Evidence of meeting #36 for Status of Women in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was young.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

​Gabrielle Fayant  Co-Founder and Helper, Assembly of Seven Generations
Chelsea Minhas  Director, Clinical Services and Complex Care, Covenant House Vancouver
Tamara Angeline Medford-Williams  Director, Black Community Initiatives, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada
Sonia Alimi  Senior Research Associate, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada
Amber Crowe  Executive Director, Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child and Family Services

11 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to meeting number 36 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted on Tuesday, February 1, the committee will resume its study of the mental health of young women and girls.

Today’s meeting is taking place in a hybrid format pursuant to the House Order of June 23, 2022. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application.

I would like to make a few comments for the benefit of the witnesses and members. Please wait until I recognize you by name before speaking. For those participating by video conference, click on the microphone icon to activate your mike, and please mute yourself when you are not speaking. For interpretation for those on Zoom, you have the choice at the bottom of your screen of either the floor, English or French. For those in the room, you can use the earpiece and select the desired channel.

All comments should be addressed through the Chair. For members in the room, if you wish to speak, please raise your hand. For members on Zoom, please use the “raise hand” function. The clerk and I will manage the speaking order as best we can, and we appreciate your patience and understanding in this regard.

In accordance with our routine motion, I am informing the committee that all witnesses have completed the required connection testing in advance.

Before we get to everything, there is a motion that I need to have passed this morning. It's regarding our group from Armenia. Do we have agreement from the committee to cover the costs of hospitality, including the purchase of a gift to be provided at the informal meeting with the Armenian delegation on Tuesday, October 25, 2022? I'm looking for a motion in agreement on this.

Thank you, Andréanne.

Do we have full agreement on this?

(Motion agreed to)

That's fantastic.

I would like to also provide this trigger warning. This is a difficult study. We will be discussing experiences related to mental health. This may be triggering for viewers, members or staff with similar experiences. If you feel distressed or if you need help, please advise the clerk.

As you know, today there has been a change of notice. Today's meeting will go until 12:15. We'll try to make sure everything is nice and compact.

Today we have some incredible witnesses. I would like to welcome Gabrielle Fayant from the Assembly of Seven Generations. We also have, from Covenant House, Chelsea Minhas, who is online; from the DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada, Tamara Angeline Medford-Williams and Sonia Alimi; and from Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child and Family Services, Amber Crowe.

We will pass the floor over for five minutes to each organization and provide you that time. The first five minutes will go to Gabrielle.

Gabrielle, you have the floor for five minutes.

11 a.m.

​Gabrielle Fayant Co-Founder and Helper, Assembly of Seven Generations

[Witness spoke in indigenous language]


Hi, everyone. My name is Gabrielle Fayant. I'm the co-founder and a helper with the Assembly of Seven Generations.

I do want to also add a trigger warning. The realities of indigenous women and girls are very harsh. I wanted to put that out there.

I am the câpân of a great-grandmother who survived sexual violence and multiple forms of gender-based violence. I'm the granddaughter of a woman who was a product of sexual violence. I am the niece of an auntie who was murdered. I'm half-sister to a young woman who was stalked and murdered. I'm a friend of a woman whose remains were found in a condemned building in Ottawa. I am a community member to six indigenous women who died by suicide or were murdered in the last two months in the city of Ottawa.

I want it to be clear that the endemic gender-based violence and extreme overrepresentation of sexual violence and death experienced by indigenous women, girls and two-spirit folks are not isolated and stem back several generations. It's not just me who experiences this. Unfortunately, this is something that many indigenous women have in our families and within our communities.

This violence is directly linked to the systemic injustices within Canadian governments, which are at times intentional or willful blindness, but ultimately target those with the least privilege in this society.

Along with the threat of MMIWG2s+, indigenous women, girls and two-spirit folks continue to suffer from the intergenerational impacts of genocide via residential schools, from being overrepresented in the child welfare system, from being heavily targeted by police brutality and from being overrepresented in the criminal justice system, to name a few. These injustices are the biggest threat to the well-being of indigenous peoples. It would be an understatement to say that the mental health and well-being of indigenous women and girls is in a dire state.

