Women and Indigenous groups push for system-wide federal policy changes to address growing housing crisis experienced by women, girls and gender-diverse people
OTTAWA, ON (June 14, 2022): Today, the Women’s National Housing & Homelessness Network (WNHHN) and the Indigenous women-led Keepers of the Circle have submitted two Human Rights Claims to the Federal Housing Advocate, which spotlight the federal government’s failure to adequately address housing need and homelessness for marginalized women and gender-diverse people. These Claims assert that this failure has manufactured a national human rights crisis for women and gender-diverse people, and constitute violations of the right to equality and the right to housing. They request an urgent review by the Federal Housing Advocate.
Marie-Josée Houle, the Advocate, has a mandate to review systemic housing issues identified by communities across Canada and make recommendations on how to address them. Situated at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, she is an independent, nonpartisan watchdog on the human right to housing. Her role is to hold Canadian governments accountable for their obligations to address housing need and homelessness across Canada. Recommendations she offers are submitted to the Minister responsible for housing, who must respond within 120 days and table that response in the House of Commons and the Senate. These recommendations can lead to critical policy changes to meaningfully address the growing crisis.
Drawing on legal analysis, lived expertise testimony, and extensive research, these Claims outline how the failure to invest in affordable housing violates women and gender-diverse people’s right to equality and right to housing. Research indicates that the National Housing Strategy is failing those who are suffering the most in the housing crisis – Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit persons; single moms living on low-incomes; women with disabilities; Black and racialized women and gender-diverse people; newcomers and refugees; and many others who face intersecting forms of marginalization. The Claims are submitted in the hopes that the Federal Housing Advocate will urgently make recommend changes to improve gender equity in housing.
“We developed this claim because we see no future for ourselves and our communities in the current housing system,” says Kaitlin Schwan, WNHHN National Director and co-author of the WNHHN’s Human Rights Claim. “We live in a housing system in which profit is prioritized over women’s right to a dignified life, to safety, and to equality. A new vision is urgently needed.”
The National Indigenous Feminist Housing Working Group (NIFHWG) situated with Keepers of the Circle submitted a claim focusing on the national housing crisis and its impact on Indigenous women and girls. The violations outlined build on the ongoing history of colonialism, genocide, and oppression that continues to fuel today’s crisis.
“Violations of the right to housing are at the core of violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people. Following the findings of the TRC and MMWIG Inquiry reports and the ongoing uncovering of children’s graves at residential schools—NIFHWG decided to engage in this urgent process for our government to address violations against First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and gender-diverse people’s right to housing,” says Khulud Baig, Keepers of the Circle Housing & Homelessness Research Lead.
The claim proposes a unique opportunity to the Federal Housing Advocate to co-develop a transformative human rights process with Indigenous women and gender-diverse people to articulate the right to housing on their own terms.
“These claims are a symbol of Indigenous women and girls taking their futures back—and it’s only the beginning of an urgent process for our government to utilize the National Housing Strategy Act to address the egregious violations against First Nations, Inuit and Métis women’s and gender-diverse people’s right to housing,” says Marie McGregor Pitawanakwat, Co-Chair, NIFHWG.
Learn more at womenshomelessness.ca/humanrightsclaims.
KEY FACTS AND BACKGROUND
- Click here to read both human rights claims as well as more about the violations.
- The Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network (WNHHN) is Canada’s leading national collective working to eliminate housing need and homelessness for women, girls, and gender-diverse people. The WNHHN is comprised of over 500 members, organizations, and agencies from across Canada.
- The National Indigenous Feminist Housing Working Group is a grassroots group of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women working to improve housing and end homelessness for Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit persons across Turtle Island. The Working Group is provided backbone support from Keepers of the Circle and the WNHHN, but operates independently and in alignment with its own self-determined processes and praxis.
- The Claims have been endorsed by local and national groups such as the National Right to Housing Network (NRHN), Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA), the Canadian Lived Experience Leadership Network (CLELN), & the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA).
- Check out womenshomelessness.ca/women-girls-homelessness-in-canada for more key facts and stats about women’s homelessness in Canada.