I'm going to call the meeting to order. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), this committee is doing a study on violence against aboriginal women.
We are looking at the root causes of that violence, the extent of the violence, and the nature of the violence. By that, we mean not just domestic violence but societal violence--if there's any present generic violence of any other kind. The nature of the violence means whether it is psychological, physical, sexual...there are different types of violence. Or is it in fact discrimination, which is in itself a major form of violence against people, especially if it's racism?
Having said that, I'm hoping that we will be able to get our witnesses to speak to some of those issues.
Many of you here know how this works. There's going to be a seven-minute presentation. I will give you a two-minute and a one-minute signal, because if we don't do that, we have so many presenters that we won't have any time for questions. After those presentations there will be a question and answer period in which you can expand on some of the things you may not have been able to say in your seven-minute presentation.
We will begin with the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development and Barbara Lawless.
Thank you for the invitation to speak to this issue. My focus today will be to describe the federal government's homelessness partnering strategy and how it contributes to addressing the needs of aboriginal women off reserve who are homeless or at risk of being homeless due to domestic violence.
Homelessness is a complex and multi-faceted issue with numerous contributing factors, such as low income, mental health and substance abuse challenges, a lack of affordable housing, and family violence and conflict.
Combinations of these factors often lead an individual or family into homelessness, rather than a single trigger. While it is difficult to determine an accurate count of the homeless population across Canada, we do know from homeless counts undertaken in various cities that aboriginal people are overrepresented among the homeless population and that aboriginal women are often overrepresented in the female homeless population.
As well, research indicates that aboriginal women may be at higher risk of homelessness because many of the common risk factors are more prevalent among aboriginal women—factors such as low wages and family violence. We also know that this issue is not exclusive to large urban centres but is also evident in small communities across Canada and in the north.
Because of its complex nature, a collaborative approach involving many different partners is often needed to address the challenge of homelessness. In response to this, the Government of Canada adopted the homelessness partnering strategy in 2007: a community-based approach that brings together a range of partners at the local level to identify issues and find local solutions.
The strategy provides funding directly to communities to support their efforts in working collaboratively with their partners, efforts that will help homeless individuals move toward greater autonomy and self-sufficiency, and to prevent those at risk of homelessness from becoming homeless. This approach recognizes that communities have unique issues and priorities that are best addressed at the local level, with local partners.
The result is a community-based approach that has been successful in strengthening the capacity of communities to address homelessness and leveraging funds and community resources from other key players, such as other levels of government and the private sector.
How does the strategy work? The strategy has seven funding streams, three of which are delivered regionally through Service Canada. I will speak to some of these.
The designated communities funding stream, which is $83.7 million annually, is the main component of the homelessness partnering strategy. This stream funds projects in 61 designated communities, primarily major urban centres identified as having a significant problem with homelessness. The funds are targeted to local priorities identified by the community through a comprehensive community planning process that requires broad consultation and consensus at the local level, involving a range of stakeholders.
This approach is meant to ensure that communities are positioned to leverage resources to the greatest extent possible. It is through this process that local issues related to homelessness resulting from violence against aboriginal women can be raised as funding priorities.
The aboriginal homelessness funding stream, which is $14.3 million annually, recognizes the overrepresentation of aboriginal people among the homeless and at-risk populations. While not required, many aboriginal community partners develop community plans to guide their decision-making and project selection. Similarly, through these processes, issues related to homelessness and violence against women can be raised.
The rural and remote homelessness funding stream, which is $5.6 million annually, is designed to respond to the underserved homelessness needs in non-designated rural and remote communities, including the north. Communities with populations of 25,000 and under are the main priority for funding.
It should be noted that projects funded under the designated communities and the rural and remote communities funding streams often target the needs of aboriginal people living off reserve and experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Let me now speak to some of the results. Since 2007, 57 projects valued at just over $27 million, and funded through the three regionally delivered streams previously mentioned, have targeted aboriginal women exclusively, and a number of these address the needs of aboriginal women who are homeless due to violence.
As well, through national program spending, we have seen the needs of aboriginal women who are homeless or at risk of being homeless being addressed through the transfer of federal properties for projects that support victims of domestic violence, through the funding of research projects related to aboriginal women and/or violence, and through working with other federal departments and agencies to explore new ways to address homelessness.
The homelessness partnering strategy will ensure that the government continues to assist Canadians who are homeless, including aboriginal women, by building on the strengths of a community-based approach that engages a broad spectrum of partners to identify local priorities and leverage resources for local solutions.
Bonjour. I'd like to thank you for inviting me to attend today and speak on the issue of aboriginal housing and first nations women.
Aboriginal women represent a very significant portion of the Canadian population. According to the 2006 census, there are over 100,000 first nations women aged 15 and over living on reserve.
I'll keep my remarks short.
