Northwest Territories MLAs say housing should be a fundamental right of in the territory and join national and international governments in making that a part of the territory’s law. 

Sheryl Yakeleya, MLA for the Dehcho, brought forward a motion on Wednesday to make housing a fundamental human right in the N.W.T. and all regular MLAs voted in favour. 

“By acknowledging housing as a human right it means that the [territory] acknowledges that housing is essential to a person’s dignity and wellbeing,” she said. 

The 20th assembly made housing one of its four priorities for the next four years, but MLAs said Wednesday that making it a human right sends a message that it’s more than a priority and is a necessity for every person. 

Yakeleya said the motion pushes the territory to evaluate housing programs and to reduce homelessness and increase affordability.

“It’s been said in this house many times, the N.W.T. is in a housing crisis,” she said.

Sahtu MLA Danny McNeely exemplified that crisis by speaking about a constituent who had been couch surfing for seven years.

Monfwi MLA Jane Weyallon Armstrong said parents are putting children in care because they don’t have space for them to live in their homes.  

Housing is already recognized as a human right by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of  Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Canada’s National Housing Strategy Act

Cabinet abstained from the vote, but Housing Minister Lucy Kuptana says the federal government is responsible for meeting its own legal obligations on housing. 

She said the need for more, and better homes is well known and that Housing NWT will participate in next steps with the committee, but she said the territory can only afford improvements with money from the federal government. 

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