"An 'average' 5-day civil trial cost $56K last year, beyond the reach of most average people"
"The 30 groups will make presentations while the UN does its 10-year assessment of Canada's international obligations."
"Onerous reviews for people on ODSP — many of whom suffer from mental illness —will become less stressful under a new process."
The Supreme Court rendered an historic decision (Kanthasamy v. Canada) on December 10, 2015 clarifying how immigration officers should decide applications for humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) consideration. Many refugees and vulnerable migrants must rely on H&C provisions in order to remain in Canada or to be reunited with family members.
The Court favoured a flexible and responsive approach to H&C and rejected the rigid application of narrow guidelines. The ruling should help to ensure that the situation of applicants is fully and appropriately considered, rather than being limited by rigid application of a specific test (“unusual and undeserved hardship”) that is not specifically set out in the legislation.
The Kanthasamy decision reinforces the need to give priority to seriously considering the best interests of the child. This is particularly welcome as H&C decisions have in the past sometimes been so restrictive in the analysis of the best interests of the child as to be largely meaningless.
In another move that will assist vulnerable migrants in establishing their health status, the Court provided directions regarding flexible and realistic evaluation of evidence of mental health issues, including expert reports that the person is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
NLS' immigration lawyer Jennifer Stone appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada in this case as co-counsel for the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), which participated as a public interest intervener. In addition to her work at NLS, Jennifer sits on the Executive Committee of the CCR. Congratulations Jennie!
Other CCR co-counsel in this case were David Matas, Jamie Liew, Rick Goldman and Michael Bossin.
Read the full text of the Supreme Court decision: Kanthasamy v. Canada (Citizen and Immigration)
Read CCR's Factum filed with the Supreme Court: CCR factum
For further information, contact: Jennifer Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org
Six legal clinics in Toronto launched a new initiative on December 4, 2015, to provide employment law services to low-income residents in the east end of the City of Toronto. The launch event for the Toronto East Employment Law Services (“TEELS”) was held at Flemingdon Community Legal Services, 1 Leaside Park Drive in Toronto. The event was well attended, including by Primier Kathleen Wynne, Minister Michael Coteau and MPP Arthur Potts. Attendees heard precarious workers speak about the many challenges they face, including the story of a worker who had not been paid by her employer for over ten months.
Precarious work is a growing problem for many low-waged, low-income workers in the Toronto area and the TEELS initiative is designed to address the employment law needs of this growing segment of the labour market. Through direct casework, law reform, and public legal education, TEELS will work directly with workers to address the challenges arising from the changing nature of work in Toronto.
Marjorie Hiley, Executive Director of Flemingdon Community Legal Services, remarked that: “This pilot project fills a distinct and growing need for employment law services in Toronto. Many workers are increasingly facing issues arising from insecure, precarious jobs that do not provide a stable income. We’ll be providing legal assistance to low-waged, precarious workers in the areas of human rights, employment standards, wrongful dismissal, and employment insurance.”
“In East Toronto and Scarborough we’re already seeing a huge demand for employment law services from workers. It’s clear that legal clinics need to be assisting precarious workers in our communities given the growth of temporary agency work, a lack of understanding about employment standards, and laws that haven’t been updated for twenty years,” said Regini David, Outreach and Law Reform Coordinator for TEELS.
The six legal clinics are participating in TEELS are: West Scarborough Community Legal Services; Scarborough Community Legal Services; Willowdale Community Legal Services; Flemingdon Community Legal Services; Neighbourhood Legal Services; and, East Toronto Community Legal Services.
For further information: Regini David, 416-648-0063 or email@example.com.
By Jennifer Stone, Staff Lawyer
(Click here to download a .pdf version of this article)
This month the Toronto Children’s Aid Society (CAS) and others issued a Report revealing Toronto’s child poverty rate is the highest in Canada at almost 29%. As in the CAS’s similar report last year, “children of colour, Indigenous children, children from single-parent or newcomer families, and children with disabilities are more likely to experience poverty in Toronto.” Regent Park has the highest child poverty rate in the country, at an alarming 63%.
As an immigration lawyer at Neighbourhood Legal Services, a community legal aid clinic in Regent Park, I know that current immigration laws and practices hurt families, waste resources, and contribute to these statistics. As a new federal government takes office that has pledged to reduce inequality and specifically lift children out of poverty, I offer the below 8 suggestions which would make a real difference in many lives and contribute to these goals.
