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Tents at Grand Parade Photo: Megan St. Rose

Tent encampments a human right says federal advocate

By Caitlin Snow Feb 13, 2024 | 2:11 PM

For people living in encampments, ‘every day is a matter of life and death’, according to Canada’s housing advocate; but they are also a place to meet basic needs and claim human rights.

Marie-Josee Houle is calling for a national response to what she is calling a ‘human rights crisis’, for those living in encampments.

Houle is the first to hold the Advocate position and has been monitoring encampments since starting a review in February 2023.

In her final report released Tuesday, she says not only do unhoused people have a right to live in encampments, but the government needs to make sure they are equipped with basic services, like clean water and garbage removal.

Houle is urging these actions from all levels of government:

  • Act immediately to save lives, including by ensuring that people living in encampments have access to the basic necessities they need to survive and live in dignity.
  • End forced evictions of encampments and put in place alternatives that are designed following meaningful engagement with encampment residents.
  • Work with all governments and provide support to municipalities.
  • Respect the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Respect and uphold human rights, including the right to adequate housing.
  • Offer people permanent housing options as rapidly as possible.
  • And address the root causes of encampments.

HRM has recently given notice to residents in five out of 11 encampments including Grand Parade and Victoria Park, saying they must leave by February 26- that better options exist.

The city says safety is a significant concern for those living in tents, as well as health risks and being targets for predatory behavior.

The province and service providers will be working with encampment residents to help with options to move indoors, according to the release.