House of Commons Hansard #229 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was smoking.


Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is actually Longueuil—Saint-Hubert. St-Hubert is the BBQ chicken place. I am just kidding around.

I would like to thank my colleague for her speech about something that is part of everyday life for so many people. Like many others, I too smoked for a long time. Fortunately, I never tried vaping, because personally, I think it can have the same hold on people as cigarettes.

As my colleague explained, a lot of people get excited about vaping and use their e-cigarettes as much as they would otherwise smoke cigarettes. I have seen plenty of excellent smoking cessation ads that depict people outside in -20 degree Celsius weather smoking a cigarette in the snow and cold. People still do that with e-cigarettes.

My colleague mentioned that she is in regular contact with two addiction prevention centres in her riding, so I can see that she knows whereof she speaks.

I would like her to comment on what we can do to prevent young people from thinking it is cool to vape. E-cigarettes come in a wide variety of styles, and it always surprises me that they are sold in certain types of places, often located near other businesses that I would not necessarily want my children patronizing. I think this issue is very important, and I hope I am not pushing my luck by talking about this.

I think this is a very relevant issue nowadays, and I would like my colleague to comment on it, given that she seems to know much more about it than I do.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I believe that this bill is a first step. There are still many questions that we do not have answers to. A lot more independent research must be done because we still do not know much about the health effects of e-cigarettes and related devices. The impact that the introduction of these nicotine products is having on young people and the efforts being made by prevention organizations are not yet sufficiently well documented.

Are their efforts making a difference? Are they taking the right approach? Are there better ways of doing things?

I asked the parliamentary secretary earlier if the government plans to provide more funding for independent research projects that will help us answer these questions and do more in the way of prevention.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon I will be sharing my time with the member for Haldimand—Norfolk.

I am addressing Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. The possible implications of this bill are not conclusive but should be investigated by the Standing Committee on Health.

Our party strongly supports reducing smoking among all Canadians, especially our youth. This has been reflected in the numerous policies we put forward while in government.

Vaping, which is often considered a healthier alternative to smoking, is addressed in this bill. Although it may be healthier, nicotine is still an addictive substance, which requires public education on the associated risks and numerous regulations on access. Establishing plain packaging policies for tobacco products is one of the other primary components of this bill.

There is currently conflicting research on the market impacts of this bill, and therefore there should be thorough studies obtained. We need to ensure that this bill will in fact do what it is intended to do: lower smoking rates. We must also consider alternative tobacco products. Although some may be substantially healthier than smoking, the industry has been unable to demonstrate that or market these products to consumers, because they are considered tobacco products. This dilemma should be explored.

Smoking is harmful, and we are proud to support policies that reduce the rate of smoking in Canada. The previous Conservative government introduced numerous measures to curb smoking rates. These included larger, updated warning labels; the banning of flavours attractive to children; the removal of loopholes exploited by large tobacco companies; and heightened regulations on advertising. As a result of these policies, we were able to get Canada to an all-time low smoking rate, I am proud to say. Smoking rates for adolescent males dropped by almost 40%, and by 44% for adolescent females. We believe that these fortunate declines in smoking rates among adolescents were a direct result of these policies.

We strongly believe in the health and safety of all Canadians and further minimizing smoking, and vaping may be an opportunity to do so.

The safety of vaping has had minimal research. However, it is certainly a large improvement over conventional cigarettes. The smoke of conventional cigarettes contains significantly more dangerous substances, many of which are carcinogenic, including tar, benzene, cadmium, and arsenic. Although e-cigarettes have been found to contain levels of cancer-causing compounds, such as nitrosamines and formaldehyde, the level at which these chemicals are found are about a thousand times lower than they are in conventional cigarettes. Some studies have even proven that vaping has the ability to assist individuals in quitting smoking. Because some e-cigarettes come with assorted amounts of nicotine, individuals are able to gradually step down their intake and eventually quit completely.

With the legalization of nicotine in vaping products such as e-cigarettes, education and research are imperative. Nicotine is still a harmful substance, even if it is not smoked. According to Health Canada, nicotine increases heart rate and blood pressure, constricts blood vessels, lowers the body temperature of the extremities, alters brain waves, and relaxes muscles, not to mention that it is a highly addictive substance. With addictive substances, individuals are prone to withdrawal symptoms up to a month following quitting. These symptoms include dizziness and shakiness, headaches, anxiety and irritability, nervousness and restlessness, difficulty concentrating and sleeping, increased appetite, slight depression or feeling down, and increased cravings.

We need to ensure that sufficient education is done on the risks associated with nicotine. Most individuals know that smoking is hazardous and causes cancer, but the public must also understand the risks associated with other nicotine technologies.

The bill also intends to implement plain packaging for the tobacco industry, similar to what was employed by Australia. However, Australia had inconsistent results following their implementation in 2012. Essentially, it removed trademarks, logos, non-prescribed colours and graphics, allowing only the use of a brand name and a prescribed size and font. When Australia reviewed the policy in 2016 to determine if smoking rates had declined, some experts observed that there was nothing statistically significant to suggest that smoking rates had lowered as a result of applying plain packaging to tobacco products.

Although plain packaging has had a negligible impact on smoking rates, it has had a major impact on market dynamics. Since it is now more difficult to tell the difference between tobacco brands, the price of cigarettes has become more of a determining factor. There has been a marked drop in the sale of premium brands and a marked increase in the sale of lesser known brands. Many premium brands have been taken off the market and become obsolete.

According to some reports, contraband tobacco has also become more popular since plain packaging policies have come into effect. However, professionals in the field actively dispute this supposed rise in popularity because the reports in question were commissioned by tobacco companies and are most likely biased.

The Canadian Cancer Society does not believe that plain packaging has led to an increased use of contraband tobacco and it maintains that Canada's advanced tax stamp system prevents counterfeiting.

Technological advancements also make us reflect on what is included in the definition of tobacco products and vaping products. The bill seeks to recognize that vaping products are a healthier alternative to tobacco products. It also recognizes that there are some so-called tobacco products, at least technically, that the scientific community regards as healthier alternatives.