In terms of housing, all Canadians obviously need safe, adequate, and affordable housing, and we recognize that for aboriginal Canadians this is often a challenge. There are aboriginal women and children in need of transition housing, to allow them the opportunity to remove themselves from violence in their homes, as well as permanent housing, which will provide the healthy environment needed to allow them to fulfill their potential.
The federal government's responsibility and involvement in aboriginal housing differ on reserve, off reserve, and in the territories. We've heard a bit already about initiatives related to homelessness, and we'll be hearing from CMHC on their role vis-à-vis aboriginal housing issues.
In short, in terms of overall on-reserve expenditures annually, there are expenditures of $290 million, with $155 million of that coming from Indian and Northern Affairs programming and approximately $135 million from CMHC. This annual contribution supports renovations to approximately 3,600 units out of a total stock of approximately 105,000 on-reserve units, We also support the construction of new units--around 2,300 per year--and other housing-related activities.
To support first nations in need of transitional housing, INAC does support a program to fund shelters on reserve through a family violence prevention program. Currently, the program provides funding to a network of 41 shelters and supports community-based violence prevention projects that contribute to enhanced safety and security of on-reserve residents, particularly women and children.
As part of Canada's economic action plan, the government provided an additional $400 million over two years for social housing, for construction, remediation, and lot servicing and to assist in the transition to market-based housing. Of this $400 million, Indian and Northern Affairs has allocated $150 million for first nations over the two years. In 2009-10, close to 2,000 units were built or renovated, nearly 600 lots were serviced—which means they're prepared for future construction—and close to 825 jobs were created. The remaining $250 million was allocated to CMHC for its programming.
Although the federal government supports housing on reserve, this funding doesn't generally cover the entire cost. First nations do share in the responsibility of providing housing in their communities and are required to identify and obtain necessary additional funding from other sources. Off reserve and in the territories, provincial and territorial governments hold responsibility for housing; however, Canada's economic action plan did dedicate $200 million to the territories for social housing renovation and new construction. This built on a commitment from budget 2006 that had seen $300 million for housing in the north and also established a $300-million fund for aboriginal housing off reserve.
While housing conditions of some aboriginal people have improved in the past decades, others are living in poor conditions such as overcrowded homes and homes needing major repair. This is clearly an issue that affects women and this is particularly true on reserve.
In 2006, 26% of first nations people living on reserve lived in crowded conditions. Overcrowded housing is a serious concern throughout the north and on reserve, especially for Inuit living in the northern regions spanning the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Quebec, and Labrador. In that region, more than 15,000 Inuit—38% of the total population—lived in crowded conditions.
But for all the challenges, there have been some housing successes, and aboriginal women have been at the forefront of much of the success. I'd like to take a minute or two, if I have the time, to discuss some of these with you.
One promising development is the emergence in the last decade of several housing associations: aboriginal housing associations that support the delivery and management of housing on reserve. These networks actively support their members and each other. INAC and CMHC have been pleased to assist in funding some of these organizations and their activities.
The First Nations National Housing Managers Association was established in 2007. Its mission is to promote and enhance the professional development of housing managers, to create a central professional network for sharing best practices, and to be a centralized source of information.
Many on-reserve housing managers are aboriginal women, and INAC is providing capacity development workshops and one-on-one coaching to help them manage and develop their housing portfolios. INAC staff have had the opportunity to meet with many of the housing managers, and it's clear that these people are often the housing champions who create community successes.
In 2010-11 INAC provided project funding to Piikani first nation in Alberta to develop a long-term comprehensive housing plan. Working in partnership with federal partners, the primarily female staff of the Piikani Nation Housing Authority has dramatically improved conditions and availability of housing within their community.
Another positive trend is that first nation communities are linking housing renovations and new construction to skills training and job creation. Aboriginal women have participated both as developers of these opportunities and as recipients of the training and jobs. For example, INAC has supported a women-in-trades project in a community called Onion Lake. In 2010, 27 community members received training in carpentry and heavy equipment operation. The program continues to grow.
There are off-reserve success stories as well. Provincial chapters of the Canadian Real Estate Association in Alberta and Manitoba have worked to augment and improve access to home ownership and housing.
In conclusion, aboriginal women should have the same access to safe, adequate, and affordable housing as all Canadian women. We realize there is much left to be done, but we are seeing some promising trends in housing, with aboriginal women playing a key role in meeting this objective.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee.
I'm very pleased to be here on behalf of CMHC to discuss housing as it relates to violence against women.
A key part of CMHC's mandate is to work with our provincial, territorial, and non-governmental partners, as well as the private sector, to help Canadians from all walks of life access quality affordable homes. CMHC's assisted housing initiatives are designed to help some of the most vulnerable in society, including women who are victims of domestic violence.
As we all know, safe, affordable housing is a foundation for healthy living and a building block for success in many other areas, including personal relationships, community engagement, education, and the labour market. The federal government, through CMHC, invested $7 billion annually at one point so that 620,000 low-income households living in existing social housing could continue to live in safe, affordable homes.
