The Canadian Charter guarantees the right to life and security of the person, including access to basic necessities, including housing.
Our federal government has assured UN human rights bodies of this in the past. This week, in the Ontario Court of Appeal they will be arguing just the opposite — the charter does not obligate the government of a rich country like ours to ensure no one sleeps in the cold. Shameful.
In 2008, a UN report on adequate housing called the extent of homelessness in so affluent a country “shocking.” International human rights groups are in court this week to ensure Canada is “held accountable.”
Food banks and homeless shelters should not exist in Canada. Groups like Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty (SCAP) should not be necessary. The problem is not a lack of resources; it is a lack of government will to provide for our most vulnerable.
SCAP is the voice of the those most vulnerable here in Sudbury. Eleven SCAP volunteers went to their provincial representative’s office to demand action on homelessness and poverty. They got arrested.
The case went to court, where they were exonerated, and now the Crown is appealing.
At our municipal government level, demands to be heard resulted in SCAP volunteers being removed from a council meeting without even being acknowledged. Now we have more security at council meetings.
See a pattern here? Rather than addressing homelessness, instead of adopting a rights-based housing strategy with goals, timelines and monitoring as the UN has repeatedly urged, our federal, provincial and municipal governments spend our tax dollars arguing they have no responsibility, prosecuting people who try to speak for the poor and beefing up security so voices don’t get heard. Meanwhile, people right here in Sudbury sleep on the street, in the snow.
The issue here isn’t even just homelessness; it is also about our right to speak freely. Within the next year or so, we have the opportunity to change our representatives. Clearly we need change.
Municipal and provincial candidates are campaigning right now. Choose your representatives thoughtfully.