social development and a good quality of life;
 WHEREAS achievement of improved housing conditions is best realized
through co-operative partnerships of government, civil society and the
meaningful involvement of local communities; and

WHEREAS the Parliament of Canada wishes to ensure the establishment of
national goals and programs that seek to improve the quality of life for
all Canadians as a basic right;

THEREFORE Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate
and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:  Short Title  1. This
Act may be cited as the Housing Bill of Rights.  Interpretation  2. The
definitions in this section apply in this Act.  "accessible housing"
means housing that is accessible to the individuals who are intended to
occupy it including those who are disadvantaged by age, physical or
mental disability, medical condition or by being victims of a natural
 "adequate housing" means housing that is habitable and structurally
sound, and that provides sufficient space and protection against cold,
damp, heat, rain, wind, noise, pollution and other threats to health.
"affordable housing" means housing that is available at a cost that does
not compromise the attainment and satisfaction of an individuals other
basic needs of life, including needs for food, clothing and access to
education.  "Minister" means the Minister of Public Works and Government
Services.   Rights respecting housing  Right re provision of housing
3.(1) Subject to this Act, every individual has the right to secure,
adequate, accessible and affordable housing, as defined in this Act.
Rights enjoyed free of discrimination  (2) Every individual has the
right to housing referred to in section 2 free from the discrimination
referred to in subsection (3).  Forbidden grounds of discrimination  (3)
No person shall make any discrimination in another's right to housing
established by this Act on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin,
colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, family status
or the presence of children, sexual orientation, medical status,
citizenship, level of education, employment status, social condition or
reliance on welfare or other public assistance.  Security in the
enjoyment of housing  4. Every individual has the following rights, with
respect to housing:  (a) security of tenure against arbitrary eviction,
forced relocation, expropriation or threat of any of them, or other from
of harassment;  (b) a right to housing that is appropriate to those with
special needs, including the availability of attention combined with
independence;  (c) a right for all children, women and men to a home in
a safe and healthy environment;  (d) a right to a home free from
violence, threat of violence or other form of harassment, both domestic
and from outside the home;  (e) a right to enjoyment and respect of
privacy in the home;  (f) a right to the economic security that results
from protection from rent, property tax or other housing cost increases
that  (i) are sudden or excessive;  (ii) are primarily intended to yield
an unreasonable profit or increase in the value of rental property; or
 (iii) have the effect of diminishing the other rights established by
this Act.   Enforcement, offences and penalties  Enforcement of rights
5. Every individual has the right of access to a court of competent
jurisdiction to bring an action to enforce the rights to which they are
entitled under sections 3 and 4 or otherwise under this Act or under any
other laws designed to grant rights to, ensure security in and prevent
discrimination with regard to access to housing.  Other remedies
protected  (2) Subsection (1) does not reduce or abrogate any other
remedy available at law.  Offences and penalties  6.(1) Every person or
legal entity who contravenes any provision of this Act or takes away, or
threatens a right of an individual granted by this Act is guilty of an
offence and punishable on summary conviction  (a) to a fine of not more
than $5000 for a first offence, and  (b) to a fine of not more than
$10,000 or to imprisonment for not more than six months or to both fine
and imprisonment for a second or subsequent offence.  Separate offences
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), an act or omission that takes
away or threatens the rights of more than one individual constitutes a
separate offence in respect of each such individual.   Government
policies and housing strategy  General government housing policies
7.(1) The Minister shall develop and undertake, in cooperation with the
governments of the provinces and municipalities, including the
conference referred to in section 12, policies to ensure that the costs
of housing in Canada do not prevent or threaten the attainment and
satisfaction of other basic needs including needs for food, clothing and
access to education.  Financial assistance  (2) Policies mentioned in
subsection (1) must provide for:  (a) financial assistance in respect or
rent for those who are otherwise unable to afford the rights to rental
housing established by this Act;  (b) availability of finance and credit
free from discrimination based on a characteristic listed as a forbidden
ground of discrimination in subsection 3(3) for those who, with such
finance and credit, may be able to purchase housing.   National housing
strategy for the economically disadvantaged  8.(1) The Minister shall
develop and undertake, in cooperation with the governments of the
provinces and municipalities, including the conference referred to in
