Promoting and claiming social and economic rights through an inclusive human rights practice

What's New

Canada adopts historic National Housing Strategy Act recognizing housing as a fundamental human right and establishing meaningful accountability, in line with draft legislation we proposed!. Read all about it.

UN Human Rights Committee Issues ground breaking decision in Toussaint v Canada. Canada violated the right to life by denying irregular migrants access to essential healthcare. Read more.

Canada Without Poverty v Canada - Historic Win for Charities


New Publications

Martha Jackman and Bruce Porter (eds)  Advancing Social Rights in Canada (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2014)

Martha Jackman & Bruce Porter "Social and Economic Rights" in P. Oliver, P. Macklem and N. Des Rosiers, The Oxford Handbook of the Canadian Constitution (New York, Oxford Univesity Press, 2017) at pp 843-866.

Elizabeth McIsaac and Bruce Porter "Housing Rights: Ottawa takes an historic step forward"

Bruce Porter

Rethinking Progressive Realization: How Should it be Implemented in Canada?.


Inclusive Interpretations: Social and Economic Rights and the Canadian Charter 


Designing and Enforcing Social Rights Remedies: Reflections on the Canadian Experience

From the Archives

Human Rights and the Right to Housing in Housing - A Right, a publication to coincide with an exhibition at the Power Plant Gallery on homelessness and the right to housing. Now Magazine, Toronto, 1989.

Bill C-400 earlier proposed housing strategy legislation.

1992 Alternative Social Charter 

See Further publications

Bruce Porter

Bruce Porter, Executive Director

  • Leading Canadian and international expert on the right to housing with a lifelong commitment to working collaboratively with people living in poverty and homelessness.

  • Worked with Canadian government and civil society to help develop the content of the National Housing Strategy (NHS) Act.
  • Published 40+ articles and book chapters
  • Retained by the UN to research and assist in drafting 11 thematic reports for the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing submitted to the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.
  • Founded and directed CERA, Canada’s only charitable organization focused on human rights in housing.
  • Served as Ontario Human Rights Commissioner (2016-2019).
  • Helped establish OP-ICESCR Coalition and central participant in negotiation of complaints mechanism for ESC Rights.
  • Co-represented claimants in critical human rights cases on intersection of poverty and equality rights.
  • Co-ordinated interventions in 14 cases at the Supreme Court of Canada raising poverty/social rights issues.
  • Resides and raised a family in rural north/central Ontario, understanding both rural and urban housing/poverty issues

Education

  • B.A. Honours (First Class) History, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, 1970-74.
  • M.A. Intellectual History, University of Sussex, U.K., 1975.

Employment

Executive Director, Social Rights Advocacy Centre (October 2002 to present)

  • Initiate and support community-led test cases on systemic housing and poverty issues, including Tanudjaja v Canada (challenging absence of a national housing strategy to address homelessness), Canada without Poverty v Canada (challenging restrictions on charities to engage in public policy discussion on poverty and homelessness) and Nell Toussaint v Canada (challenging denial of healthcare to irregular migrants).
  • Developed and co-directed two very successful 5-year, $1 million research projects on social rights funded by SSHRC.  Co-ordinated partnership of 4 NGOS and 4 universities, oversaw research, co-chaired meetings, prepared reports to SSHRC, maintained website and co-edited book.
  • Worked with Canadian Heritage co-chairing cross-Canada consultations on systemic human rights issues for UN Periodic Reviews of Canada.  Work with an NGO Steering Committee on human rights implementation, liaising with the federal/provincial Continuing Committee of Officials Responsible for Human Rights (CCOHR) and participating in and following up to 2017 Inter-Ministerial Conference on Human Rights.
  • Initiated a joint research project with the Population Health Improvement Research Network on social determinants of health, publishing three papers on rights-based housing strategies. 
  • Member of the International Social and Economic Rights Project, meeting with judges, academics and advocates each year in different countries to discuss key issues in social rights research and advocacy.
  • Founding and active member of ESCR-Net, an international network of advocates and organizations working in social rights. Member of ESCR-Net Steering Committee on Strategic Litigation.
  • Retained by the National Judicial Institute to give keynote addresses at three conferences of Superior Court Judges (Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island/Newfoundland).
  • Ongoing research into human rights obligations of housing developers and municipalities, including in circumstances such as the Herongate Community in Ottawa currently before a human rights tribunal and assisted with proposals for redrafting the Toronto Housing Charter to recognize the right to housing.

     

    Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing (2014 – present)

  • Oversee research, consultation and drafting of annual thematic reports to the UN Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly, involving extensive research and consultation with experts, persons living in homelessness and inadequate housing around the world and with representatives of States.
  • Assist the Special Rapporteur in promoting and monitoring compliance with the right to housing world-wide by drafting communications to States and amicus interventions before UN treaty bodies and domestic courts, meeting with residents of informal settlements and homeless persons’ organizations in many countries and conducting extensive

    consultations with experts.

    Maytree Fellow (2019 - present)

  • Appointed as one of four Maytree fellows to advise and work with the Maytree Foundation on developing rights-based frameworks for housing and social policy. Maytree provided support to work with experts, civil society andfederal government official to develop proposals for draft National Housing Strategy Act and amendments

     

    Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) (2016-2019).

    Reviewed and made decisions on all areas of policy and litigation, with particular focus on developing strategic priority of addressing poverty as a human rights issue. Ongoing member of the Poverty Advisory Group.  

Co-ordinator Charter Committee on Poverty Issues (CCPI) (1994- present) 

  • CCPI was formed at the initiative of the Court Challenges Programme of Canada to ensure that systemic issues related to poverty and homelessness are not ignored in Charter litigation. It includes both human rights and lived experience experts.
  • Co-ordinated CCPI’s litigation on systemic issues and interventions in 14 cases at the Supreme Court of Canada, including Gosselin v Quebec, Eldridge v British Columbia, Mavis Baker v Canada, J.G. v New Brunswick and Chaoulli v Quebec.

Executive Director, Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) (1987–2002) 

  • Supervised staff lawyers and community workers, student placements, volunteers and a board made up of at least 50% human rights claimants. Conducted leading research and advocacy in the right to housing.
  • Took major systemic cases to human rights tribunals, including the most significant systemic housing case in Canada, Kearney v Bramaleainvolving 60 days of hearings and resulting in internationally precedent-setting decision finding that discrimination because of low income constitutes prohibited discrimination against women, single mothers, racialized groups, young people, newcomers and others.
  • Played a central role internationally promoting access to hearings and adjudication of social rights. Initiated a new procedure for hearing from NGOs during review of States by UN treaty monitoring bodies.
  • Worked with NGOs in South Africa and addressed the Constitutional Assembly on including socio-economic rights in the South African Constitution and continued to work with South African advocates and experts including in the case of Irene Grootboom v. South Africa.

Publications

A list of co-edited books, articles and book chapters with links to text where possible is available at http://www.socialrights.ca/publications.htm