In our neighbourhood, some 43% of people identify as immigrants. We see significant demand for legal help with reuniting families and with obtaining or resisting the loss of permanent resident or citizenship status. Every case is unique but it is those unique facts that drive the simple remedy they seek: secure status in Canada, together with their immediate family members. Our immigration regime of rules and policies do not facilitate this simple remedy. Mostly, it sets up barriers. Resisting immigration enforcement, being without secure status, and having families separated destabilize immigrants. These factors distract energies away from prospering in Canada. In short, they create and maintain poverty.
Decisions in immigration cases take many years. During this wait, employment and educational opportunities stagnate. Currently it takes 4 months to get a work permit, and often those permits have only 6 months’ validity. Convention refugees who apply for permanent resident (PR) status won’t get a decision for about 3 years. Only PRs and citizens are eligible for provincial student loans. Long delays in family reunification mean that separated children grow up overseas, parented by phone. Any extra money is spent to support family elsewhere. Parents face untold stress. Children here, and overseas, suffer.
Above all else, NLS urges the new government to fulfill its commitment to increase resources dedicated to applications in Canada and speedy family reunification.
The overall picture is one of rule-created instability for one segment of our population only (and a racialized segment at that). It is wasteful and expensive.
If you believe that the family - in its many forms - is a key institution of society, and you are also appalled by a 63% child poverty rate in a neighbourhood of Toronto, then we invite you to take a closer look at these 8 recommendations to reverse rules that destabilize immigrant families and contribute to child poverty.
Greater context is set out in the following pages.
i. The excluded family member rule
NLS urges the new government to repeal s. 117(9)(d) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
In 2002, with the enactment of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (replacing the former Immigration Act), the Canadian government introduced a regulation that cemented the separation of many families for years to come. Regulation 117(9)(d) states that if an immigrant fails to disclose an immediate family member, then that family member may never be sponsored in the future.
At the time, the government stated that this rule was necessary in order to deter fraud (e.g. hiding a medically inadmissible child, who would make the whole family inadmissible to Canada). In fact the vast majority (around 93%) of reported cases have involved no fraud at all. In my practice I see women who did not declare a child due to severe stigma around having a child out of marriage, or due to sexual violence, or due to situations of war or persecution. This rule exacerbates terrible situations that separated children from their parents. Children left behind suffer, and child siblings in Canada suffer. One can only ask for a humanitarian and compassionate exemption from the rule, if lucky enough to find a free advocate to help.
ii. “Proficient” English or French is required to become a citizen
NLS urges the new government to reverse the requirement for up-front proof of proficiency in English or French as a prerequisite for citizenship.
In 2010, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) commissioned a study on language benchmarks among immigrant groups in Canada. That study concluded that certain family class-sponsored immigrants, namely women from Asian and Southeast Asian societies, fared relatively poorly in English or French language acquisition after immigrating to Canada. Soon after this study was published, the Canadian government required up-front proof of language proficiency with every application for citizenship at the applicant’s expense. If proficiency cannot be demonstrated with evidence, the application immediately denied. It doesn’t matter if you have enough English to function in your daily life and interact with your bank, your school, your workplace. The Canadian Council for Refugees points out that refugees are particularly impacted by this requirement. One can ask for a humanitarian and compassionate exemption from the rule if a learning disability or illiteracy in one’s own language would make proficiency in English impossible. This language proficiency requirement is now required for all immigrants aged 18-64. Meantime, the settlement sector has seen persistent funding cuts to key programs such as English or French classes.
iii. Certain sponsored spouses are granted only “conditional” status
NLS urges the new government to repeal s. 72.1 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
Starting in late 2011, certain sponsored spouses are now subjected to “conditional” permanent resident status for their first two years as permanent residents. This is to ensure that they continue to cohabit in a conjugal relationship with their sponsor for those two years. Women’s advocacy groups across the country spoke out against this regulatory change when it was proposed, saying it would place women in abusive relationships at risk. It was enacted nonetheless. If a sponsored spouse faces abuse in the relationship, she must ask for a humanitarian and compassionate exemption to have her condition lifted.
iv. Non-citizens face deportation for minor criminality
NLS urges the new government to study with the legal regime regarding criminal inadmissibility, in consultation with community stakeholders.
