In 2022–2023, the Federal Housing Advocate highlighted the human rights obligations of provinces, territories and municipalities when it comes to housing and homelessness in Canada.
In particular, last year the Advocate highlighted the human rights responsibilities of all levels of government when it comes to encampments and encampment residents across Canada.
Encampments are an issue of growing concern. Responses to encampments have been largely left to municipal governments, which have limited resources to appropriately support encampment residents. However, all levels of government share obligations to respect and protect the rights and dignity of encampment residents and people experiencing homelessness.
Last year, the Advocate reached out to municipal leaders in several cities across the country to express concern over the dismantling of encampments. This led to productive dialogue and engagement, and better awareness of the human rights responsibilities that municipalities must consider in their decision-making.
The conditions that lead to people living in encampments are systemic and complex. It will take all levels of government to address them. Solutions will need to be filtered through a human rights based lens, and will require concerted effort from multiple levels of government.
The Advocate strives to work with all levels of government to eliminate housing need and homelessness in the shortest timeframe possible. While provincial and municipal governments do not have a statutory obligation to respond to the Advocate’s recommendations, it will take all of us to make progress on the right to housing in Canada. The National Housing Strategy Act establishes housing as a human right for everyone in Canada. Governments at all levels have a responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil this right. In this light, the Advocate encourages provinces and territories to:
- Fully adopt the human right to adequate housing into provincial or territorial legislation, policies and programs.
- Adopt and abide by the National Protocol for Homeless Encampments in Canada, which sets out a human rights approach to realizing the right to adequate housing for encampment residents.
- Work with all levels of government to fully align the National Housing Strategy with the human right to adequate housing, including through its multilateral and bilateral agreements and sharing provincial or territorial disaggregated data on how disadvantaged groups are having their right to housing recognized or not by the Strategy’s programs.