News | Minister Jean Yves Duclos comes to McGill

Federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development takes questions

On Monday, January 16, Liberal McGill hosted a question and answer session with Jean Yves Duclos, Federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

Duclos answered questions on topics ranging from the federal government’s National Housing Strategy, homelessness, First Peoples issues, mortgages, and urban housing, all of which fall under his portfolio.

Urban housing

One attendee, Jesse, reminded Duclos that in a country like Canada, the cost of living varies a great deal between urban areas like Vancouver and Toronto, and certain regions like rural Alberta and Ontario.

“What is the government doing to […] compensate for that difference?” he asked. “In Vancouver, the living wage […] is $25. There are massive discrepancies, so I think there is a middle class that now can have a $100,000 dollar income, and still not be able to afford a home in Vancouver.”

“The housing needs and the housing circumstances of Canadians vary quite a lot,” responded Duclos. “This being said, not all Canadian regions display this wide range of housing conditions, and it’s true that in Toronto and Vancouver in particular […], the regions where both the cost of housing is high and rising, those communities present specific challenges.”

“In Vancouver, the living wage […] is $25. There are massive discrepancies, so I think there is a middle class that now can have a $100,000 dollar income, and still not be able to afford a home in Vancouver.”

“Unfortunately, despite the tools that the Canadian government can use, through the CMHC, Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation, in particular, through regulations, through housing insurance, and mortgages […] it’s very difficult to address the localized tensions [that] these communities face.”

As a result, municipalities are best equipped to address these issues, Duclos said, stressing municipal planning, development of public transportation, and economic and demographic growth as key issues to address in supporting middle-class Canadians.

Youth homelessness

Another attendee, Meghan, asked, “What is the government doing to invest in the prevention of youth homelessness?”

“Unfortunately, despite the tools that the Canadian government can use, through the CMHC, Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation, in particular, through regulations, through housing insurance, and mortgages […] it’s very difficult to address the localized tensions [that] these communities face.”

Duclos stressed the importance of fighting homelessness at the local level, using the example of Montreal as a city where a number of organizations have an ability at the local level “to understand how to protect the youth against homelessness, and to look at the problem in a broad manner.”

Duclos also highlighted that addressing youth homelessness doesn’t solely revolve around housing concerns.

“What is the government doing to invest in the prevention of youth homelessness?”

“You need to provide [homeless youth] with physical safety, mental health, physical health, and then you can start to develop a relationship, build emotional capital that we need to interact with the homeless youth, provide them with hope,” he said.
“Hope is critical in assisting homeless youth,” he continued, “and then slowly, with confidence and appropriate support, to develop the other dimensions of their life, such as training […] the ability to participate in […] the labour force, and slowly to develop their social and other forms of capital.”

Duclos clarified that the best way the federal government can assist localized homelessness initiatives was through adequate resource support.

“Hope is critical in assisting homeless youth.”

“Last March, the federal government announced for the first time in seventeen years an increase in funding to fight homelessness across Canada,” he told attendees. “A fifteen per cent increase, which is making a big difference across Canada […], but what is even more important is the ability of organizations and communities to make the best use of these additional resources in pushing ahead their assistance to homeless populations.”

Northern housing crises

Another attendee asked what the federal government was doing to address “Northern housing crises in Nunavut and northern Quebec.”

“There are two elements to that,” answered Duclos. “The first is the obvious greater needs and greater costs associated to housing in the North, which has to be acknowledged: again, in last March’s budget, transfers to the Territories and northern communities were adjusted to [reflect] greater need and greater costs.”

“The second thing is the fact that in Northern communities, we find in greater numbers, Indigenous families and communities, and there is an opportunity in re-engaging the federal government in assisting the housing need of Indigenous families,” continued Duclos. “The nation-to-nation agenda is ‘Can we in part implement it through strong active and respectful relationships with Indigenous organizations and governments?’”

Indigenous homelessness

“Are there any plans to specifically address the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples within homeless communities?” asked an attendee.

“The nation-to-nation agenda is ‘Can we in part implement it through strong active and respectful relationships with Indigenous organizations and governments?’”

“It is such a dire state of affairs,” responded Duclos, “including here in Montreal, but even more so in Western Canada to recognize this failure […] of building a proper relationship between the federal government, and other governments, and Indigenous communities, [which] has led to all sorts of evils, including that of many homeless Indigenous peoples in cities across Canada.”

“Building that relationship is, among other things, through supporting housing ambitions of our Indigenous families through resources, but also equally importantly through appropriate relationships,” he went on. “It’s not just money that matters, it’s also the ability of Indigenous governments and communities to feel and be empowered when it comes to aiding them.”


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