Mr. Speaker, I want thank to my hon. colleague for a remarkable speech, one that hits on the very important aspects of today's debate.
Today, we are talking about veterans and it is always an honour for me to recognize the contributions of veterans and also the veterans who are present in the House. I want to thank them for their service.
What we are seeing across Canada today is truly deplorable. We are talking about homeless veterans, something that should never have been a topic in the House. It is to the extent that nearly 5,000 former serving members, who make up a part of about 630,000 veterans across the country, continue to live through this every day.
We are seeing veterans on the front lines of poverty. Whether it is my community of Edmonton—Griesbach or Powell River or Winnipeg, indigenous women and other vulnerable groups hit the intersection of this crisis. When we are talking about veterans, the barriers they feel are immense.
I want to highlight some of the history of veterans affairs in Canada and my own experience with advocacy for veterans in the Métis community.
For a long period of time, Métis people have contributed greatly to the Canadian Armed Forces at home and overseas. I am reminded of the stories that veterans shared with me in September 2019, when the government and the Prime Minister apologized for the mistreatment of Métis veterans in Regina.
I was present at that apology and what I heard was the recognition that indigenous veterans were left behind. They served in World War II. Whether it was the Cree code talkers or the expert snipers from indigenous communities, they put their lives on the line, even when Canada did not recognize them. They knew that the fight for justice and the fight for freedom was one that we all share and one that unites each and every one of us as Canadians.
It is deplorable to think that, during World War II, this country was able to manoeuver and make what was financially impossible materially possible. We were able to house, feed and clothe over one million Canadians during the war. Today, we are talking about 5,000 veterans who do not have those means.
This is a true matter of our nation's dignity, the treatment of those who put their lives on the line, the treatment of those who sometimes go ignored for their service. Today must be a day when we recognize their sacrifices, not just during their service but during the time that comes afterward. We just heard the New Democratic critic of veterans affairs describe the importance of veterans and the issues that they are currently facing in transition.
When we think about the services that the government should be providing for veterans, we often think of the other groups that are doing that work, the groups that are filling the gaps for veterans, the groups that are continuing to feed, house and clothe with barely any resources. I think about the Veterans Association Food Bank of Edmonton, for example, which started as a food bank and today has grown into a larger mandate of supporting veterans. When I toured that food bank, I met with veterans who are proud of the service they have contributed to our country.
What they are not proud of is the fact that Veterans Affairs and the government will not provide them that same level of dignity. They are a remarkable people, working and volunteering on behalf of veterans for veterans, who are doing this work in my city right now, helping veterans access those programs where Veterans Affairs will not.
We must ensure that all veterans have that access. These programs that veterans have been unable to access are truly part and parcel of how we look toward a better future for veterans. When they do not work, it is the opposite. It shows these veterans that the door is closed, not open.
When I think about the tremendous work of veterans and their own contributions to communities, I think about the folks in my community who are volunteering at homeless shelters, even though they themselves face that same crisis. These are men and women who are contributing and want to contribute, but they also need to have their government contribute. We have the means in Canada as one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
To all of my colleagues in the House, I know that each and every one of us is dedicated to the prosperity and betterment of veterans. This should not be a partisan issue. Each and every one of us can recount our own family members, friends and neighbours who have served, and some continue to serve. These barriers should not be present.
As I said in the beginning of my speech, in Canada, when we had less wealth, when we had fewer people even, we were able to house, feed and clothe one million Canadians. Today, we must fight poverty, which is the challenge that is facing veterans and Canadians from coast to coast to coast. We can, in fact, make a contribution to veterans that eliminates poverty. We can, in fact, do the work that makes the financially impossible materially possible. I am confident that, with members of the House, if we can see beyond our differences for the betterment of all veterans in our country, we can, in fact, house 5,000 veterans, we can clothe those veterans and we can feed those veterans.
There is no amount of money that is too much to ensure that veterans and their families are taken care of, because what they are offering is far more than what our country could ever give back. They are offering their lives, their families and their time. It is a huge sacrifice and one we cannot take for granted, one to which Canadians owe a debt. We can, in fact, eliminate poverty for veterans. I know we can do this if we are able to see veterans as the truly remarkable people they are, and not just when they serve but in our communities. They are our neighbours, our community members and the people who show up at the Legion and help out when they are asked to. These are real people. They do not, like many others, deserve to be homeless.
Canada is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. I know that, with co-operation from each and every member of the House, we can, in fact, eliminate poverty and we can eliminate houselessness. What better way to start than by ensuring that our veterans are housed, fed and clothed.
On this day of our debate, I hope we can continue to hear, through the contributions of all of my colleagues, about the importance of veterans, and not just in our communities but across the country. I also hope to hear of members' commitment to work across party lines to eliminate the issues of transition that veterans face today, to see the nuanced division and intersection between indigenous veterans and women veterans and to see that we need to do more.
I am confident that, if we do that, we will not have to return to this place and debate again the fact that we have houseless veterans, which is a true tragedy in Canada and one that we can eliminate. We can eliminate poverty.