(Toronto) – Today, the Ontario Court of Appeal released a divided ruling to homeless and inadequately housed Canadians in a landmark Charter challenge against the federal and provincial governments. In a strong dissent, Justice Kathryn Feldman, the most experienced judge on the panel, found that the application raises serious Charter claims of significant public importance.
“It was an error of law to strike this claim at the pleadings stage. This application. . . has been brought forth by counsel on behalf of a large, marginalized, vulnerable and disadvantaged group. . . It raises issues that are basic to their life and well-being. It is supported by a number of credible intervening institutions with considerable expertise in Charter jurisprudence and analysis. The appellants put together a significant record to support their application. That record should be put before the court,” Justice Feldman stated in the decision.
“It is distressing that the province has made elimination of homelessness a core part of their Poverty Reduction Strategy, yet continue to oppose this legal case rather than advocate for a national housing strategy,” asserts Avvy Go from Colour of Poverty/Colour of Change Network, one of eight intervenor groups that argued for the importance of allowing the case to proceed during the Ontario Court of Appeal hearing in May. Other intervenor groups included Amnesty International, Ontario Human Rights Commission, LEAF (Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund), and several legal clinics.
In 2010, The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) and four individual applicants filed the case, seeking a court order requiring the provincial and federal governments to implement provincial and national housing strategies. They argued that Canada and Ontario have violated their rights under Sections 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Physicians, academics and international human rights experts provided almost 10,000 pages of evidence to support the claim, but a motion to strike would prevent any of this evidence from being heard in court.
“Housing is a fundamental human right,” asserts Janice Arsenault, one of the applicants in the case. “I’m involved in this case not just for myself. I want to fight for this right for my family, and for everyone in Canada.”
Homelessness in Canada has reached crisis levels, yet Canada remains the only G8 country without a national housing strategy. The applicants will seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
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