Encampments in Canada

Homeless encampments are a national human rights crisis that require a national response.

On this page, learn more about the state of encampments in Canada—and how we can solve this human rights crisis once and for all.

What are Encampments?

A growing number of people in Canada are having to live in tents or informal shelters to survive due to a lack of affordable housing, limited support services, and nowhere safe to go. These outdoor tents and informal shelters are called homeless encampments.

Encampments are not a new phenomenon in Canada, but have significantly increased in the last five years, and particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic. Encampments are now being reported across the country—in both large and small municipalities, as well as in rural areas.

Approximately 20-25% of people experiencing homelessness in Canada live in encampments. They are often people’s only housing option that meets their needs for safety, security, and dignity, and can offer a sense of community to residents facing similar struggles.

Encampment Graphic first section
 “[Encampments represent] instances of both human rights violations of those who are forced to rely on them for their homes, as well as human rights claims, advanced in response to violations of the right to housing.”

– UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing (2020)

State of Encampments in Canada

The Federal Housing Advocate, Marie-Josée Houle, speaks to her report and the state of encampments in Canada on CBC’s Power and Politics.

Encampments are not a safe or sustainable solution for housing. For people living in these encampments, every day is a matter of life and death.

At the same time, encampments represent an effort by people who are unhoused to claim their human right to housing and meet their most basic needs for shelter. Encampments exist only because of a larger, systemic failure to uphold the right of all people to adequate housing without discrimination.

But Canada has the capacity to solve this crisis. Encampment residents are acutely aware of the measures required to meet their most pressing needs. What is lacking is sufficient political will, resources, and coordination to address their needs.

WHAT are THE SOLUTIONs?

Recognizing the severity of this human rights crisis, the Federal Housing Advocate launched a systemic review of Canada’s homeless encampments in February 2023.

On February 13, 2024, the Advocate released her final report recommending that the federal government urgently establish a National Encampments Response Plan to address 7 Calls to Action:

  • Act immediately to save lives
  • End forced evictions of encampments
  • Work with all governments and provide support to municipalities
  • Respect the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Respect and uphold human rights
  • Offer people permanent housing options as rapidly as possible
  • Address the root causes of encampments

The report also includes numerous recommendations for every level of government, developed in deep consultation with encampment residents, community organizations and advocates, Indigenous leaders, municipalities, and duty-bearers across the country.

The Federal Housing Advocate's Findings

Critically, the Federal Housing Advocate’s report found that homeless responses across the country are being hindered by the absence of effective coordination between the many agencies, departments, and jurisdictions involved. While municipalities are on the frontlines in responding to encampments, they don’t have all the powers and resources they need to provide human rights-based services.

This national crisis calls for a national response. Provinces and territories must work closely with municipalities and the federal government must play a leadership role in realizing the fundamental right to adequate housing of encampment residents.

Webinar: Human Rights Solutions to Encampments

On March 26th, the Federal Housing Advocate and National Right to Housing Network hosted a online panel discussion on the Advocate’s final encampments report and her urgent call for a human rights-based National Encampments Response Plan.

We were joined by a panel of lived experts and grassroots organizers who spoke to how all levels of government can work together to address the urgent and life-threatening crisis of encampments, in collaboration with encampment residents.

Watch the recording to hear from these diverse experts. Below are practical tools to help you implement a rights-based approach to encampments in your communities!

Toolkit For Your Advocacy

Here are some practical tools you can use to advocate for human rights-based responses to encampments in your own community!

Use these tools to share your support for a National Encampment Response Plan with news outlets and every level of government.

Together, we can ensure the immediate safety of encampment residents while addressing the urgent and long-term need for permanent, affordable, and adequate housing solutions.

encampments in the media

Will you help us advance the right to housing in Canada?

Encampments are a last-resort response by vulnerable groups most affected by the broader, systemic issues of Canada’s housing and homelessness crisis. Urgent action is needed by all levels of government to resolve this. Your support today will help us continue to fight for housing policy and legislation that puts the human rights of everyone in Canada at its centre—so that affordable, accessible, and adequate housing becomes a reality for all.

encampment faqs

The Federal Housing Advocate launched a systemic review of Canada’s homeless encampments in February 2023, pursuant to subsection 13.1(1) of the National Housing Strategy Act.  

This review is informed by research on homeless encampments that was commissioned by the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate (OFHA) and released in December 2022. This research confirmed a human rights crisis, including a violation of Indigenous rights, of encampments is unfolding in communities across Canada. An interim report was released in the fall of 2023 with further engagement.  

The Advocate’s review was guided by the principles of a human rights-based approach. The Advocate collected testimony from people living in encampments and engaged with civil society organizations that serve them, and experts in human rights and housing. The Advocate also engaged with duty-bearers from federal, provincial or territorial, and municipal governments.  

At the conclusion of this review, the Federal Housing Advocate released her findings in the report, Upholding dignity and human rights: the Federal Housing Advocate’s review of homeless encampments, in February 2024.  

 The federal government, specifically the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure, and Communities, the Honourable Sean Fraser, has 120 days to respond to the Advocate’s report and recommendations with a plan of action. One of the Federal Housing Advocate’s central calls to action is for Minister Fraser to develop a National Encampment Response Strategy by August 31, 2024.  

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