Housing as a Human Right

What Does This Mean?

As human beings, we all have rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights highlights 30 rights that we are all entitled to.

Among these 30 human rights is the right to housing. What is the right to housing? According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of [themselves] and of [their] family…” (Canadian human rights commission, n.d.). By the very nature of this definition, the current homelessness crisis is a human rights violation.

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1. Canadian Context

Like in many other countries, homelessness exists in Canada. In any given year, at least 235,000 people are homeless across Canada (Gaetz, Gulliver and Richter, 2014). Unfortunately, this implies that the right to housing of many people is violated. The good news, however, is that Canada is slowly moving in the right direction.

Extensive consultations were held with Canadians regarding how to implement a rights-based approach in a national housing strategy. Following these consultations, the Canadian government released the country’s very first National Housing Strategy in April 2018. For the first time, the federal government committed to implementing Canada’s obligation under international human rights law, as described in the National Housing Strategy, “to progressively implement the right of every Canadian to access adequate housing.” The government also promised to adopt legislation that would create an obligation on future governments to maintain a rights-based housing strategy.

2. Why is it Important to Raising the Roof?

The creation of this National Housing Strategy is very important to Raising the Roof because it is a step towards recognizing that homelessness, in any form, is not acceptable. It is a step towards implementing a rights-based approach to ending homelessness.

This National Housing Strategy also greatly aligns with Raising the Roof’s mission and vision. At Raising the Roof, our mission is to provide national leadership on long-term and preventative solutions to homelessness through partnership and collaboration with diverse stakeholders, investment in local communities, and public education. Our vision is for all people living in Canada to have access to a safe and stable home, and access to the supports they need to achieve their potential.

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3. What can I do?

Stay engaged and informed! As an individual entitled to human rights, it is important to recognize what is a violation of your rights and to advocate for the rights of others.

You can check out our Toque Campaign partner agencies that are working to prevent homelessness in their community. You can buy a toque or go to their website to learn ways to support and volunteer with the agency closest to you.

Also, you can see the ways that we support the National Housing Strategy and are working to end homelessness in Canada through the Reside program and get involved!