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Open Letter to Council from the Federal Housing Advocate of the Canadian Human Rights Commission

For the CHRC's full statement, please visit their website at – we are only sharing portions here.


Dear Mayor Alex Nuttal [sic]

I write to express my grave concern with the motion carried at Barrie City Council on May 17, 2023 directing staff to use changes to the City’s By-laws in order to prohibit the use or distribution of tents or tarps in public parks or on public lands without a permit and to prohibit the distribution of food and grocery products in public spaces without the use of a permit.

These measures would severely restrict access to basic shelter and food for people living in local homeless encampments and, as such, are in direct contravention of international human rights standards.


I want to draw your attention to the City’s obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of encampment residents. The National Housing Strategy Act (2019) recognized that housing is a fundamental human right and that housing is essential to the inherent dignity and well-being of the person.

I want to underline that all Canadian municipalities have a responsibility to uphold the human rights of people living in encampments.


I respectfully call on you and City Council to:

  1. Immediately cease the move towards prohibitions of tents, tarps and food in parks and public spaces without a permit;

  2. Adopt a human rights-based approach to dealing with encampments, guided by the former UN Special Rapporteur’s National Protocol for Homeless Encampments in Canada;

  3. Undertake a meaningful process of engagement with the encampment residents, community organizations and stakeholders before adopting any decisions that affect them; and

  4. Provide encampment residents with access to basic services such as clean water, sanitation facilities, electricity and heat.


I would welcome an opportunity to engage in further dialogue and explore how my office and the ongoing review can contribute to the City of Barrie and the County of Simcoe implementing a human rights-based approach to encampments.

Yours sincerely,

Marie-Josée Houle Federal Housing Advocate


We are so grateful to the CHRC and other outside organizations who are weighing in on this motion and proposed Bylaws.

Again, for the CHRC's full statement (the above is highly abridged), please visit their website at .



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