That a special committee be appointed to conduct hearings on the matter of homelessness and to propose a national plan to prevent and end homelessness; that this Committee consist of ten members of which six shall be from the government party, three from the Official Opposition, and one from the New Democratic Party, provided that the Chair is from the government party; that in addition to the Chair, there be one Vice-Chair from each of the recognized opposition parties; that the Committee have all the powers of a standing committee as provided in the Standing Orders; that the members to serve on the said Committee be appointed by the Whip of each party by depositing with the Clerk of the House a list of his or her party’s members of the Committee no later than a week after the adoption of the said motion; that the quorum of the Committee be as provided for in Standing Order 118, provided that at least one member of each recognized party be present; that membership substitutions be permitted from time to time, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2); and that the Committee report to the House no later than 12 months after the adoption of this motion.
She said: Madam Speaker, if I could be so bold as to state, I think I know what some members might be thinking in the chamber about my private member's motion that would create a special committee to develop a national plan to end and prevent homelessness. I think some are thinking, “Oh, no, not another committee”. To that I would say that this special committee and its mandate would be different. I can imagine the response to that might be, “But that is what they all say”.
This time it is going to be different. Let me lay out my case for my private member's motion to create a national plan to end and prevent homelessness. It is not just another committee to engage in busy work. Instead, it is an opportunity for parliamentarians from all political parties to roll up their sleeves, to work in partnership with government and communities, to create a road map to end homelessness, not to manage or reduce it, but to end it.
If the bias against committees were not enough to contend with, I am speaking on homelessness immediately on the heels of the government's important announcement of a national housing strategy. I know it is hard to see the newsworthiness of a plan. However, a national plan to end and prevent homelessness is the next critical step to the strategies, targets, and principles of the national housing strategy.
Prior to this first hour of debate on my motion, I reached out to my fellow parliamentarians, and met one on one with many of my colleagues, both in opposition and from the government side. I found more agreement and commonality than disagreement and partisanship. I did not hear any disagreement that we are in a crisis.
According to recent data from CMHC, 1.7 million Canadians are paying more than one-third of their income for housing, with 400,000 of them paying more than 50% of their income on housing that is either substandard, not in good repair, even unsafe, or does not meet their needs. For many Canadians, that means living in overcrowded homes or apartments. No one that I spoke to denied the unacceptable reality we find ourselves in when it comes to housing and homelessness in this country.
Further, I did not meet a parliamentarian who thought the current emergency response to the crisis made any sense, whether it be the toll it takes on people's lives, or the wasted resources and escalation of high-cost emergency services, like emergency room visits, ambulances, and police calls.
Many of the parliamentarians I spoke to were well aware of the statistics. The annual cost of institutional responses to each person for hospitals and jails was $66,000 to $120,000, and for emergency shelters, $13,000 to $42,000, versus the cost of affordable housing of $5,000 to $8,000, or $13,000 to $18,000 for supportive or transitional housing. However, these statistics do not take into account the human and social costs. I found parliamentarians were on the same page that homelessness is cheaper to fix than to ignore.
It was a pleasure to speak with the MP from Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner who sat on Medicine Hat's committee that led to their plan to end homelessness. Of course, Medicine Hat was the first city in Canada to end homelessness. In 2014, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador announced its plan to end homelessness. It set goals and benchmarks that made sense to its communities. In 2015, the City of Guelph, Ontario announced its plan to end homelessness. There are many more.
MPs of all political stripes represent communities that have tackled and transformed our response to homelessness from the ground up, and those responses have achieved astounding results. Communities like Hamilton, Lethbridge, Calgary, to name a few, have created plans, brought people around a common table, rolled up their sleeves and said that they can do this. They can end homelessness in their community.
I have had my own experience of the power of a plan to transform a community's response, or lack of response, to homelessness. As the CEO of the United Way, I was part of a leadership team of business people, labour groups, city officials, indigenous government leaders, and folks with the lived experience of homelessness who drafted our community's first plan to end homelessness.