I might add that about 60% of those living in the existing social housing stock are estimated to be women and girls.
CMHC also supports the creation of new social housing through the affordable housing initiative. The provinces and territories design and deliver these housing programs and also match the federal investment. We also provide a suite of renovation programs to help lower-income households repair their properties. These programs are directed and delivered by the provinces and territories or occasionally directly delivered by CMHC.
CMHC also has a team of experts dedicated to advancing affordable housing solutions across the country. Through that team, we provide non-profit and church groups, private developers, and others seeking to develop local housing solutions with access to a comprehensive range of affordable housing information, tools, and resources that could help them make their vision a reality. Like all Canadians, aboriginal women and families living off reserve have access to these initiatives.
CMHC, however, also has a specific mandate to work with Indian and Northern Affairs to help address housing needs of first nations people living on reserves. As my colleague has just said, CMHC spends about $135 million annually to support housing on reserve. This includes funding to renovate existing housing units as well as ongoing subsidies under the on-reserve non-profit housing program, which we usually reference as the section 95 program.
Canada's economic action plan also provides for significant investments in social housing, including $400 million over two years for housing on reserve. CMHC is responsible for delivering $250 million of this. As a result of this federal investment, first nations across Canada have been able to significantly improve the housing conditions of their community members.
A further $200 million in economic action plan funding has been earmarked to support renovation and construction of housing in the north, where there are large aboriginal populations. Improving the quality and availability of social housing both on and off reserve can have a direct impact on preventing violence against women.
However, it's also very important to provide safe havens for those in need when family violence does occur. Here, too, CMHC does have a role through our shelter enhancement program, part of our overall suite of renovation programs. This program offers financial assistance for the renovation of existing shelters or for the creation/acquisition of new shelters and second-stage housing for victims of family violence, both on and off reserve. Federal funding under the affordable housing initiative that I previously mentioned can also be used for the development of transitional and second-stage housing.
Federal funding for shelter units has made a difference. One example would be Fort Albany First Nation, located on the west coast of James Bay in northern Ontario and accessible only by air and the winter ice road. In 2008, CMHC provided the band council with funding of just over $800,000 to build five new shelter units. Vulnerable aboriginal women in this isolated community now have a place to go when they have a specific need.
The shelter enhancement program also provides assistance to non-profits or charities that house victims of family violence off reserve. These shelters are also available, as I said, to aboriginal women.
Another example would be the YWCA's residence in Regina that offers safe and affordable housing to women, including aboriginal women. The Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan jointly provided about $1.8 million in funding through the affordable housing initiative and through the shelter enhancement program to renovate and expand this 53-bed residence.
The federal government is one of many partners working to address this very complex and serious issue. Housing funding from CMHC makes it possible for communities to respond more effectively to the needs of women in crisis. Whether these women are accessing the 620,000 units of existing social housing or living in transitional housing or shelters built or renovated with federal funding, it all makes a difference on the ground and contributes to the broader solution.
Thank you again for this opportunity. I welcome any questions that the committee might have.
With regard to representation, it's essential that we have aboriginal control over our affairs, and that brings to mind the Native Women's Association of Canada, which is an active participant on behalf of aboriginal women. We do work hand in glove with a number of various organizations such as that, but I think there should be dedicated funding so that the representation can be increased and help us drive forward in a holistic manner.
On the figures that were cited earlier, I just wanted to speak briefly to those. NAHA did a study based on the 2006 census, which we released in 2009. The findings there confirm that three-quarters of the aboriginal people are not on reserve. With regard to the overall figures, the numbers that have been cited, our calculation is that there are some 450,000 aboriginal women in Canada. The figures I have are derived from older censuses, but there were some 800,000 people, and 51% were women. In the 2006 census, there were 1,172,000 people who identified as aboriginal. If 51% of the people are women, that's where I come up with the figure of 450,000.
There are any number of studies that have been conducted with regard to violence towards women, and there are a few that have been directed towards violence towards aboriginal women. Sisters in Spirit is one of the organizations that has been vocal in advocating that greater attention be paid to aboriginal women who are recipients of violence. I want to say that they are doing a very good job, but there is still a lot of resistance.
Part of the paper that I presented to the committee speaks to the reasons for the violence initially, but I think the basic reason is poverty. We have been excluded over the years from participation in the economic industry or whatever of Canada, and until I was 14 years old, legally I was not able to leave the reserve without a pass. So we were confined, we were excluded legally, and now the opposite tack has been taken, where I think there's an effort to assimilate us.
My sister beside me mentions that there are shelters that are available to aboriginal women, but there's the cultural affinity that is absent. This does prevent a lot of our women from participating in the mainstream shelters. I think racism and cultural differentiation continue to exist, so this is why I spoke earlier of aboriginal control over aboriginal housing--and in this case, aboriginal shelters.
