Thank you for your introduction. I'm Josie Nepinak.
Greetings, first of all, from Calgary. Calgary is situated, as you probably know, in Treaty No. 7 first nations. We have beautiful weather today.
I'm here to talk about Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society. We were established in 1992 to provide holistic support and guidance to women and children who were fleeing violence. Awo Taan in the Blackfoot language means shield, protector. Its name represents the approach for culturally appropriate and safe protection and support against family violence.
Our vision is to provide services to families living in peace and our mission is to provide a continuum of support services to anyone affected by family violence and abuse.
I'd like to tell you, first of all, that in Alberta there are 46 emergency shelters. According to statistics, up to 60% of the women and children coming into shelters in Alberta are indigenous. Therefore, to guide our work, we have developed some guiding principles, and I'd like to tell you a bit about them. We value the traditional knowledge of the elders and the transfer of knowledge as sacred. We acknowledge and value the spirit and integrity of all individuals affected by violence.
We believe that healing requires a multi-faceted response, including intervention, provision of safe shelters, spiritual and cultural services, community-based services, and information to victims and to those who batter, as well as public education and the enforcement of appropriate laws. We also believe that violence is manifested through intergenerational trauma and that healing of that trauma is influenced through community-based education.
We are governed by a volunteer board of directors, who provide collective direction and oversight for our activities. I lead a multidisciplinary team that provides a range of services and programs to indigenous women and their families based upon strength-based trauma care and violence-informed care that foster indigenous healing, pride, self-esteem and cultural identity.
Our aboriginal framework for healing and wellness is our working document and our service delivery model, which provides tools for healing and wellness, and responsive and culturally appropriate strategies. It provides a range of culturally sensitive services to indigenous people and their families.
We have been in service for 25 years, and over those years we have developed our care program and our healing and wellness program with an emphasis on violence-informed care. We also continue to evaluate our framework to test our relevance and the impact of the work that we do around the trauma-informed, culturally responsive services.
For the past 25 years, we have built programming and services and developed strategies for indigenous people, and the people themselves—our mothers and children, people in the community, our partners—have identified indigenous models as most useful in our understanding and knowledge of what constitutes culturally appropriate service delivery.
Therefore, we have expanded from providing crisis services to providing a range of culturally sensitive programs to address the immediate and long-term needs of families affected by violence. We have a number of programs, and I'll just mention a few. We have the emergency shelter program and our family violence prevention program. We have a rural outreach and community program. We have an aboriginal support program, and youth mentorship. All these programs, with the exception of the emergency women's shelter, are inclusive of men and extended to family members impacted by violence so they can be part of the family healing process.
We prefer to call our shelter a lodge primarily because we know, with trauma-informed care, that women coming into the shelter have already had multiple experiences with trauma, whether at residential school or during the sixties scoop, and have suffered loss of language, culture and ceremony. The lodge represents more of the healing process.
We have 32 beds and we offer a full-service emergency shelter. We operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we provide services to all women fleeing violence. Those services include emergency crisis support, emergency accommodation, cultural supports, mentorship, intensive case management, community healing and education.
We have an innovative child care program and a reconciliation and healing from trauma program, which is fairly new for us. The reconciliation and healing program uses an enhanced approach to counselling and providing supports for women who stay at the lodge. We have an indigenous psychologist who is trauma-informed, so we practise culturally safe trauma- and violence-informed counselling and support healing of all forms of violence and abuse.
The lodge is core-funded by the Province of Alberta, under the homeless supports division.
We recently completed the “Comprehensive Report: Building a Case to Explore the Impact of Indigenous Trauma-Informed Care and Other Promising Practices at the Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society”. The scope of the work included the development of a program logic model and a review of internal documentation for relevance, achievement and outcomes, as well as our design, delivery and efficiency. We also did an external literature review of culturally relevant frameworks, models, principles and strategies for family violence prevention at women's emergency crisis shelters, primarily serving indigenous women.
[Witness speaks in an indigenous language
Good afternoon. I would like to thank the Creator for bringing me here safe and sound, as well as the Anishinabek nation for hosting us on its vast territory.
My name is Viviane Michel, and I am the president of Québec Native Women.
Québec Native Women represents 10 nations in Quebec, including the urban population. Our organization has Réseau des maisons d'hébergement pour femmes autochtones, a network of 13 shelters for indigenous women. Two more are coming soon for the Naskapi and Eeyou populations, which will bring their total to three shelters.
