Mr. Speaker, I fundamentally believe in the right to housing. When over 235,000 people are without homes in Canada, we know that housing must be a human right. It is a true pleasure to speak on the right to housing. I wish we could do it more often. As the housing crisis continues, Canadians are increasingly looking to us to deliver solutions. My bill would do this. It would amend the Canadian Bill of Rights to introduce housing as a human right.
In 1976, Canada enshrined the fundamental right to housing when the government of the day ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. However, this right has never been formally incorporated into Canadian law. This bill would make it happen.
During the first hour of debate, we heard a few troubling statements from the government side regarding the right to housing. Surprisingly, in this second hour of debate, we heard absolutely nothing from a single member of the government, which I find interesting. In the first hour, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of families said, “If we read the UN report on housing, it is not simply about embracing a set of rights, it is about creating those policies..”.
Of course, we need policies, but what he does not understand is that governments come and go, policies come and go, funding comes and go, yet the need for housing is constantly there. What Canada needs is a legislative framework. My bill would ensure a level of structure that would empower people.
The parliamentary secretary also kept repeating that the right to housing was simply a slogan. I find this to be extremely troubling for a government that claims to be implementing the right to housing “through a wide range of federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal laws, policies, programs, and administrative measures.” Is the government saying that the right to housing is not a human right? It is not clear to me. The parliamentary secretary to the minister of families kept repeating, as late as yesterday at committee, that human rights are crucial in housing.
Bill C-325 is about dignity. Human rights are that, moral principles. When our fellow citizens do not have a place to sleep or to go to the bathroom, these are incredibly dehumanizing experiences. A home is more than physical space. Housing is intrinsic to the sense of security for families and the stability needed to prevent marginalization. All of us look at a home as an anchor to our community life, a retreat and a refuge. What happens to people when they do not have that is debilitating. The ramifications have been studied repeatedly, and the stress on our communities and society can attest to this.
In fact, in government consultations, the right to housing was a recurrent theme in many comments shared by experts at the round table. Stakeholders clearly spelled out the need for the legally recognized right to housing. They insisted that a national housing strategy should examine whether our laws, policies, and practices are sufficient to prevent homelessness, forced evictions, and discrimination in accessing adequate housing. They agreed on a rights-based approach to housing, and how the right to housing must be recognized and realized through laws and policies.
We have seen the Liberal government be covetous of other people's good ideas, like the bill on abandoned vessels we saw tabled recently, after the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith's bill was not allowed to proceed. The national housing strategy is soon to be unveiled, but let us be clear: a strategy is not legislation.
Although part of me hopes that the right to housing will be featured front and centre in this strategy, the reality is that it will not be the change that makes housing a human right in Canada. A decade from now, we will still be talking about the gaps in our housing sector if we do not take a different approach. I hope the Liberal government will be brave enough to support Bill C-325.
For the government to establish a successful long-term national housing strategy, it must be done within the lens of a right to housing. This allows a more cohesive outlook beyond the physical structure, by addressing the systemic causes of housing insecurity. There are too many people living in tents or couch surfing, people with mental health issues not having a home to provide them stability, working people who cannot find a home, people living in unsafe conditions, and seniors making decisions between food, medication, and housing.
The housing crisis in Canada requires leadership now. The lack of adequate and affordable housing is troubling, and Canadians deserve much better.