Any conviction for an offence under the Criminal Code is presumed, under the immigration law, to be the worst possible offence available. For instance, if a permanent resident is convicted of assault with a weapon for throwing a shoe at her neighbour, and the Crown elects to proceed summarily and her punishment is a day of anger management class -- because the “assault with a weapon” provision under the Criminal Code is punishable by up to 10 years -- for immigration purposes, she has engaged in “serious criminality”. Since 2012, any permanent resident who is convicted of an offence and receives a 6-month sentence faces loss of status without any right of appeal. A proposed bill currently on hold in Parliament seeks to automatically strip status from so-called “serious criminals”. The Canada Border Services Agency, which enforces the immigration law, continues to act without any accountability despite repeated calls for an oversight mechanism. We see people who arrived as babies in Canada, including former Crown wards, who find themselves deported for minor criminality because they never obtained citizenship as children. We see families split apart because of minor criminality of one member. The overly harsh effects of this regime do not consider the best interests of affected children.
v. Refugees who become permanent residents remain precarious
NLS urges the new government to repeal s. 40.1 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
One-time Convention refugees who now apply for citizenship face extra scrutiny of their applications due to a 2012 change to the law which makes it possible to strip all status (including PR status) from any one-time refugee who travelled to her home country, no matter how many years have passed since the refugee claim. Many refugees believed that PR status meant something more, and so they travelled home to, for instance, visit a dying relative. The government is aggressively pursuing cases where well-established permanent residents have briefly returned to their country of origin. The effect is chilling for refugees and their families and provides a real disincentive to applying for citizenship and having such travel discovered. This ensures the destabilization of the refugee because only with Canadian citizenship, the chance of losing status becomes rare. (Or at least it was rare: recent increases in the Immigration Minister’s applications to revoke citizenship may erode this last safe haven.)
vi. Somali families face fewer options for reunification in Canada
NLS urges the new government to commit to selection of refugees for resettlement without discrimination, based on need, as determined by the UNHCR.
Canada’s large Somali diaspora was no doubt devastated by the Canadian government’s 2013 decision not to resettle Somali refugees due to poor economic outcomes. Siblings, for instance, cannot be sponsored in a family class sponsorship application, and so government-assisted resettlement is in fact a key pillar of refugee family reunification. Regent Park is home to a significant Somali population, and this policy decision just foreclosed the hope of family reunification for many. One cannot even ask for an exemption on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, because the government wholly controls that process.
vii. Sponsoring parents or grandparents is now even more out of reach for low-income people
NLS urges the new government to double the number of parent and grandparent sponsorships. NLS also urges the government to repeal the requirements which foreclose parent/grandparent sponsorship for lower income people.
Since January 2014, permanent residents or citizens who want to sponsor a parent or grandparent must now be wealthier, and for longer. They meet the Low Income Cut-Off plus 30% for the three years prior to the application. Further, only 5000 parent and grandparent sponsorships are accepted each year and sponsors must now commit to fully supporting their parents or grandparents for 20 years after they arrive. These rules effectively foreclose the option for an extended family support network for many young families in Canada.
viii. Only under-19 year old children can now join family in Canada
NLS urges the new government to fulfill its commitment to return the cut-off age for dependent children to under-22.
Finally, in August 2014 CIC lowered the age for dependent children who can be sponsored or included with a family’s application to immigrate to Canada from under-22 to under-19 years of age. Compare this with the province of Ontario’s recent decision to provide funding to keep Crown wards in care until the age of 21, given the high risk of homelessness among 18+ youth who had previously abruptly aged out of care upon reaching that age. To get around this new lower age cut-off, one can only ask for a humanitarian and compassionate exemption from the rule.
What does all this have to do with child poverty?
These laws and policies not only affect those directly subjected to them, but also their spouses, children, and extended family. Child poverty exists within poverty faced by families. Families in turn are affected by the larger social context. When there is discrimination, the most vulnerable in that group – children, women, LGBT persons, refugees -- feel it the hardest. There is a persistent gender gap in earnings, and racialized and immigrant women face extra barriers.
Taken together, the message is clear: if you were not born in Canada, your welcome could be rescinded at any time. Your contributions to Canada are measured by your economic prosperity. Indeed as promised, Canadian citizenship has become “harder to get and easier to lose”. By this an underclass is effectively created: tenuous and vulnerable.
As you know, underlying all of these specific legislative changes has been persistent rhetoric which equates immigrants to threats in our society. Refugees have regularly been called “bogus” “queue-jumpers” by a government that knew better. Titles like the “Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals from Canada Act” and the “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” have flavoured the recent years of Canadian immigration law-making. We welcome an end to this kind of discourse.