The Standing Committee on Health needs to examine the possibility of allowing businesses to promote those products to consumers, or at least to people who have no intention of quitting smoking.

The United Kingdom and New Zealand expanded the scope of their definition regarding healthier alternatives that could replace nicotine and tobacco use. A wide range of replacement products can be found all around the world, including heat-not-burn cigarettes, moist smokeless tobacco, and nicotine soluble and inhalable products.

We must look at the potential impact of the sale and promotion of these products to target groups. We must make sure that Canadians are familiar with alternatives to using tobacco, particularly people who have no desire to quit smoking. If they manage to adopt a healthier habit, this will likely help bring down health care costs in Canada, which could also increase efficiency.

There is a lot to consider with the bill and it is imperative that answers are provided to the unknowns I have just mentioned. Consequently, I suggest the bill to go to committee to receive a compressive examination. As parliamentarians, we have a duty to do our best at improving the health of Canadians. I believe the bill, with proper oversight, has the potential to do so.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Before we go to questions and comments, I want to remind the hon. members that when we refer to someone else in the House, we refer to them by their riding or title, not by their name.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we have the legislation before us today because the government is very genuine in its concern about the health of young people. I suspect all members of the chamber are concerned about the health and well-being of our young people. At times, we need to make changes to do what we can to prevent things such as the possibility of increased smoking. As a whole, our young people have done a fantastic job, even among themselves, in seeing the number of people smoking consistently going down over the years.

My question for the member is very similar to a question I asked one of her colleagues. One of the best ways to get fewer people smoking is to allow young people to educate themselves and, in particular, to educate their peers. I am interested in her thoughts on that.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Mr. Speaker, education is absolutely a very important part of any consideration we make in the House. I am asking for more consideration and more facts. We want to make decisions with the best possible information.

It is almost always impossible to have perfect information, but we would not buy a car without checking other types of vehicles, or look at the potential gas mileage of a vehicle, or know its safety record, or perhaps check the blue book value. We would not purchase homes without considering if they were in good neighbourhoods in which to raise our children. We would not choose spouses without knowing their values and whether we and our families could get along. We always need the best information possible when make these types of decisions.

I am asking exactly for that. We need more information about results. It is always excellent to do benchmarking, whether within our own nation or comparative with other nations. It is absolutely fantastic to do that. However, in regard to education, influencing our young people, and making decisions, we always want the best information and as much information as possible.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech and especially for her efforts to speak French.

Earlier, I was thinking about e-cigarettes and wondering whether the members across the way feel the same way I do, that we must ensure that e-cigarette advertising does not lead anyone to believe that it might be a good idea to smoke e-cigarettes, and that they are a safe alternative to tobacco.

Would you agree to regulations prohibiting the use of a prestigious, internationally known tobacco trademark on such devices? Do you think it is imperative to regulate this alternative product, these e-cigarettes?

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Again, I would remind the hon. member to address the chair and not other members directly.

The hon. member for Calgary Midnapore.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

I think that it is important for us to explore all our options and all the information on the existing products, the ones we are researching. As I said, it is always better to have more information than not, and I think that includes the various products and ways in which they would be marketed. I think it is good to do that kind of research.

As I said, it is always better to have more information than not in order to make the best decisions.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add my thoughts to this important discussion on Bill S-5, an act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

One of the most important roles of any government is to protect the health and the safety of its citizens. As Conservatives, we have always taken this very seriously.

The previous Conservative government took a number of steps to improve the health of Canadians by funding and implementing various programs to reduce the smoking rate in Canada. Some of these initiatives included tightening advertising restrictions, banning flavoured cigarettes, which were seen as attractive to children, and introducing regulations for larger and updated warning labels. In fact, under the previous Conservative government, smoking rates among youth aged 15 to 19 decreased to 11%, representing the lowest rate recorded for this age group since Health Canada first reported smoking prevalence.

We invested over $650 million to reduce the smoking rate across all ages and partnered with the Canadian Cancer Society, providing it $5 million in partnership to launch the “Break it Off” tobacco cessation campaign to encourage young adults to quit smoking. These were positive concrete steps that were taken to help Canadians lead healthier lives, but Bill S-5 goes in a totally different direction.

As it is currently written, Bill S-5 plans to make two key changes to the Tobacco Act. The first change is to introduce a framework into the Tobacco Act that would regulate vaping products. The second key change is to implement plain packaging requirements for tobacco products.

I understand the stated goal behind Bill S-5 is to protect the health and safety of Canadians and to reduce youth smoking. However, as I read it, the bill quite frankly could do much more harm than good.

As I mentioned, Bill S-5 plans to implement plain packaging regulations that will see the outside packaging for cigarettes standardized as well as the cigarette stick itself. That means there will be no branding whatsoever. As a result, people who choose to smoke will not be able to tell one brand from another, either from the package or from the cigarette. Nor, indeed, will they be able to tell whether they have bought a legal product. In fact, law enforcement agencies will not be able to tell the difference either.

The government claims that this is designed to make the cigarettes less attractive to young people. That will in turn lower the youth smoking rate. I am concerned, on a number of fronts, that this portion of the legislation in particular will have just the opposite result.

My first concern is the impact that the plain packaging regulations could have on the contraband tobacco market in Canada. The reason why this market is a concern is that it is unregulated, unlicensed, and untaxed. Not only does the government lose an estimated $2 billion a year in taxes from the sale of illegal cigarettes, but the money that is made off them is used to fund very highly organized crime in Canada and abroad.

There are parts of our great country where contraband tobacco is big business. In some areas, it is reliably estimated that as much as 80% of cigarettes smoked are contraband. I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that there are also areas where the illegal cross-border trade of cigarettes between Canada and the U.S. is a serious and sometimes even a deadly business. That is how big the stakes are.

What does plain packaging have to do with contraband tobacco? By having a generic package for all cigarettes, it will make it much easier for contraband producers both to counterfeit and also to sell their own product, with little chance of getting caught.

This leads me to a second issue surrounding the safety of Canadians and their right to know what they are ingesting.