I want Mr. Lanigan to speak briefly to the local...but before I do that, I want to go through the recommendations that I attached to the tail end of my report.
There needs to be additional funding: financial resources to help local urban aboriginal housing providers acquire additional housing units--plain and simple. There is a paucity of housing right across Canada, and this affects families, which include, of course, men and women. It also helps to address poverty.
In this regard, in 2006, a couple of years ago, the federal government provided $300 million to the non-reserve population. This was one of the good steps that was put in place. It was very beneficial. In many of the provinces, the funding was turned over to aboriginal organizations for administration, so this is the model I'm suggesting that we pursue going into the future, because it does provide a lot of benefit and also a chance for us, through home ownership, to acquire some wealth.
We need to provide resources to enable aboriginal organizations to establish and operate increased numbers of shelters in a culturally sensitive atmosphere and to enable the establishment and operation of more second-stage housing for those in transition from imprisonment. If I had more time, I'd speak at greater length to second-stage housing. Except on one occasion, I've never heard that mentioned: that we need to pay attention to the people who are being released from prison.
We need to recognize that the most benefit for aboriginal women can be achieved through service provided by aboriginal women. We need to continue to use a holistic approach and sensitivity to enable aboriginal women to retain and maintain custody of their children. This is one of the key elements that has to be addressed.
We need to provide resources for training and life skills, both pre-employment and employment, and general counselling to help aboriginal women become established and regain control over their lives, training and counselling to be given at the local level.
In this context, I'd ask Mr. Lanigan to speak for a minute.
First I want to mention that the National Aboriginal Housing Association member corporations administer some 10,000 units of rent-geared-to-income housing across Canada. This housing exists in most major cities.
One always wonders how the work of national associations translates into housing for people at the local level. This is particularly important, so I wanted to briefly mention the work of the Gignul Non-Profit Housing Corporation here in the city of Ottawa as an example of how we operate and of what we do to try to make assisted and affordable housing more accessible to aboriginal women.
Gignul has been in operation since 1985 and administers 162 units of rent-geared-to-income housing in 73 buildings across the former five municipalities that now make up Ottawa. It also administers a seniors' lodge that is home to a number of seniors here in the city.
In looking at our application process, we try to give priority where priority is necessary. Because we have an active waiting list of about 200 people and a period of time of at least a year to wait for housing, we prioritize our housing. Over the last few years, we've prioritized our housing to try to address the needs of single-parent mothers and also the needs of students who are enrolled in advanced education. We do have a point system that prioritizes on the basis of need.
The result of this process is that, of the tenants we now house, 52% are women: single women and/or single women with children. So there is a direct relationship to the effort, and we're trying to make that work for us.
We're very collaborative. We're linked to the Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition and we work closely with the urban aboriginal strategy to try to ensure that the resources dedicated to and available for the area are used effectively. This has been very useful for us in terms of establishing a type of community governance.
The Nunavut Housing Corporation was established pre-division as the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation in approximately 1972 by the territorial government, through recognition that housing was a priority concern and, as such, deserved some undivided attention. The business of the Nunavut Housing Corporation is mainly administered through local housing organizations established in each of the 25 communities that comprise Nunavut. In most cases, these organizations were in place prior to the formation of organized municipal governments, so they are well established as client service providers to address the residential housing needs of Nunavummiut.
Nunavut, to put it in context, comprises roughly 34,000 people in population, spread among 25 isolated communities that have no road or rail access, over a land mass that is 1.9 million square kilometres. That's double the size of Ontario, for 20% of Canada's land mass, and it covers three time zones. So we have some logistical challenges in providing our services.
Populations in these isolated communities range from 140 to 2,310, with the largest community being Iqaluit, the capital city, with a population of 6,740, based on the last census. The Government of Nunavut is the principal supplier of the 9,400 residential dwelling units in the territory. The number of dwellings per community ranges from 60 to 800 in most communities, with the largest number again being in Iqaluit, with 2,560 dwellings.
The Government of Nunavut, through the Nunavut Housing Corporation, currently maintains approximately 4,400 public housing rent-geared-to-income units, of which 4,170 are owned by the Nunavut Housing Corporation and 264 are leased. We also manage 1,350 government staff housing units. Roughly 250 of those are owned by the Nunavut Housing Corporation and 1,100 are leased. As well, we hold mortgages for 500 homeowners through a variety of home ownership support programs.
This represents over 65% of Nunavut's total residential housing stock. That's quite a different picture than you would see in most Canadian jurisdictions. Owner-occupied dwellings represent only approximately 20% of all housing. As well, government staff housing comprises a sizable portion of the housing stock, especially in the regional centres. There is, especially outside the capital city of Iqaluit, practically a non-existent private rental market.
So the numbers I'm presenting to you are in effect demonstrating the lack of housing options in most communities. They're very limited in the capital city, but in the smaller isolated communities there are even fewer housing options besides what is provided by government.
