Ontario Court of Appeal Denies Homeless Day in Court

12-1-14

In a 2:1 decision the Ontario Court of Appeal thwarts access to justice for homeless

For Immediate Release National/Regional/Local

December 1, 2014 – Ottawa – Today, the Ontario Court of Appeal (ONCA) released their decision in Tanudjaja vs Canada Attorney General. Canada Without Poverty is deeply disappointed and concerned by the decision. In effect, the decision denies people living in poverty the opportunity to assert their Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms rights in the Courts.

“I am astonished and disappointed by the decision,” says Leilani Farha, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing and Executive Director of Canada Without Poverty. “The Ontario Court of Appeal has completely ignored international human rights law and has left homeless people with no recourse to claim their basic human rights. Without the courts it is not clear where homeless people in Canada can go to have their rights protected. Federal and provincial governments have refused to legislate in this area, tribunals haven’t taken up the issue, and the Courts have again reaffirmed their indifference towards the human rights of people living in poverty in this country.”

Despite the substantial evidence of eight interveners on behalf of groups such as Amnesty International Canada and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, two of three judges at the ONCA agreed with the trial judge that none of the legal arguments or thousands of pages of evidence should be looked at on the basis that it was “plain and obvious” that the case would not succeed if a full hearing was undertaken.

In her dissenting judgement, Justice Feldman, stood alone in her assertion that the appeal should be allowed and the evidence must be heard. “This application is simply not the type of ‘hopeless’ claim for which Rule 21 was intended. It has been brought by counsel on behalf of a large, marginalized, vulnerable and disadvantaged group who face profound barriers to access to justice. It raises issues that are basic to their life and well-being”.

According to the 2014 State of Homelessness report, 235,000 people are homeless on any given night in Canada. Many more are living as hidden homelessness in inadequate or unstable housing. Without access to the courts, people living in poverty will have no voice in asserting their rights which are guaranteed by the Charter and international human rights law.

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For Further Comment Contact:
Graham Milner, Development Coordinator, Canada without Poverty, 613-986-7761, graham@cwp-csp.ca

Canada Without Poverty is a federally incorporated, non-partisan, not-for-profit and charitable organization dedicated to the elimination of poverty in Canada.