As the contraband tobacco market is unregulated, there is no way to determine, much less control, the chemical make-up of its cigarettes. Because the packaging and the cigarette stick will be indistinguishable from one brand to the next, Canadians who choose to smoke will not only be unable to tell whether they are receiving their brand, but they will also be unable to determine whether they are receiving legal, counterfeit, or a contraband product. Since there is no way to control what chemicals are actually in these cigarettes, this could result in negative health impacts for Canadians and cause even more harm instead of reducing it. Believe me, some contraband cigarettes have been known to have some rather nasty stuff in them.

To get back to the government's stated goal of harm reduction, I also have a serious concern regarding the wording within the legislation that bans companies from saying that one product is less harmful than another. For example, the harmful chemicals that enter a person's body when smoking do so mostly once the cigarette is ignited. There are currently products available that simply heat the tobacco instead of igniting it, which significantly reduces exposure to much of the harmful chemicals. These products have been proven to be significant aids to quitting smoking. However, if this legislation passes, Canadians will not even get to know about these products.

The second half of this legislation deals with vaping products, which have also been deemed to be a less harmful alternative to smoking. However, as consumers, Canadians would be unable to know that these products are less harmful for them because of the advertising ban that would ensue if this legislation is passed.

For a bill that is focused on harm reduction, it seems illogical that companies or even Health Canada would not be allowed to educate Canadians if there are less harmful alternatives out there.

In addition, the government claims that switching to plain packaging will decrease the smoking rate. My concern here is twofold. Throughout my research, and through consultation with a number of stakeholders, I have been unable to find reliable statistics that prove that implementing plain packaging reduces the urge for youth to start smoking. In my experience, they do not try smoking because they see a package and think it looks cool. In many parts of Canada, they cannot see the package anyway because by law it is hidden from view in stores. Rather, they try it because their friends are doing it, or because it is easy to access.

We all want to go home for the weekend, so I will spare everyone from going into the litany of problems in this bill, and how it contrasts with what the Liberals are putting forward in their marijuana legislation.

Back to my second concern, which is if we implement plain packaging and end up fuelling the contraband market we could actually see an increase in the rate of youth smoking as a result of accessibility. One of the reasons why contraband tobacco continues to be popular is because of its low cost. In fact, in many areas where contraband tobacco is sold, a person can buy a Baggie of 200 cigarettes for about $10 compared to buying the legal product for well over $100 for the same quantity. People buy the cheaper product to save money.

A lot of young people do not have the means to purchase $100 worth of cigarettes, but they may have the means to purchase cigarettes at $10. Therefore, if the contraband market is allowed to flourish, youth could quite conceivably have even more access to cigarettes as a result of their low cost.

As I said earlier, I understand and I even support the stated goal, but I have very serious issues with the path that the Liberals are taking to get there.

In closing, I ask that the members of this House consider the very real and serious concerns that I have outlined today and take them into consideration when developing their own thoughts about the bill, and that they think of my speech when Bill S-5 is discussed at committee.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the hon. member's speech. I noticed that e-cigarettes put doses of nicotine into the system through the use of an aerosol. With respect to aerosols, if we buy a can of spray paint, the label tells us not to inhale the stuff directly, and we know that it can cause long-term health effects. I wonder if the member would like to comment on that, because we are going to have young kids using an aerosol to directly inhale vapour into their mouths when the medical evidence out there tells us that it is dangerous to one's health.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of products out there, and there is a lot of confusion with respect to many of them. E-cigarettes have been on the market for the last five or so years. There are some that contain nicotine, but many do not. They are being used. Those without nicotine are not regulated at all and those containing nicotine are much harder to find and come in a variety of forms. I think we always want to make sure that our young people are protected from any consumer product. They need and deserve to know what is in them and what the risks are. That is one of the problems with this bill, even with respect to regular cigarettes. Once the companies go to plain packaging and plain sticks, and with the other plans that have been discussed by the Liberal government, people will not know what they are getting in the product. We need to have consumer protection at all levels on all products.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, when the parliamentary secretary introduced the legislation, the member across the way stood up and expressed serious concerns with regard to the labelling and people not necessarily knowing what it is. The question was addressed by the parliamentary secretary, I thought, to great satisfaction.

Does the member feel that, as a whole, the government is going in the wrong direction on the issue of labelling? What is it that she would like to see?

Provincial jurisdictions are looking at vapours. In order to ensure that there is some sense of a national standard, if it is at all possible, the federal government should play some leadership role. Would the member not agree that this is a step forward in dealing with that?

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, I apologize if I seem to be waffling about my position on this.

During my speech, I thought I had made it pretty clear that going to plain packaging, going to plain tubes with no branding whatsoever puts the customer, and indeed the retailer, in a very vulnerable position. They have no way to determine that what they are buying or, in the case of the retailer, selling, is the product that they think they are getting. There will be no way for law enforcement to determine whether these are legal products or not without extensive analysis, and even then it would be limited.

There would be no branding, so the government would be stripping away the intellectual property rights of companies. More importantly, it would be stripping away the rights of consumers to know that what they are buying is what they think they are buying and what they are paying for.

Generic packaging would lead to a dramatic surge in the contraband business. That is not in anyone's interest whatsoever, anyone who wants to be a law-abiding citizen or indeed a law-abiding government. There are a whole lot of reasons why contraband tobacco is a very dangerous thing, not just to the consumers but to the communities in which they operate.

Therefore, I have some terrible concerns about what the government is doing. If it really wants to give a gift to the contraband tobacco industry, this bill is the best thing it could ever hope to present.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listen very closely when the member for Haldimand—Norfolk speaks, because this member has a lot of experience implementing legislation. She knows very well how something that is well-intentioned, if not properly implemented, can go in the wrong direction.

I am a little concerned about the vaping side. The government seems to be doing the same thing as on other legislation, where it does not really specify a lot of details and wants to leave them to a later regulation. We know that with vaping products, there have been some concerns about ones that have exploded, and various things like that.

Could the member comment on the level of detail in this bill?

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has spent a lot of time on this issue. One of the things that she has learned is that there are a lot of different products out there.

Vaping products are not regulated at the federal level. Again, Canadians need and deserve to know what products they are consuming. They need to be educated about this, as has been described.

