Canadian Government’s response to Miloon Kothari -Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing presentation in Canada

Human Rights Council- 7th Session

Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing
Interactive Dialogue

Canadian Intervention
March 7, 2008

Click here to see Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing’s presentation

Mr. Chairman

Canada thanks the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing for his presentation and for the valuable work that the Special Rapporteur has undertaken over the past eight years in the fulfilment of this important mandate.

Canada notes in particular the important role that the Special Rapporteur has played in focussing attention on the situation of women and children. We commend the Special Rapporteur for his commitment and dedication – the Human Rights Council, the UN, Member States, and those advocating for improvements in the promotion and protection of housing-related rights have benefited as a result.

Canada is a strong supporter of the importance and value of the UN Special Procedures in promoting and protecting human rights and in examining issues on the ground in countries around the globe. Canada was pleased to support the renewal of the mandate of this Special Procedure as decided in the Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/RES/6/27.

In 1999 Canada issued an open invitation to the Special Procedures of the UN as an indication of both our strong support for the institutional role of the Special Procedures, and of our willingness to open Canadas human rights record to scrutiny by the international community. Canada has since benefited from numerous visits, including the October 2007 visit of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing which we have heard about in brief during the presentation today.

Every effort was made by federal departments and by the provinces and territories to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur during his visit, to ensure that he benefited from a rich and diverse program. The Special Rapporteur was exposed to the complexities of addressing housing-related issues within a federal system and had the opportunity to learn about the many programs and support services that all levels of the Canadian Government are implementing in order to effectively provide support and assistance where needed throughout the country.

The Special Rapporteur also enjoyed complete and unfettered access and freedom to meet with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), media, indigenous groups and housing advocates and critics across Canada.

The Government of Canada is committed to the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing as obligated by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and acknowledges its importance both within Canada and globally.

Through the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as through federal, provincial and territorial laws, policies and programs, Canada is taking concrete steps to ensure continued compliance with our international obligations on the right to adequate housing.

Canada acknowledges that we, like many countries, face some housing related-challenges, including with respect to Aboriginal people. However, Canada is of the view that our housing record remains strong.

In light of the importance of the issue, and Canadas many housing successes and innovative practices, we were thus disappointed with the Special Rapporteurs decision to submit a Preliminary Note in lieu of a Final Report on the eve of his mandates completion.

Canada continues to give the Preliminary Note and its recommendations careful consideration. However, while Canada takes seriously the recommendations of UN treaty bodies and other special mechanisms and takes them into account in developing new laws and policies, it is our view that the Note and its recommendations fail to reflect in a balanced manner the housing successes that are continuing in Canada today. Perhaps simply by virtue of its preliminary nature and limited scope for substance, the Note does not provide an accurate depiction of the wide range of housing-related programming and services being implemented across the country, nor does it reflect the unique nature of a federal system where addressing housing is shared across federal, provincial/territorial, aboriginal and municipal jurisdictions.

In the lead-up to, during and following his visit, Canada provided detailed input to the Special Rapporteur on several occasions. The significant strengths of Canadas commitment to housing, of which there are many, and factual information and clarifications provided by the Government, are not adequately reflected in the Preliminary Note. This has led to an unbalanced, overly simplified and critical presentation of the housing situation in Canada.

For example:

Annual federal investment in affordable housing has never been higher. The Preliminary Note should have acknowledged Canadas $1.4 billion for three housing trusts to address immediate affordable housing pressures, another $1 billion to create affordable housing through bilateral Affordable Housing Agreements, and another $1.7 billion annually to support low- and moderate-income households in social housing.

In addition, the Special Rapporteur fails to acknowledge that the vast majority of Canadians are able to access affordable and adequate housing in the private market.

We raise these points in the spirit of the co-operative and constructive dialogue which is the intent of the HRC interactive dialogue process and which has marked Canadas interactions with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing to date. We hope and expect that this relationship between Canada and the mandate holder of this Special Procedure of the UN will continue over the coming months and years. We reiterate both the importance we place on the Special Procedures in general, this mandate in particular, and Canadas ongoing commitment to housing.

We are fully aware that the presentation today is based on a Preliminary Note, rather than a full, comprehensive and final report, and by its nature is short, preliminary and does not contain the detailed analysis and substantive research that one expects from a final report.

The Government of Canada looks forward to the release of the final report on the Special Rapporteurs visit to Canada upon which we will comment officially. We are certain that it will reflect the many Canadian housing successes and provide a balanced depiction of both the complexities of the Canadian system and the range of programming being implemented, while providing recommendations and suggestions that will prove useful not only to Canada, but to all States working to promote and protect the right to housing in a manner consistent with their international obligations.

Thank you