I would also like to thank the Standing Committee on the Status of Women for including Québec Native Women in this process.
All right. As I'm sure you can appreciate, seven minutes isn't much, but I'm used to talking fast.
I'm going to comment on the two issues the committee asked us to address, beginning with current federal programs and funding in support of shelters and transition houses.
In 1990, we set up a shelter funded by the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. The department gave us $143,000 to establish the regional shelter, serving nine Innu communities. That isn't a lot of money. It had to cover not just the cost of running the shelter, but also the salaries of four workers, a coordinator and a director. It covered the bare minimum. In comparison, the city had its own shelter for women who were victims of violence, and it received $450,000 from the province. The gap between federal and provincial funding was very wide, indeed.
Current shelter funding isn't consistent. Shelters in communities are funded by the federal government. In urban areas, however, shelters are funded by the province because they are outside a community. In some cases, band councils administer the funding for indigenous shelters, and that can be problematic. Consider one case where a woman reported being sexually assaulted by a band chief, and the band council would not let the indigenous shelter assist her. Politics can sometimes cause problems, affecting how shelters are managed. For that reason, funding should be standardized and administered by indigenous shelters directly.
Staff working at shelters for indigenous women need ongoing training. They put their heart and soul into their work, having to deal with numerous and varied cases. These include victims reporting sexual assault or contemplating suicide. These workers need access to training opportunities so that they have the skills and tools they need to provide the best possible support in all circumstances.
Funding has to include workers' salaries. In communities, the salaries vary significantly from one indigenous shelter to another and are not commensurate with the work being done. These factors contribute to the high turnover among indigenous shelter workers, many of whom quit or go on sick leave. Better-trained employees with access to better tools are desperately needed. In order to provide culturally sensitive support, they must be trained by, for and with indigenous people.
The second issue was the number of available beds. The bed shortage is especially problematic in Montreal and Quebec City, which serve a larger clientele. Conversely, communities can have the opposite problem. In places like Schefferville, beds sit empty because everyone knows everyone in the small community, so it's incredibly difficult to protect a person's confidentiality.
That brings me to my recommendations.
My seven minutes are already up?
Our first recommendation is to provide core funding to Réseau des maisons d'hébergement pour femmes autochtones, our network of shelters for indigenous women. This would allow for training and information sharing among indigenous shelters, on a par with the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale and the Fédération des maisons d'hébergement pour femmes au Québec.
Our second recommendation is to expand shelter services to better reflect the needs, realities, culture and traditions of indigenous women experiencing domestic violence and spousal abuse.
Our third recommendation is to establish services for men who are violent or experiencing violence themselves. They need to be part of the healing process for indigenous nations.
Our fourth recommendation is to give communities additional human resources to address domestic violence and spousal abuse.
Our fifth recommendation is to develop interorganizational memoranda of understanding between indigenous and non-indigenous shelters and such partners as police, social service agencies, the youth protection branch and other relevant authorities.
Our sixth recommendation is to educate indigenous women on the legal system as it relates to domestic violence and spousal abuse, including legal guidance and assistance with complaints.
Our seventh recommendation is to make a range of tailored services available to indigenous women experiencing domestic violence and spousal abuse and thus ensure they have a safety net.
Our eighth recommendation is to allocate more financial resources to indigenous police forces for the purposes of training and female officer recruitment.
Our ninth recommendation is to allocate resources to specifically support the families of missing and murdered indigenous women.
Our 10th and final recommendation is to launch an awareness campaign to educate and support female seniors who experience violence in all forms.
There you have it. I don't think I've gone over my allotted time.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thanks to both of our witnesses for being here today.
Ms. Nepinak, I notice that in addition to the work you've done with the shelter, you've also worked with the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, as well as on the expert advisory panel on the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability.
My question has to do with the prevalence of firearms in domestic violence. In speaking with shelters, I've heard quite often about the use of firearms, not only in assaults on women, but being used to threaten women, their children and companion pets to force women to stay in a relationship. I'm wondering if you could comment on that.
I often believe that in three weeks we expect miracles to happen, which is not fair to the women and children who come in. Typically with indigenous families, the woman is in her mid-twenties. She usually has three children.
We require her to find housing, within the 21 days, and income support. If there are issues around child welfare or emergency protection orders, or just keeping her life intact in those three weeks.... Living in a communal type of facility, such as a shelter that has rules, is very difficult at times.