Indigenous communities know the solutions to support and improve the lives of the youth that they work with. However, services for indigenous youth are also extremely underfunded or not funded at all, extremely limited, and often do not offer an intersectional approach to the multi-layered needs of indigenous peoples. We've seen large investments from governments to indigenous initiatives under the name of reconciliation. However, most are not in response to the calls to action that survivors made and, furthermore, are not getting to the ground where they are needed most.

To speak to these points, I want to talk about the struggles we experience with our youth organization, Assembly of Seven Generations. A7G is an indigenous-led non-profit located here in the traditional territory of the Algonquin peoples, specifically in Ottawa.

Every week, we serve 20 to 30 indigenous youth through a weekly drop-in. We do crisis interventions, suicide interventions, mental health supports, homelessness interventions, system navigation and street patrols to locate missing indigenous girls. We also do workshops, special events and activities from beading circles to feasts, round dances and land-based activities.

We do all of this with no core funding, no staff or salary capacity, no benefits, no time off, no secured facility and no land base to operate from. The caseload grows and grows to the point where we've had to close our door to new youth.

Over the last few years, we've been organizing with other indigenous youth groups, collectives and organizations across the country. We now have proof that these experiences are systemic. Over 10 indigenous youth groups have shared their stories with us from across Canada. Every group we talk to had an eerily similar experience with a lack of funding, lack of capacity and resources, and an overwhelming need to be a safety net for youth who fall between the cracks within the current systems that are in place.

Youth leaders are struggling to keep up with the demand to continue to hold things together because they know that if they're not there, they're the last resort for young people in their communities. Despite having funding or not, they have to keep doing the work.

Furthermore, the young people leading these life-saving groups and organizations are all indigenous women and girls themselves.

I do not have all the solutions for these enormous systemic problems, but I do know that community-based supports for young people, as outlined in TRC call to action 66, do work. However, we cannot continue to do this work on microgrants and unsustainable funding. It's leading to severe burnout, and without these youth groups in place, people are dying—and that's not an exaggeration at all. We've seen it within the last two months just here in Ottawa.


11:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Gabrielle, thank you so much for your testimony.

I'm now going to turn it over to Chelsea Minhas from Covenant House. She is online.

Go ahead, Chelsea.

11:05 a.m.

Chelsea Minhas Director, Clinical Services and Complex Care, Covenant House Vancouver

Good morning.

I would like to acknowledge the previous speaker and thank her for her words.

I know that you're all doing such amazing work out there.

My name is Chelsea Minhas, and I am the director of clinical services and complex care at Covenant House Vancouver.

I'm very grateful to be joining you today from the traditional lands of the Katzie, Kwantlen, Matsqui and Semiahmoo first nations.

Covenant House Vancouver was established in 1997 and is a leading expert dedicated to serving homeless and at-risk youth in the city of Vancouver and surrounding areas. We have values rooted in unconditional love and absolute respect. We offer a continuum of services using evidence-based theories and practices that ensure that we care for the whole person—mind, body, and spirit.

Our team creates individualized case plans with young people, each of which is tailored to meet the specific needs of youth using a one-size, fits-one approach. Our continuum currently includes street outreach, a drop-in centre, and a crisis program with over 60 beds, a supportive housing program that will expand to 44 beds in late spring. We are also in the process of opening stabilization beds and a low-barrier shelter.

We are also developing a specialized training and support system for trafficked and exploited youth with the support of WAGE Canada. We serve approximately 1,000 unique youth between the ages of 16 and 24 per year, and approximately 30% of those young people identify as LGBTQ, and approximately 30% of our young people identify as indigenous. Approximately 35% of our young people served identify as female, and 11% identify as trans and gender diverse.

There are many unique needs of the female identified population. Women and girls are a part of the hidden homeless population who are at an increased risk of such things as exploitation and trafficking. They are often overlooked in the statistics extrapolated from typical homeless counts. Women and girls are three times as likely to harm themselves and be hospitalized for self-harm behaviours.

