Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Issue 18 - Evidence - February 2, 2011
OTTAWA, Wednesday, February 2, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology met
this day at 4:14 p.m. to study current issues pertaining to Canada's largest
cities (topic: social inclusion and cohesion).
Senator Art Eggleton (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: I call this meeting to order. Welcome to the Standing
Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. Today we are having
the first meeting on a new study, the second segment of our study of the social
issues facing the cities of Canada. The first segment took a considerable length
of time. This one will not take quite as much.
That first study produced the report In from the Margins: A Call to Action
on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness, which was unanimously adopted by the
Senate and which has received a fair bit of attention and recognition across the
In that study we learned about people who are socially excluded, and
therefore this second segment will deal with what we need to do to ensure social
inclusion. Eighty per cent of the people in this country live in cities, so it
is very important that we pay attention to what is happening on social inclusion
and social cohesion issues in our cities.
We have 12 meetings planned to look at how we can make ourselves more
socially inclusive and ensure that our population is more engaged and
participating in improving our communities and thereby our country. In this
first meeting we will do an overview. In the notes you have received from our
analysts, you will see how the rest of the meetings will roll out. We will deal
with integration of immigrants, inclusion of Aboriginal and other minorities,
design and planning for inclusion, and safety in urban areas.
Today we will hear from two witnesses, although one has yet to arrive. Ratna
Omidvar, President of the Maytree Foundation, is coming in from Toronto, and
travelling anywhere in Southern Ontario today is rather difficult. She is
travelling by train, so hopefully she will be with us soon.
In the meantime, we have Fran Klodawsky, Associate Professor at Carleton
University in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies. Her
research interests include women's initiatives to promote equality and
inclusiveness in cities, especially with regard to safety and municipal
services, and community, interurban, national and international efforts to
examine the significance of affordable housing and the dilemmas that arise,
including homelessness, when such housing is not available.
I will also welcome our newest senator, Senator Meredith from Toronto, who
has come to observe our committee.
Since this is our first meeting of the year, happy new year, and welcome back
to the rest of you.
I will turn the floor over to Professor Klodawsky.
Fran Klodawsky, Associate Professor, Carleton University, as an
individual: It is a pleasure and a privilege to speak to you today and to
contribute to setting the terms of discussion about social inclusion and
exclusion. These terms are linked to new thinking about poverty reduction and
citizenship. They acknowledge that deprivation is more than simply a lack of
adequate income and that its opposite, what I will call full or substantive
citizenship, has to do with more than simply having enough money to cover the
basics of daily living.
Social inclusion, according to the Laidlaw Foundation, turns public
policy-making upside down. Rather than assume that there is a one-size-fits-all
approach to effectively address social problems, policy-makers need to
acknowledge diversity and difference as potential resources and public policy as
a key tool to build places of meaning and engagement for all sorts of
individuals and groups.
For Amartya Sen, whose ideas regarding individual capabilities have been
pivotal to this way of thinking, the point is that while "Income may be one of
the most prominent means for a good life without deprivation . . . it is not the
only influence." He argues that "We must look at impoverished lives, and not
just at depleted wallets."
In thinking about capabilities and the factors that prevent people from being
able to act as full citizens, these arguments serve to shift the focus to
structures such as institutional arrangements, global forces and the measures
and attitudes that feed feelings of powerlessness. The good news is that these
sorts of insights highlight the potentially vital role of both public and
private institutions at local, regional, national and international levels. The
bad news, though, is that they open up so many potential avenues of intervention
that it is difficult to know where to begin and how to proceed.
Some scholars and policy-makers interpret these arguments to conclude that
the pre-eminent focus should be on access to meaningful and well-paid
employment, whereas for others enhanced health and well-being are the more
useful frameworks. To these discussions I respond that policy effectiveness also
needs to acknowledge the overriding significance of context. Who you are, where
you live and how you are connected to others all make a significant difference
when it comes to inclusion and exclusion. I will elaborate on this argument in
the context of discussing the question of who is excluded.
Research has contributed to a general agreement that in large Canadian
cities, six groups are particularly at risk of social exclusion: lone parents,
overwhelmingly mothers; unattached individuals aged 45 to 64, both female and
male; Aboriginal individuals living off-reserve; recent immigrants; people with
significant activity limitations; those who fit into more than one of these
groups; and, finally, children of parents in these groups. No one idea or
response will help all of them.
I will expand on this argument by drawing from ongoing longitudinal research
about the experiences of individuals and families who have been homeless. One
common and not surprising assumption is that, among people who are homeless, any
stable housing arrangement is better than living precariously in an emergency
shelter or on the street. The evidence, however, suggests that even though
housing is a necessary and fundamental element, it is not always sufficient on
its own to enhance quality of life.