In 2006-07 in Saskatoon, we experienced an economic boom, like many communities in Alberta. With the economic boom came a skyrocketing housing crisis. This saw people with full-time, good-paying jobs in Saskatoon unable to afford rent and living in emergency shelters. We had students living in cars, because of the high cost of housing, so they could afford their tuition.
This new reality of homelessness galvanized our community. From CEOs to labour leaders, to our then police chief, we could no longer turn a blind eye or hope that someone would do something. That is when we turned to our neighbours in Alberta and learned about the remarkable work that cities, community organizations, and two provincial governments were doing with plans to end homelessness. It was a game-changer for us.
Where our provincial government feared to tread, we, on the other hand, rolled up our sleeves and invested in housing homeless people based on the housing first model, a pillar of plans to end homelessness in Alberta. The program was called “journey home”. In its first year people helped by journey home saw an 82% drop in the use of high-cost emergency services, like ambulance, police responses, emergency-room visits, and hospitalization. The return on investment was for every dollar invested, $2 was saved. One participant in the program had been homeless for 17 years. The average length of homelessness for participants was three to five years. One person said that housing first saved their life.
Results like we have seen in Saskatoon are occurring in cities and communities across the country, from small cities to large urban centres. The players around the table may be different, but what they all have in common is a plan, a road map that holds them to account, to timelines and outcomes, and a goal to end homelessness in their community.
My motion is about building on that success, building on what works, and rolling it up to a national level. When I was visiting with my colleagues, I was pleasantly surprised by the non-partisan tone to our conversation. That is not to say I was not grilled, in a very nice way, as to how my motion would make a difference, but the conversations were excellent.
I think I can say that the majority of parliamentarians I spoke with realize the need for the federal government to step back in to addressing housing and homelessness, and they saw the federal government's national homelessness initiative, started in 1999 under a Liberal government, and the subsequently renamed homelessness partnering strategy in 2006, under a Conservative government, as important federal government initiatives that have made a positive difference for communities tackling and addressing homelessness.
Many also cited the ground-breaking work of the Mental Health Commission's project at home/chez soi as greatly advancing our understanding of housing first, and the project's positive impact on those who are homeless, most marginalized, and most vulnerable to great suffering.
I think parliamentarians can work better together. I believe Canadians expect that, and believe that collaboration between parliamentarians is possible and needed, if we are to address the defining issues of our time, like the crisis of homelessness.
I am presenting a motion on homelessness the week the government released their first ever national housing strategy. I commend it for that. This is good news. There is still a lot of work to do and much of the detail yet to be determined. It is still somewhat, I feel, a work in progress. For example, the work of reimagining the homelessness partnering strategy is still ongoing, and I believe will be released in the spring of 2018.
I would like to make two comments on the national housing strategy. First, I would like to see a more aggressive goal on homelessness. I would like to see the government make a commitment to end homelessness. All the elements are there within the plan, almost, to do this. I believe that parliamentarians working on a special committee to create a national plan to end and prevent homelessness could do just that. The special committee could connect the dots, build on the work being done by the government on the homelessness partnering strategy, work with experts and communities, and bring us to a plan and a goal to end homelessness.
Second, I, and I believe many others, would have liked to see the strategy funded at the front end versus being back loaded. In other words, have the big investment come early and not so much stretched over many years, and certainly not past the next general election.
I point to the example of my own community. The United Way stepped in early with funds to help our community realize sooner rather than later the difference a plan and housing first could make in addressing homelessness. This allowed other funders and governments to step in after success was demonstrated. I can see the federal government doing a similar strategy.
I was glad to see the government identifying data as a key pillar of the strategy. Better data will be key to being able to not only understand the scope and size of the problem we are trying to address but to adequately measure progress and to hold multiple partners, including provinces and territories, to account for investments.