Any poverty reduction strategy must reverse the trend towards destabilization of immigration status. Municipalities and the federal government must work together to make this happen. Indeed this is an urgent nation-building strategy for our new government. NLS looks forward to working to help reverse this discourse, and to help address the immigrant “underclass" and the rules that keep them marginalized.
(Click here to download a .pdf version of this article)
 S. 117(9)(d) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations
 http://ccrweb.ca/en/bulletin/12/10/01; See also http://ccrweb.ca/en/barriers-citizenship
 S. 72.1 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations
 http://ccrweb.ca/sites/ccrweb.ca/files/cessation-report-2014.pdf,at page 2: According to an internal document, CBSA has set itself an annual target of 875 applications to strip refugee status (either through cessation, or through vacation, which involves misrepresentation)
 http://ccrweb.ca/files/conference-report-kitchener13.pdf , at p. 3
 Wellesley Institute, Shadow Economies: Economic Survival Strategies of Toronto Immigrant Communities, October 2013 http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Shadow-Economies-FINAL.pdf
By Shibil Siddiqi
This post was originally published by Legal Aid Ontario as part of the Personal perspectives on access to justice series.
Access to justice
Traditionally access to justice has been seen as providing access to dispute resolution tools, including effective access to courts and tribunals.
No one should have to lose their liberty, family, residency status, home or source of income without a fair shot at due process.
With dispute resolution effective access is key, and necessarily includes the provision of competent legal services to ensure that parties to a dispute can navigate the technical requirements and barriers established by a formal dispute resolution mechanism such as the justice system.
While access to justice is vital in all disputes, it is particularly pertinent in areas that impact upon fundamental rights and the basic necessities of life. No one should have to lose their liberty, family, residency status, home or source of income without a fair shot at due process.
What access to justice means for my clients
For the clients that use the services of legal clinics every day, access to justice means far more than a technical fix that lowers the cost of litigation to manageable levels, or allows for affordable access to competent counsel through legal aid mechanisms.
It is also the expectation of a just result (one that extends beyond procedural fairness and reaches substantive notions of justice) in any particular case.
This is because, in my view, the term access to justice contains two different and equally important emphases: access and justice. Access to justice then is not simply about access to the justice system or being able to decode the language of the law; it is about access to substantive justice, and about the need for broader social justice.
An important distinction for clinic clients
The distinction is important to clinic clients, who may find themselves receiving access to a justice system that offers little substantive protection.
For example, let’s say Sarah is a client who gets laid-off from work and is then evicted for being unable to afford the rent. She would be correct to believe that she was denied access to justice, even if she received an impartial hearing with diligent representation and robust procedural protections. The problem for Sarah and clients like her is not access to justice, but access to justice.
A result embedded in the law that prioritizes property rights over fundamental human rights such as housing would not be considered just by the client on the brink of homelessness. Thus it is not only access that needs to be more equitable, but justice itself.
The need to reflect on justice as much as on access
True access to justice requires reflection on justice as much as on access. While the law has always paid tribute to justice, it has also traditionally been exclusionary. As many critical legal scholars have pointed out, the law has traditionally been an instrument of the status quo that protects privilege and colonial and other forms of domination.
But the notion of justice is a subversive and destabilizing one. As the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas wrote, “Justice means the constant revision of justice, expectation of a better justice.”
And the law has long been a battleground (or as scholars would say, a “site of contestation”) for those wedded to progressive notions of justice, that is, to the “expectation of a better justice.”
This was just as true for the Magna Carta, which terminated the law as the sole preserve of the sovereign and established rule of law (at least for the landed male aristocracy), as it is for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
A shift in Canada’s legal and social frontiers
Dedication to the idea of justice has dramatically shifted Canada’s legal and social frontiers.
For instance, we have come a long way from when the Supreme Court of Canada held that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy was lawful as it was not the same as discrimination against women (Bliss v. Canada (AG),  1 SCR 170).
Individual rights have become more deeply entrenched, womens’ rights have been expanded (Bliss was overturned by Brooks v. Safeway Ltd,  1 SCR 1219), and gay marriage has been recognized.
These changes have taken root not because they were strictly required by the letter of the law, but because, through progressive litigation and consciousness raising, our notions of justice have evolved akin to the “living tree” that is our constitution.
A vision for access to justice
But much more work needs to be done.
