House of Commons Hansard #431 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was deal.

Topics

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I wish to inform the hon. member for Bay of Quinte that he is unable to move an amendment to his own motion. He had the floor to speak to the motion that he proposed to the House. Accordingly, perhaps if another member is willing to do so, that could be taken up at a later time in the debate.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Saskatoon West.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to let my hon. colleague know how pleased I am to see this come to the floor and to hear him speak of the need for leadership from Parliament and the government.

The member may remember that I tried to pass a similar motion to get the government to make a bigger plan to end homelessness and to set goals and targets. Therefore, the member knows I am onside.

Depending on what happens in the House, I would like to hear his commitment to continue to fight to ensure, regardless of what happens with the motion today, that he will commit to move his government. He has introduced a very solid plan. I do not see any reason why the government cannot move forward to end veterans' homelessness in Canada.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for all the support she has given on the motion.

Today, I met with both ministers. If the motion does not proceed tonight, hopefully we can get this into policy.

Today, a homeless veteran showed up at my office. In the Bay of Quinte region, at least seven to nine veterans are homeless and have been helped through outside organizations like the legion.

If Motion No. 225 had been in place, we could have had this four to five years down the road. We could have given that veteran who showed up at my office instant help. My caseworker is looking now for a home and support for this gentleman. It is a typical vet who shows up and is in distress.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am fully in support of the motion. There are a few things I am not positive about, because it is incorporating it in the national housing strategy, which is okay, but not fantastic.

For four years, the Liberals have been in power. They have talk about the things they have done for veterans. They have talked about the national housing strategy. Why has nothing been done in the last four years?

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

June 11th, 2019 / 5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

Mr. Speaker, our committee did a homeless report, which was tabled in Parliament in May, and we did not get an answer to it. This is my motion, Motion No. 225. It speaks to homelessness. My private member's motion time was allotted today. This is why I have not been able to work this motion in quicker. I wish it had been scheduled earlier and then we would have had a chance for second reading. However, I hope to follow up on this. Hopefully this is something we can all solve together.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Bay of Quinte for his hard work on veterans issues. He has chaired the veterans committee now for almost four years and has done an exceptional job. I want to sincerely thank him for that.

Our government has brought forward the first-ever national housing program. In that program vulnerable Canadians and veterans are a priority. That is extremely important. The member has mentioned the legion and Veterans Canada's great work to identify veterans who are homeless.

Would my colleague share some of the work that has been done in his riding on homelessness, but also about gender. Are we noticing a difference in the gender of homelessness among veterans?

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about gender. What the statistics are showing, which are not totally accurate, are that vets tend to be under the age of 30, and 50% of them tend to be women showing up in shelters. In the forces, we might have 10% to 15% women, so this rate is higher. We do not know why. Again, part of the motion is to do the research to figure out why some of these things are happening.

My riding is a typical urban rural riding and nine vets have presented. When we look at statistics per 1,000, the U.S. statistics per 1,000 are about 2.1 veterans and in Canada we are at 3.2. Therefore, we are over double the number of homeless veterans. The veterans in the U.S. population is about 30% higher, but our ratios per 1,000 are higher.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Green

Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for this motion, which is great. We need to help our homeless veterans.

Some homeless veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. They live in the woods out behind my community. I wonder if the member could tell me what kinds of plans are in place to work with people who have PTSD and who struggle to integrate back into society, but are homeless and living in the woods.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member hit the problem right on. A lot of veterans do not want to present and are living in the woods or under bridges. Therefore, part of this is to try to locate them. Once a year or so, we have agencies with boots on the ground that go out and find veterans. Part of this initiative would be to find them and register them.