We now estimate that a minimum of 235,000 people will experience homelessness in any given year in Canada, and every night, there are 35,000 homeless people in Canada. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and we do not have to reinvent the wheel. Communities right across Canada, with elected officials of all political stripes, are addressing the issue head on with local plans to end homelessness. We need to build on this work, and we can.
Communities want to see a national plan they can see themselves being a part of, one that delineates exactly how the federal government can be a real and valued partner at their community plan tables.
My Motion No. 147, calling for a special committee to create a national plan to end and prevent homelessness, is a way forward, in tandem with the national housing strategy.
I want to see, and I believe Canadians want to see, parliamentarians roll up their sleeves, put partisanship aside, and in partnership with communities, experts, other governments, and those with the lived experience, put the details on a national plan to end and prevent homelessness.
Our goal must be to end homelessness. It is possible, and it is probable.
Is it possible that communities across Canada and North America have it wrong? Do plans to end homelessness not really work? Is it not possible to end homelessness? Could all these communities be flying in the wrong direction? I do not think so. It is possible. Anything is possible, but it is most likely not probable.
When John F. Kennedy told his fellow Americans that they would put a man on the moon, he did not know if it was probable. When he was making that statement, he knew it was possible, and he wanted others to believe in that possibility, so the NASA nerds got to work, and the possible became probable, and of course, ultimately, the reality.
We have what we need to end homelessness. We have a homelessness equivalent of the NASA nerds. We have a federal government that is giving us an indication that it is possible. We need a special committee to bring all that together to build on what is working and to go where we have not gone before. We can make the possible probable and end homelessness in Canada.
Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise today to be part of the discussion on Motion No. 147.
I also want to thank the member for for bringing this vital issue of combatting homelessness to the attention of the House, as it is an issue that we all hear about in ridings right across this country.
I also want to take this opportunity to look back at what our government has been doing over the past two years to prevent and reduce homelessness in Canada and to look forward at what we will be doing in the future.
In particular, I want to talk today about the national housing strategy that our government unveiled earlier this week. Bringing the NHS to life has been a priority for this government for the past 18 months. We launched a national conversation on housing in June 2016, followed by a very successful meeting of federal, provincial, and territorial ministers responsible for housing. Led by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, our "Let's Talk Housing" consultations unfolded over four months.
Some key themes emerged during this time. We heard that Canadians and housing stakeholders believe that a national housing strategy should encompass the entire housing continuum while prioritizing those in greatest need.
We heard that there was a need to better integrate housing with other support services vulnerable people may need. Housing providers needed better access to capital to facilitate the development of more affordable housing, and there was strong preference for policies that enabled local communities to drive solutions to housing problems. Of particular relevance to today's debate, we heard that Canadians wanted a national housing strategy that truly addressed homelessness in Canada.
Similar themes emerged in the consultations carried out by our advisory committee on homelessness. Chaired by the this advisory committee brought together housing and homelessness experts, local and regional service providers, and individuals with a lived experience of homelessness. Selected from hundreds of nominations, the 13 members of this advisory committee represent Canada's regional, cultural, and linguistic diversity.
The advisory committee held a series of regional round tables across the country with stakeholders, service providers, and indigenous partners, in which they explored in greater depth the ideas and the recommendations we heard throughout the national housing strategy engagement process. They also undertook targeted engagement with homelessness experts and with communities and other stakeholders from across Canada. I am pleased to say that several members of Parliament attended these round tables and saw first-hand the work being done by this exceptional group of people.
I will also note that the advisory committee's work was augmented by an online feedback tool hosted by Employment and Social Development Canada, which was available from July 17 to September 15, 2017.
I am sure I speak for everyone in the House when I say that I am looking forward to the committee's “What We Heard” report, which is expected to be publicly released in spring 2018.
Even without that report I can say that the people who participated in our consultations did not just identify problems, they also identified opportunities for innovation and proposed solutions that focus on measurable outcomes. All of this information and insight was invaluable as our government sought to create a national housing strategy that signalled a meaningful re-engagement by the federal government in housing.
