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Housing as an International Human Right

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The international community has long recognized that housing is a human right worthy of protection. For instance, both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[74] and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”)[75] recognize a right to housing.[76]

Other international treaties have also affirmed the right to housing including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Canada has ratified all of these treaties.

As a signatory to the ICESCR and other international human rights instruments, Canada has agreed to take appropriate steps towards the realization of the right to adequate housing. Housing is a subset of social and economic rights more broadly and must be understood in this light. While the Code does not protect the broad range of social and economic rights set out in international instruments, it affirms the right to equal treatment in housing without discrimination on the basis of Code grounds. The values reflected in international human rights laws are to be used as an aid to interpreting the rights in the Code. For a more detailed discussion of Canada’s international obligations in relation to social and economic rights and housing, please refer to “International Commitments” under the “Social and Economic Condition” section of this Paper.

[74] Signed Dec. 10, 1948, G.A. Res. 217A (III), U.N. Doc. A/810 at 71 (1948).
[75] (1976) 993 U.N.T.S. 3, Can. T.S. 1976 No. 46.
[76] The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The ICESCR was adopted by the United Nations in 1966 and entered into force in 1976. Canada ratified the ICESCR in 1976.

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