section 12, a national housing strategy and programs to carry it out to
ensure the fulfillment of the rights granted by this Act.  Elements of
strategy  (2) A national housing strategy must provide, by January 1,
2003, for housing to be available to meet the requirements of this Act
and that:  (a) is adequate, affordable and accessible and on a
not-for-profit basis for those who cannot otherwise afford it;  (b)
reflects the standards of the local community  (c) does not cost more
than 30% of the occupants' pre-tax household income;  (d) is appropriate
for different needs and provides reasonable design options including
provision of an appropriate proportion with access for the elderly and
those with disabilities;  (e) uses design and equipment standardization
where appropriate to accelerate construction and minimize cost;  (f)
includes not-for-profit rental housing projects, mixed income,
not-for-profit housing cooperatives, special needs housing and housing
that allows senior citizens to remain in their homes as long as
possible; and  (g) includes the housing for the homeless specified in
section 11; and  (h) includes provision for temporary emergency housing
and shelter in the event of disasters and crises; and  (i) provides
standards for the maintenance for existing housing stock and for the
construction and maintenance of new housing to meet appropriate health,
security and safety standards.  Implementation date  (4) The national
housing strategy described in this section shall be implemented as soon
as possible in accordance with section 12 to ensure the fulfillment of
subsection (5).  Legally enforceable by 2003  (5) The right to adequate,
accessible and affordable housing described in this Act is a right that
is legally enforceable from January 1, 2003.  Priority for chronically
ill-housed and disadvantaged  9. Programs developed under section 8
shall ensure priority in the provision of adequate, accessible and
affordable housing to  (a) those who have had not had adequate,
accessible and affordable housing over an extended period,  (b) those
with special housing requirements because of family status or size or
mental or physical disability, and  (c) those who have difficulty in
obtaining housing because of a characteristic listed as a forbidden
ground of discrimination in subsection 3(2),  Programs to cover the
homeless  10. Programs developed under section 8 shall include provision
for the rights of the homeless described in section 11.  Special rights
of the homeless  11. Every individual who is homeless has a right to the
immediate provision by public authorities of adequate, self-contained
and appropriate housing.  Inadequate housing  (2) A hostel, emergency
shelter or accommodation that provides only bed and breakfast is not
adequate housing for the purposes of subsection (1).  Appeal  (3) Every
homeless individual who is refused the housing provided for in
subsection (1) has the right to appeal the refusal in a court of
competent jurisdiction.  Conference  12.(1) The Minister and the
Minister of Public Works and Government Services shall jointly, within
180 days after the coming into force of this Act, convene a conference
of the ministers of the Crown for each province responsible for housing
and representatives of municipalities and communities.  Function of
conference  (2) The conference convened pursuant to subsection (1)
shall  (a) develop standards and objectives for the national housing
strategy and programs to carry it out described in section 8,  (b) set
targets for commencement of the programs,  (c) recommend a time by which
an additional 1% of the annual expenditures of the federal and all
provincial and municipal governments during the fiscal year ending March
31, 2002 should be assigned to the national housing programs throughout
Canada; and  (d) develop principles of an agreement between the federal,
provincial and municipal governments for the development and delivery of
the programs.  Report to Parliament  13. The Minister shall cause a
report on the conference, including the matters referred to in
paragraphs 12(a) to (d), to be laid before each House of Parliament on
any one of the first five days that the House sits following the
expiration of 180 days after the end of the conference.  Coming into
force  14. Sections 5 and 6 and subsection 11(3) come into force on
January 1, 2003.  SUMMARY The purpose of this enactment is to respect
the dignity and worth of all women, children and men in Canada by
protecting their human rights through the provision of adequate,
accessible and affordable housing and security in its enjoyment.  This
to be achieved by financial policies and by the establishment of a
national housing strategy and programs to effect it.  The program must
ensure the supply of such housing to those who cannot otherwise afford
it as soon as possible and as a legally enforceable right from January
1, 2003.  The Minister of Public Works and Government Services is
required to convene a conference of the three levels of government and
community representatives within 180 days to develop and plan the
national housing strategy and programs and to report to Parliament on
the conference within a further 180 days.

 Ian 'Tay' Landry, MA MSW  24 Indigo Walk  Halifax NS  Canada  B3R 1G4
       Ph: (902)479-2254       Cell: 830-2254       Fx: 479-1177
tay@hfx.eastlink.ca  http://www.geocities.com/Athens/3023/  ICQ 5080641
Social Work Candidate   Community Developer   Sociologist   Researcher