Make no mistake. If ever there was a time for meaningful re-engagement, it is now. For too many Canadian families, a decent home is simply not affordable. Across Canada, 1.7 million families are in housing need, living in homes that are inadequate or unaffordable. Another 25,000 Canadians are chronically homeless.
On top of this, many groups, including seniors, indigenous peoples, women fleeing domestic violence, people with disabilities, refugees, veterans, and those with mental health and addiction challenges continue to face significant barriers in accessing and maintaining affordable housing.
Even before the national housing strategy, our government had signalled that we understood the need for an active federal government in addressing housing needs across Canada. That is why we made unprecedented housing investments in budgets 2016 and 2017.
The national housing strategy, however, takes our commitment even further. It is an ambitious $40-billion plan to help ensure that Canadians have access to housing that meets their needs and that they can afford. It is a key element of our government's plan to help grow and strengthen the middle class, promote inclusive growth for Canadians, and lift more Canadians out of poverty.
It includes clear goals, such as removing 530,000 Canadian families from housing need, and reducing chronic and episodic homelessness by half over the next decade. It will meet the needs of vulnerable populations and will be central to our effort to ensure that all Canadians have the safe and affordable housing they need and deserve.
What does the national housing strategy mean for Canada's homeless? For starters, we will be investing $2.2 billion over 10 years to tackle homelessness through a redesigned and expanded federal homelessness program. Thanks to this investment, we will reduce chronic homelessness by 50%. Just as importantly, we will empower local communities to deliver a combination of housing programs and responsive and preventive measures.
Our redesigned homelessness program will launch on April 1, 2019, following the conclusion of the current homelessness partnering strategy, and it will be based on the work currently being done by the advisory committee on homelessness.
Our government also recognizes that homelessness is not an issue that exists in isolation. If we want to help vulnerable populations, we need to think of housing in a more holistic way. That is precisely what the NHS does, with complementary initiatives that reaffirm and redesign the federal response to homelessness. This includes a program like the Canada housing benefit, a jointly funded $4 billion program that will provide affordability support directly to families and individuals in housing need, including people currently living in social housing, people on social housing wait lists, and people housed in the private market but struggling to make ends meet.
We anticipate that after it launches in 2020, the Canada housing benefit will deliver an average of $2,500 per year to each recipient household, and will support at least 300,000 households across the country. It also includes the $15.9 billion federally managed national housing co-investment fund. This fund will ensure that existing rental housing is not lost to disrepair, and will help to develop new, high-performing affordable housing integrated with supports and services.
The national housing co-investment fund is expected to create or repair up to 300,000 new or existing housing units, and also support more shelter spaces for survivors of family violence, transitional and supportive housing, new and renewed affordable and community housing, and ways of making home ownership more affordable.
The national housing strategy marks the beginning of a new era for housing in Canada. Our government is making historic investments in housing and planning for transformational change because we understand the value of home. Safe, affordable housing is a launch pad for better socio-economic outcomes for our citizens, a more inclusive society where everyone has the opportunity to be well and to succeed, a stronger economy, and a cleaner environment.
For the NHS to be successful, we will need the collaboration and commitment of more partners than ever before, in a coherent, integrated, and whole-of-government approach. We will be working with the provinces and territories, with municipalities, with the private and not-for-profit sectors, and with everyone who shares our goal of creating a new generation of housing in Canada.
While much, if not all, of what Motion No. 147 is calling for has already been done by our government, we are nevertheless pleased when our colleagues, across all party lines, embrace our shared priorities. I would encourage the member for , as well as all members from all parties and all parts of the country, to become part of the government's nation-wide efforts to ensure that all Canadians have the safe and affordable housing they need and deserve.
Madam Speaker, I want to start by commending the member for bringing forward this motion. It is a well-thought-out motion, and it is something that I know she has worked tirelessly on. It is an honour to stand and support the motion.
