Evidence of meeting #119 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was shelter.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

John Gerrard  Chief Executive Officer, Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga
Marie-Ève Surprenant  Coordinator, Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine
Fabienne Héraux  External Services Social Worker, Lina's Home, Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine
Melpa Kamateros  Executive Director, The Shield of Athena - Family Services
Sonia Sidhu  Brampton South, Lib.
Honourable K. Kellie Leitch  Simcoe—Grey, CPC
Travis DeCoste  Housing Support Worker, A Roof Over Your Head, Antigonish Community Transit
Bob Bratina  Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Lib.
Chantal Arseneault  President, Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale
Louise Riendeau  Co-responsible, Political Issues, Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale
Violet Hayes  Executive Director, Island Crisis Care Society

3:55 p.m.

Brampton South, Lib.

Sonia Sidhu

Okay.

I'll go over to Eva.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

I'm very pleased to have the Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine and the Shield of Athena in my constituency.

My question is for Ms. Surprenant from the Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine.

Ms. Surprenant, welcome and thank you for accepting our invitation.

You said that your organization had 26 places in 2000, and that 19 places were added in 2005. This means that you have 45 places available for women victims of domestic violence. Is that correct?

How many women were you unable to help in 2018?

4 p.m.

Coordinator, Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine

Marie-Ève Surprenant

In Laval, there are 45 places for women victims of domestic violence.

When the 19 new places were added in 2005, we didn't meet our objective of 26 places. We were still short seven places in 2005. In 2018, these places still haven't been created. Given the rapid population growth and the arrival of immigrants, Laval is short far more than seven places for victims of domestic violence in crisis situations.

Our health and social services system hasn't conducted any studies of the population. As my colleague said, the statistics collected by our three shelters in Laval show that over 400 women and 200 children are turned away each year. This means that more than one woman victim of domestic violence is turned away each day. These statistics don't include women who are experiencing other types of violence or who have experienced domestic violence in the past. These women are systematically referred outside the region.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

My next question is for Ms. Héraux.

You work at Lina's Home, which is also in my constituency of Vimy. We don't have the addresses of your shelters in Laval, and I understand why.

Can you provide a profile of the women who ask your shelter for assistance? How old are they? Are they of a specific ethnic origin?

4 p.m.

External Services Social Worker, Lina's Home, Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine

Fabienne Héraux

The women are of all ages and origins. They arrive at our shelter with or without children. The average length of their stay may vary according to each of their needs.

This year, we tried to make a list of the people who came to our shelter. Aside from English and French, many of the women spoke Arabic, Creole, Punjabi and Urdu. That's the most we could do this year.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

These women have a specific culture. Do you have specialized staff who understand the issues, culture and religion of these women so that you can provide better help? You have a shortage of space, but do you also lack resources?

4 p.m.

External Services Social Worker, Lina's Home, Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine

Fabienne Héraux

We also lack resources. We tried to find people who can speak certain languages. However, most of the time, we work with the Shield of Athena, which provides services in different languages.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Ms. Kamateros, do you take in women sent by Lina's Home or other shelters in Laval?

4 p.m.

Executive Director, The Shield of Athena - Family Services

Melpa Kamateros

A few years ago, we established a special service with the three shelters that already existed in Laval. It's a special collaboration. When these shelters send us women, we arrange a meeting with one of what we call our cultural intermediaries. These intermediaries are interpreters who work with the social worker or shelter worker.

The project has been working very well for a number of years now. I think that everyone is very happy with it. We want to provide even more services, but for the time being, things are going well.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

Thank you very much. That's your time.

We'll now turn to the Conservative Party. It looks like we only have one member here right now.

It's over to you.

4 p.m.

The Honourable K. Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, CPC

Thank you very much, Chair.

Thank you very much to the witnesses for taking the time to present to us today. It's greatly appreciated.

I've done a fair amount of work with Habitat for Humanity, and I'm delighted to see you're here and presenting.

Obviously, as a former minister of the Status of Women, I appreciate what all the rest of you have been doing, particularly to combat violence against women and girls.

My first questions are for you, John. Could you give us a clear idea of the specifics in the process for applying for these homes?

We're hearing from a wide range of organizations. They give us a sense of what their needs are, but at our last panel we also learned that many people don't even know that if they're in this circumstance, they can apply to CMHC for their full down payment and have it covered for multiple years.

We want to make sure those gaps in education are filled. Can you give us some of the processes for your organization, so that people are aware?

Then I have one other question for you.

4:05 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga

John Gerrard

Certainly.

The model that Habitat follows is in three steps. One, it is 30% of net income. In order to be selected for a Habitat home, you must be working in some form, or a hard-working family of quality. With that, you must be willing to be a good partner. Finally, you must be willing to commit 30% of your income to your housing.

Habitat goes through a very extensive selection process—home visits, interviews and working with other organizations. In some cases, we now work with organizations and they help us select the families.

4:05 p.m.

K. Kellie Leitch

On my other question, in the current programs offered by CMHC—which I know you end up accessing—what are some of the barriers that CMHC puts forward for an organization such as yours that we should be having a conversation about to make it easier for low-income families, particularly these single women who are coming from tragic situations, to be able to apply for a home and have a roof over their heads that they can depend on?

October 31st, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga

John Gerrard

That's a very good question, Kellie. I appreciate that.

