Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Peter Julian Profile
View Peter Julian Profile
2019-06-20 10:25 [p.29467]
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a sad day. I know that we will have an opportunity to pay tribute in an hour or two, but I too would like to pass on condolences to Diane Warawa, the children, the grandchildren and all of Mark's family. It is a very sad day for the House.
I am presenting a petition on behalf of the Elizabeth Fry Society. A few hundred Canadians are adding their names to the tens of thousands who have tabled petitions in the House so far. The petition calls on the Government of Canada to extend benefits and allowances to children who are in irregular situations. In a case where a parent is incarcerated or homeless, or the child is being raised in foster care, the children do not have the right to access the same benefits and allowances other children do. This contravenes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to Parliament in this regard. To date, the government's response has not been satisfactory. We are hoping the government will table a comprehensive response and end the discrimination so that all children can benefit from the benefits and allowances available from the federal government.
View Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Profile
View Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Profile
2019-06-18 10:25 [p.29267]
Mr. Speaker, children of parents in irregular situations are not entitled to the same benefits as all other children. That is unfair.
That includes children of parents who are homeless for a number of reasons, including the housing first policy. The Elizabeth Fry Society would like to right this wrong, and that is exactly what these petitioners want.
View Karine Trudel Profile
View Karine Trudel Profile
2019-06-18 10:26 [p.29267]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table in the House a petition from the Elizabeth Fry Society on children in irregular situations, such as children who have parents in prison or the children of single mothers.
On behalf of all Canadians, I am pleased to table this petition calling on the government to show greater flexibility toward children in vulnerable situations.
View Georgina Jolibois Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to present a petition led by the Elizabeth Fry Society about children in irregular situations.
View Don Davies Profile
View Don Davies Profile
2019-06-18 10:28 [p.29267]
Mr. Speaker, thousands of people continue to sign a petition, originated by the Elizabeth Fry Society, that simply points out that some of Canada's most vulnerable children, because of various flaws in the policy and design of programs, are not able to access funding through several federal programs, including the Canada child benefit and children's special allowances. The petitioners are calling on the government to pay attention to this issue and fix the flaws so that Canada's most vulnerable and needy children get access to the support they so desperately need.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to table a petition from the Elizabeth Fry Society. This organization is very concerned about the situation of many children in Canada whose parents are in vulnerable situations, for example, parents who are in prison or homeless.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, these children are entitled to the same social benefits as every other child in our society.
View Peter Julian Profile
View Peter Julian Profile
2019-06-18 10:30 [p.29268]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present hundreds of additional names to the tens of thousands of Canadians who have petitioned the government over the last few months. This petition has been sponsored by activists from the Elizabeth Fry Society, and we thank them for their activism.
What the petitioners are asking for is very simple. Irregular situations mean that so many children in Canada do not have access to the programs and services that other children have access to. The Canadian government has a responsibility, under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to make sure that discrimination is eliminated.
To this point, the government has not provided an adequate response to this petition and to the requests from activists across the country that all children be treated equally and have a right to the same benefits in Canada.
View Richard Cannings Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition today on behalf of the residents of British Columbia. The petition was initiated by the Elizabeth Fry Society, which celebrated its 80th anniversary last month.
Highly mobile children face specific challenges because of homelessness or the incarceration or substance abuse of their parents. These petitioners draw our attention to the obstacles these children face in receiving the government benefits that children in less precarious situations easily access. We must do more to remove the barriers between these often invisible children and programs like the Canada child benefit and the child special allowance. Revenue Canada requirements and all ministries must consider the context of poverty in developing program requirements to ensure that the poor can meet them. We must ensure that each and every child in Canada can receive, without discrimination, the supports they need to enjoy the rights guaranteed to them by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
I would like to thank the petitioners, staff and volunteers of the Elizabeth Fry Society for highlighting these challenges faced by our society's most vulnerable children.
