This case concerned the right to housing, and the courts’ approach to novel Charter claims.
LEAF intervened before the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Four homeless individuals and the Centre for Equality Rights on Accommodation filed an application challenging changes to legislation, policies, programs and services, which have resulted in homelessness and inadequate housing. As remedies, the Applicants sought: a declaration that the Applicants’ s.7 and s.15 rights had been infringed; an order that Canada and Ontario must implement effective strategies to reduce and eliminate homelessness and inadequate housing in consultation with those affected by the policies; and that the court should retain a supervisory function in the implementation of the strategies.
The Attorneys General then filed a motion to strike the application for failing to disclose a cause of action because the Charter does not impose positive obligations on the state. The Motion Judge agreed, and struck the application. The Applicants appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal.
LEAF argued that the courts should exercise caution when considering whether to strike novel Charter claims, such as the one being made in this case. These types of cases are critical to the advancement and evolution of Charter rights, and s.15 in particular. They need to be heard on their merits, following a full hearing and the presentation of a complete evidentiary record. In this case, the lower court should not have struck the application, and erred in its approach to s.15.
The majority of the Court of Appeal held that the application was not justiciable, meaning that it was not the type of issue over which the court could exercise its authority. As a result, it upheld the Motion Judge’s decision to strike the case.
LEAF is grateful to Vasuda Sinha, Rahool Agarwal, and Lauren Posloski, counsel in this case.
Download LEAF’s factum here.
Read the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision here.
Our records are imperfect, but we are doing our best to update them – if you were involved with LEAF on this case but your name is not reflected here, please email us at [email protected].