In a lengthy 52 page decision released on Friday, September 6, Mr. Justice Thomas Lederer of the Superior Court of Ontario dismissed the landmark ‘Right to Housing’ case that had been brought by the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) and other housing and homelessness advocates.
ACTO had filed an application in the Superior Court in 2010 on behalf of 4 precariously housed and homeless individuals, and on behalf of the Centre for Equality Rights in Accomodation (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 alleged 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.
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. Justice Lederer’s decision granted the Attorney Generals’ motion and dismissed the application.
Though Justice Lederer stated that he was sympathetic to the issue of inadequate housing, he did not believe that the allegations made in the application raised any breach of the Charter. He also stated that the application was “misconceived” because it was asking the courts to enter into the arena of policy making, and emphasized that the Charter does not guarantee a minimum standard of living. He remained unconvinced by ACTO’s arguments that the application raises important legal and constitutional issues that can only be decided on the basis of a full hearing on the evidence.
Housing and anti-poverty advocates have been disappointed with the decision to not grant a full hearing. Leilani Farha of CERA has questioned the court’s decision to judge the application as being “misconceived” without even listening to the evidence. Lawyers for the applicants plan to appeal the decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal. Such an appeal must be brought within 30 days.
You can read a full text of the decision here.
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