National Housing Council Charter
June 29, 2021 (Revised December 9, 2021)
COUNCIL STATUTORY MANDATE
The National Housing Council was established under the National Housing Strategy Act. The purpose of the National Housing Council is to further the housing policy underlying the National Housing Strategy. The Council will:
- promote participation and inclusion in the development of housing policy.
- contribute to the success of the National Housing Strategy.
- provide advice to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development on how to improve housing outcomes.
- offer advice on the effectiveness of the National Housing Strategy to the Minister.
- support the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing, as recognized in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
HOUSING POLICY DECLARATION
The housing policy of the Government of Canada is to:
- recognize that the right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right affirmed in international law;
- recognize that housing is essential to the inherent dignity and well-being of the person and to building sustainable and inclusive communities;
- support improved housing outcomes for the people of Canada; and
- further the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing as recognized in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
NATIONAL HOUSING STRATEGY
The National Housing Strategy:
- sets out a long-term vision for housing in Canada that recognizes the importance of housing in achieving social, economic, health and environmental goals;
- establishes national goals relating to housing and homelessness and identify related priorities, initiatives, timelines and desired outcomes;
- focuses on improving housing outcomes for persons in greatest need; and
- provides for participatory processes to ensure the ongoing inclusion and engagement of civil society, stakeholders, vulnerable groups and persons with lived experience of housing need, as well as those with lived experience of homelessness.
- Independent and fearless advice: Our duty is to provide high quality, independent, expert and non-partisan advice to the Minister in support of the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing in Canada and improving housing outcomes for Canadians.
- Improving housing outcomes for Canadians: Our priority is to support long-term and lasting improvement in housing outcomes for Canadians through high-quality advice that is adopted and implemented by the Government of Canada. Our success or failure will be measured by adoption of our recommendations and improvements in housing outcomes for Canadians.
- Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Housing: The Council supports and advances the progressive realization of the adequate right to housing as recognized in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.
- Reconciliation and decolonization: We recognize that housing and housing systems can play an important role in decolonization and Reconciliation. Through our work we will proactively seek to advance decolonization and Reconciliation in our work.
- Advice grounded in evidence: The Council’s recommendations are anchored in evidence and research, using qualitative and quantitative data.
- Diversity, inclusion, non-discrimination: The Council ensures diverse representation and perspectives in the development of housing policy. We work with the most vulnerable people in mind when developing solutions. We prioritize lived experience and expertise of housing need and homelessness. We honour traditions and embrace regional and demographic diversity and realities. We examine housing needs from a gendered and intersectional lens.
- Participation, Co-Creation, and Community Engagement: The Council will seek the input, expertise and advice of those affected by the recommendations we make and ensure fulsome participation and inclusion in the development of our recommendations. The Council collaborates, consults, and works with government entities, human rights advocates, housing experts, the National Advisory Council on Poverty, and others across the country to inform the Council’s advice.
- Transparency: We work transparently and openly. We will communicate clearly and frequently and listen attentively to ensure Canadians have trust and confidence in the Council and our advice.
- Urgency: We work at a pace that reflects the urgency of housing need and homelessness in Canada for those experiencing it.
COMPOSITION AND APPOINTMENT
- The National Housing Strategy Act states, at ss. 6(2), that “The Council is composed of two co-chairpersons and not fewer than 9, but not more than 15, other members.”
- S. 7 of the Act states that the ex-officio members of the National Housing Council are: the Federal Housing Advocate, the Deputy Minister of ESDC, the Deputy Minister of Indigenous Services, and the President of CMHC.
- Council members are appointed for varying terms of up to three years, to ensure that not all membership is renewed at the same time. Certain appointed members of the Council could be reappointed for an additional term.
- The appointed members of the Council will perform their duties and functions on a part-time basis.
MEETINGS – TIMING AND QUORUM
- The Council must hold a minimum of four meetings each year, or as often as the Minister specifies. Working groups meet as required to achieve the mandate and deadlines set by the Council.