More than half of Canadian youth and nearly two-thirds of young women feel that their anxiety, depression and stress levels are higher now than they ever have been before. Women and girls are often left behind in many areas of medicine, and mental health is no different. Many treatments are designed with men in mind and do not meet the unique needs of young women and girls.

The mental health of women and girls is often minimized by gendered language such as over-emotional and dramatic, and this is especially prevalent in the adolescent population where it's often minimized to be written off as over-hormonal teen girls. Women experience higher rates of intimate partner and gendered violence, sexual trauma and coercion, which has significant mental health impacts.

At Covenant House we have seen a substantial increase in the number of young women reporting sexual violence. At this time we have also seen an increase in the number of young women seeking shelter in our buildings. Our beds are full, and we are turning away young women for the first time in our 25-year history. We need support to open more beds and services for these young women.

Not only does being homeless and at risk of being homeless contribute to mental health, but it also impacts one's journey to wellness. It is very difficult to address and engage one's mental health when you are in a fight-or-flight response or trying to get your very basic needs met.

Twenty per cent of the Canadian homeless population is aged 13 to 24, and 35,000 to 45,000 youth experience homelessness every year in this country.

The overdose crisis is impacting young women as well. We are losing women and girls, and we must do better. We cannot ignore the intersection of mental health and substance use.

There are things we can do, and here are some of our recommendations: Invest in complex care housing as a part of a system of care and housing continuum of care that combines housing and support services under one roof. In the case of young people, there needs to be an expertise in adolescent development inside these organizations. An adult system cannot simply be put onto youth.

Multiple studies have shown that investing in complex care housing reduces other taxpayer-funded expenses relating to social services, health care, legal issues and shelters.

We are also asking that the parliamentary committees undertake a study to investigate and make recommendations on the challenges and systemic barriers facing youth at risk of becoming homeless.

We also recommend that 20% of all funding for housing goes towards youth up to the age of 30.

11:15 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Chelsea, we're going to have to come back to you for the remainder of your recommendations, but thank you so much. We will get back to you for sure.

We're now going to turn it over to the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada. In the room, we have Tamara and Sonia to share the five minutes.

You have the floor.

11:15 a.m.

Tamara Angeline Medford-Williams Director, Black Community Initiatives, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada

Thank you.

First, we want to applaud all of the speakers for their bravery in talking about a topic that impacts many of us.

The DisAbled Women's Network of Canada is a feminist, cross-disability human rights organization that works to address systems of oppression using an intersectional lens with a focus on disability. We are located on the unceded Kanien'kéha Nation's territory of Tiohtià:ke in Montreal.

According to Statistics Canada, 24% of young women and girls living in Canada currently have a disability and are a critically underprivileged and disadvantaged group that faces intersecting oppression such as disproportionate rates in poverty, violence, discrimination and incarceration, all of which creates a catalyst of mental health issues.

According to a recent study, disability correlated with mental illness and was closely associated with psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and a plethora of other mental and behavioural disorders.

The study concluded that individuals with disabilities experience increased instances of mental health issues with greater difficulties in the areas of self-care, interpersonal relationships, work functioning, communication and understanding.

Another aspect of young women's and girls' identities that are paramount to their mental health is race and the prevalence of race-based trauma, which is defined as an “emotional or physical pain or the threat of emotional or physical pain stemming from...discrimination...harassment” or aversive hostility.

In Canada, 35% of Black and indigenous women and girls live with a disability, and empirical evidence has drawn a connection between racism and substandard mental health. Systemic inequalities also impact the way certain marginalized communities access resources and social supports. For instance, Black children and youth in Canada face disproportionate challenges in accessing mental health care.

A recent study that was aimed to measure the relationship of perceived discrimination with other mental health outcomes such as depression, suicide attempts and alcoholism among indigenous individuals found that discrimination was correlated with higher alcohol use and suicide attempts, and protective factors such as involvement in traditional activities disappeared when respondents had suffered from high levels of perceived discrimination.

