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


Looking for?

The Toussaint case on right to life of irregular migrants and healthcare

The Tanudjaja Charter challenge to the failure to address homelessness

The National Housing Strategy Act and the right to housing in Canada

The 2019 Toronto Housing Charter and its Implementation Plan

Charter Committee on Poverty Issues Interventions

Social Rights In Canada Community-University Research Project


What's New

CCPI/CHC/FCJRC and AI/ESCR-Net file facta in Toussaint v Canada

Presentations to Dept of Justice and OGD on National Housing Strategy Act with NRHN and WNHHN

The progressive realization of the right to housing: Paper prepared for the National Housing Council

Three papers on implementing the right to housing under the National Housing Strategy Act

Co-ordinated Legal Action to challenge Canada and other States obstructing #TRIPS Waiver at the #WTO! Letter to Minister NG

CERA and National Right to Housing Network Make first SUBMISSION under the National Housing Strategy Act.

Charities liberated to engage in public policy after groundbreaking decn of Justice Ed Morgan in Canada Without Poverty v Canada

New Publications

Bruce Porter, La interdependencia de · los derechos humanos in Derechos sociales y el momento constituyente de Chile: Perspectivas globales y locales para el debate constitucional (Distrito Global, 2021)

Jackie Dugard, Franziska Sucker & Bruce Porter & Jamie Burton, Supporting the TRIPS COVID-19 waiver is an essential step to support international human rights (Open Global Rights, 2021)

Bruce Porter, Implementing the Right to Adequate Housing Under the National Housing Strategy Act: The International Human Rights Framework (2021) (en francais)

Jackie Dugard, Bruce Porter, Daniela Ikawa and Lilian Chenwi (eds) Research Handbook on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as Human Rights

Elizabeth McIsaac and Bruce Porter "Housing Rights: Ottawa takes an historic step forward"Literary Review of Canada,(November, 2019)

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.

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

From the Archives

1992 Alternative Social Charter 

See Further publications























Historic Recognition of the Right to Housing in the National Housing Strategy Act (2019)

The National Housing Strategy Act (NHSA), received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019 and came into force on July 9, 2019.

The Office of the Federal Housing Advocate has been established withint the Canadian Human Rights Commission to support the Federal Housing Advocate.

The National Right to Housing Network is a large national network of organizations and individuals promoting and claiming the right to housing under the NHSA and through other means.

Check out Presentations to Dept of Justice and OGD on National Housing Strategy Act with NRHN and WNHHN

See the Research Paper prepared for the National Housing Council:

Michèle Biss, Bruce Porter, Sahar Raza, & David Desbaillets, Progressive Realization of the Right to Housing (2021)

In October 2021, the National Right to Housing Network and Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network released a set of three research reports:


CERA and National Right to Housing Network  SUBMISSION under the National Housing Strategy Act.


The Campaign for the NHSA

When the Federal Government introduced its first National Housing Strategy as a public policy document in late 2017, it promised to consult with Canadians regarding the adoption of legislation making the maintenance of a rights-based national housing strategy a legal requirmement.

On August 14, 2018, advocates released an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, signed by over 170 organizations and prominent Canadians (totaling 1,100 signatories), urging the government to enshrine the right to housing in the new legislation.

With the assistance of an expert in federal legislative drafting, Professor John Mark Keyes, SRAC worked with other human rights and housing advocates to prepare a Draft National Housing Strategy Act which was widely endorsed by organizations and experts across Canada.

On April 8, 2019 the first version of the NHS Act was introduced for first reading in parliament within the Budget Implementation Act, 2019 (Bill C-97). The legislation included a few of the components of the proposed legislation but it had clearly been written to avoid affirming in clear terms that the right to housing is a fundamental human right and lacking any meaningful accountability for the commitment to the right to housing. It did not provide for hearings into systemic violations as had been proposed.

Building off of 30 years of grassroots advocacy, engagement with UN human rights bodies and court challenges, civil society mobilized in support ofcritical amendments. With the invaluable assistance of Adam Vaughan, the leading Liberal MP on housing, the Cabinet was convinced to introduce amendments to recognize the right to adequate housing as a fundamental human rights and to create what it described in parliament as "robust accountability mechanisms" to make the right to housing truly meaningful.

Amendments to the Act were tabled and adopted by the House of Commons onMay 31, 2019 to clarify and enhance the rights-based approach, reflectng many of the recommendations made by a broad range of civil society organizations, housing experts, as well as by United Nations human rights bodies.

Implementing the Right to Housing under the National Housing Strategy Act

In the NHS Act is the first time a socio-economic rights as defined under international human rights law has been recognized in federal legislation.

It does not give rise to legally binding orders from a court or an official tribunal, but it creates meaningful accountability and access to justice for the right to housing through other means. Issues of compliance with the right to housing can be submitted to the Housing Advocate for review, findings and recommendations submitted directly to the Minister. Rights holders have access to accessible hearings into key systemic issues, before a panel with expertise in human rights and housing and with lived experience expertise. The legislation ensures that findings and recommendations from either the Federal Housing Advocate or the Review Panel may not be ignored. The Minister must respond within 120 days.

International human rights law requires ultimate recourse to courts to ensure access to justice for the right to housing. While access to courts for binding decisions is not provided under the NHS Act, this can be ensured in Canada by way of inclusive interpretations of the broadly framed rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

See Martha Jackman and Bruce Porter, “Social and Economic Rights”, in Peter Oliver, Patrick Maklem & Nathalie DesRosiers, eds, The Oxford Handbook of the Canadian Constitution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017) 843-861 and Bruce Porter, Inclusive Interpretations: Social and Economic Rights and the Canadian Charter  in Helena Alviar García, Karl Klare and Lucy Williams (eds), Social and Economic Rights in Theory and Practice: Critical Inquiries (London and New York: Routledge, 2015).

The National Housing Strategy Act:

  • Declares that it is the housing policy of the Government of Canada to recognize housing as a fundamental human right and to progressively realize this right in accordance with international human rights law;
  • Requires future governments to develop and maintain a national housing strategy to further this policy commitment, taking into account key principles of a human rights-based approach;
  • Establishes a National Housing Council to further the commitment to the right to housing and advise the Ministeron the effectiveness of the Housing Strategy ;
  • Establishes a Federal Housing Advocate, supported by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to:
    • Assess and advise the federal government on the implementation of its commitment to the right to housing, particularly with respect to vulnerable groups and those who are homeless;
    • Initiate inquiries into incidents or conditions in a community, institute, industry or economic sector;
    • Monitor progress in meeting goals and timelines olicy;
    • Receive and investigate submissions on systemic issues from affected groups;
    • Submit findings and recommended action to the designated Minister to which the Minister must respond within 120 days; and
    • Refer key systemic issues for accessible hearings before a Review Panel.
  • Provides for a Review Panel, made up of three members appointed bythe National Housing Council to hold hearings into selective systemic issues affecting the right to housing and submit its findings and and  recommended measures to the government through the designated federal Minister.
  • Requires the Minister to respond to findings and recommendations within 120 days.

If these mechanisms are properly implemented, with adequate resources and qualified staff and appointments, the National Housing Strategy Act will create a vibrant human-rights culture within which to reorient and invigorate housing policy and programs, creating a space for multi-stakeholder engagement around a shared commitment to reducing and eliminating homelessness and reclaiming housing as a fundamental human right.