Canada’s housing strategy called ‘fraying patchwork’

Dear editor,

Miloon Kothari, the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, was recently back in this country.

Dear editor,

Miloon Kothari, the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, was recently back in this country and noted that nothing had been done since his last visit.

Canadian law doesn’t recognize adequate housing as an enforceable right or a policy commitment by government. Canada is also one of a few countries in the world that doesn’t have a national housing strategy.

While there may be at least 150,000 Canadians living on the streets, the country doesn’t have an official definition of homelessness.

These disturbing points are raised by Mr. Kothari in a new report that is the focus of world attention this week.

On Monday, Kothari’s report on Canada was tabled at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, according to the Toronto-based Wellesley Institute.

Kothari travelled across Canada from October 9 to 22, 2007. His visit focused on four areas: homelessness; women and their right to adequate housing; aboriginal populations; adequate housing and the possible impact of the 2010 Olympic Games on the right to adequate housing in Vancouver.

Kothari walked through Vancouver’s impoverished Downtown Eastside in the early morning of Oct. 16, 2007, and he told the Georgia Straight at that time that what he saw and heard was very disturbing.

In a report to the Human Rights Council, Kothari noted that adequate housing as a right is not found in the Constitution Act of 1982, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; in provincial or federal human-rights legislation; in national, provincial, or territorial housing legislation; or in federal-provincial agreements.

As such, the right to adequate housing as described in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights cannot be claimed on its own.

Kothari noted that experts have described Canada’s funding strategy to housing as a “fraying patchwork” in the absence of a national housing strategy. He points to the high cost of failing to take action on homelessness.

“For instance, it is estimated that it costs taxpayers more than $50,000 per year to support each homeless resident in British Columbia and $4.5 to $6 billion annually for an estimated 150,000 homeless in Canada,” Kothari wrote.

The UN rapporteur expressed concern over reports that homeless people are getting ticketed and their possessions seized in the leadup to the 2010 Olympics.

These issues also apply to issues of homelessness and poverty in Vancouver Island North. When do you think that you could take some time to address this issue, Mr. Duncan?

We have had a council that made an effort to do so, but they got voted out. Market-driven housing can’t be the only solution to housing.

Ray Garford,

Comox Valley

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