I also want to quickly talk about how her motion is being debated just a few days after the Liberals announced their big exciting housing strategy, which will not actually see money flow until 2020. This poor member has worked hard and tirelessly on this motion and has brought it forward, and now suddenly, it has been scooped by the government. Could the Liberals have waited perhaps a week, a few more days, to let the member debate this in the House? Unfortunately, this is what they have decided to do.
This is not the first time, though. They have done it before. There was the motion on abandoned vessels, also brought forward by the NDP. Again, it was scooped by the government. Unfortunately, we are standing here and debating a motion that could have made history for the member and her riding. However, because of the government, this is the process that is happening.
My opinion is that what the government is doing with the homelessness issue is actually inflaming the issue. We have a government that has raised taxes, cut jobs, and now left a lot of people jobless in my province of Alberta especially. The unemployment rate was 7.8% in July 2017. That means that 7.8% of our population is jobless. If we go back to 2014, prior to when the government came in, and prior to when the NDP government came in provincially in Alberta as well, it was 5.4%. It has essentially skyrocketed.
We can sit here and argue that we need more homelessness strategies. We need more strategies in general bureaucracy. However, what we need in Alberta are jobs. We need to put people back to work and allow them to use their skills and take the risks in entrepreneurship that they are so good at in Alberta. However, it is unfortunate that the government has killed a lot of that entrepreneurship. We are seeing higher rates of homelessness.
We had 14,000 jobs lost in July alone in Alberta. Liberals stand and say that we have the highest GDP in the world, but look at what is happening in Alberta. We cannot ignore what is happening in Alberta. I would be remiss if I did not highlight that.
In Edmonton, we have had some tremendous success over the last number of years, particularly with an organization called Homeward Trust. I will quickly read what it does and what the organization focuses on:
...coordinates the Homeless Count as part of our work supporting Edmonton's Ten-year Plan to End Homelessness. Approximately 300 volunteers and 40 organizations participate in counting at different locations across the city.
Edmonton's Homeless Count serves two important functions: it provides a current snapshot of our overall homeless population, and it shows us how this population changes over time. Ultimately, this informs solutions to support the goal of ending homelessness in our community.
This year in particular, the process of the homeless count was enhanced even more by doing three things that I think are worth highlighting. For the first time, most volunteers went through our city and collected survey data electronically using tablets or smart phones rather than by completing paper surveys. Edmonton was the only city in Alberta to use electronic data collection for the 2016 homeless count.
This was also Edmonton's first year conducting the street count at night, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. Unlike most Alberta cities, Edmonton continued to conduct a day count. Finally, this year's homeless count included a focus on parkland, with the help of approximately 25 park rangers, street outreach team members, and river operations employees.
We are also rather proud that Homeward Trust also runs an initiative at our Shaw Conference Centre where they bring in a number of homeless individuals and offer them haircuts and dental appointments. Goodwill Industries offers clothing as well. These are all services offered by the community.
We saw in the homeless count this year in Edmonton that 74% are male, 1,205 men; 408 female; and 11 transgender. Out of our indigenous communities, we saw 316 first nations, 140 Métis, 15 Inuit, 32 non-status, and 15 non-specified members. However, some of the most troubling numbers we see in homelessness particular to Edmonton are with our youth population. This year alone in the homeless count, we saw 148 individuals who were age 17 or under. The highest numbers are in the ages between 31 and 44. However, about half of that number fall under the age of 17.
The answer to a lot of this is to ensure we have policies and governments in place that are creating jobs and focusing on initiatives that will help support these youth and communities. Unfortunately, we are not seeing a lot of that from the government, other than a big announcement that has no money flowing until the year 2022.
I received a fantastic letter from one of my constituents, Ms. Jean Ashmore. She wrote about the need to look at homelessness and poverty within our communities. She even calls it a public health emergency. I will quote from her letter, which states:
The longer people are homeless, the worse their health becomes. Homelessness causes premature death, poor health and is a burden on our health-care system. A recent report from British Columbia suggested life expectancy for people experiencing homelessness in that province is half that of other British Columbians.