An intriguing finding from Ottawa with people who were homeless when we began
our research was that among the three quarters of respondents who were stably
housed two years after being interviewed, there was no evidence that simply
being in housing had a positive effect on their mental health, but there was a
significant correlation between self-reported mental health improvements and the
respondents' perceptions that they were living in good-quality housing.
Similarly, preliminary data from ongoing comparative research in Ottawa, Toronto
and Vancouver suggests that the health status of those who are homeless is very
similar to individuals who are vulnerably housed and at risk of becoming
homeless, whereas both groups' health status was much worse than better-off
Furthermore, in these same studies it has become clear that the question of
what constitutes good-quality housing also varies between groups in very complex
ways. There is, for example, well-documented and widely replicated evidence that
feeling safe in one's neighbourhood is of much greater concern and impact for
women than it is for their male peers.
Other research suggests that differences between homeless Canadian families
and those born elsewhere are less substantial than are the differences between
singles and households with children. Whereas the families tended to be homeless
because of economic factors and often were anxious to quickly re-establish their
lives as workers and community members, the singles tended to be more burdened
with serious physical and particularly mental health issues.
Even among the singles, women and girls tended to report profiles of health
and substance use problems that were distinct from those of men and boys.
This diversity has profound implications for thinking about what the federal
government might do to reduce social exclusion. I agree with Meyer Burstein's
conclusion that "Different at-risk groups require different policies. These
policies engage different levels of government, different public agencies and
different civil groups. As a result, consultation, co-ordination, and delivery
strategies will also differ."
I want to elaborate briefly on his argument. When it comes to promoting
social inclusion, consultation needs to take a form that encourages different
groups to speak and to be heard. For example, in Ottawa, the City for All Women
Initiative is a community-based group whose "aim is to strengthen the capacity
of the full diversity of women and the City of Ottawa to work in partnership to
create a more inclusive city and promote gender equality." In one of this
organization's projects, women from a wide variety of backgrounds received
training as focus group facilitators. One of their assignments was to lead group
discussions about recreation programs within the city. As a result, city staff
who were working to prepare a new recreation master plan were able to draw on
insights from residents who had not previously been heard from on these matters.
When it comes to coordination and delivery, the focus needs to be on
facilitating how different levels and agencies work together to achieve certain
goals. Here I encourage committee members to consider the positive features of
such tripartite initiatives as the Homeless Partnering Strategies and their
predecessors. The combination of dedicated funding, flexibility in local
application and the requirement for broad stakeholder engagement in preparing a
community plan might well be applicable with regard to social issues other than
Thank you for listening. I look forward to discussing these matters with you.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
What are the priorities around social inclusion in Canada, and what do you
think the federal government can do about it? You mentioned in the latter part
of your comments the concept that was developed for the Homelessness Partnering
Strategies, which involved three orders of government coming together and
listening to what is coming out of the community regarding developing that
program, and you are saying that might be a model. That is an interesting fact.
Ms. Klodawsky: In terms of priorities, I think it is necessary to
begin to address basic needs, because until people have decent housing and
enough money for food they will not be able to begin to think about other things
that are also involved in feeling included and feeling part of the life of
cities and part of being a citizen.
Those basic needs cannot be neglected, first and foremost. We do have,
especially in cities, a growing crisis in the lack of affordability of housing
and the inability to afford sufficient food. There are more and more indications
that those things are getting worse, even though some efforts have been made to
increase the amount of affordable housing. That must be addressed first.
In terms of federal government involvement, we need enabling mechanisms to
help public and private institutions and agencies work together in a way that
involves people who are currently excluded. They need to be able to listen to
what those people have to say about how they will be able to become more
included and to work with those ideas in ways that effectively use the available
There is potentially something quite useful in the model of the Homelessness
The Chair: Thank you for that answer.
Professor Hulchanski at the University of Toronto has done some work on our
city with respect to the divisions within it. He originally talked about three
cities in one, and now he is saying that in Toronto the more well-off people are
congregating in the core, and in the inner suburbs rim there is decreasing
involvement in the community and decreasing economic status. In fact, one of the
alarming statistics he has cited is that in the city of Toronto itself, the
middle class has gone from 66 per cent back in the 1970s down to 29 per cent
today. A greater polarization is happening. United Way Toronto recently came out
with a report about vertical poverty and the fact that many people with lower
incomes are now congregating in these towers.
How do you see social inclusion and social cohesion threatened by all that?