Social and economic rights trail far behind civil and political ones, and group rights (fundamental to Aboriginal communities) have foundered where individual rights have thrived.
To date, Canada recognizes no right to housing [an area of ongoing clinic litigation-see Tanudjaja v. Attorney General (Canada) and the LAO blog on this subject-] or minimum levels of economic sustenance.
Poverty and income inequality are on the rise across the country, and our Aboriginal communities have for decades endured Third World levels of deprivation.
If these issues offend our sense of justice (and they should), then this outrage should be reflected in our notions of access to justice. That is to say, our notions of access to justice should include legislation and legal interpretations that are socially just and responsive to fundamental human needs.
Access to justice is thus as much about technical access as it is about substantive law reform and systemic advocacy. It is about consciousness raising with respect to creating a more just society. It is about crafting progressive narratives of law that view individuals in their complete human and social contexts rather than as abstract legal fictions possessing bundles of rights that can be dispassionately adjudicated in law.
Providing access to the justice system does play a crucial function; it allows clients to be heard.
However, clients living in poverty don’t just want to be heard; they want to be understood. They desire not only results that are lawful, but results that are just.
Access to justice, then, is about transforming the law from something the poor and marginalized experience as being oppressive to something that is emancipating.
This is a tall and aspirational order. Expectation of a better justice always is.
Shibil Siddiqi is a lawyer at Neighbourhood Legal Services, a community legal clinic serving Toronto’s Downtown Eastside. He is also a Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Global Power and Politics at Trent University.
His practice includes residential tenancies, co-operative housing, human rights and administrative law. He has a strong interest in Charter issues and public legal education. He has travelled to Afghanistan, where he worked with the Afghan parliament, and helped set up a legal aid clinic in Kabul.
On April 4, 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada handed down its landmark decision in the case of Singh v. Minister of Employment and Immigration  1 SCR 177. This case recognized a duty of fairness owed to refugee claimants in Canada in determining their refugee claims. To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of this internationally renowned decision, our immigration lawyer Jennifer Stone recently spoke at an event on behalf of the Canadian Council for Refugees. The following are Jennie's speaking notes from the event, discussing the continuing importance of the Singh case in light of her refugee-protection work in Hong Kong, as well as her work on the upcoming appeal in Kanthsamy v. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. The case will be heard by the Supreme Court on Thursday, April 16. Jennie will appear before the Supreme Court as co-counsel for the Canadian Council for Refugees, an intervener in the case. The case calls upon the Supreme Court to clarify the scope of humanitarian and compassionate grounds and considerations in the immigration context.
Refugee Rights Day 2015
So let’s start with Hong Kong
Current Canada experience
Legal clinics are looking at how we can improve our services. We believe we can give clients more service, more access to justice and provide it closer to home.
Here are some of our main ideas:
If you would like to know more about these changes or talk to someone about them, please contact the clinic.
The GTA Legal Clinics’ Transformation Project also has a website: www.gtaclinics.ca There are more of the Project’s communications at www.betterclinics.ca
Court Divided on Charter Right to Housing, Claimants Will Appeal
(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 the coalition of the Charter Committee on Poverty, Pivot Legal Society and Justice for Girls which were represented by NLS, as well as 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.
Click here for the full text of the decision
Scroll to the bottom of this post for links to all the documents filed in this case.
UPDATE: On May 26 to 28, NLS lawyer Benjamin Ries and University of Ottawa Professor Martha Jackman did an exceptional job representing the intervenors Charter Committee on Poverty Issues, Pivot Legal Society, and Justice for Girls at the Court of Appeal for Ontario in the Right to Housing case (see below for details).
The Appeal panel, comprised of Justices Feldman, Strathy and Pardu, heard extensive argument from the homeless and inadequately housed applicants, and from an unprecedented eight intervenors. The applicants and intervenors raised some novel arguments, including a fresh approach to Charter litigation that looks at systemic effects and discrimination rather than looking at discrete provisions in the law that might be unconstitutional. They also explored the interplay of international law obligations and Charter issues. The court also heard from the Governments of Ontario and Canada, both of whom have maintained the position that they would like to court to dismiss the appeal and the entire case without hearing any evidence. Given the length of the hearing, and the complexity and importance of the constitutional questions at stake, the court understandably reserved its judgement. We'll keep you posted on any further developments. In the mean time, you can explore the links at the bottom of this blog to read the written materials filed in relation to this case.
