Bill C-400 and International Women’s Day

Last week, Bill C-400, a private member’s bill that would put in place the essential components of a national housing strategy, was defeated in the House of Commons. Opposition MP’s and dozens of community organizations put their support behind the bill, but every Conservative MP voted against it.

The Federal Government incorrectly referred to the bill as a “national social housing strategy” and estimated its cost at $5.5 billion annually. Bill C-400 was not about social housing, nor did it have any specific costs attached to it. It put in place a framework for the government to develop a national housing strategy in collaboration with all levels of government, affected communities, and civil society groups which would respect Canada’s human rights obligations.

It was about putting our heads together and grappling with the nation-wide affordable housing crisis. This should have been a no-brainer.

How does this relate to International Women’s Day? It is women in Canada who are disproportionately affected by the federal government’s failure to address housing insecurity and homelessness. Women are more likely to be living in poverty and insecure, low paying employment; they frequently experience housing discrimination because of their lower incomes and their role as mothers and caregivers of children; they are subject to harassment in their housing; lack of appropriate housing options can force them to stay in or return to abusive relationships. Every year, approximately three quarters of the people seeking assistance from CERA’s human rights assistance program are women.

Women in Canada deserved to celebrate 2013’s International Women’s Day with a national housing strategy.