Other products exist on the market that are not addressed in this legislation, except that they are lumped in, in places they should not be. The government states that it wants to help people reduce harm from tobacco and nicotine products, and yet it will not allow any advertising of products that are good at harm reduction, that do help people quit smoking. Those companies will not be able to advertise those products to let Canadians know the benefits of them. That seems to be totally contradictory to what it says it wants to achieve.

It is really important that the government revisit this, and think about the implementation. It cannot just say, “Here is part of the rules.” That does not work. In thinking this through, the government has to recognize that the whole thing has to be there and that there are products on the market that are not covered. The legislation does not achieve what it sets out to do, according to the advertising section.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from September 25 consideration of the motion that Bill C-325, An Act to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights (right to housing), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-325, an act to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights (right to housing). It gives me a great opportunity to highlight some of the great initiatives and partnerships between different levels of government, private enterprise, non-profit organizations, and others that have been completed in my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga.

First, a little overview of the bill.

This legislation would change the Canadian Bill of Rights by adding a right of an individual to obtain “proper housing at a reasonable cost and free of all unreasonable barriers.” It argues that access to housing, free of financial and other barriers, is necessary to adequately recognize the “dignity and worth of all individuals” and to provide them with security and other benefits that housing gives. The bill would give the government one year from the day royal assent is given to make this change.

The Conservative Party believes that all Canadians should have a reasonable opportunity to own their home or to have access to safe and affordable housing. That is why we support broad-based tax relief, income support programs, and tax incentives to make home ownership and rental accommodation more attainable and accessible.

Rather than support these broad-based, grassroots initiatives, the current Liberal government seems intent not only on ignoring these willing small business partners, but also on placing additional roadblocks in their way or even destroying their businesses altogether. The current war on small and medium-sized businesses will have a huge detrimental effect on the construction industry and this will automatically negatively impact housing starts.

Small construction companies, whether pouring concrete foundations, framing, scaffolding, installing heat and ventilation, and plumbers, electricians, and roofing contractors, many of whom are self-employed and at the same time employing five or six workers, will be forced to lay off workers and scale back their operations, or worse yet, to wind down their businesses altogether. This will result in fewer contractors being available to build and therefore will drive up the cost of housing even higher. So much for making housing available at a reasonable cost and free of barriers.

While I can agree wholeheartedly with the overall premise of Bill C-325 to do all that we can to ensure proper housing free of unreasonable barriers and at a reasonable cost, there are far too many questions left unanswered for me to support the bill in its current form.

The use of the terms “reasonable cost” and “unreasonable barriers” in the preamble is vague. There is no indication of what might be an unreasonable barrier or what price range is a reasonable cost. The bill does not account for price differences in housing markets across the country and assumes that the creation of a “right” will fix the issue. It is not that simple.

Also there are very real financial ramifications to the implementation of the bill. Where is the costing analysis? Will the Canada social transfer be largely inflated due to this action? What about cost-sharing with provinces and municipalities?

It is our belief that the government should get out of the way of private enterprise and instead partner with the respective jurisdictions of provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, and private business initiatives, and work with social agencies and non-profit organizations in dealing with housing needs.

The bill makes no mention of empowering local stakeholders or marketplace workers who could potentially increase housing stock available and therefore make housing less costly.

Yes, every Canadian should have the opportunity to own a home or have access to affordable rental accommodation. We agree with helping Canadians who need it the most, however, the government can help through partnering with all levels of government and the private sector to ensure the creation of sustainable, responsible, and fair solutions.

Let me share with the House just one of the many organizations that are working to make housing more affordable in my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga. I have been proud to work with this organization over the past 16 years, long before I was elected as member of Parliament for Kitchener—Conestoga.

I will be quoting directly from the 10-year anniversary booklet of MennoHomes:

During the 1990s, poverty in Ontario became a growing concern. Social programs faced severe cutbacks, including in the funding downloaded from the provincial government for social housing.


The extremely low vacancy rate meant landlords were able to ask for premium rental prices. For lower-income families and individuals, this often made housing utterly unaffordable. Housing also became a dangerous proposition: desperate to find a roof over their heads, people took chances on unsafe, substandard housing and were unwilling to report poor conditions, for fear of losing what they had.


In late 2000... [the Mennonite Central Committee of Ontario] (MCCO) Program Director, invited several people with social programming experience to be part of a small working group that would explore how to respond to this need for affordable housing.


By May 2001, the working group invited 40 people including Mennonite and Brethren in Christ pastors, together with members of their churches who were community leaders in health and social services, into the discernment process to determine the will to respond collectively to this need and to determine what form the response would take.

A number of meetings later, and after securing commitment from churches and individuals, the incorporation of MennoHomes was complete.

While individuals in other churches and denominations as well as community members at large have been strongly supportive of MennoHomes, it has primarily been a Mennonite initiative and the Mennonite community in the Kitchener-Waterloo area has responded strongly to every capital fundraising drive and has a strong sense of this being “our” project.


Soon after the incorporation process was completed, the Region of Waterloo put out a call to groups interested in affordable housing saying they had funding available for family housing. MennoHomes made an “Expression of Interest” and was approved. The search for property on which to build began.

At this time, Faith Lutheran Church on Village Road in the Forrest Hill area of Kitchener was planning a change to their building to improve accessibility, and decided instead to build a new sanctuary. The project would be funded by the sale of a large piece of land at the back of their property.


However, as Pastor Hamp said, “We ran into a bit of a struggle with our neighbours. We had a lot of phone calls from neighbours worrying and complaining about what it would do to the neighbourhood, to house values.” A series of meetings with community members followed, with angry words and even threats, but the situation remained deadlocked and intense until finally one neighbourhood resident Wendy Shaw became a bridge between the two sides. She met with each of her 66 neighbours who had opposed the project and who planned to take their grievances to the Ontario Municipal Board. Wendy brought the concerns of the neighbours to MennoHomes. This resulted in MennoHomes changing the design and reducing the number of units, as well as guaranteeing long term, active involvement with the project to ensure that it would be well-integrated into the neighbourhood.