We are very supportive of the initiative that the member brought forward. We would love to see it come to fruition. However, it does not seem that it will because of some of the announcements made by the government across the way.
As a result of many of the government's policies, Canadians now pay more for a lot of things. They pay more for gas, home heating, hydro, housing, sports, arts programs for children, and personal savings. These are a number of things that could help to go toward assisting the homeless in our country, as the motion would have done. However, we see that this is something the Liberals choose to deserve credit for, instead of the hard-working member on this side of the House.
Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleagues on all their hard work to spark a debate on homelessness and give a voice to the most vulnerable in our society who really need our support.
For too long now, for the past 25 years in fact, we have been simply putting off the important conversation we need to have about this problem, which is symptomatic of all the ills of our society. Homelessness tends to affect people who are already struggling, unwell, or in distress, but through a reversal of fortune it can affect any one of us.
I therefore support Motion No. 147 from my colleague from , which proposes creating a special committee to conduct hearings on homelessness and to propose a national plan to prevent and end homelessness. Its objective is ambitious, certainly, but it is nevertheless realistic, because we know that local communities, in Alberta for example, have already taken up the challenge and are working hard to meet it.
The national housing strategy tells us that the government is ready to tackle homelessness across Canada. Unfortunately, 90% of the funding announced will not be delivered until after 2019. What is the government going to do to help homeless people over the next two years? No one knows.
No single solution is going to end homelessness across the country. At the local level, plans to achieve that goal will vary from one region to the next. The government needs to act and show genuine political will to follow the recommendations of local groups to put an end to the scourge of homelessness. That is why the federal government needs to clearly define its role in its own national plan. Accordingly, creating a committee to study these matters seems entirely appropriate.
Indeed, homelessness is a manifestation of many of society's ills. Homelessness can be temporary or chronic. According to a report by Homeless Hub, the first homelessness experience occurs before the age of 16 in 40.1% of cases. That is a very young age to end up on the street. In Canada, 20% of homeless people are between the ages of 13 and 24. They are particularly vulnerable since they are often the product of broken homes, and public institutions, their schools included, have given up on them.
People do not choose to become homeless. Losing one's job or home, separation or divorce, bereavement, incarceration and disease are all conducive to isolation, alienation and distress, all of which potentially lead to homelessness. Living on the street turns people into targets for sexual, mental and physical violence. It means not having access to hot meals or proper hygiene, and possibly having to live with addictions. For all those reasons, getting out of homelessness can be an impossible task in the eyes of these young people.
Furthermore, women are often invisible to those seeking to help them. Violence and invisibility are intrinsic characteristics homelessness among women. Violence often occurs before and after becoming homeless and it places women in an extremely vulnerable position. Indeed, while some factors contributing to homelessness are the same for women and men, women often have a long history of being submitted to violence, from sexual assault to psychological, physical and domestic violence. To avoid becoming homeless, some women use survival strategies such as prostitution, theft, going from one shelter to another or from a friend or acquaintance's place to another. They become less visible and the risk for their health, security and integrity increases. They sink even deeper into isolation.
This hidden homelessness masks the magnitude of the problem among women, even though this problem is growing across the country. In fact, homelessness among women is a tangible phenomenon in my riding of Salaberry—Suroît. Fortunately, organizations such as Justice alternative, Les ateliers Cré-Action du Suroît et L'antichambre 12-17 offer services for young women grappling with delinquency, vulnerability, or homelessness.
What is more, homelessness has skyrocketed among our indigenous sisters for the past several years in Canada. In their case, homelessness must be considered by taking into account the effects of colonization on Inuit, first nations and Metis communities. According to Amnesty International, indigenous women are the most vulnerable group in the country. They are seven times more likely to be victims of homicide than non-indigenous women. Also, according to the Table des groupes de femmes de Montréal, indigenous women make very little use of resources that are not specifically intended for them.