This creates a basis where mental health issues are further compounded by the psychological stress of systemic racism. Overall, this is particularly concerning if the medical assistance in dying is being extended to individuals with mental health disabilities, and may be extending to youth in the future.

11:15 a.m.

Sonia Alimi Senior Research Associate, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada

Ms. Medford‑Williams, thank you for sharing that data. It helps us to be more alert with respect to the imbrication of racism, ableism, other systems of oppression, and the topic at hand today.

To expand on this analysis a bit and enter into more detailed statistics, we have to keep in mind that the most common disability among young people is tied to mental health. According to data gathered by Statistics Canada in 2017, this impairment affected roughly 60% of more than half a million young people with a disability 15 to 24. Young women are overrepresented in that number. Out of a total of 325,670 young people, 213,000 were young women, representing 65% of the sample. That is a lot.

I will not go back over everything that has been said, but I would like to mention something with respect to race and disability. In 2010, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation noted in a report that “a third of all deaths among Aboriginal youth are attributable to suicide”. What is more, a recent U.S. study from 2018 shows that racism has the greatest impact on the health of young black children, whose suicide rate is the highest of all young children.

In 2020, we ran a project with Nelly Bassily at the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada. We focused on the social problems encountered by young girls with disabilities and we paid particular attention to invisible disabilities, including mental disabilities.

There are two problems that I would like to highlight because they rarely receive much attention when this subject is studied.

First, when children are incarcerated, they can develop a mental disability that will have repercussions on their mental health. The Canadian Council for Refugees condemns the presence of children at detention and retention centres. It states that during the year 2018‑19, Canada detained more than 118 children. An open letter signed by more than 2,000 professionals indicates that these detention conditions have adverse consequences to the children's health, especially their mental health.

Second, when we talk about mental health, especially in girls, we are also talking about self-esteem and body image. That is another problem that needs to be addressed. I could provide more details during the period for questions.

Thank you for listening.

11:20 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thank you so much—including for seeing my wild arms going, Sonia.

We'll now move it over to Amber Crowe, who is online.

Amber, you have five minutes.

11:20 a.m.

Amber Crowe Executive Director, Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child and Family Services

Thank you.

Good morning. My name is Amber Crowe. I'm the executive director of Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child and Family Services. I am anishinaabekwe from Alderville First Nation.

I would like to say thank you to the previous speakers. It's my humble honour and privilege to also be here today to speak on behalf of indigenous—first nations, Inuit and Métis—women and girls, whose voices often go unheard.

Colonization and the forced assimilation of our people into Canadian society has negatively impacted, and continues to negatively impact, our people, communities and nations. Our women and girls often experience greater negative impacts due to western views of gender roles and the sexualization of women. Overrepresentation in child welfare is rampant across the country. In Canada, an indigenous or first nations child is 17 times more likely to be placed in formal, out-of-home care, which leads to significant mental health issues for both children and mothers. Indigenous people have nearly four times the risk of experiencing severe trauma than the non-indigenous population, and these traumas contribute to their overrepresentation and involvement in the child welfare system.

There are many reasons why indigenous women and girls experience severe trauma. We can look at adverse childhood experiences, which, according to a 2021 study, are reported to be higher among indigenous populations compared with non-indigenous.... Higher adverse childhood experience scores for indigenous participants were associated with increased rates of suicidality and psychological distresses.

What I would like to draw your attention to, today, is something called “protective factors”. For indigenous women and girls, cultural identity, belonging and connectedness are protective factors that can reduce the impact of those negative experiences and traumas. Protective factors are particularly important for our women and girls, because our identities are put into question and stolen. We have experienced this throughout our history—the residential school system and loss of status in the Indian Act. This has impacted many generations.

The loss of identity makes it nearly impossible to belong. As human beings, we are hard-wired for belonging. As indigenous peoples, interconnectedness and interrelations are the reasons for our being. Knowing and understanding who we are in the world helps us move through it and connect with others. When we don't have it, we struggle to belong and suffer.

