By: Phoebe Shao
“Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to the occupancy of accommodation without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, disability or the receipt of public assistance.” – Ontario Human Rights Code, s.2(1)
Housing has long been defined as a fundamental human right. Yet, many Ontarians do not have access to good housing that is affordable. People are often refused by landlords because of race, citizenship status, sexual orientation, and age. Recently, the right of housing has become the center of focus to secure the right of equality for the homeless and individuals on social welfare. In May 2010, the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) and four individuals from Toronto launched the 2010 Charter challenge. The CERA and individuals want the government to develop national and provincial housing strategies to reduce and eventually eliminate homelessness and substandard housing. In Canada, an average of $300,000 people is homeless. This does not include the $156,360 Ontarian families and/or individuals waiting for subsidized housing. The contesting argument states that government’s decisions, programs, and actions have created conditions where individuals and families face difficulties in sustaining and supporting adequate housing, leaving many to live on the streets or in temporary shelters where health and well-being are jeopardized. The United Nations has also stepped in and urged Ottawa to address homelessness and inadequate housing. However, government lawyers state that the government is not obliged to provide social assistance or housing support to its citizens. Presiding Chief Judge Thomas R. Lederer will not make a decision until Fall 2013.