Anglican bishop speaks out for ‘rights-based’ National Housing Strategy

Ottawa Bishop John Chapman says a National Housing Strategy must address the “human dignity, the beauty and wonder of every human being.” Photo: Art Babych

An Anglican bishop, along with a coalition of leading anti-poverty and housing advocates, has urged the federal government to adopt a “rights-based” approach in its upcoming National Housing Strategy and poverty reduction strategies.

“We come together today to send a clear and consistent message to the federal government regarding the need for a rights-based approach to addressing housing, food and justice for all, particularly among the First Peoples of this great nation,” said Bishop John Chapman, who took part in a press conference on Parliament Hill October 16, the eve of the United Nations’ International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

“This is not just the work of charity,” said Chapman. “We are discussing human dignity, the beauty and wonder of every human being, the unique gift a person brings to our civil society.”

A human rights approach is the most effective framework if Canada expects to address the socio-economic disadvantage suffered by millions who are homeless, inadequately housed and living in poverty, said Leilani Farha, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing and the executive director of Canada Without Poverty, who was also present at the press conference. “It would also ensure people could exercise their rights through new accountability mechanisms for all levels of government—a feature missing from current policies on poverty and housing.”

Farha said Canada is a “lucky country” that has a stable democracy, the 10th largest GDP in the world and is fiscally strong. “Yet here today, we have very persistent and high rates of poverty at close to five million people…we have at least 235,000 people who are homeless in a year [and] close to 900,000 people using food banks every month.”

The problem is that governments in Canada “have failed to address the situation as an urgent crisis,” said Farha. “They have failed to see and acknowledge that these are life-and-death matters and they have failed to see these as violations of human rights.”

The federal government’s 2017 budget proposes to spend more than $11.2 billion over 11 years on a first-ever National Housing Strategy. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is expected to come out with the strategy later this year.

Jean-Yves Duclos, federal minister of Families, Children and Social Development and minister responsible for CMHC, has said, “We will ensure that more Canadians have access to housing that meets their needs and that they can afford. We will reduce housing need, lift more Canadians out of poverty and contribute to strong, more inclusive communities.”

But the anti-poverty, housing and homelessness advocates say that isn’t enough.

“It is essential for Canada to develop and implement a rights-based anti-poverty plan without delay for the 4.8 million people across the country who are living in poverty,” said Joe Gunn, executive director of the faith-based Citizens for Public Justice. “We have heard from people from coast-to-coast-to-coast and have heard a broad call for national leadership to eradicate poverty.”

Chapman also noted that since 2009, the diocese of Ottawa, the Anglican Church in Canada and all 25 member churches of the Canadian Council of Churches have supported Dignity for All, a multi-partner, non-partisan campaign co-organized by Citizens for Public Justice and Canada Without Poverty.

“We wait in anticipation for the government’s long-awaited National Housing Strategy and their Anti-Poverty Strategy, and our collective response, as citizens of this great country, to the United Nations Declaration of Rights for Indigenous People and, our response as a nation to the 94 Calls to Action,” said Chapman.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended the Calls to Action as part of a summary of its landmark final report in 2015.

As for the diocese of Ottawa, it “is firmly committed to walk the talk,” said Chapman.

The diocese works in partnership with the City of Ottawa and others to support five community ministries, said Chapman. Their services include a refugee sponsorship program, housing for women, a drop-in support for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness, and a day program for women and children. The Bishop’s Child Poverty Initiative, which includes The Daily Bread Project, teaches children life skills in order to maintain their health through good nutrition.

“This is no small endeavour,” said Chapman. “Faith-based communities have been working for the poor, the marginalized, the homeless and the hungry longer than anyone. It is the mission of God.”


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Art is the former editor of Crosstalk, the newspaper of the Anglican diocese of Ottawa.