Indigenous women are approximately three times more likely than non-indigenous women to be victims of violent crime. When these women have children, which most do...this also contributes to their overrepresentation in the child welfare system. More than six in 10 indigenous women have experienced physical or sexual assault in their lifetime, while almost half of indigenous women have experienced sexual assault. At 42%, indigenous women are more likely than non-indigenous women, at 27%, to have been physically or sexually abused by an adult during childhood and to have experienced harsh parenting by a parent or guardian. Indigenous women are more than twice as likely to report having not very much or no confidence in the police compared with non-indigenous women.

Indigenous women are almost six times more likely than non-indigenous women to have been under the legal responsibility of the government. About eight in 10 indigenous women who were under the legal responsibility of the government have experienced lifetime violent victimization. Involvement in the child welfare system leads to lifetimes of violence, victimization and mental health issues; being under the legal responsibility of the government is associated with greater likelihood of lifetime violent victimization—about 81% of indigenous women who were under the legal responsibility of the government have experienced lifetime violent victimization.

Individuals whose parents attended residential schools are at increased risk for greater depressive symptoms, suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder and general psychological distress. For example, studies found that involvement in spiritual activities and having a sense of cultural identity and connectedness were associated with positive mental health outcomes, despite adverse childhood experiences. These are some of the protective factors.

Furthermore, studies have shown that children's involvement with the child welfare system, particularly if they were removed from their mothers, results in significant impacts to their mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

According to the Native Women's Association of Canada, indigenous women make up only 4% of the Canadian population.

11:25 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thank you so much for that, Amber. We'll make sure we get more of this information as we get into the questions and answers.

We're going to start our rounds of questions. The first round is six minutes, and we will start with Michelle Ferreri.

Michelle, you have six minutes.

11:25 a.m.


Michelle Ferreri Conservative Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to all of our witnesses.

There is important testimony from each one of you. I appreciate your all being here. This is sensitive subject matter that impacts all of us—our futures and kids.

I'm going to start, if you don't mind, with Chelsea from Covenant House.

Chelsea, I know you had a few more recommendations. I want to give you the floor so you can finish those recommendations.

11:25 a.m.

Director, Clinical Services and Complex Care, Covenant House Vancouver

Chelsea Minhas

Thank you so much.

As I said, we're looking at the recommendation of investing in complex care housing. We're requesting that a parliamentary committee undertake a study to investigate the recommendations on the challenges and systemic barriers facing youth who are at risk of becoming homeless, and that this study include youth aging out of the foster care system. As we know, those youth are at increased risk for, and report higher rates of, mental health distress. Take into consideration the long-term economic benefits of investing in youth and support services.

We're also requesting that the Government of Canada allocate 20% of all funding for housing towards youth up to the age of 30, and that a subset of said funding is allocated specifically for youth with complex care needs, up to the age of 24.

We know adolescents need wraparound supports. As I mentioned, it's not as simple as taking an adult system and putting it on top of an adolescent issue. There needs to be adequate programming that takes into consideration the complex and unique needs of adolescents.

We know every single small act we undertake to increase access to protective factors for youth.... When we're talking about prevention and mental health for young people, we're talking about protective factors such as education, sanitation, clean water, housing, employment and transportation. Empower young people and provide opportunities for them to access the supports they need, in their journey and transition to adulthood, in a healthy way that supports their mental health.

We know an investment in young people is an investment in prevention. If we can intervene in the right way at the right time, along the arc of a young person's life, the outcomes can have infinite ripples in our communities. Not only will these things impact the young person, they will also impact their friends, friend's families, aunties, uncles and future children. Investing in the mental health of young people is an investment in our future.

11:25 a.m.


Michelle Ferreri Conservative Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Thank you so much, Chelsea. I couldn't agree with you more.

What we have, right now, is a real conundrum. We have all-time inflation and an all-time affordability crisis. Everybody needs money and investment, but, if we intervene at crisis too much, we're not actually going into prevention. At the same time, there are all these people in the middle of a crisis. It is a very challenging situation—trying to help everyone. I often think about it.

