Open Letter to Canada’s Housing Ministers: Stop Displacement and End Homelessness Now!
Dear Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Ministers responsible for housing and homelessness,
Today we gather outside yet another meeting convened by government ministers to discuss housing in a country in the throes of a housing crisis. In your meeting will you declare that the policies your cabinets have developed over the last three decades have mushroomed homelessness? Will you denounce policies that have allowed tax cuts for the rich, while decimating life-sustaining social programs for the poor? Will you acknowledge the devastation this crisis has wrought on Indigenous nations?
Unfortunately we fear that you will not use this gathering to bring about the change required by homeless and low-income people.
While you are meeting in the comfort of your hotel, we the displaced, homeless, evicted, and low-income people who are living the housing crisis you have created, and we the housing and homelessness advocates, activists, and scholars, stand outside demanding real change. We live and struggle in British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario. And together we are presenting you with our main demands. We believe these are the actions needed to end the housing crisis in Canada.
1. Stop criminalizing poverty and displacing the poor
It has been decades since laws that directly criminalized the bodies of poor people were overturned. Since then all levels of government have developed a suite of laws that re-criminalize activities associated with poverty. The effect is almost the same. These new poor laws displace poor people out of the public eye to manage poverty so you don’t have to end it.
The penalization of poverty and homelessness must end. Today, just blocks away, British Columbia is attempting to displace Victoria’s Super InTent City by court injunction. BC’s actions fail to recognize tent cities as places of safety, survival, and resistance against anti-homeless hate, police move-alongs, and bylaw officer harassment. They are essential spaces of survival as long as homelessness exists. Tent cities should be ended only by building enough social housing, ending the new poor laws, and stamping out the anti-homeless hate that make tent cities necessary.
In 2016, the United Nations called on all governments in Canada to repeal laws that penalize homeless persons for finding solutions necessary for their survival and well-being. We demand that you:
- Stop criminalizing and displacing the homeless; and,
- Specifically, because we are gathered here in Victoria, that the BC government cancel the injunction and displacement threat against Super InTent City.
2. End homelessness now
The homelessness crisis we have today is result of the thirty-year deficit of building social housing. Canada’s decision to gut social housing programs, beginning in 1993 with the end of regular social housing funding, has spiraled through the Provinces, as each one eliminated their regular social housing programs. This has left no one with the power to leverage the tax dollars needed to build the homes we need.
Current Federal budget commitments directed primarily towards shelters, support staff, renovation and maintenance of existing housing, and market subsidies will not end the housing crisis on Indigenous reserves or the homelessness crisis in cities and towns across Canada.
In this context poor laws, and stigma and hate leveled at people living in poverty have flourished, leading to the institutionalization and medicalization of social housing for people living in poverty. In BC thousands of tenants in so-called supportive and transitional housing have no rights under provincial tenancy law. Super InTent City residents and other homeless communities in Canada have rejected shelters and institutionalizing “supportive” housing projects and we join them in demanding that governments build the homes we need now.
We call on federal and provincial governments:
- To build 77,000 units of social housing at welfare/pension rates every year in Canada until homelessness is ended; and,
- Build housing that respects and protects residents’ rights rather than institutionalizing people living in poverty.
Alliance Against Displacement
Carnegie Community Action Project
Chinatown Action Project
Homes Not Hate
Pivot Legal Society
Super InTent City
Together Against Poverty Society
 We calculate that we need 10,000 units of social housing every year in British Columbia to end homelessness, and BC has 13% of the population of Canada