July 11th,2012. Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
SFU/Woodwards, Vancouver, B.C.
Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, Miloon Kothari, 2007: http://www.ligi.ubc.ca/sites/liu/files/Publications/2009_Nov26_KothariRTH_Canada07.pdf
Universal Periodic Review, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Canada, 2009: http://www.pch.gc.ca/pgm/pdp-hrp/inter/wrk_grp-eng.pdf
Canadian Response to recommendations, 2009: http://www.pch.gc.ca/pgm/pdp-hrp/inter/101-eng.cfm
The purpose of this informal discussion was to focus on problems in the community, and get them into a conversation with the prospect of collecting information and data. This information is useful for challenging existing policy and creating legal change. Miloon Kothari emphasized the importance of recording inadequate housing experiences.
Mr. Kothari did an excellent job of addressing issues and problems that were presented by the group. The starting point for the discussion was an introduction to Canada’s national housing crisis as was addressed in the UN Special Report on Canadian Housing in 2007. A main focus of this part of the discussion was the lack of a national housing strategy in Canada. Mr. Kothari suggested that it is important to establish a national strategy that recognizes the right to housing so that when recorded instances of inadequacies are brought to the table, there is a concrete benchmark of what is considered adequate, safe and affordable housing.
Mr. Kothari discussed conclusions of the Special Report that were based on testimonies from people at the grassroots. He described a particular adverse affect on certain communities. These conclusions of the Report were addressed in the Universal Periodic Review of Canada (link above) in the following recommendation:
45: Integrate economic social and cultural rights in its poverty reduction strategies in a way that can benefit the most vulnerable groups in society, specially the Aborigines, afro-Canadians, migrants, persons with disabilities, youth, women with low incomes, and single mothers and adopt all necessary measures, including the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to guarantee Aboriginals the full enjoyment of their rights including economic, social and cultural so that their standard of living was similar to that of the rest of the citizens in Canada (Cuba).
The Government of Canada responded to this recommendation by stating “Canada accepts in part recommendation 45 and commits to giving appropriate attention to vulnerable groups in policy development.” Please see the attached documents above for the remaining recommendations that were accepted and rejected by the Government of Canada.
An international perspective was brought to the discussion referring to efforts against homelessness in New Delhi, India; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and The Netherlands. One example was the Urban Rights Forum initiative that has pushed for rights of homeless people in the city, shifting the terminology from homeless to CityMakers.
The discussion opened up to discuss a wide variety of issues that are commonly seen in Vancouver, including gentrification, rising land prices and affordability, the West End development and renovictions. One of the most resounding conclusions of the discussion was the power of forming alliances to tackle these issues. It was acknowledged that alliances are not easy to form and agree upon; however, as very powerful tools their importance was emphasized throughout the discussion.
After a good insights on a variety of these problems the main focus was on how to address these problems. Aggregation of data and recording of inadequate housing situations were the main two points that were agreed as the next step of the project in advocating for adequate housing.
The upcoming Universal Periodic Review is a possible focus point for groups or an alliance of groups to present information and data in a way that would put pressure on the federal and provincial governments.