Ms. Klodawsky: Absolutely, and it is not only in Toronto where that
sort of polarization is occurring. In general, I think urban policy has
concentrated too much on adding to what is assumed to be a stable situation,
adding affordable housing or providing more in the way of social assistance, and
forgetting about the losses that are going on in affordable housing, the kinds
of urban dynamics that are feeding a polarization that is problematic.
To begin to turn that around will take a concerted effort at the level of the
city in terms of urban redevelopment and what is being built, where and for
whom. This will be difficult; however, without that, we will continue to have a
situation where the market will decide who is able to access the best parts of
the city. Those parts of the city will become more and more the centre of where
all good things happen, which leaves more and more people further away from
being able to access those good things.
The Chair: I will now turn to my colleagues. I am told that our second
panellist is at the train station and on her way here, hopefully soon.
Senator Eaton: Dr. Klodawsky, for a long time I have been interested
in the relationship between homelessness and mental health. You addressed mental
health, but you did not make it one of your groups. St. Michael's Hospital in
Toronto has done huge studies about mental health and homelessness.
Ms. Klodawsky: You are right: I meant to infer that individuals with
mental health issues were part of the group with activity limitations.
Senator Eaton: We spend a lot of money, but I think we are killing
homeless people with kindness by not putting them into housing where they have
access to showers and food, where they have their own room, where they get their
pills every morning, and where we are a little more forceful in keeping them off
the streets, number one.
Could you talk about loss of community? You mentioned an interesting word,
"connect," which to me was important. One can perhaps eat badly and not have
the best accommodations if one is connected to community, if one connects to
other people, or if one feels that one has something in common with other people
Could you elaborate on connectedness and what we could do to build a sense of
community, in an abstract sense?
Ms. Klodawsky: Your arguments about community are significant in that
inclusion is about feeling part of things, and feeling part of things means that
you are connected to others; you are not isolated. There is the question of how.
Part of my response would again be around the idea of consultation. In order to
figure out how to help people feel more included, those people have to be part
of the working through of how that happens. Again, there is no one way of doing
Even with people who have some mental illness, the reasons for their being
mentally ill and what will help them get over that illness vary in quite
profound ways. One needs to be able to be in a situation where, through working
with different groups and trying to figure out some of those ways of building
community, that will happen.
Senator Eaton: Regent Park has just been redeveloped in Toronto. Have
they built a sense of community? Have they put things there that will help
people connect to one another?
Ms. Klodawsky: I do not know enough about what is happening now at
Regent Park to be able to answer that question with any authority.
Senator Eaton: All I know is that they have tried to break free from
the usual subsidized housing and create a sense of neighbourhood.
Ms. Klodawsky: Let me tell you a little bit about an innovative
organization in Ottawa called Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation, CCOC,
which is a fairly large non-profit housing corporation that began in the 1970s
and now owns about 1,800 units in Ottawa.
CCOC began in an effort to try to make affordable housing part and parcel of
the Centretown community. Their original idea was that they wanted to have mixed
housing. They wanted to have people paying market rents living next to people
who were subsidized, and also mixing up families and singles.
However, they did not stop there. They have a broad-based governance
structure. They have a number of committees and they very much encourage tenants
as well as community members to get involved in those committee structures. Real
governance goes on there. Also, within the buildings they own, they encourage
engagement and involvement. There are all sorts of interesting success stories
about young single parents who move in because they get a subsidized unit and
end up discovering that they have some facility for organizing or learning the
skills they would need to work there, for example.
The question of social inclusion and how to get there is complex. As I said,
it does matter who you are, where you live, and how you are connected to others.
However, within situations, trying to encourage a coming together of how people
figure out how to do things better has a lot of potential power.
The Chair: Next on the list is Senator Meredith, our new senator from
Toronto. I am sorry we have all this Toronto domination here at the moment, but
we will spread out across the country any minute now.
Senator Meredith: It is a good thing.
Dr. Klodawsky, thank you for your report. As you know, my background is
dealing with youth. You mentioned immigrants. I am concerned about immigrant
youth and their inclusion. Programs have been put forth by governments to deal
with immigrants who come this to country and then becoming settled. There is the
youth aspect of this. In your opinion, are we doing enough where immigrant youth
You also mentioned several other groups, including Aboriginals and single
females. You spoke about limitations with respect to seniors and the disabled,
so I would imagine that would be included in there. Specifically, seniors are
becoming more and more isolated.
What are some of the measures we could take to ensure that immigrant youth
are properly being dealt with, again relating back to the kind of criminality
that some of them become engaged in, negative behaviours and so on? Please
elaborate on that a little for me, and also comment on what we could do better
to ensure that our seniors are being taken care of.
