Image shows a woman wearing a blue sweater and a white shirt

Leilani Farha / Image via VIU

VIU’s October 14 Engaged Citizens Speaker Series will address a crucial topic: housing.

Housing was already an issue before the pandemic, but with job losses and economic uncertainty due to COVID-19, it’s become a struggle for many Canadians.

The Engaged Citizens Speaker for the webinar, Leilani Farha, believes access to safe and affordable housing is more important than ever thanks to the pandemic. During her talk she will discuss the nature of the current housing crisis with a focus on COVID-19, and how governments and cities can appropriately respond. The session will end with a Q&A.

Farha is Global Director of The Shift, an international movement that calls for housing to be recognized as a fundamental human right. She served as the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing from 2014 to 2020. Farha collaborated with Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten on the 2019 documentary PUSH and the podcast PUSHBACK Talks, which both address housing and finance.

According to a survey commissioned by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) last year, 1.6 million Canadians have experienced homelessness. A 2016 study co-authored by CAEH founder and president Tim Richter discovered that at least 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness in a year, while 35,000 Canadians experience homelessness on a given night. That number is likely much higher now, and expected to grow because of the pandemic.

Homeless people are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. They are 20 times more likely to be hospitalized, 10 times more likely to require intensive care, and five times more likely to die within three weeks of a positive test, according to a CTV article.

In response to the pandemic, the federal and provincial governments moved to ensure people had homes to live and self-isolate in. Most provinces announced a ban on evictions and a rent increase freeze, while unused schools and hotels became temporary housing. But those measures have mostly ended now, and there are still people with no place to go.

Launched in 2019, VIU’s Engaged Citizens Speaker Series is a biannual event that hopes to encourage meaningful dialogue about social challenges and opportunities in the community while advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The free webinar will take place over Zoom on October 14 from 6 to 7:30pm. You can register here.


Sophia is a fourth-year Creative Writing and Journalism student. She was the News Editor for The Navigator last year. Outside of The Nav, Sophia volunteers with VIU Cultural Connections as a Peer Helper. Three things she wants to do in the future are: travel to Japan and Korea, attend a Stray Kids concert, and adopt one or two black cats.

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