View Don Davies Profile
View Don Davies Profile
2019-06-14 12:32 [p.29134]
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured and pleased to rise today to present a petition signed by people all over Vancouver Kingsway and the Lower Mainland. They are very concerned about the welfare of Canada's most vulnerable children. They point out that housing first program funds are one-size-fits-all and fund only the adult individual, with no additional allocation for a parent with children. The amount is set at a rate per adult, which they believe further materially deprives children.
The petitioners point out that many children are excluded from receipt of the Canada child benefit and children's special allowances, as they are in informal care arrangements and their caregivers are ineligible to claim the tax deductions for children and therefore cannot establish eligibility for the monthly payments. They further point out that certain subpopulations of children systematically derive no benefit from the above-mentioned programs.
The petitioners are calling on the government to provide the Canada child benefit and the children's special allowances benefit to all children; to ensure that all children, without discrimination in any form, benefit from special protection measures and assistance; and to recognize that children of parents with addictions or parents who are incarcerated or homeless are in need of special support to enable them to achieve improved life outcomes.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
View Karen Vecchio Profile
2019-06-13 13:10 [p.29050]
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with respect to a tweet claiming that I did not support Motion No. 225 and that I was preventing it in the House, as well as the fact that I voted against it. This claim is categorically false. I want the House to know that I was one of the seconders of the motion and spoke favourably to the proposal.
Further, I would like to seek unanimous consent of the House for the following motion:
That Motion M-225 be deemed adopted.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2019-06-13 13:11 [p.29050]
Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
View Neil Ellis Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Neil Ellis Profile
2019-06-12 14:57 [p.28992]
Mr. Speaker, veterans homelessness is absolutely unacceptable in Canada. This is why, yesterday, I was proud to bring in my private member's motion on ending veterans homelessness to the House for debate.
My motion called on the government to prevent and end homelessness by 2025. It had the full support of veterans and stakeholders across the country. Unfortunately, members of the opposition failed to allow my motion to go to a vote in the House.
Could the Prime Minister update the House on what our government will be doing to end veterans homelessness in Canada?
View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2019-06-12 14:57 [p.28992]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Bay of Quinte for his outstanding work for his constituents, and particularly for veterans as the chair of the veterans affairs committee.
I want to thank him for bringing forward this important motion, which we support, to end veterans homelessness by 2025. Unfortunately, last night, the Conservatives put partisanship ahead of helping veterans, which is disappointing but not surprising.
The Harper Conservatives ignored veterans and ignored people living in homelessness for far too long. Even if the Conservatives will not put partisanship aside, we will continue to work for people across this country.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
2019-06-12 15:39 [p.29000]
Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of petitioners who are concerned about the rights and welfare of children, specifically highly mobile children.
The degree of flexibility afforded to provinces and territorial governments has led to significant variances in services and programs across the country, and this is in direct violation of Canada's obligations as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Specifically, children are ineligible for benefits and certain payments because they are in informal caregiving arrangements.
Therefore, the petitioners are asking that the welfare of children be first and foremost, and that we remedy this barrier to those funds.
View Neil Ellis Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Neil Ellis Profile
2019-06-11 17:32 [p.28943]
, seconded by the member for Saskatoon West, moved:
That, in the opinion of the House: (a) the government should set a goal to prevent and end veteran homelessness in Canada by 2025; (b) a plan to achieve this aim should be developed by the government and be presented to the House by June 2020, led by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and supported by the Minister of Veterans Affairs; and (c) this plan should include consideration of whether a National Veterans Housing Benefit similar to the highly successful U.S. Housing and Urban Development – Veterans Administration Supportive Housing (HUD VASH) Program would fit the Canadian context, complementing the National Housing Strategy.
He said: Mr. Speaker, as chair of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, I am honoured to have the opportunity to rise in the House today on behalf of Canadian veterans across the country and within my riding of Bay of Quinte to request my hon. colleagues' consideration of my private member's motion, Motion No. 225.
Personally, it has been an incredible experience to work alongside my hon. colleagues on the veterans affairs committee to review the issues of veterans homelessness in Canada. Throughout the committee's study on this issue, I have been constantly impressed by the solid resolve of all members to work together to fix this issue.
ln preparing our May 2019 report, I believe we all learned a great deal about the causes of homelessness and the range of solutions already put into action by key national veterans advocacy organizations. During committee, we had the chance to learn from representatives of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, VETS Canada, the Old Brewery Mission and the Royal Canadian Legion, among others, all of which retain a clear understanding of which types of veterans are most at risk.