We have benefited greatly from a federal influx of housing dollars to build with and to add to our portfolio and our stock. Through the Northern Housing Trust, $200 million was provided to Nunavut, and we now are at the completion of building 725 new public housing rent-geared-to-income units. Under Canada's economic action plan, another $100 million was made available to Nunavut, and 285 new public housing units are being built as a result of this. So our owned public housing stock will grow to approximately 4,650 as a result of this influx, which comprises basically a 30% increase in our public housing stock.
In partnership with the Nunavut Bureau of Statistics and Statistics Canada, we've just recently completed a Nunavut housing needs survey. This was done on a census basis in 24 of the 25 communities and on a sample basis in Iqaluit. This comprised a total of 75 local interviewers being hired. That way, every building used as a residence was able to be identified and included in the survey.
Of all occupied dwellings, 35% are considered crowded, as per these results. This is compared to 6% when looking at all of Canada, based on the 2006 census. The lowest overcrowding is in Grise Fiord, a community of 140 people, but overcrowding still remains at 15% in these units. The second-lowest overcrowding number is in Iqaluit, at 20%.
The largest problem is among the public housing units: 50% of public housing units are deemed to be overcrowded, based on national housing standards. These public housing units comprise more than 50% of all residential housing in Nunavut. Of the people in public housing who are considered overcrowded, 2,990 family groups indicated that they would move out into another home if alternative housing were available. Again, Nunavut's main problem is one of lack of supply. Based on the 2006 census, compared to 7% for all of Canada, 23% of households indicated a need for major repair.
For homeowners in small communities, one of the mitigating factors is a lack of local contractors.... If the majority of the housing in these communities is comprised of public housing, which is administered and maintained through local housing organizations, then there is a very small pool of homeowners from which a contractor could draw to try to make his business viable. So many community contractors do not see this as being a viable business and they do not establish and continue.
So in looking at the two factors of adequacy and suitability, 49% of housing in Nunavut is either crowded or in need of major repairs. Based on the waiting list, on the public housing waiting list currently there are 3,780 people.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thanks to all of you for being here this morning.
This is a really important topic. As I'm listening to each of you, from your very different perspectives and communities, what has just struck me, particularly in listening to the presentation from Nunavut, is that there is a real housing crisis, which we've heard about anecdotally as we've travelled the country, but you are confirming it to us here.
I have a lot of questions.
Let me just begin by asking Ms. Mitchell, in terms of INAC, do you have both targets and inventories of housing requirements in different communities across the country?
As I said, we have a number of programs that various community members can access.
Off reserve, the majority of the funding that the federal government puts to housing is delivered through the provinces and territories. Through the affordable housing initiative, in any community, a group could approach the province. The benefit of the way the federal government does this by partnering with the provinces is that the provincial government matches every dollar the federal government puts in. That means the trade-off is that the provinces and territories are making those decisions on the affordable housing money, on whether it's going to transitional housing or to new social housing stock. They're making those local and regional trade-offs.
On reserve, another example would be the shelter enhancement program. That is funded out of an overall budget envelope that we use for our renovation programs on reserve, and we work through liaison committees. We have a national liaison committee, with the AFN at the table, to do a national allocation across the country.
We then work with regional committees as well, which involve various members of the aboriginal community, and then the funding eventually gets allocated down to the level of how much money is going to a particular first nation. That first nation will then take a look at that renovation funding, for example, and decide how much it wants to put to a shelter through the shelter enhancement program, or perhaps they're going to spend the money to renovate a different type of housing, so--
First and foremost, what I do want to say is that under the homelessness partnering strategy we do take a very community-based approach. The funding does go to communities and they identify the priorities they want to address on homelessness and the projects they want to support to address those priorities.
In terms of the numbers I've mentioned, there are generally two types of projects we will fund. One is related to capital investment projects, which could be renovations of shelters or the creation of a new shelter or transitional housing with support, or it could be projects that simply deliver support services to aboriginal women.
So on the numbers I quoted to you, the $27 million, that did represent 57 projects that were serving aboriginal women exclusively. That included capital facilities as well as support and prevention services across the country. Specifically, of that, 21 of those capital projects of approximately $7.9 million were invested exclusively for aboriginal women experiencing domestic violence. Projects through that amount of investment are expected to create an additional 142 beds.
I know. I didn't say you were picking on me--
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Charles Hill: I'm just saying that it's difficult to answer.
I grew up on a reserve. Growing up, I didn't see any particularly great amount of violence toward women. There was a lot of violence toward other guys and toward white people, but....
The statistics show that there are increases. Also, the number of aboriginal women who either have been found murdered or who have gone missing and are assumed to have been murdered has been atrocious.
The other thing that hasn't been mentioned is the question of suicides. I know that there has been a drastic increase in the number of suicides. That's among all of the people, not necessarily aboriginal women, and again, this is something that has to be addressed.