Tenants moved into the eight duplexes on Village Road in July and August, 2004. They were met by Dorene and were each given a hand-made quilt. One resident said of the quilts she was given, “I appreciate every hour, every stitch and every thought that was put into those blankets. I will cherish them for the rest of my life.”

Dorene met with the residents on a regular basis. “There were a number of new Canadian families and we wanted to make sure they were aware of various agencies in the community. As a board, we wanted to develop a sense of community among the families. We held a barbecue in the summer and a Christmas dinner (where we recognized Ramadan and other holidays).” A tenant said of the Community Worker role, “No matter what the need, whether it be a ride, food, clothing, community information, or simply a shoulder to cry on, she was there. Because many of us have been isolated from our families and hometowns, every bit of inclusion and support is meaningful.”

Therefore, we can see that by working with federal, provincial, municipal levels of government, private enterprise and local benevolent groups can make a big difference. Not only is housing provided at an affordable price, but personal care and coaching are provided too.

The story continues. Currently, MennoHomes owns and operates 105 units, and recently partnered with another company to create an additional 25 units in Waterloo.

As I said, I cannot support the bill. I believe that the issue of affordable housing is best solved through private enterprise and incentives from government. I am grateful that MennoHomes is so successful in Kitchener. What we need to do is to find ways to replicate the work that MennoHomes is doing across Canada.

The real barriers to home ownership and affordable rental units are unnecessary government red tape, high taxes, and lack of incentives for the private sector to produce good quality and smaller housing units.

The implications of the bill would not necessarily resolve the fundamental issue of the housing crisis, which is fuelled by restrictive supply and government regulations. There needs to be assurance that people are able to move out of subsidized housing or subsidized rental units into market rate housing, and that they have the appropriate incentive to do so. Job creation needs to be at the forefront of any endeavour, so people have the means and the incentive to improve their social standing, including access to good quality housing.

Canadian Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, my remarks today will be a bit of an homage to one of my favourite comedians and talk show hosts, David Letterman. I want to be clear that there is nothing funny about homelessness. However, there are so many reasons Canada must enshrine in law the right to housing, and, I only have a certain amount of time to speak today, so the format worked for me, sort of.

What I would like to share with everyone today is my top 11 reasons why Canada must enshrine the right to housing into Canadian law. Unlike David Letterman's top 10 list, my top 11 list is in no particular order. They are all equally important.

The number one reason housing should be a right in Canada is because housing first works. The idea of housing first as a therapeutic intervention into people's lives was the result of the work by a Canadian clinical psychologist from Montreal, Dr. Sam Tsemberis.

Dr. Tsemberis noticed, while practising in New York City, that the same people who were homeless were coming back over and over again to hospital for mental health services. Therefore, he did a radical thing. He reached out to those who, more often than not, were not consulted on homeless policies, people who were homeless, the individuals he was trying to help. Dr. Tsemberis then worked with other mental health professionals on a radical idea of helping people get off the street permanently by providing a place to live. The idea was simple. Once people had a permanent home, they could focus on their mental health, addictions, and physical health.

The model has been implemented all over the world, including in Canada, to great success, from the state of Utah, which saw a reduction in homelessness by 92%, to Medicine Hat, Alberta, the first city in Canada to end homelessness.

Housing first is more of a model than a program per se. In Canada, the Mental Health Commission of Canada's groundbreaking program At Home/Chez Soi project was built on the housing first philosophy and the success of the work of Dr. Tsemberis.

As the name suggests, I believe housing first uses a human rights lens to help people get and maintain a safe and affordable place to call home. This fundamental shift in thinking about how we intervene and help people is a proven, effective social policy. If improving and saving lives were not enough, housing first saves money, too.

In my community of Saskatoon, housing first, implemented by the United Way of Saskatoon and Area, in partnership with the Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service, is saving lives and demonstrating cost savings by dramatically reducing the costs of emergency services.

Journey home is based on the housing first philosophy. As the name suggests, the program helps people who have been chronically homeless to find and secure a home. The stability and safety of a home then allows people to focus on their healing journey. The results have been amazing. In the first year alone, people helped by journey home saw an 82% drop in the use of high-cost emergency services like police, ambulance services, and emergency room visits. The social return on investment was calculated to be $2.23 saved for every $1 invested in the program. One participant said of her involvement with journey home, “Housing First saved my life”.

Reason number one is also reason number two, which is the rising cost of health care. What we see in the absence of affordable, safe, and supportive housing is emergency rooms and hospital beds being the de facto front line service provider. We cannot afford this and it does not work.

Reason number three is because Diefenbaker would approve. In Prime Minister Diefenbaker's own words:

However, the Bill of Rights has been drafted by men and will be applied and interpreted by men who, notwithstanding their high offices in the executive and judicial branches of government, are human beings and therefore subject to error when judged by fundamental standards. In particular

a. The Bill may, in the light of subsequent world developments, appear to have overlooked fundamental considerations;

b. The Bill, as ultimately interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada, may appear, in one or more respects, not to have been so worded as to achieve the desired results.

I will add the word “women” to that quote.

Diefenbaker understood that the Canadian Bill of Rights as originally drafted may have missed something and would evolve over time. I often wonder if Diefenbaker would have imagined that during an economic boom in Saskatchewan, someone working full time in Saskatoon had to live at the Salvation Army men's shelter because he could not afford cost of market rent.

Reason number four is that communities need the consistency of long-term government policy. Enshrining the right to housing in law would allow communities the assurance of a consistent government policy framework in their efforts to end and prevent homelessness.

All across Canada, community leaders, front-line service providers, and municipal governments have stepped up to address homelessness with resounding success. However, they cannot do it on their own. They need long-term commitments from government to continue their great work. Many a great community effort that improves the quality of life ends up wasted because a government changes and all that great work is no longer a priority for the new government, resources are wasted, lives are disrupted, and communities find often themselves going back to square one.

Reason number five is because sometimes government policy, or the lack thereof, actually creates homelessness. Good government policy in ending homelessness and preventing it needs to be incorporated across government departments. Otherwise, great policy develops in isolation and can have unintended consequences.