She could ask us for an extension. She may not have found housing. She may be waiting on an appointment with homeless supports or supports for income. We provide extensions, and we have provided extensions many times, which means there are fewer and fewer women coming into the shelter, because there are delays in other areas. Not all the systems work the way that we want them to, at times. We will keep her until she finds a place to go, has money for rent and that kind of thing.
When women come to the shelter, they are very vulnerable. They have suffered a loss of control, so when they come to us, we give them time to catch their breath. They are exhausted, emotionally and psychologically. Later, when they meet with shelter workers, a care plan is developed.
The length of the stay varies from one shelter to another. Some shelters can accommodate women for up to six months, provided that they stick to their care plan, which can include one-on-one meetings, legal steps or sessions with experts. Shelter workers aren't psychologists, so a psychologist may also be brought into the process. Social workers may be involved as well, since shelter referrals can come from them. All of those efforts continue during the client's stay at the shelter.
Most of the time, the women do, indeed, go back home. You have to understand, though, that they love their husbands, just not their violent behaviour. What's more, victims of violence are gripped with fear, always worried about leaving forever. They become fearful and highly dependent on the abuser.
I can answer that question first.
On average, each year, we field approximately 2,500 crisis calls. We provided shelter to 250 women and 275 children last year. Our turn-aways are about 1,200 women and children per year.
Where do these women go? We do referrals to other shelters in the city of Calgary. There are two other emergency shelters.
What we're finding is that some indigenous women are not comfortable with going to mainstream shelters. Here's the reason why: Often there's a lack of understanding. That's primarily around cultural understanding. There may be no brown faces in the shelter. There may be no one who speaks their language or has a common history or experience. There may be someone who just doesn't get it. It's impacted by racism. The woman is not necessarily comfortable.
Therefore, we have found that women will actually wait until they can come into our indigenous shelter, which puts them in a further vulnerable situation.
Just two years ago now, in November 2016, we had the United Nations committee to end discrimination against women. One of its observations was that the committee “remains concerned about the lack of a coherent plan or strategy to improve the socioeconomic conditions of indigenous communities, in particular indigenous women to combat the root cause of their vulnerability to violence”.
In her report on Canada in April of this year, the United Nations special rapporteur to end violence against women observed that there should be an action plan that “should be indigenous led and supported by adequate resources, in particular ensuring the provision of a sufficient number of housing units, transitional houses and shelters, especially needed by Indigenous communities, that should be run by them and used [as a hub] for other services needed for recovery and empowerment, in line with the human rights based approach.” A national action plan “should also address specific challenges and provide more services for indigenous women in remote areas where victims face difficulties in accessing services.”
Have you seen action on either of those recommendations in a way that's changed the operations of your group and the lives of the women you serve?
I could answer that first.
I think we have to understand that there is a war on indigenous women in Canada, not to mention the thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women. In order to address the shortfall, we need to start talking about a long-term comprehensive strategy, with funding. That strategy must be led by indigenous women in this country, particularly indigenous women who are experts in the area of family violence and can understand policy or how that works...and to address those gaps in funding.
The other thing is that we often talk about rural and remote first nations, rural vs. city. I think there has to be consideration to remove jurisdictional boundaries for equitable funding for all indigenous shelters and lodges in the country. Quite often, when women are going into the first nation shelter.... I talked to my colleagues here in and around Calgary. The funding is so different for the first nation shelters on the reserve, where shelter directors actually have had to bring groceries from their own cupboards to feed the women and children in the shelter, which is terrible.
Clearly, we talk about the importance of second-stage or transitional housing. Once women have completed their stay in the shelter, they still require follow-up support. Obviously, if they go to an urban area, they need second-stage housing, to help them build their financial independence and the capacity to function on their own.
Whenever any consultation is required, we insist that first nations representatives be included, both in terms of first nations women and those who work with them. When it comes to developing a strategic plan to address violence, the approach must be inclusive, consultation-based and collaborative.
Violence is such a multi-faceted issue. Québec Native Women launched an action plan to counter sexual violence in March, and mobilizing communities is an ongoing effort. The action plan is available on our website. Through the plan, we are taking an active role to address cases of sexual assault.
What is becoming more and more apparent at the shelter level is the lack of funding for women wishing to leave their violent situations. Who is going to cover those costs?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
My thanks to our two witnesses for their presentations.