There would be a registry in each community so we could look at finding them housing. We would look at the program and if it were a supplement, like the U.S. supplement, they would be connected with a VAC caseworker. That VAC caseworker would first find them a home. It is all about getting them into housing and then dealing with their mental illness, whether it is related to alcoholism or trouble integrating into society. That is part of what would be covered under Motion No. 225.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, as this session comes to a close, I cannot think of a better way to end my first term as the member of Parliament for Yorkton—Melville than to rise and speak to our veterans community on issues that so deeply impact veterans' quality of life following service and their sense of being valued and appreciated by Canadians.

I am humbled and grateful that I have had the privilege of serving as deputy shadow minister of Veterans Affairs and also on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs for these four years.

In that time, individual veterans and veterans organizations have reached out to me through committee, social media groups, emails and face-to-face meetings at round tables and town halls as I travelled across Canada and then over to France to celebrate Canada's Hundred Days. The time I spent with the veterans who travelled with us was very precious. They have also reached out to me by getting together informally at restaurants and in homes.

What I have appreciated more than anything is how patient veterans have been with me while reminiscing, documenting experiences and providing their perspectives on how things could be done so much better than they are.

I am sure members can appreciate that veterans do not tend to sugar-coat the issues. They are pretty direct. They speak very frankly and passionately. I am not surprised or, quite honestly, offended by the intensity they sometimes express. After all, they have been trained to be intense, to fight against injustice and to fight for us.

Long overdue is the government's recognition of duty of care implied in the promise that whatever happens when enlisting, the government will take care of veterans and their families. The recommendations on transition, mental health, homelessness, medicinal cannabis, abuse of mefloquine as an anti-malarial drug and financial support for the treatment of physical and mental repercussions of war, just to name a few, are reasonable and achievable.

Motion No. 255 provides the opportunity for the Government of Canada to respond to veterans' recommendations on the need and the possibility to end veterans homelessness in Canada: first, by setting a clear target for eliminating homelessness among Canadian veterans; second, by maximizing Veterans Affairs Canada's capacity to deliver key benefits; and, third, by co-partnering with national veterans organizations to employ their existing capacity, peer-to-peer networks and bonds of trust established with veterans in order to accelerate the delivery of this program nationally.

Truly, these organizations have such a capacity already. They have good peer-to-peer relationships and they have bonds of trust that come through the relationships they have among themselves with veterans. Therefore, their role in this is very significant. It is undeniable that the level of bureaucracy and the long-standing culture of mistrust and denial within VAC needs to be purged.

There is no question that this uneven playing field has added much frustration to an already challenging life change for our veterans. Quite often, mental illness, family dysfunction, physical pain and suffering, suicides and homelessness have been increased as a result of their frustrations in trying to work with VAC.

To ensure opportunities for the government to respond, I have heard the following from veterans' advocates. They feel that the role of VAC should be mandated in three ways.

First is to provide sufficient funding for clearly delineated, simple, efficiently administered programs of care for injury and lifetime benefits, with the benefit of the doubt going to the veteran and his or her family.

Second is that beginning with enlistment and throughout their service, VAC must facilitate future veterans and their families in choosing and implementing their own path for life beyond service, in other words, for VAC to be involved early in the beginning stages of the veterans' service and be there to facilitate and encourage them to realize that they can make decisions to determine in advance their own paths once their service ends and that they can have a lot of understanding before they face that very difficult time when they no longer serve.

Finally, VAC should identify and support veteran and community organizations that veterans and their families can access for delivery of services. In polite terms, affirm, enable and empower those organizations to do what they do best, and the things they do best that VAC would be better giving them the responsibility for.

I was honoured to represent my Conservative caucus at the press conference announcing Motion No. 225 on veteran homelessness in Canada. There are very good elements in this motion put forward by this government. However, as the member mentioned, because of the lateness of its introduction, we are now days away from this session ending. Therefore, it is only a first step. It is a motion that will depend on the next government to implement.

I was very pleased to also recognize at that press conference the role of Tim Richter with the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, Dave Gordon and Ray McIinnis with the Royal Canadian Legion, Matthew Pearce with the Old Brewery Mission, and Jim and Debbie Lowther with VETS Canada, for their involvement in the making of that announcement. Truly, they were very pleased to see a focus on homelessness going forward from our government.

