The Federal Housing Advocate helps to promote and protect the right to housing in Canada. The goal of the Advocate’s work is to drive change on key systemic housing issues and advance the right to housing for all in Canada.
The Advocate’s mandate is guided by a human rights-based approach, which values participation, accountability, non-discrimination, equity, transparency, empowerment, and respect for human rights laws and obligations.
Canada has recognized that the right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right affirmed in international law. The Advocate’s mandate will influence how Canada advances its international commitments, including key commitments related to the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing and an adequate standard of living under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Canada also reaffirmed its commitment to housing as a human right in the National Housing Strategy Act, which commits the Federal government to further the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing.
Driving change on systemic housing issues: The Federal Housing Advocate holds governments to account on their obligations to address housing need and homelessness across Canada. The Advocate makes recommendations to the government and other decision makers to improve Canada’s housing laws, policies and programs.
Receiving submissions: The Advocate receives submissions from people across Canada on the systemic housing issues they are facing, and makes recommendations on how to address them.
The Advocate may both undertake their own review of a broad systemic housing issue, or request that the National Housing Council establish a Review Panel to hold a hearing to review any systemic housing issue within federal jurisdiction. Review Panels consist of three members from the National Housing Council, and provide members of affected communities as well as groups that have expertise in human rights and housing an opportunity to participate. The panel then prepares a report with conclusions and recommendations for the federal Minister, who must respond within 120 days and table that response in the House of Commons and the Senate.
The findings and recommendations brought forward by the Advocate and the Review Panel will help to identify solutions and necessary reforms to laws, policies and programs that affect housing and homelessness in Canada. This mechanism is a way to target the most critical systemic issues, as well as urge the government to take action on them. It also gives members of affected communities an opportunity to be included and participate in the process, and to contribute to housing policy and solutions.
Amplifying people’s voices: The Advocate raises awareness on the most common and critical housing issues that people across Canada are facing. The Advocate plays a key role in amplifying the voices of those impacted by housing need and homelessness. Public engagement and input is critical to informing the work of the Advocate.
Monitoring the right to housing: The Federal Housing Advocate is responsible for monitoring and reporting on the right to housing and systemic housing issues in Canada. This work includes stakeholder engagement, analyzing and conducting research, initiating studies, and consulting on systemic housing issues. The Advocate can initiate studies as they see fit into economic, institutional, or industry conditions in federal jurisdiction that affect the housing system.
The Advocate is also responsible for monitoring the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing in Canada, and assessing the impacts of legislation, policies and programs that affect housing. This includes the National Housing Strategy Act and the related National Housing Strategy. The Advocate monitors the progress, goals and timelines of the Act and the National Housing Strategy, and is directed to pay close attention to their impact on groups and people in greatest housing need.
Reporting to Parliament: The Advocate is responsible for reporting annually to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. The Annual Report will include a summary of the Office’s activities, and contain recommendations to address systemic housing issues. The Advocate can also submit recommendations at any time to the Minister, who must respond within 120 days.
The Federal Housing Advocate is a Governor in Council appointment.
Work is currently underway to establish the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate. Of note, the Office will only be able to accept submissions after the Advocate is appointed.
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