Let me start with you, Mrs. Michel. Thank you for travelling from Quebec.
Tell us about the women whom you turn away each year because of a lack of beds in your 13 shelters in Quebec.
Ms. Nepinak has told us that her organization receives 2,500 women per year and, as I understand it, she can only accept 250 and must turn away 1,200 per year. That is huge.
Tell us about what happens in Quebec, please.
I worked in a shelter where we wanted to establish a day centre as well, precisely to work on prevention and awareness. It is a regional centre. That means that it has only four rooms with two or three beds, depending on the types of families that can be accepted.
I can tell you that, for a regional shelter, four rooms are not a lot. A really remote shelter, such as in Schefferville, can accept four women and their children. Of course, women will not leave without their children.
As for the numbers, I can’t answer that, because I am not an inside worker at the moment. However, we are part of the shelter network.
We can send you the statistics on the shelters. We will be happy to do so.
I am Shar Chowdhury, and I am a transitional support worker at Minwaashin Lodge here in Ottawa, which is attached to our indigenous women's shelter, Oshki Kizis Lodge. I am speaking here on behalf of our ED, Mary Daoust, and our shelter director, Frances Daly.
I've been working in this position for 16 years. Our transitional support workers work with indigenous women who are fleeing violence and help them with all the practical needs that come up as a result of that. It could be a treatment program, housing, income or safety planning. It could be any practical thing that a woman needs to move forward and create a safer life. That's what I do.
I'll just give you a little history of Minwaashin and the shelter. Minwaashin started in 1993, as the Aboriginal Women's Support Centre, but it is now called Minwaashin Lodge - Indigenous Women's Support Centre. The centre worked to open an abuse shelter specific to first nations, Métis and Inuit women. Oshki Kizis Lodge was opened in 2001 from a building donation, but with no government funding, for a violence against women shelter. It was considered a homeless/violence against women shelter at the time.
At that time, the other mainstream VAW shelters were fully funded by the government, and Oshki Kizis Lodge received full funding as a VAW-status shelter in 2008. I'd like to point out that Oshki Kizis Lodge is the only shelter for indigenous women fleeing abuse in all of eastern Ontario. We get first nations, Métis and Inuit women from across Canada and from the remote northern communities and reserves.
Often they flee because—as I think was mentioned in another panel before us—there is a lack of confidentiality and safety in the smaller communities. A lot of the shelter and community workers are their aunts or their cousins, and they don't have real anonymity to get away from the abuse, so that's how they sometimes end up in Ottawa, a bigger city with a little more anonymity.
The way they get here is.... Sometimes they're coming in from, say, Nunavut, and they're actually coming for medical treatment, or they're accompanying someone for medical treatment here in Ottawa, and that's their opportunity to escape and not have to return to their community.
Also, there are examples of women coming from across the country. There was a woman coming from out west who tried to flee her abusive partner. She went to Calgary, I think, and then just made her way eastward, but he kept finding her. She finally landed in Ottawa, where, to this day, he hasn't found her. There's that anonymity here in Ottawa that women sometimes are seeking.
In terms of numbers, we are a 21-bed shelter. We are consistently full. We serve approximately 90 women and 70 children per year. On average, we turn away about four women per week. Two, for sure, out of those four will be women who are actually fleeing violence. Sometimes people call, and their issue is more about being homeless, not about fleeing abuse.
That's kind of average, so we're turning away at least a hundred women per year due to a lack of shelter space. We actually try to accommodate women. Even though we have only 21 beds, we will put out cots. We will have them sleep on our couch in the public spaces that we have for ceremony or meetings, but when we do this, there's no extra funding to support the bed space, the food, the electricity or the water being used by these extra people we try to accommodate.
If they don't get space with us at Oshki Kizis, what often happens is that the city tries to place them in homeless shelters. I don't know how many of you are from here, but that would be places like Shepherds of Good Hope. In these places, the risk to indigenous women's safety is quite high. Oftentimes, even their abusive partner is already staying there. Our women who struggle with varied issues, possibly of addiction, are even more at risk, going to Sheps.
Then, what we find is that they're making unsafe choices because they can't get in with us. What they are doing is possibly going back to the abusive partner. They may couch surf in less than ideal circumstances, or stay on the streets, rather than stay at the options provided that are not our shelter.
