The Engaged Citizens Speaker Series launched in Fall 2019 with the goal of encouraging “intellectual, engaging and meaningful dialogue about social challenges, opportunities and the community around us while advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.”
Leilani Farha, our keynote speaker for the evening, is the Global Director of The Shift, an international movement to secure the right to housing and the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing (2014-2020). The Shift was launched in 2017 with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and United Cities and Local Government and works with multi-level stakeholders around the world including with several city governments in North America and Europe.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, housing quickly became the frontline of defense against the spread of the virus. But for precariously housed or homeless people, the request to “stay home” is an impossibility. Lailani says the housing crisis, alongside the climate crisis, is the most pressing issue facing society today.
During the event Leilani will sketch the nature of the crisis, including in the context of COVID-19, and expand on appropriate government responses, particularly city governments.
“COVID-19 has laid bare the cracks in Canada’s social and economic systems,” says Farha. “It has amplified the housing crisis and exposed it as a human rights crisis: now, more than ever, access to adequate, secure and affordable housing is a matter of life and death.”
Her presentation will be followed by a live Q&A session featuring special guests:
Pam Shaw, Director of VIU’s Master of Community Planning and the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute, as emcee;
Erin Hemmens, Nanaimo City Councillor and past co-chair of the Health and Housing Task Force; and
Michael Lait, VIU Post-Doctoral Researcher and Instructor, who is investigating how people’s quality of life and housing situations have been affected by the pandemic.