- Quorum for meeting: one of two co-chairs, or their alternate, and a simple majority of the sitting members of the Council.
- The co-chairs will determine the proper notice period for any meeting. This period should be no less than one week.
- The Secretariat will aim to set the dates of the quarterly meetings at the beginning of each calendar year (See Annex A).
It is the Minister’s prerogative to:
- Appoint members.
- Inform members if advice is needed on a particular topic.
- It is the Minister’s prerogative to:
ROLE AND EXPECTATIONS OF COUNCIL MEMBERS
- All members are responsible for ensuring the Council is a respectful, productive, and efficient participatory mechanism.
- Members will act as experts in their fields, honestly, and in good faith. They will also act with care and diligence in the exercise of their official duties.
- Members will respect the principles and values of the National Housing Council outlined in their Membership Agreement.
- Members will comply with all other applicable laws and regulations, including the National Housing Strategy Act.
- Members will undertake their duties as outlined in the Council’s work plan.
- Members are expected to come to meetings prepared.
- Members are expected to serve on subcommittees, review panels, or working groups as required, bearing in mind the part-time nature of each appointment.
ROLE OF EX-OFFICIO MEMBERS
- Given their roles within government, Ex officio members of the Council will support the work of the Council without exercising the right to vote on the Council's advice to the Minister.
- Ex officio members provide insights from a whole of government perspective and assist members in developing actionable recommendations that can be realized by the Minister.
Ex officio members may use the Council to:
- Act as a sounding board on policy challenges faced by their department/ organization and as they explore new housing policies and programs, with the agreement of the co-chairs; and
- Explore how to further housing policy to support the progressive realization of the international right to adequate housing.
ROLE OF THE CO-CHAIRS
Both co-chairs are accountable for the oversight and direction
of the work of the Council, noting that the CMHC ex-officio
- will not be exercising the right to vote on the Council’s advice to the Minister.
- Ensure adherence to the terms of the Act and applicable guidelines.
- Help foster a constructive and respectful environment for discussion by facilitating the Council meetings, ensuring all members are able to participate on equal footing.
- Supervise and direct the Council’s work including the establishment of working groups as required.
- Promote the active consideration of the lived experience of persons affected by the issues under review.
- Rally members to make decisions and advance the Council’s agenda and priorities.
- Set the agenda for the meetings, and establish the work plan.
- Establish the performance metrics for the Council (see item 13).
- Be accountable for the Council budget (see item 14).
Be accountable for the planning, design, implementation and
evaluation (operations) of review panels, including:
- Providing final approval on the composition of review panels.
- Ensuring that the establishment and operation of review panels does not exceed the means and resources of the National Housing Council.
- Responsibilities can be divided by the two co-chairs, if needed.
- Both co-chairs are accountable for the oversight and direction of the work of the Council, noting that the CMHC ex-officio co-chair:
ROLE OF THE SECRETARIAT
CMHC must provide the Council with the administrative services and facilities it needs to perform its duties and functions. The Council is an independent advisory body and it has full autonomy to execute its mandate, provide fearless advice and recommendations to the Minister. The Secretariat's role is to provide operational support as indicated in the National Housing Strategy Act.
The Secretariat will:
- Assist in the arrangement of Council activities (timing, venue, equipment, hospitality);
- Assist the co-chairs in developing meeting agendas;
- Coordinate and distribute agendas and documents in advance of meetings;
- Produce meeting minutes and ensure follow-up of action items;
- Facilitate research, analysis and report writing activities;
- Support public engagement of the Council and working groups;
- Keep meeting records;
- Provide onboarding and training materials;
- Support the planning and delivery of review panels;
- Manage the budget; and,
- Support recruiting, training, and succession planning.
