Urgent calls to action from Canada’s Federal Housing Advocate

Feb 13, 2024

Canada’s Federal Housing Advocate Marie Josèe Houle’s final report on housing encampments in Canada calls for an urgent, coordinated human rights response to address this ongoing crisis. She calls upon all levels of government to center choice and the protection of dignity of individuals at the heart of this issue.

Considering the circumstances of encampments in the Halifax Regional Municipality at this time, Commission Director and CEO Joseph Fraser issued a public letter to Halifax Mayor Mike Savage asking that his office consider the proposed actions and recommendations within the Advocate’s report in the city’s approach to this issue. The full text of this letter can be found below along with a link to the Advocate’s report.

February 13, 2024

Dear Mayor Savage,

As you know, today, Tuesday, February 13th Marie Josèe Houle, Canada’s Federal Housing Advocate issued their final report on housing encampments in Canada. This systemic review centres lived experience and recommends actions for each level of government, including ongoing, meaningful consultation and engagement with those living in encampments such as those in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Like all jurisdictions in Canada, Nova Scotia continues to struggle to address the housing crisis. While numerous efforts are underway to offer alternatives to encampments the issue of choice is central to respecting the human rights of those without adequate and accessible long-term housing.

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission supports all recommendations contained within the Housing Advocate’s report. Considering the impending deadline for those living in the five “de-designated” encampments in the Halifax Regional Municipality, I urge you to carefully consider the Housing Advocate’s Calls to Action and recommended measures, including specifically:

#2 b: In the absence of adequate, attainable, and accessible alternatives, all governments must recognize the rights of people to live in encampments. Supporting the dignity and autonomy of the person means governments must respect the rights of encampment residents to decide for themselves if shelter solutions best meet their needs, including for safety and security.

#4 a: Immediately end forced evictions of encampments, particularly on public lands, as a violation of human rights protected by section 7 of the Charter as well as the right to life and the right to adequate housing under international law. Put in place alternatives to evictions that are designed following meaningful engagement with encampment residents to find solutions that meet their needs.

While the housing crisis presents a complex social policy issue, the dignity of those living in encampments must be protected, and the Advocate’s report outlines steps that must be taken by municipal governments in coordination with others to protect the rights of those vulnerable people currently living in encampments. I ask you to ensure that human rights are respected and upheld in the Halifax Regional Municipality’s response to the housing crisis including in relation to people living in encampments.


Joseph Fraser
Director and CEO Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission