VIU’s Engaged Citizens Speaker Series Confronts the Housing Crisis

Leilani Farha portrait photo

Leilani Farha, Global Director of The Shift, an international movement to secure the right to housing, is the keynote speaker for the October 14 Engaged Citizens Speaker Series.

October 7, 2021 - 9:15am

WHAT: VIU’s Engaged Citizens Speaker Series

WHEN: Thursday, October 14, 2021, 6 to 7:30 pm

WHERE: Zoom webinar, Registration link

During the COVID-19 pandemic, housing has quickly become 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. 

Leilani Farha, Global Director of The Shift, an international movement to secure the right to housing, and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, says the housing crisis, alongside the climate crisis, are the most pressing issues facing society today.

At the virtual Engaged Citizens Speaker Series on Thursday, October 14, she will outline 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:

  • Dr. 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
  • Dr. 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.

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.” 



Jenn McGarrigle, External Communications Advisor, Vancouver Island University

C:  250.619.6860 | E:


About Leilani Farha

Leilani 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.

Leilani’s work is animated by the principle that housing is a social good, not a commodity. She has helped develop global human rights standards on the right to housing, including through her topical reports on homelessness, the financialization of housing, informal settlements, rights-based housing strategies, and the first UN Guidelines for the implementation of the right to housing. She is the central character in the award-winning documentary PUSH regarding the financialization of housing, directed by the Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten. PUSH is screening around the world and to continue its momentum Leilani and Fredrik now co-host a podcast – PUSHBACK Talks – about finance, housing and human rights.

Tags: Community Engagement | Master of Community Planning | Announcements

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