On March 28, 2014, NLS appeared at the Ontario Court of Appeal as co-counsel for the Charter Committee on Poverty Issues, Pivot Legal Society, and Justice for Girls on a motion to be granted intervenor status in the Right to Housing case. In an endorsement released March 31, our motion was granted. Congratulations to our lawyer Ben Ries and co-counsel Professor Martha Jackman on their hard work and success!
By taking on this case, NLS will be able to bring the unique and nuanced perspectives of the intervenors we represent to assist the court in making its decision in this important case.
What is the Right to Housing Case?
Formally Tanudjaja et al v. Attorney General of Canada and Attorney General of Ontario, the Right to Housing case is fundamentally important in pushing the governments of Canada and Ontario to recognize and realize constitutional and international law rights with respect to housing.
In 2010 the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) filed an application in Superior Court on behalf of 4 precariously housed and homeless individuals, and on behalf of the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA). The application alleged that the Governments of Canada and Ontario were in breach of their legal obligations under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and under international law by failing to put in place a comprehensive strategy to address the affordable housing and homelessness crisis in the country. Specifically, the application alleges that the harm caused by this failure breaches the rights of the applicants under s. 7 (the right to life, liberty and security) and s. 15 (equality rights) of the Charter. The application also alleges that these harms are not justifiable under s. 1 of the Charter, a section designed to give the government an opportunity to justify Charter violations.
In May, 2012, the Attorney Generals of Canada and Ontario brought a motion to dismiss ACTO’s application without a full hearing, arguing that the application had “no reasonable prospect of success” and therefore, did not meet the legal test for proceeding to a full hearing. A lengthy hearing was held over 3 consecutive days in May, 2013, where the court heard from the parties and three intervenors. Justice Thomas Lederer’s lengthy decision granted the Attorney Generals’ motion and dismissed the application.
The decision to dismiss the application without a full hearing was roundly criticized, including by housing, homelessness, anti-poverty and human rights advocates. The applicants have now taken advantage of their right to appeal such a decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal. The hearing of the appeal has been set for May 26-27, 2014.
Frequent updates and all facta, affidavits and other documents related to the case (from the Superior Court as well as the Court of Appeal) can be found at the following links:
Social Rights in Canada
Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario
The NLS Blog
Our blog shares information with our community on legal developments and other important issues. As such we hope you'll find this blog informative - and maybe even fun.
Supreme Court's Historic Judgement on Humanitarian & Compassionate Decisions
Employment Law Services For Low-Income Workers
Child Poverty & Canada's Immigration Policies
Access and Justice
Kanthsamy and the 30th Anniversary of the Supreme Court's Singh Decision
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Legal Clinics are looking at how we can improve our services
Right to Housing Case: NLS Representing Intervenors
Why do people become homeless?
Vision Report: GTA Clinics Transformation Project
Submissions to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on Bill C-24 - Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
Submission to Law Society on Accrediting Trinity Western University's Law School
This Family Day NLS Celebrates Launch of Family Reunification Knowledge Hub
Buried Alive: The Human Rights Implications of Compulsive Hoarding in a Landlord-Tenant Context
Submission to the Land Use Planning and Appeal System Consultation
Supreme Court Strikes Down Prostitution Laws
Ontario has reinstated basic health care for refugees
Addressing Trauma is part of recovery
New Co-op Housing Laws: Less than meets the eye
Immigration Law Update: Proposed Changes to the Definition of "Dependent Children"
NLS: Past and Future
Important Changes to Social Assistance (OW and ODSP)
Landmark 'Right to Housing' Case dismissed by Superior Court
Access to Justice in Canada is "abysmal"
Key Issues in ODSP Reform
200 Wellesley Street Fire - Class Action Law Suit Settled
Ontario tenants hammered with double-digit rent hikes
Legal Advocates Call for Action by TCHC, City of Toronto, the Province: Ombudsman Finds Seniors in Community Housing Unfairly Evicted
Co-operative Housing, Eviction and Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI) Subsidies
Apply for Citizenship Now to Protect your Status!
Toronto’s Housing Stabilization Fund Replaces Community Start up & Maintenance Benefit
Mayor Rob Ford Wins his Divisional Court Appeal
The Judicial Decision Against Rob Ford
Dealing with a Former Landlord
Immigration News: Cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program
Co-operative Housing Reform: The Worst of Both Worlds
Social assistance reform: Improving the system and using the appeals process to protect rights