The Right to Counsel for Tenants Facing Eviction: Security of Tenure in Canada

Eviction cuts to the heart of security of tenure and unleashes far-reaching harms for tenants, including the destruction of relationships, disruption of schooling and employment, and negative physical and mental health outcomes. Eviction can also lead to homelessness. It is unsurprising, then, that international human rights law establishes that evictions should only occur as a last resort, only after a full exploration of alternatives, and only following a fair legal process. In other words, the human right to security of tenure requires access to justice, including access to “fair hearings and effective remedies.”

Tenants in Canada are routinely evicted without a full and fair legal process, and eviction adjudicators too often ignore human rights and other legal considerations. Changes to eviction hearing processes made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have further exacerbated access to justice problems for many tenants.

This report argues that governments can advance security of tenure by ensuring that vulnerable tenants facing eviction have access to legal representation. Research has strongly established that legal representation significantly reduces eviction rates and is associated with other benefits for tenants and society. Legal representation for tenants facing eviction will save tenancies, promote dignity and equality, and animate the human right to housing.

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