The Federal Housing Advocate has an important monitoring role to ensure that Canada is living up to its international obligations to advance the human right to adequate housing for all.
The human right to adequate housing is recognized under international law, as early as the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Canada committed to the progressive realization of the right to housing and an adequate standard of living in 1976 when its signature on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights came into force.
Canada’s commitment to the human right to adequate housing was reaffirmed in 2019 when Parliament passed the National Housing Strategy Act (the Act), which recognizes housing as a human right. The Act makes specific reference to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but there are many United Nations treaty bodies and mechanisms which contribute to monitoring the right to housing in Canada.
It is critical that governments at all levels take their international human rights obligations seriously. International human rights bodies and mechanisms provide important guidance for developing human rights-based solutions to Canada’s housing crisis.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child
Last year, the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate provided input into the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
In order to monitor how well Canada is implementing the rights set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Committee conducts a periodic review. During this process, human rights monitoring bodies in Canada submit information for the Committee to consider in its final report.
In its concluding observations for Canada’s combined fifth and sixth periodic reviews released in June 2022, the Committee highlighted that women and children are particularly vulnerable to housing insecurity and that First Nations, Inuit and Métis children as well as children of African descent and belonging to minority groups continue to face disproportionate levels of poverty.
Recommendations V – United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child
The Advocate urges the federal, provincial and territorial governments to take urgent action to follow up the Committee’s concluding observations and these two housing-related recommendations in particular:
- Clear measures and timelines needed to end homelessness among children
The Committee recommended that Canada address these gaps by strengthening its timelines and priorities to end child homelessness and guarantee all children from low-income families have stable access to adequate and affordable long-term housing.
- Revising eviction laws to protect the rights of children
The Committee recommended Canada revise provincial and territorial eviction laws to ensure that they prioritize the best interests of the child, and that all avenues to prevent evictions are pursued.
Detailed recommendations are available in Annex A.