The biggest challenge we face is speed in releasing of funds. That is clearly the biggest issue.

Projects are developed. They're presented and analyzed. In some cases, we could be waiting until a project is finished before we can access that funding, or the funding may change and it may come in stages.

The biggest challenge for many not-for-profit organizations is cash flow. Not having good, strong financial funding up front is what slows many of us down. If that funding were moved to the front of a project, I think you'd see a lot faster results.

4:05 p.m.

K. Kellie Leitch

You're saying we need criteria for national organizations like yours, or even smaller ones, so that you know what it is up front. Funds could be released at the front end of a project, as opposed to waiting until the back end.

4:05 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga

John Gerrard

That's correct, absolutely.

4:05 p.m.

K. Kellie Leitch

Ms. Kamateros, you mentioned quite a bit about the multicultural aspect and that you are helping to service women from many different backgrounds. You were going through a number of recommendations, and we didn't get to hear them all.

Could you outline what you think are the top three recommendations for our committee to consider for our report that we will be putting forward to the minister?

4:05 p.m.

Executive Director, The Shield of Athena - Family Services

Melpa Kamateros

I did do the top three, but I have others. Some of them are really peripheral, but I thought they were important.

One comment—and I say this with a lot of belief—is that after nearly 30 years of working in this area of violence against women, I have also seen the impact that prevention programs have had in getting women to the resources. This is really before the women even enter into the system of the resources.

What can we do in order to give them this option of choice?

It isn't fair for me if I speak English or for you if you speak French or for somebody else who speaks another language.... I don't want to say a language, because I don't want to criticize or whatever, but if we don't all speak the same language and information is available only in English and French, then there's no equitable way that these people, the women, the communities...because we also do a lot of work with communities. I believe that prevention is done with the victims, but also at the community level.

My recommendation is that more of these prevention programs take place and be funded by the federal government. Also, at the level of Status of Women, I know that projects are funded, but wouldn't it make more sense that if a project that is funded produces services that are very good for vulnerable clients, the project could be repeated?

I know the provision of services is a provincial element, but at the federal level perhaps something could be done in terms of the projects that are developed. If the services developed from these projects are good, maybe then that funding could be repeated.

4:10 p.m.

K. Kellie Leitch

Our colleagues from Laval, I would like to ask you a question. I apologize, I'll ask in English because I have a short period of time. My French would probably take up all the time. I'm assuming you have translation.

Your organization talks about an action plan to help women in vulnerable situations. I was wondering if you could tell us what you think those key one or two areas are that we should focus on for our report, which you have found the most valuable in helping the women in Laval.

4:10 p.m.

Coordinator, Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine

Marie-Ève Surprenant

As I was saying earlier, we really need to implement new shelter resources to manage both crisis and transition situations, not only for women victims of domestic violence, but also for women who are experiencing multiple issues.

In Laval, the challenge is really to be in a position to consider the full background of the women and to have the necessary resources to help them not only cope with the continuum of violence, but also manage their mental health, addiction and financial insecurity issues. We also want to ensure that women from cultural communities, women with disabilities and women who are deaf can access our services.

4:10 p.m.

K. Kellie Leitch

Thank you.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

Now we turn to the NDP for seven minutes.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses.

To both the Shield of Athena and to the Laval representatives, because you're both doing the front-line services and working directly with women who are seeking shelter from domestic violence, can you talk with us a little bit about the economic considerations and the interruptions in women's lives when they are considering leaving a dangerous situation, either coming physically into the first-level shelter or else just making the decision to leave their spouse?

We've been hearing from other witness testimony about the economic insecurity, the tendency when a women leaves an abusive relationship to put herself and her children into poverty.

Could you talk a bit about what you're hearing there, and then related to that, how paid leave from work might cover a woman? Five days is what is being proposed by this government just a couple of days ago. Back in 2004, I think, the Philippines did this. New Zealand has had it for quite some time. Many provinces in Canada have paid leave for victims of domestic violence, which might give them more confidence about the economic security for them and their children, and then give them that extra support in leaving a dangerous place.

4:10 p.m.

Executive Director, The Shield of Athena - Family Services

Melpa Kamateros

The idea of paid leave is good. It's a wonderful idea, but many of the women we work with who present within our network, in Laval in general as well in Montreal, come from various communities where little English or French is spoken. The idea of course of financial dependence is something that keeps them from leaving. Of course it does, but the idea of finding a job as well, I mean.... How can we refer women to employability programs who cannot even understand the language that is being spoken? We accept people in Canada, and we have to educate more.

This is one of the recommendations that I put in as well. We have to provide more training to service providers and to health care professionals, so that they can direct these women to venues, to areas that can help them perfect skills and learn a language. Actually, I have to say that a lot of the prevention work we do is directly through the French-language francization courses. That is a very good area where we can sort of give out the information.

The reality is that there's a lot of financial dependency. One of the first things the women get to do when they come to the shelter, if they don't have any money, is apply to welfare because for a certain time it's only through welfare that they can subsist with their children. Part of the need for the transitional homes is so that the woman can be given some time so she can go through an educational period. She can go through an employability session and eventually become autonomous.

There's no clear-cut easy solution. I think the paid benefits are great, but what happens to women who are not working and can't work for a while?

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Just to be clear, I understand and appreciate the clientele with whom you are specifically working. In this case, this is a woman who has a job already, but there will be an interruption in her ability to work.