UN Gives Canada A Failing Grade On Housing

by matttbastard

x-posted @ Comments From Left Field

(h/t F-email Fightback)

Miloon Kothari, UN special rapporteur on adequate housing, has spent the past two weeks in Canada conducting a cross-country fact-finding mission on homelessness. ‘Underwhelmed‘ doesn’t begin to describe his reaction. According to the Toronto Star, Kothari believes “[a]n ambitious national housing program and a strategy to combat poverty is urgently needed to tackle the disaster-like conditions of homelessness and inadequate housing found across the country.”

More from the Star:

“What is beginning here has already happened in the U.S., where you speak to people (and) they say, `the homeless are there by choice,’ or `it’s those drug addicts,'” Kothari said in an interview yesterday. “That is a very serious mental shift.”


During his visit, he travelled to Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Montreal as well as aboriginal reserves. He visited shelters, talked to housing advocates and reviewed reports. And at the end of his visit yesterday, he questioned how a country like Canada, with its rich surpluses and history of progressive housing policies, had let the housing crisis get so out of hand.

“You have had a history of very progressive housing policies which were summarily abandoned in the mid-’90s, and the consequences of that are here tragically for all of us to see,” he said.

I hope there is a radical shift in government policy,” Kothari said.

Unfortunately, as inferred by Kothari, there already has been a radical policy shift–in the wrong direction.

The Ottawa Citizen:

Mr. Kothari admitted that his recommendations were not likely to be popular with Canada’s federal government. Most of his recommendations, he said, are founded on human rights obligations, not the market perspective that he thinks dominates policy in most developed countries — and which, in his opinion, is the reason there is a housing crisis in the first place.

Precisely so. Nationally, the prologue to the crisis was written in 1995 by Paul Martin in the form of his Bay St-approved laissez-faire budget, which, according to Murray Dobbin, “characterized the government as being parasitic, an out-of-control entity that had to be disciplined, rather than a democratic body, an expression of Canadian society.” The Stephen Harper Party has since eagerly run with this Neoliberal narrative, taking it to pathological extremes.

As pale @ A Creative Revolution rhetorically asks:

How many pre-conceived notions about the homeless and those living in poverty have taken on the perspective of Neoliberalism? When did we stop seeing those in need as human? And start to see laziness, and criminality?

Related: pale has more @ the above link on the pre-2010 Olympic gentrification of Vancouver, where the “Homeless and poor, and the drug addicted that live in the city are now seen [by city and Olympic officials] as a ‘PR issue.'” David Eby notes that Kothari made it clear the UN is well aware events like the Olympics result in “forced evictions for construction of infrastructures, city beautification and speculation of land and property and measures to remove homeless people from cities prior to and during the event” and offered the following (likely to be ignored) recommendations:

Vancouver Olympic officials, and the relevant city authorities, need to continue to implement specific targets and strategies on housing and homelessness, and to commit funding and other resources to support these targets. The social development plan of the Vancouver Games should be developed and implemented in public, so that the progress of Vancouver officials can be effectively monitored. I would recommend the formation of an independent monitoring body to assist VANOC in complying with its commitments to improve the housing rights situation in the region where the Olympics will take place.

Also, this 1999 Salt Lake Tribune article by Shawn Foster, Atlanta’s Olympic Legacy: More Poverty, Less Freedom, outlines the lasting negative impact Olympic gentrification can have on a former host city’s homeless and low-income citizens.

Recommend this post at Progessive Bloggers

One thought on “UN Gives Canada A Failing Grade On Housing

  1. It’s interesting to hear comments that looks at the reality of greed. I t seems that the shinier the toy the idea that it is useful or not does not matter. Sad that prettying up the environment is seen to be more important than humans. What a shallow way being. If only the lasting impression of shared wealth and care for those less fortunate would be the ultimate goal…to set an example…….I guess we haven’t got on that the suffering of others invariably affects even those in ivory towers!


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