Resources must be tailored to the particular needs of these women. This is something we have reiterated several times in the House, but unfortunately nothing has changed in regard to the well-being of all these women.
Homelessness costs $7 billion a year, which is the equivalent of one and a half Champlain bridges. The cost is enormous for rural and local communities. My riding of Salaberry—Suroît is barely one and a half hours' drive from Montreal, but it is in the Bermuda Triangle as far as public money is concerned. Being close to Montreal and to the U.S. border, my riding and neighbouring ridings receive many homeless people. Unfortunately, community organizations are desperately short of funding.
Montreal and its inner suburbs receive most of the funding, whereas Montérégie-Ouest is close to the city but does not get any of the money intended for Montreal. At the same time, it is not far enough to get its own funding.
That is why I have a profound respect for organizations in my riding who work very hard with little means. Pacte de rue receives many people in distress, but does not have enough room, and the same is true of L'antichambre 12-17. Housing committees have repeatedly requested better support and affordable housing. Unfortunately, governments rarely listen.
I should point out that an estimated 235,000 people at least experience homelessness in any given year in Canada. Ignoring homelessness rather than solving the problem is costing the Canadian economy dearly. Homelessness actually costs the public treasury nearly $4.5 billion per year. Let me quickly compare that to how much it would cost to help homeless people. A hospital bed currently costs close to $11,000 per month. A housing subsidy, in contrast, costs $700 per month, and social housing just $200 per month. I think the math on that is pretty straightforward. Solving homelessness costs a lot less.
The country needs a plan. A special committee would be able to investigate, deliberate, and decide what constitutes success. Once it has done that, it can set relevant targets and benchmarks and assess them. A committee would bring many different voices to the table and, I hope, result in consensus on how to proceed.
The government boasts about being transparent and open to new ideas and about improving its relationship with Parliament. Canadians expect all members of the House to work together. Motion No. 147 is my colleague from 's way of reaching out. Will cabinet accept? Will this be a free vote for Liberal MPs?
The federal government must allow parliamentarians to talk to the communities, the front line workers, not-for-profit agencies, academics, indigenous groups, and young people in order to develop a plan, pool resources, and ensure accountability.
In closing, the role of Parliament is to listen to citizens, experts, and agencies and to make progress on issues that have been put on the back burner. It is imperative to help the homeless, who are often young and mostly women, to overcome their personal demons. We have to find lasting solutions to reintegrate them into our society in an honourable fashion. It is our duty as elected members to do that. The very basis of our mandate is to represent the public.
We are all equally responsible for dealing with this issue whether we are ministers, parliamentary secretaries, or MPs. We are all citizens and we all have homelessness problems in every one of our ridings. Every riding office is affected.
I hope that every member of the House will reach out to the hon. member for and become actively involved in forming a special committee that can focus exclusively on homelessness to find solutions and develop a specific plan to address homelessness in Canada. I hope that we can all reach out to indigenous peoples as well, so that we might have solutions for the entire population and all peoples of Canada.
Madam Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to Motion No. 147, which was moved by my colleague from .
The motivation behind this motion is to reduce or, if possible, end homelessness. We must applaud this motion.
However, I would like to point out that Motion No. 147 calls for a new series of consultations. More specifically, Motion No. 147 calls for the appointment of a special parliamentary committee to hold hearings on the matter of homelessness.
Our government recognizes that homelessness is a reality for too many Canadians and a challenge for all Canadian communities. That is why we have undertaken significant outreach and consultation efforts to guide the development of strategies for preventing and reducing homelessness. Over the past two years, we have consulted the Canadian public, stakeholders, and partners to support the national housing strategy, the renewal of the homelessness partnering strategy, and the poverty reduction strategy.
If I may, I would like to go over what we have accomplished so far.
I am proud to say that on, November 22, we announced the launch of the national housing strategy. This strategy will create opportunities for collaboration and promote innovation through increased partnerships between the federal, provincial and territorial governments, municipalities, community housing organizations, non-profit organizations, the co-operative sector and the private sector and will bring about real change for Canadians.