With regard to the seven generations, it's not my understanding that it requires seven generations to have change, but that when you do an action now, you have to think ahead--
Ms. Dona Cadman: Seven generations ahead....
Mr. Charles Hill: Yes, seven generations ahead, and that's not quite the same as something happening right now, a drastic change.
—because we were independent, self-sustaining, and whatnot until we were in fact confined to reserves and we lost the economic bases that we had. This has led, one step after another, over seven generations. We're in the seventh generation now. We have to hark back to the time when we had control over our lives. This is why we always talk in terms of aboriginal control over aboriginal affairs, whether it be housing or governance and things like that.
At the start of the recession, I heard that people in Toronto were getting laid off. They were losing their jobs and they were saying that it was so degrading not to have any work. I'd say, “Welcome o the Indian world”. Everybody was crying.
With regard to suicide, the young lady here, the hockey player's girl, committed suicide in a tragic way, and there was really a great uproar. I was thinking, well, if you compare that to the 200 or 300 Indian people who commit suicide every month of the year, so what....
The other thing, since we're talking about these things, is the question of exclusion. We were excluded seven generations ago when we fell into the minority position, and right now, we're being excluded on the one hand and forced to assimilate on the other.
When I say “excluded”, a good example of it is the question of advertising in the public media: how many native people do you see in advertising? On television, you always see a white person, a black person, and an Asian. There are no native people. The only native person I've seen recently in advertising is Floyd Westerman, who passed away a year ago. He was marketing that Lakota medicine. He was the only one who I recall seeing.
There's a long way to go. The one thing we have to do is work in cooperation with one another and keep in mind that these statistics are in fact painting a tragic picture. And the statistics are not lying.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank everyone who's here and on television. I hope to be able to ask everyone a question, but I wanted to start with you, Mr. Hill.
You talked about second-stage housing. We've heard that there simply isn't enough second-stage housing for women to get their lives back in order and to look after their kids.
You also went on to talk about second-stage housing for women released from prison. Now, the reality is that we have a government calling for longer sentences, which means that women will be away from their children longer. I know that this creates an incredible strain on the functioning of that family again, and certainly we've been very concerned about the apprehension of children.
We're also hearing that government now wants people to serve full sentences; there's very limited access to parole now. It's being denied more and more, which means that there are fewer opportunities for rehabilitation and the kind of counselling that would help these women regain their lives and put their families back together.
I wonder if you could talk about your experiences. Is that a fair statement in regard to lack of opportunity and counselling for women who deserve the chance to put their lives back together?
Yes. This is why I spoke to that. I noticed that there was no mention of it in any of the material I was going through in preparation for this session. There was very little mention of transitional processes, including housing for people, for aboriginal women being released. I think there has to be special attention paid to that.
I think it would be beneficial if there were a transitional home for women. I know that there are several lodges for men, and I've worked in a couple of those lodges for men, but I'm not aware of any lodges that are dedicated specifically to women. In those lodges for men, they talk about the training that's given and that discusses traditional healing processes, traditional child raising, and family relationships.
Keep in mind that the residential school system is not too far behind us. That really destroyed a lot of our people. A prison is not too much different. We're talking now about, I guess, healing for the residential school victims. There has to be the same thought process applied to people who are being released. Why are they in prison in the first place? Somebody has mentioned that it's reaction to the violence that occurred to them, and this is quite often the case, but you have to delve underneath and see, for each individual, what went wrong and what can they do.
Also, since I'm thinking about it, I'll say that this is one of the key points of traditional beliefs and traditional education: that it's up to the individual to determine what they're going to do, but at the same time, they have to keep in mind that their actions do affect others in the community. This is part and parcel of things that people can in fact learn during the rehab session.
With regard to continued imprisonment and extending imprisonment, we're becoming another state of the Americans anyway there, so we'd better get used to it, maybe....
Yes. The National Aboriginal Housing Association primarily represents aboriginal housing providers off reserve, so in that sense we really don't get to access the resources that are available on reserve.
However, for an example of the percentage of first nations people who are housed in the off-reserve urban aboriginal housing system, here in Ottawa it's 90%. Within a 100-mile radius of Ottawa, there are 30,000 first nations people. They come to Ottawa for education, for health care, and to visit their relatives.
We don't get any support. We don't really want a whole lot of support, but we want to be able to do things like research and work on a national scale when those issues come before us. So in that sense, I think CMHC got off the boat a few years back, and we now get services from the Ottawa housing branch.
We're the only province in the country where our housing system is administered locally, and it's working as well as it can. The bright light in the process was the new mayor announcing $14 million in homeless and housing initiatives for the city on an ongoing basis annually, so things are happening there.
But it would help us greatly if Indian Affairs started to recognize the fact that a great number of first nations people are living off reserve and that the organizations that are in the urban community are responding to those needs and are ill-equipped financially to do that.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Welcome to all of you. My question is for all of you.