I wanted to speak to an analysis to consider, and then the impact and what it means when women are turned away.... Oh, I did speak to that, but I just wanted to give the analysis. It's important to understand that the inherent trauma and the intergenerational trauma that have occurred from the historical, political, cultural and spiritual genocide of indigenous communities, along with the effects of colonization, have put these communities at a much larger risk of violence generally, and domestic/intimate partner violence specifically. That translates into a great need in this population for safe, indigenous-specific shelter space.
I have this thing I want to say about the bigger picture. For people who live in Ottawa, I think it needs to be considered that we're talking about shelter space. Do we have enough space? Would it be fixed by just having more beds or more shelters? I think we need to look at the bigger picture, too. There is currently a housing crisis in Ottawa. There's not enough affordable or subsidized housing. What this means is that women are staying longer in crisis shelters, because they can't get housing. It blocks a space for new women in crisis trying to come in. There's that issue.
Some of you may know that there are some new provincial initiatives, such as portable housing, where women can get market rent, which is a barrier to women.
I'm getting the wrap-up. Okay.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Ullukuut, members of Parliament, Chair, Vice-Chairs, guests and staff.
Pauktuutit is a national representative organization of Inuit women in Canada. We lead and support Inuit women through work and address our unique interests and priorities. We work for the social, cultural, political and economic betterment of Inuit women, their families and communities.
Our homeland is important to our culture and our way of life. The population is 65,000 and most live in 51 communities across Inuit Nunangat. Most of these communities are small, isolated and only accessible by plane. Also, over the past several years, the flow of Inuit into urban spaces has been happening, particularly women.
In 2015, committed to gender equality for our women in Canada. The federal government also committed to reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Notably, the Minister of Status of Women, , was mandated to ensure that no one fleeing domestic violence is left without a place to turn, by growing and maintaining Canada's network of shelters and transition houses.
Despite this, violence against Inuit women and girls remains a systemic national crisis that requires urgent, informed and collaborative action. At the rate of 14 times the national average, the highest rate experienced by any group of women in Canada, violence is a preventable leading cause of injury and mortality in Inuit women. Family violence is compounded by poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, overcrowded housing, and suicide rates that are estimated to be nine to 20 times the national average.
Statistics Canada, from 2016, shows that over half of Inuit in Inuit Nunangat live in crowded housing, compared to the 8.5% of non-indigenous Canadians. Severe overcrowding, substandard homes and a lack of affordable and available housing options leave many women and their children unable to escape violence in one of the harshest climates in the world. Also, our population is very young and growing fast, with more than 50% of Inuit being 25 or younger. The number of poorly housed people will significantly increase if the physical housing shortage is not addressed.
Even with the highest rates of violence in the country, more than 70% of our communities across Inuit Nunangat do not have safe shelters for women. Often the homes of family and friends are overcrowded and food-insecure. Crisis and counselling services are also limited. Those experiencing violence and abuse in their homes often have no place in their community to seek safety. A plane ticket to another community may cost thousands of dollars, which is out of reach for most, particularly in times of crisis. In these cases, local social workers must arrange for a woman to be flown to another community.
There have been too many cases where the lack of access to safe alternatives in Inuit Nunangat has led to the loss of life.
They contribute to high staff turnover rates due to burnout, lack of peer support, and often inadequate training because of geographic isolation and limited financial resources. Frequently, there is a lack of dedicated long-term funding, since funding is generally project-based and time-limited, making sustainability a continual challenge.
Also, there is no second-stage housing in Inuit Nunangat, which can be crucial to women's efforts to re-establish a life without violence. When violence does happen, Inuit women are regularly met with a critical lack of services and support to help them escape violence as well as recover from its impacts. The lack of access to safe alternatives can force women to move thousands of kilometres from their homelands to urban centres.
Living in a southern Canadian city can be tremendously isolating. Without the proper culturally appropriate and relevant supports and services to overcome the wide-ranging effects of trauma, many women remain unsafe, and they can experience other related challenges that too often lead to increased vulnerability to violence and abuse.
Last, the provinces and territories are responsible for housing and safe shelters for women. Indigenous Services Canada provides operational funding to shelters on reserve and also reimburses the cost for off-reserve shelter services used by first nations peoples ordinarily on reserve.