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  1. Since when did the Anglican Church of Canada become a left wing political lobby group?
    Since when was it more important to spout about made up human rights than to preach the Gospel?
    What “human dignity” is there in enabling people to become perpetual leaches that live off of the hand-outs of those that work and produce that wealth of this nation?
    Why is it more important to take from those that work than to enable people to enter the workforce?

    The problem is not that governments have failed to address anything. The problem is the sense of entitlement that this left wing politics embeds in people that leads them to think that they can take and take and take while contributing nothing.

    Time for the Anglican Church of Canada to get out of politics and get back to preaching the Christian Gospel.

  2. Absolute rubbish, Allan. Total galloping ignorance. I challenge you to engage the work Canadian faith communities are doing to build social support networks and fulfill our mandate to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. To reduce Bishop Chapman’s remarks to a left/ right political polarization is simply absurd. As a deacon in the Anglican Church, I challenge all kinds of injustice daily along with other clergy and lay people who take up the challenge to build the Kingdom of God.

    • Maybe we should be doing what Paul did ,he didn’t lobby the government or their agencies to change their policies but sought to change mens hearts. The church more and more has become a lobby group for left wing causes. When was the last time you saw the national church stand up against abortion for instance, never. But have a drop of oil fall on the ground and they’re there with placard demanding the the government do something to stop the flow of oil ,as they drive away in their SUV’s. We are called to preach the gospel ,in season and out of season, as Paul said “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” We have lost that,I wonder if those in the church if pushed could accurately proclaim what exactly the gospel is and if so ,…do they believe it.

    • It is a Faithful thing to try to be like the good Samaritan, and as Christians we should. If you were to actually read this parable you would see that never was there ever a thought from the good Samaritan to ask or require anyone else to do anything. But this is not what Ottawa Bishop John Chapman is doing. In fact he is clearly and deliberately calling upon the government to do something. And calling upon a government to do something is lobbying. And what Bishop Chapman is lobbying for is left wing policies (more government hand-outs through giving away more and more money) and certainly the right wing policies (hand-ups through education and job skills training). So for me to label this as left wing politics is not rubbish but is completely accurate. It is not ignorance but is an conclusion founded upon informed observations.

      For you to mix the work of individuals and charities with a call for a greater amount of government left wing policies is an statement of confusion.

      • Edit of one of my sentences. Should read
        “And calling upon a government to do something is lobbying. And what Bishop Chapman is lobbying for is left wing policies (more government hand-outs through giving away more and more money) and certainly not right wing policies (hand-ups through education and job skills training).” Note the change of “certainly the right wing” to “certainly not right wing”.

    • Rev. Steve Bailey,
      Please elaborate just exactly what in my post is rubbish and ignorant?
      When someone calls upon and/or tries to influence a government to do or to stop doing something it is lobbying. That is what lobbying is. And that is exactly what Ottawa Bishop John Chapman is doing. And that Bishop Chapman is calling for more government spending is left wing politics. So to me the remarks of Bishop Chapman is exactly and deliberately left wing politicking.

      As I concluded in my original post it is “Time for the Anglican Church of Canada to get out of politics and get back to preaching the Christian Gospel.”

      In response to your challenge please know that I am actively involved in charitable and volunteer work. And as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has taught I do not brag nor boast about these things. God sees what I do and that is enough. No other recognition is sought nor desired.

  3. The Gospel must be lived in all possible ways, not just in terms of personal conversion but working for government policies that help those on the margins.
    The poor must always be at the centre of Christian life, understanding our own personal poverty before God.

    • Unless there is personal conversion heart will not be changed ,governments will not be changed, that is why Paul did not seek to change government policies but the hearts of men. Maybe the church should lead by example . Too long the church has pushed off on the government things that God has called the church to do.

    • Hello Philip,
      I have not seen anything anywhere in the Holy Bible that gives any indication that we should do anything through a government. Nor that we are to try to get a government to do anything. This idea that we Christians, either individually or as a Church, are to lobby governments is unbiblical.


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