I am writing to support Parksville Qualicum Beach homelessness assertion that housing is a human right rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which Canada helped draft. This right is grounded in international human rights law.
In 1966, the minority Liberal government of Lester Pearson with the support of Tommy Douglas and the NDP signed the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights IICESCR) including the right to food, clothing and housing.
In 1976, Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government ratified the ICESCR thereby recognizing Canada’s obligations under international law including the right to housing. Government, at all levels, thus became the “primary duty bearer,” in other words charged with ensuring that everyone, and especially the homeless, have a place to live.
Canada has also recognized the right to housing in other international covenants — the rights of women, Indigenous peoples and those with disabilities. All levels of government are bound by “a duty of care” for the most vulnerable.
Sadly, over the years, this has been neglected. The federal ogvernment and the courts have been unwilling to assert the right to housing which should long ago have been entrenched in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982). However it is argued that sections 7 and 15 do recognize the right to housing. Yet despite a deepening crisis of homelessness, our governments have looked away.
The Parksville city council in considering the rezoning of the supportive housing project now has the opportunity at the local level to do the right thing. Housing first is an imaginative and forward-looking step. It will require the council’s moral and political courage to walk the talk respecting Canada’s obligation to uphold international human rights law and welcome the homeless in from the cold.