Canada Needs to Re-establish a National Housing Program in 2010

2010 Homelessness Hunger Strike Relay – 1 Year Anniversary

The 2010 Homelessness Hunger Strike Relay is an action designed to shame the federal government in to re-establishing a national housing program in Canada.

On December 29th, 2009, a rolling hunger strike calling for a national housing program in Canada reached the 1 year mark.  Each week, for the past year, citizens in Vancouver have taken part in a week long fast to put pressure on the federal government to re-establish a program that was recognized as one of the best in the world.  The action will continue until June 2010 when a delegation will be sent to Ottawa to meet all of the political parties represented in Parliament. The hunger strike will come to an end on the steps of Parliament Hill.

The train trip will also coincide with the 75th Anniversary of the On to Ottawa Trek of 1935 that saw unemployed workers jump on trains during the height of the Great Depression in Vancouver to push government on ‘work and wages.’

There are now over 200,000 homeless Canadians from coast to coast to coast.  There are somewhere between 10,500 and 15,000 homeless people in BC.  1.7 million Canadian households are in core housing need, representing over 4 million Canadians.  And things are getting worse.  Our social safety net has been gutted since the Mulroney governments of the eighties and then further by the Chretien government in the nineties.  This minority Parliament needs to leave its politics at the door and do the right thing.

In 1996, the UN Centre for Housing and Human Settlements recognized Canada’s co-op housing program as a ‘global best practice.’  In May 2006, in a periodic review of Canada, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights called Canada’s homelessness situation and affordable housing crisis as a ‘national disaster.’

A national vision for non-market housing, in partnership with municipalities and provinces, is one of the only ways we can stabilize this crisis.  This was a crisis created by government policy and it can be ended through innovative government intervention.

Between the end of the Second World War and 1993, the national housing program built 650,000 units which still house 2 million Canadians today.

The market system, left to its own devices, is incapable of creating a sufficient supply of affordable housing.

In its current form, Canadian housing policy is a health and human rights disaster.  A homeless person dies every 12 days in BC.  Healthcare workers have a difficult time providing care for patients who do not have a roof over their head.  Employment agencies are unable to help find work for people if they have no place to sleep.  It is cheaper for government to house a homeless person than to leave in the street.  Building social housing is also a great economic stimulus measure during this economic downturn.

Vancouver East MP Libby Davies is bringing forward Bill C-304 to Parliament in the spring.  It is the first opportunity in a very long time that could set the stage for re-establishing a robust, funded social housing program again in Canada.

Citizens need to phone, fax and e-mail their MP’s to make 2010 the year we re-establish a national housing program in Canada.

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