I will share one personal example. When I was involved in the Saskatoon Point-in-Time Count in Saskatoon, I received a call from a social worker at a local hospital. She wanted me to know that if we included the elderly people who were currently in the hospital as homeless, our numbers of homeless people would have been much higher. She went on to explain that a high number of beds in the hospital were currently being occupied by elderly patients who, if they had a suitable home to go to, would not be in the hospital. Those patients and people did not want to be in the hospital. A hospital bed is not a home. Government policies and government systems need to work together better.

Number six of my top 11 reasons for making housing a right in Canada is because we owe it to the next generation. There are more children in foster care in Canada now than there were children in the Indian residential school system. A colleague of mine called the foster care system the super highway to homelessness for youth. Young people are homeless for very different reasons than adults. More often than not, young people are living on the street because of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at home. We can all agree that every young person in Canada deserves a safe, supportive home.

Reason number seven is that we are in a housing crisis and we need to do things differently. The rise in the cost of housing is outpacing the rise in incomes in Canada. We often hear that Canadians are holding more personal debt than ever and that many Canadians are one paycheque away from not being able to meet their monthly expenses. We must address this issue. We must do something radically different. The solutions of the past are not going to work in this new reality.

In an article in The Hill Times, on September 18, Tim Richter, the CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, and Jacline Nyman, CEO of the United Way Centraide Canada, put it this way, “changing times require policy innovation that moves beyond replicating past initiatives.” Enshrining the right to housing in law could be the innovation that is needed in these changing times.

Reason number eight is that I believe Canada's signature on a piece of paper is worth something. In 1976, Canada signed on to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. So many legal experts would say that we have committed to enshrining in domestic law the right to housing. We have seen Canada's international rights regularly referred to in decisions made by our domestic courts.

Let me close with my last three reasons that housing has a right to be enshrined in law. Those last three reasons are Hashle Belanger, David Fineday, and Alvin Cote. Hashle, David, and Alvin all experienced homelessness in my city of Saskatoon. Hashle and David shared their expertise and their lived experience with me and others when I was the CEO of the United Way. Their generosity and intelligence and their willingness to share what they knew were the reasons why Saskatoon began to work as a community on homelessness, invest in housing first and saving lives.

The Saskatoon Plan to End Homlessness, designed to provide safe homes and a new future for Saskatoon's most vulnerable residents, is dedicated to the memory of Alvin Cote. A proud member of the Cote First Nation, Alvin Cote spent his life on the streets of Saskatoon. After facing unimaginable hardships as a child, a conventional life was too much to manage and he lost himself in alcohol. This placed him outside of the reach of most supports. The Plan to End Homelessness aims to provide options for others like him, so everyone can make the journey home. .

Canadian Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must say that my Conservative colleague, the member for Kitchener—Conestoga, and my NDP colleague both gave excellent speeches. I was quite impressed by her reference to Mr. Diefenbaker, a great Canadian who hailed from her province. I myself was planning to bring him up today. I will still do so with pleasure, although my take will be slightly different.

The Conservative Party opposes Bill C-325, the act to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights to include the right to housing, which was introduced by the member for North Island—Powell River. I could say it is because the phrase “at a reasonable cost and free of unreasonable barriers” in the preamble is vague. I could say that the bill fails to consider price differences in housing markets. I could also say that section 92 of the Constitution considers housing to be a provincial matter, whereas the Canadian Bill of Rights, which was set in motion by Mr. Diefenbaker, applies only to matters of federal jurisdiction.

However, I am not going to use this perspective in my speech today in opposition to this bill. Instead, I would like to talk about the philosophical ideas underlying the bill introduced by the member for North Island—Powell River. I will use these underlying ideas to build my argument against this bill.

I would like to start by saying that, in my humble opinion, both Canada's intellectual left, which includes Marxist theorists at the Osgoode Hall Law School or at the University of British Columbia, and the intellectual right, meaning the Calgary School, would disagree with introducing this right into the Canadian Bill of Rights.

That said, hats off to the member for North Island—Powell River for proposing an amendment to the Canadian Bill of Rights instead of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This makes me very proud, since it means that the member subscribes to the British tradition of liberal constitutionalism, in other words, the Westminster tradition of liberal constitutionalism, instead of subscribing to the American tradition of liberal constitutionalism. It is a small distinction, but that small distinction makes a big difference over many centuries. I will explain why.

Under the Westminster-type British model of liberal constitutionalism, the legislative branch is the ultimate authority and has the last word on constitutional matters. That is why Mr. Diefenbaker, a great Canadian if ever there was one, would never, not in a million years, have enshrined the Canadian Bill of Rights in the Constitution. Doing so would make the judiciary, or the judicial branch, the ultimate authority.

The member for North Island—Powell River has a great deal of respect for our Canadian political culture based on the Westminster tradition of liberal constitutionalism, a culture that, sadly, was stifled, if not snuffed out, by a cultural revolution led by that party over there and Pierre Elliot Trudeau in 1982. They brought us closer to an American-style liberal constitutionalism, under which the judiciary gets the final word. We have the notwithstanding clause, sure, but regrettably, no prime minister has dared to invoke it.

Today's debate is historic. I believe this issue goes well beyond that of housing. The debate over how to strike a balance between individual and collective rights started in the age of enlightenment. Even in Canada, this debate has been going on since 1867. Since 1982, or for the last 35 years, Canadian intellectuals have engaged in a mighty fine debate.

John Locke, father of modern liberalism and individualism, believed that individual liberty predated the notion of statehood, and thus the establishment of any constitution or system of positive law. He therefore believed in natural law, and so, to his mind, all political systems based on this idea would place the individual at the heart of the constitutional state.

This is all fundamental to the debate we are having here today on housing, because John Locke would have said that the right to housing does not constitute an individual right, which forms the basis of natural law and therefore supercedes positive law.

A similar debate, although somewhat wider in scope, has been going on in Canada since the Charter was enshrined in 1982 in the midst of what I would characterize as a disgraceful cultural revolution. Progressive authors such as Mandel, Petter, Hutchinson, McWhinney, Hirscht, Mackay, and Lebel-Grenier are the standard-bearers of left-leaning, Marxist intellectual thought in academic circles. Then, there are the so-called conservative thinkers, the fathers of Canadian toryism: Banfield, Morton, Patenaude, Knopff and Martin.

