Housing Justice for all.
That anyone in Canada has to spend a night on the street is an indictment against all levels of government in this country. By not ensuring safe, clean housing for all its citizens, Canada has failed its homeless and vulnerably housed. The human and social costs of homelessness are staggering. It’s estimated that each year 250,000 people across Canada are without a safe place to call home. Pivot’s Housing Justice campaign represents those who are vulnerably housed or experiencing homelessness to protect their rights, combining legal action with political advocacy and public engagement to fight for the establishment of a constitutional right to housing in Canada.
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Homeless Rights in Canada
Abbotsford homeless lawsuit
After years of criminalization and displacement, the Supreme Court of B.C. delivered a groundbreaking ruling in favour of a community of homeless people Pivot represented in a challenge to bylaws in Abbotsford. In a decision delivered in October 2015, the Court found that City bylaws prohibiting homeless people from sleeping in public places violate Section 7 of the Charter, which protects individuals’ safety and security of person. The Court also denied the City’s request for a permanent ban on homeless camping. In striking down the bylaws, the Supreme Court of B.C. ruling recognizes the right to shelter in public space between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. and represents a crucial first step in establishing a right to housing in Canada.
Access to justice for homeless people
Single Room Occupancy Hotels provide some of the only affordable rental housing for Vancouver’s poorest residents. These hotels are often infested with bugs and rodents, lacking functioning heat or plumbing and generally in states of disrepair. The City of Vancouver has long had the power to rectify some of these problems through the Standards of Maintenance Bylaw, which gives the City the power to enter a building and make essential repairs if the landlord refuses to do so, and then the bill the landlord through the property tax roll. However, enforcement of the Bylaw was declining as Vancouver’s housing crisis continued to grow. When the Picadilly Hotel was closed due to long-standing building standards violations in 2007, Pivot sued the City for its failure to enforce the Bylaw. In March of 2009, following discussions with Pivot, City Council finally resolved to pursue stronger enforcement. With the support of the counsel behind it, the Bylaw is working and much-needed repairs are going ahead at several buildings.