CCHR’s history advancing the right to housing through the courts

August 26, 2019

The Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (CCHR) has a long history of developing and driving forward precedent-setting litigation.

When we were known as the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA), we represented clients across Canada and acted in an advisory capacity on many ground-breaking legal challenges to policies and practices that denied disadvantaged groups access to housing, including:

  • The use of rent-to-income ratios to screen out low-income tenants: Kearney et al v. Bramalea Ltd., et al. (1998) and Vander Schaaf v. M & R Property Management Ltd. and Gerald Pearlstein (2000).
  • Credit and reference requirements that disadvantage recent immigrants and refugees: Aslam Ahmed v Shelter Canadian Properties Ltd. (2002).
  • Occupancy rules that deny families access to housing: Maria Cunanan v Boolean Developments Ltd. (2003).
  • Questions on tenancy applications that target families with children: Albena St. Hill v VRM Investments Ltd. and Ray Milosevic (2004).
  • The use of job tenure to screen out young, first-time renters and newcomers: Newby and Sinclair v Morris A. Hunter Investments (2001).
  • Social housing subsidy rules that apply only to social assistance recipients: Eleanor Iness v Caroline Co-operative Homes Inc. (2006).
  • Inadequate levels of assistance for housing costs within social assistance benefits: C B v Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario, as represented by the Minister of Community, Family and Children’s Social Services (Unreported, Ontario Human Rights Commission, File No JWIS-5JUR3L, 17 March 2004).

CCHR also led a coalition of organizations, and served as a plaintiff on Tanudjaja, the historic challenge against the federal and provincial governments for violations of section 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The case argued that governments created and maintained conditions that lead to and sustain homelessness and inadequate housing.

Across our history, CCHR has promoted interpretations and applications of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in order to address rights violations faced by disadvantaged groups in need of housing. In this regard, CCHR worked in collaboration with the Charter Committee on Poverty Issues (CCPI), a national committee of low-income people and legal experts that advanced the rights of impoverished persons in Canada. CCHR assisted CCPI in test case litigation involving particularly marginalized groups.

CCHR also coordinated CCPI’s intervention at the Supreme Court of Canada in Gosselin v Québec (Attorney General), [2002] 4 SCR 429 – the only Charter case to date in which the Court had the opportunity to consider the extent to which section 7 of the Charter places obligations on governments to provide an adequate level of social assistance to prevent homelessness and its adverse effects.

CCHR also coordinated CCPI’s intervention in the case of New Brunswick (Minister of Health and Community Services) v G. (J.), [1999] 3 SCR 46 which dealt with access to legal aid for those living in poverty; Baker v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [1999] 2 SCR 817, on the status of international human rights law in the exercise of administrative discretion; Eldridge v British Columbia (Attorney General), [1997] 3 SCR 624 on positive obligations to address needs of disadvantaged groups under section 15 of the Charter; Thibaudeau v Canada, [1995] 2 SCR 627 on the rights of single mothers; Walker v Prince Edward Island, [1995] 2 SCR 407 and R. v Prosper, [1994] 3 SCR 236 on the right to state-funded counsel for impoverished accused; and Symes v Canada, [1993] 4 SCR 695 on the application of section 15 to socio-economic policies and taxation.

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