Visualize walking through a field. You're a soldier, and you can only save two people, yet you have to save everyone.

How do we do that? How do we make the best federal policy decisions to ensure we have healthy adults? That's why I think this particular study is so critical...when we look at housing and youth.

I have one question. I don't know who wants to answer it.

We know the mental health of the mother is critical. I don't know whether you are all familiar with what, I think, is the number one book, right now. My daughter wanted me to read it this weekend, and whenever my daughter tells me to read a book, I say, “Okay", because it's obviously important to her. It's called I'm Glad My Mom Died, by Jennette McCurdy. I don't know whether you are all familiar with this book. It's very powerful.

I guess my question is.... I look at you, Gabrielle. You talk about acknowledgement followed by action.

How do we prevent the removal of the mother, who is not intentionally parenting traumatically or harmfully, because it's generational trauma? How do we take care of the mother and offer resources so she, herself, can heal and, in essence, not repeat the patterns she learned?

11:30 a.m.

Co-Founder and Helper, Assembly of Seven Generations

​Gabrielle Fayant

Yes, that's a really important question.

A lot of services right now are crisis based, as you were just mentioning, and we need to move into prevention, into methods of prevention.

We've also done a lot of reports on children in care, and that's what children in care also ask for. They want preventative methods to keep families together before removing the child happens, which is the instant reaction: “There's a problem here, so let's remove the child.” There's no prevention in place.

All of these things that aren't being addressed keep getting pushed further and further back into the next generation, and all the problems are just so huge for us to tackle at this point, but we have to start somewhere. For me, it always go back to the work we do, and that's really around TRC call to action 66. It talks about “community-based youth” programming. There's no federal youth programming out there. It just doesn't exist. A lot of these young people have to grasp at micro grants to support large amounts of work, and the weight of all of this on our shoulders is just incredible. Sometimes I think it's a miracle that we're still pushing through, but we're so strong as young women.

Thank you for the question.

11:30 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thanks so much, Gabrielle and Michelle.

I'm now going to turn it over for six minutes to Jenna Sudds.

October 31st, 2022 / 11:30 a.m.


Jenna Sudds Liberal Kanata—Carleton, ON

Thank you very much, Chair.

Thank you to all of the witnesses for some very impactful testimony here today.

My first question is for Ms. Crowe. We've heard from many organizations for this study how important and effective culturally informed or culturally appropriate services are in particular for young women and girls. I know that you started to speak a bit about cultural identity and protective factors, so I'm wondering if you can expand upon some of the challenges that youths face and what treatments are being offered through your organization or in your community to support them.

11:30 a.m.

Executive Director, Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child and Family Services

Amber Crowe

Sure, and thank you for that question.

Just like the previous speaker said, you can't take an adult program, impose it on youth and have it work. It's the same for indigenous populations. You can't take a mainstream program and apply it to an indigenous population and expect it to work the same. The world views and the approaches need to be adjusted for the population to be served.

The land-based cultural and ceremonial supports and the identity-supporting pieces of the programming need to be there in order for programs to be effective for first nations, Métis and Inuit children, youth and families. I would say that at our organization we have experienced first-hand how much those pieces of our service model impact and have a positive outcome for the families we serve, especially in comparison to the mainstream services and programs they were accessing.

Because we are a new indigenous child well-being agency, very many of the almost 1,200 files we currently have open came to us from a mainstream agency, so we have a comparator between how they were being served before and how they're being served now. We have a number of services and positions within our organizations that mainstream child welfare does not have, and those pieces in particular, around culture and ceremony, protecting and nurturing their identity and having their identity as part of the service model, make an incredible difference.

11:35 a.m.


Jenna Sudds Liberal Kanata—Carleton, ON

That's excellent. Thank you very much. That's very helpful testimony.

Next I'd like to go to Ms. Alimi.

Near the end of your testimony, you started on the topic of the challenges of self-confidence and body image and the contribution to mental health challenges for young women. I just wanted to give you the opportunity to finish that sentiment or to expand upon it.

11:35 a.m.

