Canada failing international housing obligations, Pivot tells UN

Vancouver, B.C. [February 19]—Canada’s failure to enact a national right to adequate housing and pursue a national housing programme has led to the ongoing criminalization and displacement of homeless people, according to submissions made to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by Pivot Legal Society.

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Using the law as a catalyst for positive social change, Pivot Legal Society works to improve the lives of marginalized communities.

Canada is under review by the UN Committee, which will hear submissions beginning February 22 in Geneva, Switzerland. Pivot has submitted that Canada is failing its obligations as a signatory state to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
“In the face of a national housing crisis and recognized violations of the rights of homeless people, Canada must act now to legislate housing rights in this country,” says DJ Larkin, lawyer and housing justice campaigner at Pivot Legal Society. “Our new federal government has an opportunity to undo human rights violations by recognizing the rights of people experiencing homelessness. We hope the Committee agrees and pushes Canada to meet its international obligations.”
Pivot is calling on Canada to commit to acknowledging in law the right of homeless people to an adequate standard of living and to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. In its submission to the ICESR, Pivot is also urging Canada to enact a legally enforceable right to adequate housing, as well as protections from discrimination on the basis of social status and homelessness.
The submission is being made as evictions of homeless campers in two municipalities in British Columbia, Abbotsford and Victoria, have begun. In Abbotsford, homeless people have been camping on Gladys Avenue for two years after being evicted from another city park and having chicken manure spread on another camp. A 2015 Supreme Court of B.C. decision in Shantz v Abbotsford recognized the right of homeless people to shelter in public spaces overnight. In Victoria, where a tent city has been erected on provincial land, the province has promised to remove people by February 25.
In 2014 it was conservatively estimated that over 235,000 individuals in Canada experience homelessness in a year, with over 35,000 Canadians homeless on any given night – thousands of whom will be unsheltered, living in parks and public spaces. However, necessary acts of survival such as sleeping in a park or sheltering with a tent or tarp are acts prohibited by law in many Canadian jurisdictions.
DJ Larkin will deliver Pivot’s submissions in person in Geneva on February 22, 2016.
  • A summary of Pivot’s submission and recommendations can be found here.
  • A copy of Pivot’s submission can be found here
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About Pivot Legal Society
Pivot Legal Society is a leading Canadian human rights organization that uses the law to address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion in Canada. Pivot’s award-winning work includes challenging laws and policies that force people to the margins of society and keep them there. Since 2002 Pivot Legal Society has won major victories for sex workers’ rights, police accountability, affordable housing, and health and drug policy.
For additional information or to schedule an interview, please contact:
Kevin Hollett
Communications Director