Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Hello, colleagues. Boozoo. Aaniin. As-salaam alaikum. I hope you're well. I hope you're safe. I wish the same for your loved ones and for your teams.
Given that this is my first time in front of a committee in our post-COVID world, let me take this opportunity to thank the public service of Canada for all the ways that you've put everything on the line. We are truly blessed to have the world's best public service moving Canada forward during this difficult time. Also, of course, it's wonderful to be here with Minister Qualtrough, who has been moving some significant pieces forward, not the least of which is the CERB program.
Madam Chair, I am very much looking forward to the response that comes from your committee as we navigate the ongoing impacts of the pandemic on the most vulnerable, on women and on the path to recovery. I want to thank you for the work there.
I'll talk about our government's response to COVID. I would like to spend a bit of time talking about the impact on women and the road to recovery, but first let me talk about this book. Those of you from Winnipeg and those of you who have been around the last little while know that Runaway Wives and Rogue Feminists is a book that tells the story of the women's shelter movement in Canada. Maybe I'll start with that.
In 1971, the Liberal government of the day introduced the local initiatives programs and the opportunities for youth program. These programs were to support those who were experiencing particular vulnerabilities during a time of severe economic downturn. The programs encouraged Canadians, particularly women and young people, to find solutions to pressing local challenges and receive a modest amount of funding from the federal government to help turn those ideas and solutions into action.
Among the many ideas that came forward was one put together by young women across the country. They came together in the early seventies and started women's shelters in Canada, the very first women's shelters in Canada. Today, there are some 600 women's shelters in Canada because a group of young women came together to ensure that battered women and their children had a place to go in their hour of need. In 1996, my family and I were able to stay at one of those shelters.
Because of a decision that was made in 1971 and because of investments made in 1971, people today are benefiting from the thoughts, the creativity and the opportunities that have been created. We are going to see young people seize opportunities to propose solutions that we haven't thought of, and the story of the shelter movement in Canada is a really good reminder of the opportunities that can be seized in times of difficulty.
When the pandemic hit, one of our immediate responses was to provide $50 million to organizations that are providing support to those experiencing increased rates of gender-based violence due to the isolation measures in Canada. Today, some one thousand organizations have been able to keep their doors open, have been able to keep their staff paid and have been able to keep their buildings clean and provide a place of refuge for women and children in really dark hours.
We started our efforts by focusing on shelters and sexual assault centres, and then we were able to flow funds in a new way, in a way that we hadn't done before, to organizations that provide gender-based violence supports but do so without having the specific mandate of being a shelter or sexual assault centre. This includes a range of organizations that, for example, are doing work in the Downtown Eastside, organizations that are working in smaller rural communities and, of course, organizations that are providing supports to victims of human trafficking.
There is more to do. There is more to come. We are moving forward with the plan to develop Canada's first national action plan on gender-based violence, and I will have more to say very soon about our efforts to support victims of human trafficking in this country.
From the very beginning, we recognized that those who were most vulnerable would be hardest hit by COVID, and every step we've taken has taken that into account. The intersectional gendered lens that the Government of Canada applies has been applied to all of our efforts. I am happy to talk more about that.
There has also been a recognition that women have been hardest hit by COVID, with jobs lost and their work on the front lines and the care responsibilities they taken on because schools and day cares have been closed and because elders have needed help—as well as the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence. Women have been hardest hit, and if we're going to get out of this “she-cession”, we're going to have to support women in their need to get back to work and to ensure that we remove barriers. Otherwise, we lose the hard-won gains that so many before us have fought for.
Our focus on the vulnerable has led to millions of Canadians being supported.
The thousand organizations that we were able to support with gender-based violence funds have an impact in supporting some three million women and children in this country.
The CERB has benefited over eight million Canadians. The CEWS, or the wage subsidy, has supported close to three million workers. The Canada child benefit top-up has supported 3.7 million families with kids. The GST credit top-up has supported 12 million low- and modest-income individuals and families. The CESB has supported some 600,000 students. The OAS and GIS top-ups have supported 6.7 million elders in our country, and they will be receiving the top-up this week. The CEBA loans have supported 688,000 businesses, and there are additional supports for those businesses being worked out.
Madam Chair, the road to recovery from this unprecedented global pandemic will be hard. We are still in the middle of the pandemic. There's still a lot that we don't know about the virus, including how it spreads. I am proud of the way that Canadians have come together in shared sacrifice to protect the most vulnerable.
I am grateful to everyone who has been on the front lines of this work, particularly the women, who have put everything on the line. Some have had to have some really difficult conversations with their loved ones about why they can't be in the same house with them because they do work on the front lines. I'm talking about front-line workers.
The road to recovery has to include supporting women and the most vulnerable. There is an opportunity here too. The pandemic has revealed strengths in our system: for example, the public service of Canada; for example, our democratic institutions; and, for example, our universal health care system. It has also exposed cracks in our system that make too many vulnerable. We have an opportunity in the path to recovery, in the reimagining of our country and these systems, to rebuild back better. It's going to take every single one of us to work together to make that happen.
I want to thank you again for giving me a space. I want to thank everybody who has worked so hard to make this different way of doing business and doing Parliament possible.
I'll hand it back over to you, Madam Chair. I look forward to the conversation we are to have.