Senior Research Associate, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada

Sonia Alimi

In our report, we observed the extent to which the low representation of girls and young women with disabilities contributes to aggravating their state, causing them to also have a mental disability.

For women and young girls who do not have a physical disability and who live in a patriarchal society with normative bodies, the way they understand their body and move about in society will be influenced by how others look at them, especially by the negative regard for certain bodies.

For any woman living in a patriarchal society, and for any woman in this room, this will undeniably have an effect on her mental health, the same way that in a racist or colonialist society, people who intersect different oppressions cannot be freed from the weight this has on their mental health.

Unfortunately, we do not have the privilege of being in bodies that are not impacted by social obstacles that obstruct our way of living and moving. To us women, living in a patriarchal society strongly influences our way of being in our body as well as our mental health.

11:35 a.m.


Jenna Sudds Liberal Kanata—Carleton, ON

Thank you very much.

I believe I have just one minute left. Just quickly I'd like to go to Ms. Minhas. We've heard through the pandemic that home of course is not a safe place for everyone, sadly, and that 2SLGBTQI+ youth in particular can face additional challenges with acceptance at home, a situation that can often lead to homelessness.

Ms. Minhas, how prevalent is this situation in the community you're serving, and what types of supports are being offered to these youth?

11:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

You have 30 seconds to respond.

11:35 a.m.

Director, Clinical Services and Complex Care, Covenant House Vancouver

Chelsea Minhas

I have 30 seconds. I could do a whole session on this.

About 30% of the young people we serve identify in that way and they do present with unique challenges. It is a form of trauma to be sent away from your home and to feel as though you are not worthy of anything. We do see increased violence in this population because these young people are putting themselves in situations that they really have no choice but to be in, and they are at increased risk for exploitation and so many things. That's it in 30 seconds.

11:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

I'm sorry, and that was with an additional few seconds in there. I'm sorry about that.

Now we're going to pass it over to Andréanne.

Andréanne, we'll give you six minutes.

11:35 a.m.


Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Ladies, thank you for being here today. You remind us that the issue of mental health is truly complex and that we need to be working on it. You also remind us to think about prevention, not just healing. It is with that in mind that I will ask my first questions.

Ms. Minhas, in your preliminary remarks, you addressed the issue of housing. We see that things are not going to improve with inflation and that it is becoming increasingly difficult.

You talked about the link between the challenge of housing and people with mental health problems. I would like you to talk about the importance of transferring money for housing and the importance of making it as recurring as possible, to make it predictable for agencies and people. I would also like you to explain the connection between mental health and adequate housing.

11:40 a.m.

Director, Clinical Services and Complex Care, Covenant House Vancouver

Chelsea Minhas

Absolutely. There is definitely a link between housing and mental health. Not only does lack of housing impact mental health, but if you are struggling with your mental health, that can also oftentimes impact your ability to secure market housing for a variety of reasons, whether that is cost or lack of supports to help you maintain that housing.

So when it comes to mental health, what we really need is a system of complex-care housing, a continuum of housing that meets the diverse needs of those people who are living with mental health conditions, whether those are diagnosed or undiagnosed. What we know is that adolescence—the population we serve—is a time when mental health challenges often start to emerge. We need to be able to support these young people where they're at, using a continuum of options, whether that is fully supported housing where the units are staffed 24-7—sometimes it's more commonly known as mental-health housing—all the way to market housing where these young people choose to be but have supports available to them when they struggle or just someone to check in with. These are young people with growing, developing brains who are beginning their journey into adulthood, and we need to have options for them.

It's very difficult, especially in the market in Vancouver—where we're serving young people—where the rent rates are astronomical and the availability of units is so slim. We need an investment in housing. However, not only do we need an investment in housing, but also we need to ensure that a certain number of units are saved for young people and that there are buildings that are specific to adolescents.

What we know is that, when their units are just inside adult buildings, our young people don't feel safe. They're at higher risk of exploitation, specifically our young women. Some of them believe that the streets are safer than some of those adult buildings where they're being exploited behind closed doors, so making sure that we have youth-specific housing is extremely important.