Mr. Lanigan, you scared me a little when you said that it would take between 10 and 15 years to meet social housing needs, because you may be right. This would mean that, if we want to fight violence against women, we have decided to focus on poverty and the lack of housing, since these are some of the main reasons why there is violence against women.
I have a question for Ms. Mitchell. In 2005, there was a shortfall of between 20,000 to 35,000 housing units on aboriginal reserves. In 2006, 26% of natives living on reserve were living in overcrowded housing conditions. As for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, that figure stood at 40%.
Does the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development have a strategy to counter this problem? Indeed, it is a fact that overcrowded housing is one of the main factors that lead to violence against women.
It means that if we do not change the way we do things, we will not be able to solve these problems. We are trying to find better ways of doing so.
One of the things we need to improve is logistics. There are many small communities spread out everywhere. These villages are not connected. No matter how much we help one community, that help will only go towards that community; it cannot be shared. For us, this represents huge challenges and it is very expensive. Every small village of a 140 people needs housing and support, which is very expensive. Until now, the funding spent to solve problems has been distributed equally, based on population, but this approach is not fair given our logistical challenges.
If we want to build a building in Taloyoak, we buy the building materials in Ottawa. These materials are then trucked 5,000 kilometres to the coast of British Columbia. Then, the materials are loaded on a ship, which travels another 12,000 kilometres before getting to the village. The solution costs a lot of money.
Mr. Luc Desnoyers: Do you have any?
Mr. Alain Barriault: We do not have a—
Okay. It was my understanding that the shelter itself had to cover the costs, which meant they were taking money out of programming to make sure these women were able to get in and out of their communities.
Also, in some cases, the reality was that a woman would leave more than once. She'd go home, desperately looking to be with her children, and find that nothing had changed, that the abuse was still there, and that she had to return to the urban centre.
One of the things that troubles me very much about the homelessness partnering strategy is its temporary nature, the ad hoc nature of it. It's funded now, am I correct, to March 31, 2012?
A voice: To 2014.
Ms. Irene Mathyssen: To 2014? But once that date passes, then we're back to, “Is that money going to be there or not?” This must be very frustrating for you for planning things and to put in place something substantive that will make a difference over the long term. As we've heard, we're seven generations behind.
I'm going to get a buzzer that's going to go off for everybody.
We have to go in camera in about five minutes, and we do not, therefore, have time for another round. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don't. We don't have time for another round, but as chair I'm allowed to ask questions occasionally, and I want to ask some questions today. I haven't had an opportunity because of lack of time during the last few times we have had witnesses.
Something that concerns me is that wherever I go, I hear the same problem, and I also find that it's not being answered to my satisfaction. I still don't get it.
INAC is responsible for aboriginal people. This is a fiduciary responsibility of the federal government. Therefore, if anybody is going to help aboriginal people on reserve, whether it is with regard to housing, health care, education, or training—you name it—it's going to have to be INAC, working, of course, with partners within the federal government. But it is the federal government's fiduciary responsibility, so I fail to understand why it is that this is not happening appropriately on reserve.
But secondly, I understand that off reserve—and I hear that three-quarters of aboriginal people leave and go off reserve—once aboriginal people get into the cities and off reserve, they are abandoned by INAC to the other levels of government.
I know that you give money to other levels of government, but are there no criteria? Do you not say, when you give money to the other levels of government, that every time you send them money, it's going to be for shelters, for transition housing, for housing for aboriginal people...? That's what your money is coming for: it's for aboriginal people and not for use by anybody else.
We find that the problem for women—and I think Mr. Lanigan said it well—is housing, housing, housing. You know: “It's housing, stupid.” That's the sort of bottom line I'm hearing: it's a first thing. We see and we've heard, and it has been very difficult for all of us—I'd like to think that I speak for everyone here, regardless of party, and that this is a non-partisan issue now for us—that aboriginal women leave the reserve because they don't have safe places to go to escape domestic violence.
So they come into the city, and when they get into the city, they don't have any access either to shelters—or if they do, it's very temporary—or to a place to live. They are given money that is welfare from social assistance, which is, in many instances, $1,000 or $950, depending on the province, and they're expected to look after the kids they've brought out of the abusive home. They're expected to find housing and feed and clothe their kids with money that is not sufficient. So their kids are apprehended, taken away, and given to non-aboriginal families to adopt, who then get $2,500 to look after two children.
Now, if this is not discrimination—and blatant, systemic, institutional discrimination—against aboriginal women, I don't know what is. I'm not blaming here...I'm just saying that it's a fact we heard and it astounds me. I don't understand why it's happening and why it is that the federal government does not believe it has a duty to ensure that aboriginal women escaping violent situations off reserve are given the same amount of money to look after their kids that a non-aboriginal family is given. That is certainly fair, equitable, and reasonable.