Along with other veteran and community organizations, they are the heart, hands and feet that advocate for and work directly with veterans and their families. They successfully implement the quality of care that our veterans deserve and need. They are all unique in their approach and provide a variety of options for services that tackle many issues, including veteran homelessness.

For example, VETS Canada has opened up a care centre five blocks from where I live. In the course of its first year, it has serviced 365 different veterans with emergency needs, and it has done it without any direct funding from VAC.

ln testimony at our committee on the study of veteran homelessness, they all had excellent contributions. I would encourage all veterans and people who are viewing today to take a look at the study from the veterans affairs committee on homelessness and listen to what they had to say.

I can focus on only one veteran today, and so I am going to talk about Tim Richter. He is the president and CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. I would like to share some of his recommendations. He has solid experience in preventing and ending homelessness, including experience in developing housing programs for homeless vets. He also served for just over six years in the Canadian Forces and is a Veterans Affairs client. Clearly, he is capable and well positioned for this. Veterans homelessness is a concern that is very close to his heart, and he is rightly pleased to see us working together on an initiative. He said, “The first [thing] is that veteran homelessness in Canada is readily solvable. The number of homeless veterans in Canada is relatively small. It's unknown, but it's relatively small. We know what to do and we know how to do it.”

He went on to say, “We have a strong veterans network. We have solid expertise in communities like Homes for Heroes. We have proven models to follow, and I think we have strong public support.”

I can affirm that they certainly do. He continued with, “What's missing is federal leadership and decisive action. We need a federal government prepared to make a clear and unequivocal commitment to ending veteran homelessness and to invest the fairly modest additional resources needed to get the job done.”

Ending veteran homelessness is possible if government does its part, and, in doing its part, realizes that there are others, not politicians, not public service employees, but others who have served or are dialed in to assist veterans on the ground where and how they need it most. There are people available to be the feet, the hands and the hearts of this particular focus to end homelessness.

To quote Tim one more time, “We know what to do and we know how to do it.”

Following October 21, 2019, the incoming government will do its part to enable and work with stakeholder communities and organizations to ensure that every veteran has a home.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, the fact that I am able to stand here today with my democratically elected colleagues from all parties and freely debate this motion is a testament to the service and bravery of our veterans and active military personnel. I thank them for all they have done, and will do, for our country.

New Democrats believe that the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families is something that must be remembered and honoured. We believe that it has earned them a safe, affordable place to call home, but sadly, for too many veterans that is not the case.

Only two things are required to end homelessness among veterans: a government that makes it a goal and that has a plan to achieve it. Sadly, up until this point, the government has had neither. Therefore, I want to thank the hon. member for Bay of Quinte for tabling this motion and for making the ending of homelessness among veterans a priority. I would like him to know that it has my support.

Once upon a time, a veteran without a home was absolutely unthinkable. Before it became the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the CMHC was founded as the Canadian Wartime Housing corporation. At that time, Canadians and our federal government believed that in return for their service and sacrifice, veterans and their families deserved a safe, affordable place to call home, so we built them one.

Today, our successive federal governments have gotten out of the business of building homes. Frankly, some would say that our government has nearly gotten out of the business of serving veterans as well. To no one's surprise, when the federal government stopped building homes and supporting veterans, we saw a sharp rise in homelessness among veterans. The good news is that we can eliminate homelessness among veterans and all Canadians.

I have no doubt that this motion was inspired by the testimony and proposals put forward by witnesses at the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, which has studied this very issue over the last six months. On behalf of the NDP, I would like to take a moment to thank the 22 individuals and groups who shared their experiences with that committee and for their work on behalf of veterans and their families.

I would like to read a quote from testimony at that committee, which I think sums up the challenges of eliminating homelessness among veterans quite well.