All 22 committee witnesses have made this issue visible. They have all collected and evaluated statistics, as well as on-the-ground narratives from our veterans. They have also brought best practices for solution-building into focus by sharing clear recommendations stemming from the successes of the various trial programs or initiatives their organizations have undertaken across the country.
ln terms of general statistics, we were confronted with the reality that approximately 3,000 to 5,000 veterans are currently affected by homelessness. My riding has one of the highest populations of veterans across the country, with an estimated 3,067 veterans in total residing in the Bay of Quinte. That is nearly the same amount as the lowest threshold estimate for veterans who are homeless.
The information was made available by the homeless individuals and families information system. Each committee witness has been invaluable in clarifying the scope of the issue, bringing to light the frequency of shelter use, the typical characteristics representative of veterans identified as homeless or with a lack of stable housing and the recurring nature of this issue.
We were also presented with evidence that echoed the study findings forward in the Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health or the Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, all of which indicate a direct correlation between difficulty transitioning into post-service life or adapting to civilian society, and instability of housing.
We saw that experiences of homelessness and lack of stable housing situations typically occur about 10 years after active service, that a variety of personal situations or triggers can place veterans more at risk for housing instability and that female or indigenous veterans represent much higher instances of shelter use than other veterans. The need to pursue a housing-first approach which is adaptive and can offer personalized supports, peer guidance, as well as direct access to necessary resources has been reaffirmed by nearly all the committee witnesses as the most effective type of solution. I firmly believe this recommendation must be addressed by the Government of Canada as soon as possible.
The observations shared with the committee on the reality of veterans' experiences of homelessness or lack of stable housing stood out to all of us as something that we can fix together. Motion No. 225 recognizes that the federal government has now reached a turning point. We have the data we need and it is time to act on it. The work already done by all of our key committee witnesses and the willingness of veterans to keep lines of communication open with us is what makes proceeding with Motion No. 225 possible. With all the information at our disposal now, we must get passed triage and head toward a long-term treatment for this issue.
As a quick overview, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's veterans administration supportive housing program is a collaborative program offered by HUD and Veterans Affairs. This program combines housing vouchers with VA support services to help homeless veterans and their families find and retain permanent housing. Using the capacity of public housing authorities, the program provides rental assistance vouchers for privately owned housing to veterans who are eligible for VA health care services and who are experiencing homelessness. VA case managers can direct these veterans to support services that address their unique health needs, treatments and recovery processes. As a result, veterans are best positioned to maintain housing and support within their community.
The American program focuses on veterans who have experienced long-term or recurring episodes of homelessness. If we adopt Motion No. 225, we can build a similar program that further reinforces VAC's work to simplify and deliver the highest calibre of services and programs to our veterans and their families. VAC continues to define “well-being” as a multi-layered and personal experience and recognizes seven domains of well-being, which are employment or meaningful purpose; financial security; health; life skills and preparedness; social integration; cultural and social environment; and housing and physical environment.
At the end of the day, VAC can offer the very best training, education benefits, employment tools or resources possible, but without a home, how can we expect our veterans and their families to access those services or truly enjoy post-service life altogether? Motion No. 225 would help us make sure that the best foundation for cultivating personal well-being is firmly in place for our veterans.
There are already some incredible housing initiatives in place and new projects under way across the country which address as many of these domains as possible. ln particular, the strategies used by each of the organizations operating sites like Mainstay Housing in Toronto, Cockrell House in B.C. and soon Veterans' House here in Ottawa remind us of the importance of bringing peer-to-peer support for veterans experiencing homelessness to the forefront of our solutions.
In my own constituency office, having hired a veteran to address VAC casework, I have seen this principle in action first-hand. The positive impact that he has had on all our veterans clientele has been significant. Skip Simpson's capacity to guide veterans and their families on a full range of department services, local supports offered by advocate agencies or organizations has been instrumental in assisting veterans all across the Bay of Quinte.