Can you explain it to me? I don't get it.
Ms. Mitchell, we'll start with you.
I don't have the answer either, to be clear, but in terms of setting the federal parameters, certainly with all of the funding the federal government puts on the table through CMHC--and it's not insignificant, there's a lot of money on the table--
The Chair: Sure.
Ms. Sharon Matthews: --there are agreements with all the provinces and territories. We've arranged it such that they design and deliver those programs.
You sort of ask why we don't set parameters that say “thou shalt” do this or that. We do have some of those “thou shalts”. They are not this client group versus that client group; they are how many federal dollars there are per unit, for example, or “yes, we're open to energy efficiency”. There is accountability in terms of reporting and understanding what you're doing with the funds within that global framework.
But the real reason, frankly, that we don't set a “thou shalt serve this client group in this particular circumstance” to the degree we would have done, say, 20 years ago, is that the relationship is different. We partner with the provinces and territories. They come to the table. For every dollar we come to the table with, they come to the table with a dollar, and they're working to the degree they can to bring it to being as local as they can.
As we've heard others say in the room, the local community—
You don't have to go in camera for your motion? All right.
Then perhaps we can just move swiftly. While everyone is leaving, I'd like us to focus on a couple of things in business that we must do today.
We have a budget that I need you to okay, if I could have the attention of the committee, please. We have a budget to study the language changes at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The budget is $6,300. Can I have an okay for this budget, please?
All right, Dona, so moved. Thank you very much.
A seconder? Good.
Now we'll go to Ms. Neville's motion, which I'm going to read for you:
That the Committee recommend that the government conduct a gender audit of all federal funding of sport, including Sport Canada funding programs, funding of infrastructure projects by Infrastructure Canada, as well as contributions to international athletic competitions hosted in Canada, to ensure that funding is being distributed on an equitable basis;
That the conclusions of this audit be made publicly available and tabled in the House of Commons; and
That this motion be reported to the House.
Ms. Neville, speak to your motion, please, and then I'll entertain debate.
Very briefly, Madam Chair, I guess I'm continually surprised—and I shouldn't be—at the inequities that are prevalent in so many aspects of the world we operate in. I don't want to equate this with violence against aboriginal women, but you talked about institutionalized discrimination. I would say to you that, knowingly or unknowingly, there is, very much, institutionalized discrimination against female athletes. I think it's important that we as a committee speak out on behalf of women athletes.
We did it in February of 2008, when we expressed concern to the Olympic committee on the recognition or non-recognition of women's ski jumping as an event at the Winter Olympics. We know that moneys are being given out or being requested for the Pan Am Games. We know that moneys are being given out for various infrastructure projects that are focusing largely on male-participation athletic events.
I'm not saying that we take radical action; I'm saying that we gather information and know the reality of the situation for women athletes in this country. I can go through a host of discriminatory events that take place. I don't want to prolong the discussion, but there are many instances: the number of events they're allowed to compete in, the dollars allocated, and the fact they're under the jurisdiction of an international sports body that makes up the rules, and whether they violate Canadian human rights codes in this country or not, they have the wherewithal to do that.
I am just asking that the committee speak out on behalf of women athletes and that we ask the government to move forward in gathering this information.
I don't completely disagree, but I don't completely agree either, at least not with the way it is worded.
First, Sport Canada funding is already available to the public online. The list of everyone who has received funding is there, including funding for women. Everything is available.
As far as Infrastructure Canada is concerned, I would like you to be more specific. I am convinced that when you build roads and things like that, gender is not an issue. When you build a road, it's a road. When you build an arena, it's an arena. Not everything is gender-based.
Further, doing an audit costs the taxpayers. If you want information, perhaps we should invite representatives from Sport Canada, or the minister, to appear before us and to provide an explanation. That would be preferable and would not cost taxpayers any more money.
We should put that question to Sport Canada, through the clerk or the analysts, in order to find out more about the funding, but this information is already available. I am convinced that the representatives or the minister would be pleased to discuss this matter with us, since the information is already available online. I went online yesterday and everything is there.
I had the impression that gender-based analysis was already being carried out in various departments. If that's not the case, I think it should be done.
In the area of sport, after the Own the Podium program ended, many athletes ended up without any funding, without the support they had received from their sponsors in preparation for the Olympics. Indeed, Sport Canada, through the Own the Podium program, had provided funding to the athletes so they could compete in the Olympics. As a result, we won more medals than ever before: 26 medals, including 14 gold. I remember because, that week, it was on TV.
This should motivate us to provide our athletes with the support they need to continue their training without having to worry about money. This is especially the case for women, because they receive fewer sponsorships than men.
Skier Érik Guay won another competition this week. It is easy for him to obtain sponsorships. However, it is harder for women. This week, two female skiers said on TV that it was harder for them.
Perhaps this matter is worth looking into.