At one of those committee meetings, Debbie Lowther, chair and co-founder of VETS Canada, said the following:

We know that there are many pathways into homeless, such as poverty, lack of affordable housing, job loss or instability, mental illness and addictions, physical health problems, family or domestic violence, and family or marital breakdown. What sets veterans apart is that they not only deal with all of these same issues but they also struggle with their transition from military to civilian life. I talked about the military being a unique culture. Well, now the veteran is trying to adapt to a new civilian culture, feeling as though they have lost their identity and doing so without the social support network that was always so important.

Veterans of different ages, genders, regions and personal experiences have their own unique individual challenges that can create the conditions in which homelessness becomes a possibility. Tim Richter, the executive director of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, understands this fact as well. He stated this:

I believe that with a focused effort and a sense of urgency, veteran homelessness in Canada could be eliminated within three years or less.

We have to document the names and unique needs of every veteran experiencing homelessness and have an ability to share that information among those in the community who can house and support them. We have to be able to monitor performance, notice fluctuations, identify problems and respond in real time.

We should carve out of the new Canada housing benefit a federally administered veteran housing benefit....

In other words, we need a plan, which brings us to this motion. Motion No. 225 calls upon the government to do three things to help end homelessness among veterans: set a goal to end veteran homelessness in Canada by 2025; table a plan to achieve this goal in the House of Commons by June 2020; and, when formulating the plan, the government should consider whether a national veterans housing benefit, similar to the one in the United States, would be a good fit for Canada.

This motion is well informed, but will it actually make a difference? I do not know the answer to that question. It is certain that we could, and it really could be a game-changer. However, up until this point, I do not believe that the government has been serious about ending homelessness, for veterans or anyone else. Some may think that is a harsh statement, but there is evidence to support my claim.

First, the government has no formal goal or plan to end homelessness in Canada. Its goal is only to cut chronic homelessness in half over 10 years. This past fall, in the week before Remembrance Day, this place unanimously adopted an NDP motion to end lapsed spending at Veterans Affairs. Lapsed spending is the portion of the money that is approved by Parliament for Veterans Affairs, but that is left unspent by the department for one reason or another. This leftover money is then returned to the treasury, never to be seen again.

It does not have to be that way. Our motion called upon the government to reinvest this money into improving services for veterans in the following year, and to do so until the department eliminates wait times and can meet all of its 24 service standards. Averaging about $124 million per year, this money would be enough to double the staff at Veterans Affairs; speed up the processing of disability claims, applications for the earnings loss benefit and career transition services; and for every other program or service provided by the department to veterans. As this money was already approved by Parliament, there would be no additional cost to taxpayers, just better service for veterans.

Our motion was passed unanimously and was openly supported by both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. However, as we heard, here we are in June, with yet another federal budget behind us, the fourth of this government, and there is no end in sight to either the lapsed spending or the enormous wait times and poor service at Veterans Affairs. In so many ways, this is a government of somewhat empty gestures and determined inaction. This lack of integrity hurts people, vulnerable people, people who need and deserve better from their government, people like veterans.

While I appreciate the member for Bay of Quinte bringing this motion forward, I do not want anyone listening today to be misled into thinking that this government has done something simply by tabling this motion. At the moment, they are just words on a page.

In closing, I want to reaffirm my support for this motion and again offer my thanks to the member who sponsored it. Ending veterans homelessness is possible, and this member has provided the Liberal government with a plan, a way forward, the means to end homelessness in Canada. Veterans need and deserve a government that prioritizes ending their homelessness.

With the tabling of this motion, the Liberal government is now on notice. There are no more excuses for inaction on ending homelessness for veterans. In fact, this motion is a call to action for the government. As I have said before, the government needs to take a page from the Nike playbook and just do it.

My NDP colleagues and I will support this well-meaning and thoughtful motion, and will continue to work with anyone in this place who seeks to improve the lives of veterans and their families. We will continue to demand more than words. We will demand action by the government to end veterans homelessness in Canada.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Lauzon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the chair of the veterans committee, for his hard work. My thanks as well for pulling everyone together on short notice on this motion.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to participate in this debate as parliamentary secretary. Veterans' well-being is very important to us, and this motion truly shows how, together, we can quickly make things better.

I am pleased to speak to Motion No. 225, which seeks to prevent and end veteran homelessness in Canada by 2025. Since we took office in 2015, our government has been working hard to help Canadians find safe and affordable housing.

In the 2016 budget, we restored the federal government's role in housing by making record investments. In 2017, we introduced Canada's first-ever national housing strategy, a 10-year, $40-billion plan to provide more Canadians with affordable housing. In the 2019 budget, we further increased our investments in housing, turning the national housing strategy into a 10-year, $55-billion plan.

All in all, since taking office, we have invested over $7 billion in housing in Canada and helped over one million Canadians find safe, accessible and affordable housing.

Although the national housing strategy is designed to help all Canadians, it focuses primarily on the most vulnerable members of our society, including veterans. We are doubling investments in the homelessness partnering strategy by investing over $2 billion to combat homelessness. We also set an ambitious goal of reducing chronic homelessness by at least 50% over the next 10 years.

We made just as strong a commitment to veterans. Since 2015, we have made significant investments totalling more than $10 billion for veterans and their families. What is more, we created the veteran and family well-being fund, which enables us to support initiatives to combat homelessness among veterans.

We also appointed a point of contact in every regional VAC office across Canada to help homeless veterans. Last year, we brought together more than 70 organizations from across the country that work to combat veteran homelessness in order to find a way forward.

We implemented the veterans emergency fund, which gives us the flexibility to quickly provide support to veterans and their families when they encounter urgent and unexpected situations, for example, by finding them a place to live until steps can be taken to secure adequate funding.

In other words, our government recognizes that one more person living on the street is one too many, and we understand that no one who serves our country should be left behind. This is why I am pleased to say that the government will support this motion. The member for Bay of Quinte has done excellent work as chair of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, and his work has resulted in a motion that I hope will receive support from all members on both sides of the House.

However, we realize that getting this motion passed in the House in a couple of weeks is a real challenge. For once, we need the House as a whole to pull together. Normally, in light of the little time remaining, the motion would be at risk of dying on the order paper. Frankly, this motion is far too important for that to happen. We have a duty to our veterans, and our government has made combatting homelessness one of its top priorities. Time is running out, but together we can get this done.

I hope that all parties will let debate collapse, which will allow this motion to move forward and enable the government to develop a plan to eliminate homelessness among veterans by 2025. Together we can make it happen.

Our request today to skip the normal two hours of debate for a private member's motion is an unusual one. However I think that members on both sides of the House, from all parties, recognize how urgent it is to adopt this motion. We must act now for our veterans instead of waiting even longer. We owe it to our veterans.

At this point, I would like to bring forward an amendment to the private member's motion, Motion No. 225.

I move:

That the motion be amended in section (b) by replacing the words after “June 2020” with the following:

co-led by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister of Veterans Affairs; and

I believe that this motion has its place and that we should make an exception, on behalf of veterans. By supporting this motion, all parties are demonstrating that it is possible to restore dignity. That is a good way to end the session.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It is my duty to inform hon. members that, pursuant to Standing Order 93(3), no amendment may be proposed to a private member's motion or to a motion for second reading of a private member's bill unless the sponsor of the item indicates his or her consent.

Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Bay of Quinte if he consents to the amendment being moved.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

Mr. Speaker, I consent.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in the House today to debate Motion No. 225, veteran homelessness in Canada, which has been put forward by my colleague, the member for Bay of Quinte. This member and I have worked together here in Ottawa for a number of years, and since the 2015 election, we have been on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs together. It has been a great privilege to work with him. We spent many hours discussing many important issues and what we can do to assist our veterans. I commend my colleague for his work in putting together this motion and for his time on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. It has been a pleasure to work with him.

Also, I would like to acknowledge and thank the many Saskatchewan members of Parliament who are speaking to this motion today and recognizing how we, in Saskatchewan, have had to deal with veteran homelessness, not only in urban centres but also in the rural communities we represent.

I would like to take a moment to read the text of the motion that we are debating today. It reads:

That, in the opinion of the House: (a) the government should set a goal to prevent and end veteran homelessness in Canada by 2025; (b) a plan to achieve this aim should be developed by the government and be presented to the House by June 2020, led by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and supported by the Minister of Veterans Affairs; and (c) this plan should include consideration of whether a National Veterans Housing Benefit similar to the highly successful U.S. Housing and Urban Development – Veterans Administration Supportive Housing (HUD VASH) Program would fit the Canadian context, complementing the National Housing Strategy.

I add to that the amendment we just heard, which proposed using the word “co-led” instead of “led”. I do not think we will see that as an issue in our discussions, at least from my point of view.

I truly believe that all members on all sides of this House are in favour of ending homelessness among veterans. If my time on the veterans affairs committee has taught me anything, it is that when it comes to veterans, almost every politician is willing to put aside partisanship for the greater good of serving those who have served us. While we may have differences when it comes to what that service looks like, ultimately we all want the very best programs and services for those who have fought for and represented Canada.

With respect to this motion specifically, I truly and wholeheartedly support the intent behind it, and it is only the effectiveness of the measures contained therein that I take any issue with. We want to provide the best possible service to our veterans who are struggling with homelessness, and we want to ensure that we are using the most appropriate avenues to accomplish that goal.

Veterans each have their own unique story, with their experiences shaping who they are and where they are today. We need to understand that while a group of soldiers may share a common experience, how they deal with that experience is different from one individual to the next. What rolled off the back of one soldier may have affected another soldier deeply. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the issues our veterans face, and that is certainly the case when it comes to veteran homelessness.

One thing that we have repeatedly heard at the veterans affairs committee is the importance of a community. The best people to help veterans are their fellow veterans, because only they can begin to understand what their brothers or sisters in arms have been through.

We had many community outreach groups appear before the committee and outline the outstanding efforts they have made from coast to coast with the goal of ending veteran homelessness.

Veterans Affairs Canada, or VAC, has provided information about its programs and services to approximately 200 of these community outreach organizations that work with the homeless in more than 50 major cities across the country. This includes key information on how to contact VAC. VAC is also currently involved in outreach initiatives with veterans groups and community organizations to find and assist homeless veterans. I am glad to see that this is happening, and I encourage VAC and the minister to ensure that supporting these organizations remains a top priority going forward.

I would like to touch on some of the great work already being done in this country with respect to community outreach for veterans. As I said, we heard from many grassroots organizations that are taking a community-based approach to finding and assisting veterans in need with housing, social benefits, mental health assistance and much more.

One of these organizations, which has testified at the veterans affairs committee more than once, is VETS Canada. VETS Canada does an annual tour of Canada's major cities, where volunteers walk the streets in order to identify homeless veterans in need and point them towards the appropriate services.

It also provides emergency transition housing in Halifax, Vancouver and Ottawa. That is just a fraction of what it does. In fact, the chair and co-founder of VETS Canada advised the committee that about half its referrals each month come from VAC case managers. That is how effective this organization has been in getting veterans the help they need. It is truly incredible to see what people can do if they are willing to put the time and effort toward a common goal, which VETS Canada so clearly has.

I would also like to highlight an organization that we all know very well: the Royal Canadian Legion. Its Leave the Streets Behind program provides emergency housing as well as financial assistance to homeless and at-risk veterans. It also works in partnership with the organization I just spoke of, VETS Canada, as well as other community-based groups, to serve veterans that require assistance. I am not sure if many Canadians are aware of the full scope of the Legion's work, outside of its annual poppy campaign in the fall, but it maintains a national network of support, allowing it to address matters that come to it at a local level. It is modernizing and adapting to the needs of today's veterans and has assured us that it will continue to do so into the future.