Although they belong to radically different schools of thought, all of these thinkers would agree that enshrining rights or bringing in new rights is no way to address the housing situation in Canada.

My reasoning may seem circuitous but I am nearing my point. These people would have said that access to housing, food, and education is to be secured through political struggle. They would have said, for instance, that homosexuals acquired their rights through political struggle, and not by way of the Supreme Court of Canada or enshrined rights. They would have said that it is in the political arena that women fought to acquire their rights. In this case, the fight was waged by the suffragettes in the early 20th century, not by the Supreme Court of Canada. That is what they would have said.

Everything rests in that interplay between negative and positive rights. That is where we can distinguish between these two schools of thought, between Marxist and conservative thinkers.

I am circling back to what the member said. In the NDP, the hope is that we will be able to incorporate some positive rights into Canadian law. In other words, we would be looking to make concessions, a truly rare occurrence under the Canadian Constitution. That is what happened in the case of language rights granted to French-speaking Canada. That might be the only case of a positive right under our Constitution.

Conservative thought typically associated with classical liberalism would lean toward the idea that we have negative rights, or in other words, that our freedom stops where that of others begins. Canadian law is a pyramid that rests wholly upon the fundamental goal of ensuring that other people's rights are not infringed upon. There is no such thing as a positive right. This is a healthy debate.

My colleague stated that she believed to be waging a political fight. Perhaps she ought to fight to control prices or the housing market. Perhaps the fight ought to be taken to the provinces over their traditional areas of jurisdiction. Being here in the federal Parliament, seeking to incorporate new rights that will amount to nothing more than a bunch of letters on a piece of paper, does not constitute a political fight.

There were some important and well thought out observations around Diefenbaker, but my reading of the man is that he would not have gone so far as to incorporate this right into the Canadian Bill of Rights.

I disagree with both extremes, which are the Marxist thinkers of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto on one end of the spectrum, and on the other, those of the Calgary School, who believe in property rights above all else, where others believe in the right to housing. Both of these extremes are dead wrong, because in both cases, the result would be to paralyze the state. The power of the state is essential in Canada if we are to enforce our sovereignty first and foremost, namely in the military, economic and political spheres.

Enshrining property rights in the Constitution would prevent the government from running power transmission lines, for instance, or from carrying out large scale projects. Enshrining the right to housing in the Constitution would likewise paralyze the state, as it would have to supply housing to every Canadian, which is totally unrealistic, economically speaking.

Let us remain on the right track, the one we were on prior to 1982, and let us stick to the Westminster model.

Canadian Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2017 / 2 p.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, tonight in metro Vancouver, 3,605 people will spend the night homeless. A substantial number of these individuals reside in my riding of Vancouver East, some 3,605 people, according to the 2017 homelessness count. Since 2017, the number of homeless people in metro Vancouver has increased by 30%, and that number is constantly growing. To break that number down a little, half of them have been homeless for over a year; 16% are young people under the age of 25; 21% are seniors; and, yes, 21% either have a part-time or full-time job.

In my riding, where the rental vacancy rate has been sitting at below 1% for years, even those who currently have housing live in constant fear that they may be the next victim of the rental and demo evictions that have been dominating our local news cycles. Many are paying more than 30% of their total income on rent.

If this picture seems wrong to members, it is because the situation in my riding, and indeed throughout the country, is a human rights violation. Housing is declared to be a basic right by the United Nations, and Canada has signed and ratified a number of international human rights treaties that identify the right to adequate housing as a fundamental basic human right.

The persistence of homelessness and unaffordable housing in Canada stands in glaring contradiction to our acknowledgement and recognition of adequate housing as a basic fundamental human right. It is especially unacceptable when Canada is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

Of course, this housing crisis did not occur overnight. In fact, I would argue that our housing crisis began in 1993 when the Liberal government cancelled Canada's national affordable housing program. Had the program not been cancelled, today we would have half a million more units of affordable housing across Canada than we currently do. In B.C., we would have an additional 100,000 units. With 100,000 units of affordable housing, we would be able to house every single homeless person in metro Vancouver 27 times over. Just imagine what that would look like for our communities.

Constituents and organizations in my riding have many creative visions to bring about more affordable housing in ways that would not only house our community's most vulnerable, but also add culture, heritage, and beauty to our community.

In Vancouver Chinatown, for example, community organizations, as well as Chinese Canadian youth and seniors living in Chinatown, have requested that all levels of government work together to either do a land swap or purchase the property at 105 Keefer Street from a private developer and build it for the community, with special emphasis on low-income seniors' housing.

In other parts of Chinatown, work has been under way to preserve and renovate the Chinese Society and clan association buildings to better serve the social and housing needs of community members. The city has committed to renew eight major clan association buildings, but there are many more that would benefit from federal funding so we could better serve the needs of the community by creating usable community cultural spaces, space for food programs, and affordable housing.

In the heart of my riding, the Urban Native Youth Association has been working with the City of Vancouver, the province, and the private sector to realize their vision of building a native youth centre. This centre will be a hub for the urban indigenous community, with multi-purpose programming spaces providing for culturally responsive services. Above the centre will be 180 units of affordable rental housing for indigenous youth and families. With over a decade of hard work and many partnerships, 50,000 square feet of land has been secured for the project, and fundraising efforts to fund the construction are under way. The organization has already raised $2.6 million to date for this project and is requesting $10 million from the federal government so they can complete it.

I hope that the federal government will join and be a partner of this initiative, especially when we consider the fact that in Vancouver, 34% of our homeless population is indigenous when it only comprises 2% of the general population. In fact, what we need is a national indigenous housing strategy.

I have mentioned that the rental vacancy rate in metro Vancouver has been sitting at below 1% for a very long time and that this situation leaves renters vulnerable. It has been estimated that in B.C., there are 117,000 rental households that cannot afford their homes. There is a backlog of over 80,000 rental units required to meet current needs. To meet future demands, 7,000 new units will need to be constructed annually.

