President's Commentary: Harper government must support Bill C-400 and address homelessness

It's about shoring up one of the basic human rights supporting a fair and prosperous Canada. But ultimately, it's about saving lives.


Ottawa (14 Feb. 2013) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is made up of more than 340,000 Canadians who live and work in communities across the country.

Many of us have seen first-hand the suffering of those without basic shelter; some of us have felt it. Nobody chooses to be homeless — they fall into it in fear, poverty, addiction or mental illness. They do not deserve their plight.

So together, we are raising our voices and calling on Stephen Harper to follow the lead of every other G-8 leader and set the stage for us to genuinely address this scourge.

Every Canadian suffers the consequences of homelessness. It strains our social safety net. It squanders our economic productivity. It is such a naked display of inequality that it sickens our spirit.

The consequences are even darker for those 157,000 Canadians who've actually lost or been forced from their homes, which includes a growing number of women and children. Imagine the entire population of Sudbury, Ontario, with no shelter from snow and wind and ice. Homelessness is a death sentence; people are dying on our streets.

We can stop this.

In less than two weeks, a bill to establish a national housing strategy will be debated and voted upon in Parliament. The bill, which is known as C-400 (The Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing Act) was introduced last year by a Quebec Parliamentarian named Marie-Claude Morin.

Ms. Morin is a member of the New Democractic Party (NDP) but her bill transcends partisan politics: at its heart is the principle that every Canadian deserves an opportunity to succeed and prosper.

Once enacted, Bill C-400 will marshal the talent, energy and innovative thinking of people from across the country to ensure every one of us has at least a safe, dry shelter. It's about buildings. It's about shoring up one of the basic human rights supporting a fair and prosperous Canada. But ultimately, it's about saving lives.

Bill C-400 wasn't introduced by government, but we urge all MPs in the Harper government to support and promptly enact this bill, just as they supported and promptly enacted a private member's bill before Christmas that has committed significant and ongoing government revenue to an issue that pales in urgency to homelessness.

A significant number of Canadians opposed Bill C-377, requiring unions (and only unions) to swamp Revenue Canada staff every year with fine-grained financial information that is already freely available to members. Many understand the damage it does to our basic rights of association and privacy and of unions' ability to advocate for basic fairness and balanced prosperity. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister and his government supported and facilitated the speedy passage of C-377.

Now facing a bill that will literally save lives, and for which there is no credible dissent, we call on the Prime Minister to act again. Ensure the passage of C-400 before it — and countless Canadians — die waiting.

In solidarity,

James Clancy
National President


James Clancy is the National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE