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Canada’s housing strategy needs human rights pillar: UN

Housing needs to be considered a human right, the UN says, and must be factored into the federal government's national housing strategy.
Housing needs to be considered a human right, the UN says, and must be factored into the federal government's national housing strategy. AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File

OTTAWA – A United Nations housing watchdog says the federal government’s push for a national housing strategy may fall short of its vaunted goals if it doesn’t make human rights a central pillar of the plan.

The federal government is in the midst of consultations on a national housing strategy, expected to be completed by next fall, to set the stage for a national poverty reduction plan.

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Leilani Farha, the UN special rapporteur on adequate housing, says recognizing housing as a human right would give the government a built-in accountability measure to ensure the strategy works for all Canadians.

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Farha says talk of human rights is absent from the government’s online consultations on the housing strategy, even though the Liberal government talks frequently about following through on its international human rights obligations.

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The UN has repeatedly warned Canada that the country’s homeless population, which now stands at about 235,000, is a human rights issue that needs to be addressed.

Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos will be meeting this fall with his international counterparts at a UN housing summit, which is held once every 20 years.