In B.C., many non-profit housing societies, businesses, partners, and stakeholders have come together and are ready to work to solve our housing crisis. The B.C. Rental Housing Coalition has developed a comprehensive 10-year plan to address the province's housing needs. The plan includes the construction of new housing, funds to protect and maintain current housing stock, and income and other supports for individuals and families that need it. It has put its assets, equity, and expertise on the table and is inviting the provincial government and the federal government to come to the table as equal partners.

The coalition estimates that to meet B.C.'s current housing needs, annual investments of $1.84 billion are needed. The community housing sector is ready to chip in $41 million annually and requests $691.2 million in annual investments from the federal government. While this may seem like a big price tag, the cost of doing nothing is a lot more.

Homelessness in and of itself costs Canada $7 billion annually, $1 billion in B.C. alone. It is common knowledge that every dollar we invest in providing homes for those who find themselves homeless yields over $2 of savings in areas like health care, the justice system, and other social supports. It has also been found that every dollar invested by the government in housing construction also results in $1.52 of GDP growth. In addition, making housing more affordable would increase disposable income for the average household and generate more economic activity.

From the proposals, we can also see that housing will add value to our communities beyond the provision of homes. Investing in housing also protects our culture, history, and heritage. Investing in housing is caring for our elders and youth. Investing in housing is taking steps toward reconciliation and honouring our nation-to-nation commitments to indigenous peoples. Investing in housing is nurturing families and building communities.

Innovative ideas, experienced organizations, workable plans, and secured sites are ready and in place, and we are ready to get this going. The community is coming to us with assets and work plans. In some cases, the municipal and provincial governments are ready and have been doing their part. It is time the federal government stepped up and became a partner in all these important projects.

Instead, I am disappointed to see that the money has not flowed on the ground to build real units and house real people. The Liberal government says it has a housing plan, but 90% of that promised funding will not actually be spent until after the next election. This is not acceptable when people and families are desperate now. The government needs to invest now. Not only have we not started building, but existing affordable housing stock is being threatened by government inaction.

There are 34 housing co-ops in Vancouver East, with a total of 1,669 units. If the government does not renew operating agreements and ensure that support is in place for rent subsidies for low-income families, those families and individuals, I fear, will join the ranks of Vancouver's homeless population. This must not be allowed to happen.

Not to be forgotten are the needs of the many individuals in Vancouver who are dreaming of owning their homes and raising their families but are finding this dream further and further out of reach. Many of these people who cannot afford to own homes in my riding have been living in the community for generations. I urge the government to develop a comprehensive measure to address the housing affordability crisis.

Investing in housing is an investment. If we shut down tax havens and close the CEO stock option loophole, that will allow for the money required to build housing for all Canadians.

It is said that a nation is measured by how well we treat our most vulnerable. Let us start with the very basics. I ask all members to support this bill with a clear declaration that housing is a fundamental, basic right.

Canadian Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I fundamentally believe in the right to housing. When over 235,000 people are without homes in Canada, we know that housing must be a human right. It is a true pleasure to speak on the right to housing. I wish we could do it more often. As the housing crisis continues, Canadians are increasingly looking to us to deliver solutions. My bill would do this. It would amend the Canadian Bill of Rights to introduce housing as a human right.

In 1976, Canada enshrined the fundamental right to housing when the government of the day ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. However, this right has never been formally incorporated into Canadian law. This bill would make it happen.

During the first hour of debate, we heard a few troubling statements from the government side regarding the right to housing. Surprisingly, in this second hour of debate, we heard absolutely nothing from a single member of the government, which I find interesting. In the first hour, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of families said, “If we read the UN report on housing, it is not simply about embracing a set of rights, it is about creating those policies..”.

Of course, we need policies, but what he does not understand is that governments come and go, policies come and go, funding comes and go, yet the need for housing is constantly there. What Canada needs is a legislative framework. My bill would ensure a level of structure that would empower people.

The parliamentary secretary also kept repeating that the right to housing was simply a slogan. I find this to be extremely troubling for a government that claims to be implementing the right to housing “through a wide range of federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal laws, policies, programs, and administrative measures.” Is the government saying that the right to housing is not a human right? It is not clear to me. The parliamentary secretary to the minister of families kept repeating, as late as yesterday at committee, that human rights are crucial in housing.

Bill C-325 is about dignity. Human rights are that, moral principles. When our fellow citizens do not have a place to sleep or to go to the bathroom, these are incredibly dehumanizing experiences. A home is more than physical space. Housing is intrinsic to the sense of security for families and the stability needed to prevent marginalization. All of us look at a home as an anchor to our community life, a retreat and a refuge. What happens to people when they do not have that is debilitating. The ramifications have been studied repeatedly, and the stress on our communities and society can attest to this.

In fact, in government consultations, the right to housing was a recurrent theme in many comments shared by experts at the round table. Stakeholders clearly spelled out the need for the legally recognized right to housing. They insisted that a national housing strategy should examine whether our laws, policies, and practices are sufficient to prevent homelessness, forced evictions, and discrimination in accessing adequate housing. They agreed on a rights-based approach to housing, and how the right to housing must be recognized and realized through laws and policies.

We have seen the Liberal government be covetous of other people's good ideas, like the bill on abandoned vessels we saw tabled recently, after the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith's bill was not allowed to proceed. The national housing strategy is soon to be unveiled, but let us be clear: a strategy is not legislation.

Although part of me hopes that the right to housing will be featured front and centre in this strategy, the reality is that it will not be the change that makes housing a human right in Canada. A decade from now, we will still be talking about the gaps in our housing sector if we do not take a different approach. I hope the Liberal government will be brave enough to support Bill C-325.

For the government to establish a successful long-term national housing strategy, it must be done within the lens of a right to housing. This allows a more cohesive outlook beyond the physical structure, by addressing the systemic causes of housing insecurity. There are too many people living in tents or couch surfing, people with mental health issues not having a home to provide them stability, working people who cannot find a home, people living in unsafe conditions, and seniors making decisions between food, medication, and housing.

The housing crisis in Canada requires leadership now. The lack of adequate and affordable housing is troubling, and Canadians deserve much better.

Canadian Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canadian Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Some hon. members