ROLE OF THE FEDERAL HOUSING ADVOCATE
Under the National Housing Strategy Act, the Federal Housing Advocate is required to:
(a) Monitor the implementation of housing policy and assess its impact on persons who are members of vulnerable groups, persons with lived experience of housing need and persons with lived experience of homelessness;
(b) Monitor progress in achieving the desired outcomes set out in the National Housing Strategy;
(c) Analyze and conduct research on systemic housing issues, including barriers faced by persons who are members of vulnerable groups, persons with lived experience of housing need and persons with lived experience of homelessness;
(d) Initiate studies into economic, institutional or industry conditions within the jurisdiction of Parliament that affect the housing system;
(e) Consult with persons who are members of vulnerable groups, persons with lived experience of housing need and persons with lived experience of homelessness, and civil society organizations with respect to systemic housing issues;
(f) Receive submissions with respect to systemic housing issues;
(g) Provide advice to the Minister;
(h) Submit a report to the Minister on their findings and any recommendations with respect to the jurisdiction of Parliament to further housing policy, the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing, and the National Housing Strategy; and
(i) Participate in the work of the National Housing Council as an ex-officio member.
- The Federal Housing Advocate may request that the National Housing Council establish review panels to hold hearings on systemic housing issues within the jurisdiction of Parliament.
- The Federal Housing Advocate will submit a request to establish a review panel at one of the Council’s quarterly meetings. The process to establish the review panels, hold hearings and prepare a report with recommendations to the Minister will be outlined in the “Operational Guidance for Review Panels”.
- The co-chairs, with the support of the Secretariat, will liaise with the Federal Housing Advocate on any matters related to review panels.
- The Federal Housing Advocate is supported by the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate (OFHA) at the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
- The Council will seek to achieve unanimity in recommendations to the Minister, but those recommendations need only be endorsed by a simple majority of the members. If unanimity is not possible, dissenting Council members may issue a minority report to be appended to the report to the Minister.
- Working groups (if any) are responsible for presenting their recommendations to the Council for decision.
- Statements, reports, and recommendations to be published under the name of the Council shall be subject to a vote during a meeting or via email.
- Relevant documents will be circulated to members to allow for review and comment prior to a vote.
- Operational matters under the accountability of the co-chairs are not subject to a vote.
MEDIA, SOCIAL MEDIA, AND COMMUNICATION
- The appointed co-chair is the designated spokesperson of the Council, with concurrence from the ex officio co-chair.
- The Secretariat will, as requested by the Council, provide support to the Council in the development of speaking points for the purpose of external communications. Any contact with the media regarding issues related to the work of the Council will be referred to the Council Secretariat, who will coordinate responses with the designated spokespersons.
- Guidelines on the use of social media can be found in Annex D. Guidelines are established to preserve the reputation, integrity, and legitimacy of the Council, while balancing the opportunities for members to share about their work and the contributions they are making to housing policy in Canada. Comments should be factual, evidence-based, and add value to public discussion.
- Members shall not appear in front of external bodies (conferences, commissions, etc.) in their role as Council members without prior approval by the co-chairs.
- The co-chairs have the final approval of communications material published on behalf of the Council. This does not include statements, reports, and recommendations to be published under the name of the Council, as per Section 12.
- Disclaimers noting that the Council is an independent advisory body and does not speak on behalf of CMHC and the Government of Canada will be included.
- Members must always respect the terms of the confidentiality clause in their Membership Agreement to ensure the Council can have free, open and healthy debate.
COUNCIL’S PERFORMANCE AND REPORTING
- As part of the results framework on the effectiveness of the National Housing Strategy, the Council’s activities will be evaluated annually in relation to the mandate stated in the Act.
- Key performance indicators will be approved by the Council.
- The Council must operate within its budget approved by the Federal Government as part of the National Housing Strategy – Right to Housing funding.
- CMHC is responsible for all procurement and purchasing activities on behalf of the Council and will conduct these activities within the guidelines set by the policies and procedures set by CMHC.
