The Housing Again Bulletin, sponsored by Raising the Roof as a partner in Housing Again.
A monthly electronic bulletin highlighting what people are doing to put housing back on the public agenda across Canada and around the world, sponsored by Raising the Roof as part of the Housing Again partnership.
News for June, 2006
UN Report Calls Homelessness National Emergency in Canada
Housing advocates across the country have called for immediate government attention to the recommendations of a UN report that finds Canada has continued to fail to protect the human rights of everyone in this country.
The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which assesses Canada’s compliance with the international covenant, cited deepening poverty, widespread homelessness, failure to respect Aboriginal land rights and sub-poverty assistance rates for people with disabilities and the unemployed. In particular, the committee found Canada’s performance gravely wanting in respect to African Canadians.
Even more shocking, however, is the fact that the same committee found the same results in its 1998 and 1993 reports.
The UN committee called the crisis of homelessness in Canada a “national emergency” and urgently called for an increase in social assistance rates, shelter allowances, and minimum wages to enable all Canadians to afford adequate food, housing, and basic necessities. Those recommendations were echoed in a report submitted to the Committee by the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA).
The lack of a national housing strategy to address homelessness continues to be a concern CERA members told the UN. Canada’s failure to recognize economic, social and cultural rights as legal obligations and the absence of enforcement mechanisms in Canada for these rights are key concerns. In response, the UN committee recommended strongly that Canada enshrine these obligations in law.
When making her presentation to the Committee in Geneva recently, University of British Columbia Assistant Law Professor Margot Young said some committee members couldn’t understand why a province like B.C., in a time of economic prosperity, is seeing rising poverty rates among particular groups and welfare rates that keep recipients well below the poverty line.
“The Committee is very much interested in what’s happening at the provincial level, and sees a failure to respect human rights at the provincial level as a failure on the part of Canada as a whole to live up to its obligations, that it took on itself under this International Human Rights Treaty,” Young said.
FORWARD, a group based at Sistering, a Toronto drop-in serving women who are homeless and isolated, also presented a submission to the Committee’s review of Canada based on the voices and knowledge of women who live in poverty.
“The Committee’s report reflected what women have said over and over again in our meetings: that poverty, homelessness and discrimination work together to undermine the basic rights so many Canadians take for granted, such as the right to raise their own children,” said Emily Paradis, the coordinator of FORWARD, which stands for Feminist Organizations for Women’s Advancement, Rights and Dignity.
The African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) also submitted a brief to the Committee to highlight the ongoing social and economic marginalization of African Canadians, as reflected by high drop-out rates, low income, and high unemployment throughout the diverse African Canadian communities.
“It is encouraging to see that the Committee has urged the government to acknowledge and take concrete steps to address the barriers faced by African Canadians,” said Royland Moriah of the ACLC. “There has been a continual refusal to recognize both the relationship between discrimination and socio-economic status and the reality that certain groups in Canada, such as African Canadians, are disparately impacted.”
The full Committee report can be viewed at: http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cescr/docs/E.C.12.CAN.CO.5.pdf
NGO submissions to Canada’s review can also be viewed at: http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cescr/cescrs36.htm
Empowering Sexually Exploited Girls in Kelowna
Housing Again, in partnership with Raising the Roof’s Youthworks initiative, is presenting a series of profiles of youth-serving agencies. The profile that follows is the fourth in a series of articles about agencies that are doing important work to help homeless and at-risk youth.Recently, Eva’s Initiatives, through its National Initiative Program, launched its first Innovation Awards, which recognizes the incredible work being done across Canada to assist homeless youth. NOW Canada Society—New Opportunities for Women— is one such effort, which provides programs, ongoing support, hope and wholeness for female youth who have been victims of sexual exploitation in the community of Kelowna, British Columbia. NOW was one of the agencies nominated for an award. NOW’s programs include residential safe homes, the Alexandra Gardner Women and Children Safe Centre, client support, a learning centre, a next step and follow care program, NOW Place Apartments and 24-hour emergency support. NOW also provides referrals to residential treatment programs and ongoing needs assessment and support until the client enters the follow care program. They also provide employment and life skills programs. “Our programs are somewhat unique because they come from the perspective of wholeness,” Wendy Kenward, NOW’s fund-raising co-ordinator, told Housing Again. “We provide warm, safe, supportive transitional housing for sexually exploited female youth. Each client is provided with an individualized support program—an opportunity to make a complete lifestyle change over the course of a year, or for as long as each individual needs,” she added. “Our programs are about empowering our youth.”After a street level survey was conducted in Kelowna with sexually exploited youth in the community in 1998, the first safe home was opened. In May 2002, the service officially became known as NOW Canada Society. And the next year, NOW purchased its first two homes, which gave it some stability over renting safe houses. For more information on NOW Canada Society see www.nowcanada.ca.---------------------------------------
World Habitat Day
The 2006 World Habitat Day celebrations will take place on Monday, October 2nd. Since 1985, World Habitat Day has been celebrated on the first Monday in October each year to reflect on the state of human settlements and the basic right to adequate shelter for all. It is also intended to alert the world to its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat. The theme of this year will be Cities, Magnets of Hope.
The global observance of World Habitat Day always includes the presentation of the Scroll of Honour awards. The most prestigious human settlements award in the world, its aim is to acknowledge outstanding contributions towards improving human settlements. First launched in 1989, more than 95 recipients have been honoured. UNHABITAT invites you to nominate candidates for this year’s Scroll of Honour. Guidelines are available at: http://www.unhabitat.org/whd/2006
Energy Efficiency Program for Low Income Houses Cancelled
Green Communities Canada has launched a national media campaign to engage the many organizations that have supported low-income energy efficiency in Canada to call on provincial, territorial and municipal governments and utilities to help save the EnerGuide for Low Income Houses program, which was recently cancelled by the federal government. www.greencommunitiescanada.org
Ontario Introduces New Tenant Legislation
The Ontario government introduced the long-awaited Residential Tenancies Act, replacing the Tenant Protection Act.
According to Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Gerretsen, the new legislation, if passed, will provide better protection for tenants and landlords, ensure fairer rent increases and promote investment in rental housing.
Some advocates, however, gave mixed reviews. “We are happy to see the draconian aspects of the Tenant Protection Act buried and the end of evictions without a hearing, but the improvements are undercut by the Liberals’ failure to eliminate vacancy decontrol,” said Kathy Laird, Director of Legal Services at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, after the new legislation was introduced last month. “Rent increases will continue to be unregulated when a tenant moves, creating an incentive for landlords to evict and raise the rents. We have an affordability crisis in this province, with rising rents and fewer units.” www.acto.ca