A national dialogue on housing was launched in late June 2016 after a fruitful meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for housing. Led by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the “Let's Talk Housing” consultations spanned four months.
Throughout 2016, as part of the national conversation on housing, we engaged with Canadians, major stakeholders and provincial and territorial authorities to get their input.
More than 6,300 Canadians took the time to fill out the survey on the national housing strategy. Over 130 ideas were submitted through the group sharing platform and more than 475 proposals were submitted online by individuals and organizations, including the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the National Housing Collaborative.
Events included the following: bilateral meetings with provinces and territories; a three-day national round table with experts consisting of 18 meetings on a variety of subjects, including an entire day of discussions on homelessness; a national meeting with stakeholders from across the housing spectrum, from homelessness to the housing market, aimed at validating the input received; meetings with national indigenous organizations on housing and homelessness; additional round tables with experts held across Canada; 21 focus groups involving marginalized populations, including people who had experienced homelessness, low-income families, indigenous people living off reserve, seniors, people with disabilities and newcomers.
These events generated a series of recommendations on strengthening the federal government's response to homelessness. For example, participants recommended that the homelessness partnering strategy be renewed and expanded, and that the “housing first” approach of the program be more flexible and adaptive.
In short, the message was clear. Canadians want improved housing conditions, especially for those who need it most.
The homelessness partnering strategy was also part of the consultations. Budget 2017 includes a total investment of $2.1 billion under the national housing strategy to increase funding for the homelessness partnering strategy. We have also committed to work with stakeholders, provinces and territories, and indigenous organizations to revamp the program to better reduce and prevent homelessness.
To that end, we created the Advisory Committee on Homelessness, chaired by the . It includes members who are not from government and who have in-depth knowledge of homelessness issues.
To support the committee's work, Employment and Social Development Canada held online consultations from July 17 to September 15, 2017. The committee also held a series of regional round tables across the country with stakeholders, service providers, and indigenous partners. Many members of Parliament also took part in these round tables.
The feedback received by committee members during the consultations will inform the options they will submit on the renewal of the homelessness partnering strategy. A report on the feedback received is expected to be released in the spring of 2018.
We all know that poverty and homelessness are closely intertwined, as the one can often lead to the other. Let us talk about poverty reduction. Again, everyone in the House already knows that we are developing a poverty reduction strategy. We have made major public engagement efforts on this file. From February to September 2017, we held Canada-wide consultations to discuss key issues related to poverty.
Online consultations and round tables were also held with indigenous groups, businesses, community organizations, academic experts, and Canadians who have lived in poverty. The relationship between homelessness, affordable housing, and poverty came up many times.
We also completed the tackling poverty together project, which involved conducting case studies in six communities across Canada that had expressed interest in poverty reduction.
This project highlighted the local benefits of federal poverty reduction programs, based on citizens' opinions, especially people who have lived in poverty. The report on the tackling poverty together project was released on September 18 during the national poverty conference.
As if that were not enough, our government created a ministerial advisory committee on poverty that includes leaders, academic experts, and practitioners working in the field of poverty reduction, as well as individuals who have experienced poverty first-hand. In addition, the two-day national poverty conference brought together academics, stakeholders, researchers, front-line service providers, individuals who have lived in poverty, and members of the advisory committee on poverty.
The goal of the conference was to discuss the feedback received from Canadians during the consultation process. On top of all that, there is also the ongoing study on poverty reduction measures, including housing and homelessness initiatives, being conducted by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
Our wide-ranging engagement activities with Canadians will guide the development of a poverty reduction strategy that will align with and support existing provincial and municipal poverty reduction strategies. It will also support the renewal and expansion of the homelessness partnering strategy.
As I said at the outset, we should applaud the motivation behind Motion No. 147. Obviously, ending homelessness is a priority for all parties.
I thank the hon. member for for her commitment to this important issue.