- Instructions on procurement can only be provided by the Council Secretariat. At no time can members procure goods or services on behalf of the Council or in their position as Council members. Members of the National Housing Council may make recommendations on procurement in accordance with the Conflict of Interest Guidelines at Annex E, but do not have the authority to make final procurement decisions.
- Members must abide by the terms of the Remuneration for Appointed Members and Other Expense Policy.
- Each of the Council’s working groups will establish a budget for its activities. These working group budgets must be approved by the Council co-chairs.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST AND CONFIDENTIALITY
- Council members are subject to the terms and conditions on conflict of interest and confidentiality articulated in their Membership Agreement.
- Council members will respect the terms of the confidentiality clause in their Membership Agreement to ensure the Council can have free, open and healthy debate.
- Council members are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of all proprietary, confidential or privileged information provided.
- A procedure to address conflicts of interest is under development. In the meantime, situations of conflict of interest and perceived conflict of interest will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
- Members serve on the Council at the pleasure of the Minister.
CHANGES TO CHARTER
- This Charter will be reviewed periodically and at least annually. All changes to the Charter must be approved by the Council co-chairs and have the support of a simple majority of Council members. All changes to the Charter must align with the purpose and principles underlying the National Housing Strategy Act.
Annex A – National Housing Council Agenda
Meetings and Agenda Setting
- The co-chairs will canvass members, annually or as deemed necessary, to identify the Council priorities to be discussed at quarterly meetings.
- The co-chairs will work with the Council and the Secretariat to establish an annual work plan.
- The Secretariat will support the co-chairs in establishing meeting agendas and coordinate presentations for each meeting.
- Simultaneous interpretation and accessibility requirements will be available as required.
The structure of the agenda may vary, but regular meetings will
typically be structured in the following manner:
- Co-chairs' opening remarks
- Status update: Review of previous minutes and work plan
- The Advocate’s report, including the establishment of review panels, if applicable
- Presentations by Council members and other experts on priority items
- Updates from working groups
- Review and discussion of reports and recommendations
- Open discussion for members to share their views
- Review of decisions and action items
- Material to be discussed at Council meetings must be ready at least 3 weeks before the meeting, leaving 1 week for translation, and 2 weeks for members to review the material, except in instances when co-chairs call a meeting with less advanced notice.
Presenting Agenda Items - Expectations
- Presenters will work with the Secretariat to ensure that presentations are clear, effective, accessible, and make the best use of the Council members’ time. The Secretariat will also work with presenters to meet the language, accessibility, and other requirements.
- Presenters are required to respect time allocated for presentations and agenda items.
- At each meeting, the Secretariat will create records of decision with the aim of updating the Council’s action plan and identifying recommendations to be presented to the Minister as defined in the performance measures.
- Meeting agendas and a record of decisions will be published on the Council’s website.
Annex B – Review panels
This annex will be replaced by the National Housing Council’s formal policy on review panels once this policy has been developed and adopted by Council members.
Summary of information
The Council will establish review panels to examine systemic housing issues within the authority of Parliament. If a review panel is established at the request of the Federal Housing Advocate, the Advocate must provide the review panel with a summary of the information that formed the Advocate’s basis for identifying the systemic housing issue.
A review panel is made up of three appointed members of the Council. Ex-officio members of the Council and the provincial/territorial representative cannot be members of a review panel.
In appointing members to a review panel, the Council must consider the importance of representation on the review panel of:
- People who are vulnerable;
- People with lived experience of housing need, as well as those with lived experience of homelessness; and
- People who have expertise in housing and/or human rights.
A review panel must:
- Hold a hearing to review the systemic housing issue that it was established for;
- Hold the hearing in a way that offers the public an opportunity to participate, especially members of communities that are affected by the issue and groups that have expertise in human rights and housing;
- Prepare a report outlining the panel’s opinion on the issue, including any applicable recommendations for the Minister related to matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction.
- Submit the report to the Minister.
Annex C: How we will work together
Members are encouraged to:
- Recognize diverse expertise and experience of all Council members on various human rights and housing issues.
