Poverty-rights activists are hoping to shame Canada through a formal human-rights complaint to the United Nations into doing something about the increasing homelessness and the loss of affordable housing in the Downtown Eastside.
“We’re talking about going to the court of global public opinion,” said Michael Byers, a professor of global politics and international law at the University of B.C.
“The dirty laundry that we don’t want the world to see will be hanging out on the street. To actually have government realize that … will create the possibility that they might do something more serious and constructive.”
The complaint, by three groups, including the Pivot Legal Society, will be mailed to the UN this morning. It is expected to take two years and will not have a legally binding conclusion.
It alleges that the conversion of single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels into condominiums contravenes an international covenant that recognizes the right to adequate living conditions, including housing.
Impact on Communities Coalition spokesman Am Johal said when people are evicted from SRO hotels their options for finding housing are very few and “we’re making the argument that their adequate housing is being compromised.”
Canada is signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but does not recognize housing as a human right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom.