Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to address the House this morning. I am very proud to be part of a government whose priority it is to improve the quality of life of all Canadians.
I am especially proud of the fact that in the 2003 budget our government decided once again to address what I consider to be a very serious problem. I am talking about homelessness, a tragedy for thousands of people, especially young people who find themselves in this hopeless situation.
The dichotomy between those whose personal situation is improving and those whose situation is getting worse also exists in my riding.
At the dawn of this century when the effects of globalization and technological innovation are increasingly transforming not only the relationships between countries but also the daily life of all citizens, I feel we must pay special attention to the life of the community.
In an address to the House in October 1999, I commended the programs, then in their infancy, set up specifically for the homeless. I said that these measures could lose their effectiveness and end up being too scattered if they were not all coordinated by a single minister.
Today I would like to reiterate my comments and pay tribute to my colleague, the hon. Minister of Labour and federal coordinator on homelessness, whose efforts have been remarkable, and who has demonstrated such energy and sensitivity when it comes to working on this complex and difficult issue. She understands that thousands of Canadians have an urgent and pressing need for help.
Allow me to provide some context for homelessness. Who are the homeless in Canada? It is estimated that half of those who live on the streets are people with a history of mental illness, people who have been discharged from psychiatric care and have nowhere to go.
There are also single parent families. There are also youth who have dropped out of school, who live on the street and who have not received the needed education or who are not ready to find a job and certainly not to hold one down.
We need a broad understanding of the problem in order to develop and implement programs and services that will provide support for all those who have no home.
Anyone can become homeless, regardless of age, gender or ethnic origin. Homelessness does not discriminate, one could say.
The fate of the homeless is such a pressing issue across the country that our government has announced that the supporting communities partnership initiative, or SCPI program, will be renewed for two years. The government will provide $135 million per year over two years in order to help communities solve this problem.
Even a government with the best intentions, and even all levels of government working together, will never be able to solve the homelessness problem without the support of all Canadians.
Homelessness is a problem that affects all of society, and all of society must fight it together. We need to develop approaches and initiatives together with public administrations, community groups, educational institutions, the private sector and everyone who wants to contribute to the betterment of their community.
In closing, I would like to raise another point from the 2003 budget that is near and dear to me. I am referring to the announcement made by the Prime Minister of Canada last week on the action plan developed by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs to promote official languages.
I am a member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, and I am very proud to support and applaud this government initiative.