- Create a psychologically safe environment so members feel safe to discuss difficult choices and issues.
- Be prepared, participate.
- Listen: Be deliberate about engaging in a meaningful way.
- Be open-minded; have a sense of appreciative inquiry.
- Focus on the problem, not the person.
- Explore the minority opinion – encourage different points of view. Be the devil’s advocate.
- Challenge assumptions, honor skepticism, and question.
- Don’t rush decision-making or jump to quick solutions.
- Keep things simple, accessible, and uncluttered. No need to overcomplicate things.
- Pick your fights: focus on important points and don’t nit-pick.
- Support the decision… move on when the group moves on.
- Offer ideas/suggestions – i.e.: “How about this?” vs. “I think.”
- Encourage second sober thoughts and identify the unintended consequences (who will be helped, who will be hurt).
- Lower one’s leadership and utilize the whole team.
- Build a friendship across the country.
Annex D: Social Media Guidelines on the Personal Use of Social Media Channels by Members of the National Housing Council
These parameters on the personal use of social media channels by members of the National Housing Council seek to balance the following two objectives:
- The protection of the reputation, integrity, and legitimacy of the National Housing Council and
- The protection of members’ freedom of expression and, specifically, their ability to publicly promote their work on housing policy in Canada.
Application and Scope
These Guidelines apply to all members of the National Housing Council, including ex-officio members. Personal use refers to the use of social media accounts for both professional and personal activities including, but not limited to:
- Posting content related to members’ primary place of employment
- Career development
- Sharing professional knowledge
- Any personal content unrelated to work, like posts about hobbies or vacations.
The Guidelines below do not apply to the official social media activity of the National Housing Council. All official social media posts by the National Housing Council must be approved by the National Housing Council Secretariat, and are subject to the CMHC Social Media Directive.
Social media is a term used to describe the tools and platforms people use to create, publish, converse, engage and share content online. A social media channel is a specific website, service or platform for social media. Social media is unique in its focus on immediate, interactivity, user participation, information sharing and application customization.
While not exhaustive, the use of social media may involve posting, sharing, or commenting on:
- Internet content
- Blogs and micro blogs
- Social bookmarking
- Real-time web communications (instant messaging, for example), and,
- Virtual communities
- As a general rule, members of the National Housing Council may not post to social media as official spokespersons of the Council.
- Members are encouraged, however, to share/retweet or like/favourite official posts of the National Housing Council on their own personal social media channels.
- If a member would like to use a personal social media channel or platform to post any message related to housing policy, or on matters related to the work of the National Housing Council (aside from Secretariat-approved official Council messages), the member should explicitly state on the social media channel that the views expressed therein are their own personal views and may not represent the views of the National Housing Council.
- In all cases, social media messages posted by members on their personal social media channels must respect the terms of the confidentiality provisions of their membership agreement contract.
- In all cases, social media messages posted by members on their personal social media channels should reflect the values of the National Housing Council, and in particular equality, non-discrimination and respect for people, as described in the provisions of their membership agreement contract.
Annex E: Conflict of interest procedures
These guidelines are to be interpreted in light of the following
- The purpose of identifying and addressing conflicts of interest is to ensure that members are able to perform their official duties in a manner that maintains public trust and confidence in the integrity, objectivity, and legitimacy of the National Housing Council.
- To the extent possible, conflicts of interest will be addressed in a manner that does not disrupt the work of the Council and the work of its individual members. All members of the Council have been selected for their lived experience of and/or expertise in human rights, housing need, homelessness, vulnerable populations, or housing policy. The National Housing Council, the Minister responsible for the NHS Act, as well as people who were made vulnerable, will benefit from members’ expertise and continued work in the field throughout their terms on the Council.
- A conflict of interest includes actual conflicts, potential conflicts, as well as perceived conflicts.
- These guidelines are to be interpreted in light of the following principles:
- All Council members, without exception, must act in a manner that will bear close public scrutiny in light of the above principles, an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.
