Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Groups Set to Urge UN Committee to Press Canada on Housing, Social Issues

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Groups Set to Urge UN Committee to Press Canada on Housing, Social Issues

Article excerpt

Groups to press UN on Canada's social issues

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TORONTO - Activists from across the country are planning to use a United Nations review in Geneva next week to highlight what they see as Canada's lack of action on affordable housing, access to justice and other social issues.

The 30 groups will be making presentations as the UN committee on economic, social and cultural rights does its 10-year assessment of how the country is living up to its international obligations.

In a written submission to the reviewing panel of 18 independent experts, the Right to Housing Coalition argues Canada should define affordable housing as 30 per cent or less of household income.

The coalition also wants Ottawa to develop and implement a national housing strategy, with special emphasis on housing for vulnerable and marginalized communities.

While the issues are long-standing, the groups see reason for optimism in what they see as the new Liberal government's desire to distance itself from its Conservative predecessor.

"We've seen recently that the prime minister and other ministers are trying to make a better impression on the international community, particularly on the United Nations," said Kenneth Hale, with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, who will be speaking to the committee.

"(So) there's optimism but there's also a recognition that there's a lot of competing demands out there on the new federal government."

A few years ago, the housing coalition launched a legal battle aimed at having the courts affirm the right to adequate housing as a constitutional right. The merits of the case were never tested because the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in a split decision in December 2014 that the issue was political rather than legal and the courts therefore had no jurisdiction.

However, the dissenting justice argued the case should have been heard on its merits given the issues many people face both in accessing the justice system and the importance of affordable housing to their lives and well-being. …

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