It is my pleasure to present you this Annual Report from my first full year in the role as Canada’s first Federal Housing Advocate. This report is a snapshot of the work my office and I have carried out together from April 2022 to March 2023. A big piece of the data included in this Annual Report comes from submissions we have received from the public on systemic housing issues and unmet housing needs across Canada. Our aim is to provide as much detail as possible to give your office an accurate reading of what individuals and housing advocates across Canada are telling us.
My most important role is to build the power of people on the front lines of Canada's housing and homelessness crisis, and to amplify their voice to your office, Minister.
Over the past year, I have learned the most from meeting directly with people from across Canada and hearing about how they are experiencing the housing and homelessness crisis in their communities.
In British Columbia, I heard from people who are falling through the safety net. Some are just one accident away from homelessness—including a man I met who sustained a workplace injury that ultimately resulted in him having to live in an encampment.
In Prince George, many of the conversations at the Moccasin Flats encampment centred around missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and how many people who are unhoused felt they had no safe place to go.
In Vancouver, the disparity was staggering: the tent encampment where people are living in Crab Park was silhouetted against a luxury cruise ship in the distance.
In Montreal, I visited a 24-hour shelter space that serves unhoused and precariously housed people each day, which is located not far from a sparkling new luxury condo building.
I visited with people in Nunavut and Nunatsiavut, in partnership with Nunavut Tunngavik and Nunatsiavut Kavamanga, and witnessed the long-standing housing crisis there that amounts to a human rights failure in need of urgent attention.
But for as long as there has been housing injustice in Canada, there have also been determined people pushing for change. The movement for the human right to housing in Canada has come a long way. From the 2017 launch of the National Housing Strategy, to the 2019 passing of the National Housing Strategy Act, finally enshrining the human right to adequate housing into domestic law for the first time.
But our advocacy still has a long way to go, particularly in the face of the 2023 Federal Budget which completely missed the mark on addressing the most pressing housing crisis this country has ever seen. There are no new ideas, and not nearly enough new money announced for housing. The homelessness crisis was not even mentioned. This is simply unacceptable.
The Budget’s investments fall drastically far short of what is required to stem the tide of housing loss and homelessness that is sweeping across the country. It also fails to deliver on Canada’s commitment to the human right to housing and does not even mention housing as a human right.
So, across Canada, people must continue asserting their rights, demanding to be heard, and advocating for themselves, their neighbours, and their communities.
We see this advocacy unfolding in cities and communities from coast to coast to coast. Front-line workers are protecting people from falling through our tattered safety net. Sector leaders are speaking out about the high costs of insufficient funding for housing, health, and social services—human costs, social costs, and economic costs. Activists and advocates are pushing for change at all levels of government.
Governments at all levels need to come to the table to meet their obligations when it comes to ending the housing crisis in Canada, and the federal government must lead the way.
My job is to keep the conversation focused on human rights. To amplify people’s voices and advocate for and with them. And most importantly, I work directly with people affected by inadequate housing and homelessness to find solutions to the housing crisis, together.
When I met with people across Canada, I saw how much people want to be part of the solution.
I met with local advocates in Prince George who were pushing for community solutions for residents of encampments there. They worked together to provide clean water, bathrooms, a community garden, and housing solutions.
I met a man living in the encampment in Stadacona Park in Victoria who bought his own broom so that he could sweep the tennis courts there every day. He took such pride in this act of care for his neighbours so that they could share a clean space together.
These are the stories that resonated with me the most over the past year. They are the stories of people using the best tools they have to claim their human right to a space to call home.
It will take all of us, working together, to make the right to housing real. To make sure the right to housing is a top priority for governments.
We have come a long way, and we have a long way to go. I am hopeful that together, we can and we will realize the right to housing in Canada.
Federal Housing Advocate