The national housing council and a related advocate were created, on paper, as part of the Liberal government’s housing strategy, in a June 15, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The national housing council and a related advocate were created, on paper, as part of the Liberal government’s housing strategy, in a June 15, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Body meant to root out systemic housing inequities delayed by pandemic

Council part of Liberal’s decade-long housing strategy

OTTAWA — A key body the Liberals vowed to create to help resolve systemic inequities in Canada’s housing system remains unstaffed, with delays in appointments chalked up to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The national housing council and a related advocate were created, on paper, as part of the Liberal government’s decade-long housing strategy that was put into law last year.

Applications closed in mid-October but the positions hadn’t been filled by the time the pandemic struck Canada in mid-March.

An online notice from early April says the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. still hopes to establish the council this year, but suggests a delay due to COVID-19.

The notice said the federal government was “focused on addressing this crisis” given the “uncertain and evolving circumstances related to COVID-19.” The notice added that appointing the council “remains a priority for the government.”

Two months later and with the backdrop of promises by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to address systemic racism and inequities in Canada, appointments have not been made.

Leilani Farha, global director of The Shift, a group that advocates for the right to housing, said the council and advocate could be playing a large role in how governments respond to the pandemic.

“You have a pandemic and your main policy to address the pandemic is (to say) ‘Stay home and wash your hands and physical distance.’ That is a housing remedy to a deadly virus, so wouldn’t it be top of mind and your first move to establish these two entities that are squarely looking at housing?” Farha said in an interview.

“It seems only logical to me.”

She said the importance of the council and advocate has only been heightened by Black Lives Matter protests raising awareness and calling for action on systemic racism facing Black communities and Indigenous people.

A spokeswoman for Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said work is underway to establish the housing advocate’s office at the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Jessica Eritou said in a statement that the advocate’s work would focus on vulnerable groups, and those who have experienced homelessness to improve Canada’s housing laws, including “policies to make sure everyone has safe, suitable, and affordable housing which meets their needs.”

That’s effectively what housing advocates talk about when they discuss the “right to housing.”

Characterizing housing as a human right is meant to provide recourse, usually through tribunals, to anyone wrongfully denied a home for reasons such as ethnicity, religion, or gender identity and allow for watchdogs to conduct reviews to remove systemic barriers to housing.

MPs on a House of Commons committee last Monday were urged to make the right to housing, and dealing with systemic inequities, a key part of the next phase of the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tim Richter, president of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, told MPs during the virtual meeting that meaningful implementation of the right to housing, “to surface and resolve inequities in systemic or structural barriers” would have an economic boost by limiting housing need.

“As the private sector well knows, when you listen to your customers and respond to their needs, you get much more efficiency and better outcomes. This is at the heart of the right to housing,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2020.

Federal Government

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta adds 463 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

The central zone has 818 active cases

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Kyler Corriveau, of the Eckville area, was found dead on Sunday southeast of Red Deer. Police are investigating his death as a homicide. (Contributed photo).
Young Red Deer homicide victim is remembered as a caring friend

Police are investigating Kyler Corriveau’s untimely death

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Blackfalds RCMP investigate fatal collision

Preliminary investigation revealed a south bound pickup truck collided with an eastbound car

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Black Press File Photo
Maskwacis RCMP lay charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and flight from police

Female victim remains in hospital in serious condition.

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
‘Gut punch’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blasts Biden on revoked Keystone XL permit

Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn’t consult with Canada first before acting

Most Read