Veterans who reach out to my constituency office are immediately relayed to Skip. Where necessary, he can assist with initiating or assessing status updates on Veterans Affairs Canada cases. Working alongside VAC caseworkers, Skip provides guidance and acts as a liaison throughout this process.
What I have learned from reviewing the feedback of Skip's work is that no matter how big or small the issue is, veterans are always pleased to speak with a peer who understands the nuances of their experiences. Getting veterans and their families their own walls, windows and doors is one thing; providing the satisfaction of an understanding peer community is also something that we should consider as part of this process.
There are numerous other examples of initiatives that l am not citing here which have made sure that veterans experiencing homelessness or lack of stable housing receive this type of model of service that draws from a peer-to-peer and personal support network approach.
The success of these initiatives shows us that focusing on the stability of housing is just as important as cultivating a strong sense of community to accompany it. Again, drawing from the American program's design, we know that the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, VETS Canada, the Old Brewery Mission and the Royal Canadian Legion already have a clear understanding of which types of veterans are most at risk of experiencing housing instability or homelessness.
Every year, approximately 5,550 CAF members are released from duty. Of this number, approximately 1,500 are medically released from duty. If veterans know they can connect with someone who understands their situation and can receive direction to appropriate resources and contacts from a trusted member of their community, they will feel more secure in reaching out, especially when there are sensitive personal circumstances involved.
Given that most of these organizations are led by or employ veterans, these organizations do understand how to build and maintain trust with our most vulnerable veterans across delivery of support services. These organizations have already dedicated a lot of time and effort to make sure that the full reality of a veteran's experience is taken into account.
These organizations already understand the roles, norms and language of our service community, and their staff work incredibly hard to ensure a consistent level of support when our veterans come in with questions or concerns.
If directly paired with VAC's case management services through a housing benefit delivered under the national housing strategy, a direct partnership with these organizations will accelerate the Government of Canada's ability to resolve and eliminate homelessness among Canadian veterans in the future.
Here, I would like to point out that this motion is not about duplicating or bypassing the department's caseworkers, but about providing the most personalized housing supports possible to a veteran. When this is in place, and with the department's assistance, our veterans will be better equipped to focus on accessing VAC supports or services for themselves and their family.
I firmly believe that these organizations' expertise in forming bonds of trust with our veterans is something that we need to reinforce and draw from as we move towards building a Canadian program similar to the U.S. veterans housing program. Harnessing this capacity will help us provide the most efficient and customized guidance to veterans, especially those most at risk of experiencing challenges to post-service transitions, and proceed directly to offer the casework that best fits their situation once the most essential foundation, a home, is in place.
If the House adopts this motion and moves towards development of a national veterans housing benefit, the Government of Canada would be better able to provide veterans and their families an enduring foundation by which they can access the full range of department services or local supports offered by advocate agencies and organizations. By harnessing the capacity and expertise of our on-the-ground partner organizations that serve veterans most at risk of, or are currently experiencing homelessness, we will also be better equipped to deliver a customized review of all the issues present within the given scenario, and reinforce continuity of contact between veterans and their VAC caseworkers, peers and their personal support networks.
I firmly believe that the Government of Canada has everything to gain by setting a clear timeline for meeting the goal of Motion No. 225. There are no reasons why eliminating homelessness among our Canadian veterans cannot be achieved. We can and we must do more. Therefore, I kindly request that all hon. members of the House support Motion No. 225 and push us even closer to that goal for 2025.
At this time I would like to move an amendment to my motion. I move that, in the opinion of the House, the government should (a) set a goal to prevent and end veteran homelessness in Canada by 2025; (b) a plan to achieve this aim should be developed by the government and be presented to the House by June 2020, co-led by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister of Veterans Affairs; and (c) this plan should include consideration of whether a national veterans housing benefit similar to the highly successful U.S. Housing and Urban Development veterans administration supportive housing, HUD-VASH, program would fit the Canadian context, complementing the national housing strategy.
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