No, I haven't heard about buying homes. I don't know of any clients who have left our shelter and bought homes. There are new initiatives in the province for what's called portable housing programs. If the woman is receiving income through social assistance, the province will top up a minimal amount. They will give her $250 more, say, to use her shelter allowance with social assistance and that $250 to possibly find market-rent housing.
There's a lot of critique from our shelter and from the violence against women community. They get this subsidy by being on the priority list for fleeing violence, but we're finding that, one, there isn't market rent out there for the amount they're getting. They need way more money to actually get market rent. Then, when they do, our women are being met with racism. Landlords will pick three or four people to interview, and our women will never get picked. So they're dealing with racism. Then there are even things like bidding wars. A landlord will offer a market rent unit at a certain price publicly, and our women will go.... It happened to one of our women. Someone else was there and offered to pay $100 more a month, and the landlord just gave it to them. Our women can't compete or don't have the financial resources to be able to do that.
So, yes, there are a lot of barriers to access housing.
The next question is for both of you.
When we talk about jurisdiction, we've heard from previous witnesses that the financial support from a province is even higher than the federal. It will be a bit different in Ottawa, but I'll ask you a question about municipalities, provinces and the jurisdiction there. In your case, I wanted to dig down a bit deeper to understand some of the recommendations.
Looking at the issues that you have with finances.... You mentioned that second-stage housing is not even in existence, so we have to find a better way to fund the model. What would be your recommendations on that aspect, looking at the jurisdictions? Can you recommend more on the federal government side?
Maybe I'll begin, and then I'll turn to Rebecca.
The number one thing for us is that of course we want every single woman and child to have safe alternatives, but the reality is that building a shelter in a community where there are no other housing options, regardless of whether it's transition or second-stage, is such a band-aid solution. Women might be there for three days, in some communities, if they're lucky enough to live in a community with a shelter. Perhaps they're there for six weeks. However, where do you go if most people are living in overcrowded housing? Wait-lists can be years long.
It has to be a simultaneous investment, and yes, ensuring that there are safe alternatives that are responsive to the needs of Inuit women, not just what we see here in the south necessarily, and implementing that in the north. There also have to be massive investments in terms of healing and housing. I don't think we can look at it as a one-pronged approach.
Of course we're in favour of supportive living arrangements to get women back on their feet, whether it be through employment, life skills or counselling, but the reality is, where do they go next? That's where the danger is and where the harm is. That's why people make educated choices. They're not going to leave if there's nowhere for them to go with their children.
Perhaps I can add further to the healing part.
In my community, when 30 children were sexually abused by a priest, we started a community-based counselling service. We started out with counselling on child sexual abuse, but we soon found out there was a lot of need in the community, so we have gone into all areas of family violence. That's a step where I fully believe that in order to heal we have to take ownership of our own healing. We hire a community worker. Of course, we always have a fully qualified social worker. We have been running it for 30 years. That's something that works in a small community, and they should be supported. Inuit, our people, should have a place where they can go for counselling in their language, if they wish to. It's something that I fully believe works.
It's so hard to get people who have all these degrees to come up and stay in a small community. They always leave. It's so important to build a relationship with a counsellor. People are tired of repeating their stories. They're not going anywhere with their healing if they have to repeat their story every time a new social worker or mental health worker comes into the community.
Just in case there's any misinterpretation, I'm sure my Conservative colleague didn't mean that it's women's attitude problems that are resulting in one woman being killed every six days in Canada. It's violence that is killing them.
The very sad thing we're learning through this study is that when women ask for help, they often get turned away. The problems in the north are especially deep. As you said, unless you're wealthy enough to be able to buy a plane ticket out, then you stay home with violence, or you leave all your supports in the community and then you're vulnerable and may fall into violence or exploitation in other ways. It's a terrible problem.
One of the very first witnesses we heard was Status of Women Canada. The experts and the staff said the same stuff that you just gave us from Pauktuutit. About 70% of the 53 Inuit communities have no access to shelters. That's well known inside government. It hasn't changed in the three years that this feminist government has been in, this first-nations-and-indigenous-committed government.
Why would you say that hasn't changed yet?
The motion that I moved originally was to invite the . The advice that we got from some of the other committee members was that it would be more appropriate to bring in the . The clerk agreed to modify the wording a bit.
The issue has been well described in the media. There are terrible stories. We thought that they were stories from the past. It turns out that, as recently as 2017 in Saskatchewan, there were indigenous women who were told, after giving birth, that they couldn't even hold their children unless they agreed to tubal ligation.