Other areas that homeless and low-income veterans can access are VAC's veterans emergency fund, the Royal Canadian Naval Benevolent Fund, the Canadian Forces personnel assistance fund and the Montreal Old Brewery Mission sentinels of the street program, just to name a few.

One of the issues we have unfortunately heard about repeatedly in the discussion on ending veterans' homelessness is that some veterans simply do not want to be found. There are a number of reasons for that, many of which a person who has never served would not understand. Veterans tend to struggle with issues that the majority of the population never will, such as PTSD from traumas that were personally experienced or things like a brain stem injury from being forced to take a medication with harmful side effects, such as mefloquine.

When people are stuck in the cycle of failing mental health, it can be extremely difficult for them to seek help. Many times, they will choose to self-medicate by using drugs or alcohol to cope with the mental turmoil they are experiencing. Homelessness is directly tied into this, as in some cases, veterans will lose everything, including their families and homes, because their mental health has deteriorated to the point where they cannot manage the demands of their day-to-day lives.

Even if veterans do seek help, they are sometimes turned away, as they do not meet the qualifications. For example, some veterans who are using medical marijuana are turned away from support programs that would otherwise help them, despite the fact that they are using marijuana under the advisement of a physician, as medication. The medical marijuana may be helping them cope and helping them get off the many neuropsychiatric medications and opioids they are on. However, they end up being removed or disallowed from participating in programs that are meant to help them, resulting in a continued cycle of homelessness.

Another thing we heard about, which was very interesting, was pets. I think that most of us here know how therapeutic it is to spend time with pets. They are constant companions who provide reassurance and comfort. People can pour their hearts out to animals and not worry that they will love them any less. However, it becomes a bit of an issue when we look at veterans' homelessness, as the majority of facilities that provide emergency housing will not allow pets. Most people would not think this would be a barrier to housing, but it truly is. Time and again, I have heard that veterans are willing to give up their beds in a shelter or emergency transition home so that they can have their dogs at their side. This is a small facet of all the details that need to be considered when formulating strategies to end veteran homelessness.

I would encourage the government to listen to its own Advisory Committee on Homelessness when it comes to a proven method of reducing homelessness in Canada. The advisory committee's final report on the Conservative's Housing First policy stated:

A key learning in the national implementation of Housing First is that the Housing First model must be adapted to local conditions (like funding, community size, local housing type and availability), and must be tailored to meet the unique needs of different populations (such as youth, women, veterans, Indigenous Peoples).

I could speak to this for hours, but unfortunately, I am limited in time. I am proud of the work that is going on in Canada, separate and apart from any federal government initiative, with respect to combatting homelessness among veterans. While I do not think that the national housing strategy referenced in the text of the motion will actually be the catalyst for ending veterans' homelessness, I am happy that the issue is getting the attention it needs.

Our veterans gave us so much and served our country with respect, honour and dignity. They deserve the same in return, and it is our job to ensure that they get it.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate, the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.

I will just let the parliamentary secretary know that there are only about three minutes remaining in the time provided for private members' business.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I will be relatively short.

On all sides of this House, we have recognized the valuable contributions our veterans have made over the years and how they contribute to our society today. We have a wonderful opportunity to see this resolution pass if members could hold back on their comments and allow it to pass this afternoon. I would ask those who are supporting our veterans to recognize the value of the resolution and allow it to come to a vote.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

We are down to about two minutes remaining.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the Bay of Quinte for this very strong motion. Every single person in this place will be supporting this motion. Members from the Conservative Party, from the NDP, and I am sure from the government will all be supporting this.