- A Council member will be in a conflict of interest when the member exercises an official duty or function, including issuing recommendations and reporting to the Minister, in a manner that provides an opportunity to further the member’s private interests or the private interests of their friends or relatives. For further certainty, this section does not capture any incidental benefit from the National Housing Strategy's programs and policies targeting the housing needs of vulnerable populations in Canada.
- All Council members who anticipate that they may be or currently are in a conflict of interest must immediately inform the Secretariat and complete any required documentation disclosing the nature of the conflict. If appropriate, the Secretariat will inform one or both co-chairs of the reported conflict.
- The Secretariat and the member disclosing the conflict will determine what steps will be required to disclose, mitigate and/or avoid any conflict of interest. If appropriate, the Secretariat will request that one or both Council co-chairs participate in this discussion.
- The National Housing Council Secretariat will manage the Council’s procurement process and evaluate all decisions related to the procurement of suppliers to support the Council’s activities.
- The Secretariat will adhere to CMHC’s procurement practices.
- Members of the National Housing Council may provide recommendations to the Secretariat. Council members must demonstrate objectivity and impartiality when advising on decisions related to budgetary spending and procuring external services or expertise to assist Council operations. When providing recommendations to the National Housing Council Secretariat for the provision of expert advice or supplier services for Council activities, Council members must not accord preferential treatment to organizations in which they themselves, family members or friends have an interest.
- Council members must not at any time directly or indirectly communicate with the media in relation to a competitive procurement activity. Council members must not engage directly or indirectly in any form of political or other lobbying to influence the selection of a supplier.
Use of Information
- No Council member shall use information obtained in their role on the Council that is not publicly available to further their own private interests or to further the private interests of their family, friends or of their affiliated organizations.
- Providing publicly accessible information to any party shall never be considered preferential treatment and will not normally place members in a conflict of interest.
- No Council member or any member of their family shall accept any gifts, hospitality or other benefits that may have a real, apparent or potential influence on the member’s objectivity in carrying out their official duties and responsibilities or that may place the member under obligation to the donor. Members may accept gifts, hospitality and other benefits, however, if they are infrequent and of minimal value, within the normal standards of courtesy or protocol, arise out of activities or events related to members’ official duties, and do not compromise or appear to compromise members’ integrity or the integrity of the National Housing Council. For further certainty, nothing in these guidelines shall prevent Council members from receiving gifts that arise out of culturally specific traditions, such as Indigenous traditions, as long as the gifts do not comprise or appear to compromise the integrity of the National Housing Council.
- No Council member will vote on a question, including questions of housing policy or internal Council administration, that will place the member in a conflict of interest.
- Nothing in these guidelines shall be interpreted to prohibit or restrict the political activities of a Council member.
Compliance with this policy will generally be achieved by
- Council members must disclose outside interests, activities or relationships that could give rise to an actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest with Council activities as such conflicts of interest may arise. This disclosure obligation is an ongoing one.
- Council members should make all relevant disclosures under these guidelines in writing and address them to the Secretariat.
- Formal processes are to be put in place related to procurement and other budgetary spending decisions to avoid any actual or perceived conflicts of interest.
- Council members will have an advisory role in the procurement process. Final procurement decisions, however, will be made by CMHC employees, including members of the National Housing Council Secretariat.
Avoidance and Recusal:
- Council members shall recuse themselves from Council votes that place them in a conflict of interest.
- Issues on which the Council votes that may place certain Council members in a conflict of interest include, but may not be limited to: recommendations and reporting to the Minister on housing and social policy, internal Council administration, and internal Council procedure.
- Compliance with this policy will generally be achieved by the following:
The views or opinions expressed on, or through, this webpage are solely those of the National Housing Council, and do not necessarily represent or reflect the official policy or position of the Government of Canada and/or Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The National Housing Council does not act or speak on behalf of the Government of Canada or CMHC.