Some of the women who are parties to the class action lawsuit said that they didn't even know they had been sterilized. It's heartbreaking, and these are terrible stories.
I feel that this committee would be a good place for us to hear directly from the about what leadership the government is bringing to make sure that no province or territory is able to do this.
I'll read the motion:
That the Committee invite the Minister of Indigenous Services Canada to appear no later than December 2018 to brief the Committee on the government's efforts to immediately end the practice of forced and coerced sterilization of Indigenous women, pursuant to the Minister's mandate for a “renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership” and the government's commitment to Article 7(2) of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and that the meeting be televised and no less than one hour in length.
I think the circuit court system, as Rebecca just mentioned, is a really good place to start on the effectiveness of the justice system across the north. There's definitely a lack of access to justice. There's a lack in terms of knowing your rights, which Rebecca also spoke to and which is something that we work hard on.
We're undertaking a project with the Nunavut legal society in looking at the Family Abuse Intervention Act. It's something that I'm deeply passionate about, just in terms of understanding emergency protection orders, no-contact orders and restraining orders. We'll find out, but they're not super effective when you live in a community of fewer than 1,000 people where there's one grocery store and everyone knows each other. There are definitely different elements of that.
The circuit court will typically visit communities two to six times a year, and that's weather-dependent. It can be held off for a very long time, so it leaves women in a very vulnerable position. We know that lethal violence obviously increases after someone has reported. There's definitely a lack of access to justice around that.
Also, as Shar just said, people are terrified to report, of course, because of child apprehension, etc., and people not being in support of the victim, especially when victim-blaming attitudes permeate a lot of communities or institutionally.
Ms. Kudloo, maybe you could talk a little bit about the uniqueness of housing within Nunavut.
The reason I ask is that I have had the opportunity to visit. I visited 11 communities in the northern region just in March, in the Baffin Island area, and I had the opportunity to talk with women first-hand with regard to the housing insecurity they face.
Of course, you've made mention of this, but perhaps you could talk a bit more about the fact that home ownership isn't really an option. They're at the mercy of the state, really, providing housing for them. There is a huge shortage, so we're seeing families basically living on top of one another in their homes.
When women access a shelter and they stay there for a time, eventually they want to leave and they want to enter into secure housing, but of course that's difficult. Could you talk a little bit about that?
That the Committee invite the Minister of Status of Women Canada to brief the Committee on her new mandate, given that Status of Women Canada is changing to the Department of Women and Gender Equality, no later that Wednesday, February 13, 2019, and that this meeting be no less than one hour in length.
Madam Chair, the reason I'm asking for this motion to be passed today is that, as outlined in the motion, this particular department has changed from simply being Status of Women to now including gender equality. In the original mandate letter.... We haven't seen a follow-up from the , which is another reason why I'd be interested in bringing the to committee, so that we'd better understand what the mandate is here.
In the original mandate letter that the Prime Minister wrote to Minister Monsef, he said:
We have also committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government. It is time to shine more light on government to ensure it remains focused on the people it serves. Government and its information should be open by default. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians. It is important that we acknowledge mistakes when we make them. Canadians do not expect us to be perfect—they expect us to be honest, open, and sincere in our efforts to serve the public interest.
He goes on to say that this would include “meaningful engagement with Opposition Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Committees and the public service; constructive dialogue with Canadians, civil society, and stakeholders, including business, organized labour, the broader public sector, and the not-for-profit and charitable sectors”.
Madam Chair, the reason I raise this is that I brought this motion forward a number of weeks ago and it was turned down by the Liberal members at this table. I'm confused as to why they put it on hold, knowing that it would then be stopped because of the date that was on the motion.
So I've changed that date to now say February 13, 2019, therefore giving us a little more time to bring the forward. Given that the is committed to openness and transparency, and that the minister of this department has been called on to be open with us as a committee, as well as with those of us who are members of the opposition, I would put this motion forward and ask that we be able to bring the minister forward to this committee and be able to ask her questions with regard to her new mandate, so we would be better able to do our job on this committee.
Are there any further questions or comments?
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Is there any further debate on the main motion to have the minister appear before February 19, 2019?
The Chair: Let's see where we're at for timing.
Sonia, I'm going to give you only one question, because I'm looking at the time. I know you've been patient, so we're going to put the clock on you for a couple of minutes. Go ahead.