We recognize that there is a time frame. Rather than worrying about this going to a vote, let us worry about what we are going to do on the ground as Canadians and how we are going to help our veterans. Therefore, I urge everyone to not be caught up in the politics of this debate, as I see some members of the government are. Let us recognize that we can work very well with the member for Bay of Quinte, with the member for Saskatoon West and with all the different speakers. We just recognized D-Day because of the great men and women who have served this country.

Just because it is a motion that will be losing time and be lost on the Order Paper does not mean that in our hearts we cannot do what is right and help out our veterans each and every day.

This is a motion the members of the Conservative Party are very happy to support. We recognize that there is a lot of political stuff going on over this as they talk about how much time we have to debate. I have had one minute to debate this as the critic for this role. Let us not worry about the 25 minutes the Liberals have used, reducing us to 20 minutes.

I am being asked to call the question by a member who has sat there and ridiculed us, saying that Conservatives do not support this. We support this wholeheartedly, but it is very important that there is an opportunity to debate these types of issues.

We talk about things like the portable housing benefit. I would love to see that as we go forward with this. The portable housing benefit is supposed to be coming in April 2020. It was introduced in the national housing strategy back in November 2017. If this is an idea we can put forward that would work for our veterans, it is something we should be doing. We should be working hard for our veterans each and every day. That is something that our party will continue to do.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The time for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedNational Security Act, 2017Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order.

In relation to the consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-59, An Act respecting national security matters, I move:

That the debate be not further adjourned.

The Conservatives will do whatever they can to ensure that the government does not advance legislation, so we will use our tools.

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedNational Security Act, 2017Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to Standing Order 67(1), there will now be a 30-minute question period. Members are familiar with what we ask now. Those who are interested and wishing to participate in the 30-minute question period will rise. We will then ask members to keep their interventions to approximately one minute. That will allow all the members who have expressed an interest to have an opportunity to do so. I remind members also that in the course of these 30-minute question times, preference is given to members of the opposition. However, that is not to the exclusion of members from the government as well. We will now proceed with questions.

The hon. member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner.

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedNational Security Act, 2017Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-59 is the government's version of a supposedly improved national security framework. However, I am confused by what we heard from witnesses at committee and what the government continues to push forward. Therefore, I would be interested to hear from the minister why the government rejected an amendment to allow public servants across all federal governments to report information that they believe is connected or related to a national security threat. Why is the government blocking public servants from sharing information regarding threats with security forces or oversight committees? How does that improve national security?

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedNational Security Act, 2017Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, this legislation has been before Parliament for almost two years exactly. It has had the most thorough consultation of any national security law in Canadian history. It has been the subject of extensive debate, many amendments and the most thorough examination of the law this Parliament has ever had. It is a complicated piece of legislation. However, I can say that it enjoys the very strong support of the national security agencies of the Government of Canada, those agencies that are charged with the responsibility of keeping Canadians safe, including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Communications Security Establishment, the RCMP and the CBSA. It also has the very strong support of some pre-eminent academics, such as Professors Forcese and Carvin. Together, they are very anxious to see this legislation become law at long last.

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedNational Security Act, 2017Government Orders

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, prior to the 2015 election, we saw the Liberals decrying what they quite rightfully saw as the usurping of parliamentary rights and privileges. It was not just the omnibus character of the legislation the Stephen Harper government passed. It was also the fact that closure was invoked regularly by the Stephen Harper government. At the time, the Liberals and the Prime Minister, quite rightly, promised to do away with that. Instead, they have doubled down. We now have this extreme closure motion that has just been moved in the House by the Liberals, which permits 20 minutes of debate on this particular bill. This is the kind of extremism, in terms of cutting down parliamentary debate and scrutiny, that most Canadians reject.

We have an omnibus bill. People have raised concerns about the bill, such as the fact that sensitive data on Canadians, totally innocent Canadians, could be collected as a result of the passage of this bill. Is that not the real reason the government is doubling down with extremist closure motions that only give a scant few minutes of debate, when there are so many concerns raised about this legislation?