Ms. Klodawsky: It is interesting to think in a comparative and
contrasting way about seniors and immigrant youth with respect to issues of
social inclusion. It is quite clear that they have different concerns. Different
issues are front and centre on their minds.
For youth, including immigrant youth, questions of having access to jobs,
hope for the future, feeling respected as a person and not being looked at with
suspicion when walking into a store are front and centre. Seniors have other
concerns. They are often afraid of falling or other physical risk, so they tend
to stay inside. That might mean not getting enough exercise or not taking
advantage of social programs. They have very different sets of concerns.
To begin to work with both of those groups, I will say the same things again
and again: Work with these groups, listen to them and ask them for their ideas.
There have been wonderful examples of sports initiatives with immigrant youth
that have had positive and long-lasting impacts. That is the sort of response to
Senator Meredith: As Senator Eaton mentioned with respect to
redevelopment and housing, we have seen the mistakes of the past in urban
planning for many cities and the concrete jungles that were created. The chair
of the committee would be aware of how poor urban planning took place 20 or 30
years ago and created unsafe communities in Ontario. We need to get back to
redevelopment. All around this table are in favour of affordable housing. How do
we ensure that housing is developed in an affordable price range?
Regarding social programs, I am strongly for programs that get people
working, that provide appropriate jobs and training for people. I have said this
in several statements in my community activism. Do you feel that government is
creating opportunities and providing access for individuals who want affordable
housing they can afford to pay for and appropriate jobs rather than having them
depend on social housing? Certainly, there are varied opinions on this with
respect to term limits on housing and so forth. There must be a sense of
non-dependency on social housing because living in social housing comes with a
whole host of social issues. Can you elaborate on that for me?
Ms. Klodawsky: As a geographer, I have to begin by cautioning all of
you not to make assumptions about environmental determinism. Just because there
is a high-rise does not mean it is a bad place to live. We can all think of
examples of very nice high-rise developments. That is just a caution.
With regard to affordable housing, there is a tremendous gap between what it
costs to build and maintain decent housing and what people earning minimum wage
or low wages can afford. There is a tremendous gap between those two realities.
A real challenge is how to close that gap. It is a very difficult situation, and
I am not sure what the answer is except that more money needs to be devoted to
helping people access decent housing. They will not be able to do it on their
own and often will not be able to do it through working because the wages they
earn are not sufficient to cover their costs.
That structural dilemma is getting worse because of the nature of the
employment being generated. We do not have the kinds of decent-paying factory
jobs that employed many people without a tremendous amount of post-secondary
education. We have retail and service jobs that do not pay well at all, and we
have highly paid professional jobs. That kind of polarization then becomes part
of what feeds into the polarization that happens at the level of a city. There
are some structural dilemmas that are very difficult. Does that answer your
Senator Meredith: I believe so, yes.
Senator Callbeck: Dr. Klodawsky, you mentioned in your presentation
the City for All Women Initiative in Ottawa. The aim was to create a more
inclusive city and promote gender equality. You took people from various
backgrounds and taught them how to be facilitators, and they had discussions on
recreation programs for the city.
Ms. Klodawsky: That is just one of their projects.
Senator Callbeck: What came out of those discussions that was
incorporated into a new recreation program? What came to light during those
Ms. Klodawsky: One of them had to do with user fees. Even if the city
has provisions to help people who cannot afford these fees, the clear message
from people was, "We would rather not go because we are embarrassed. We do not
want to tell anyone that we do not have enough money, so we just will not go."
That is one example.
Another example is the significance for some women of single-sex
opportunities for swimming. Swimming was actually a very attractive form of
exercise, but if they were not able to swim without men in the pool, they would
exclude themselves from that activity. Those are two examples that come to mind
Senator Callbeck: The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and
Forestry did a study on rural poverty. One witness talked a bit about
legislation in Quebec that dealt specifically with combatting poverty and social
exclusion. Do you know anything about that legislation?
Ms. Klodawsky: No, I am sorry; I do not know about it.
Senator Callbeck: That is fine.
Senator Dyck: Thank you for your presentation, Dr. Klodawsky. I was
struck by your remarks on context and who the people are, where they live and
how they are connected with others. You outlined the six different groups. What
role do people in the different groups have with respect to their ability to
socialize and engage with the mainstream community? Are they at a deficit
compared what we in the mainstream community would expect in terms of social
skills and literacy?
Literacy is a great predictor of a person's overall health. Do we know
whether that is a problem, and if so, do we have programs that teach people not
only how to be happy, engaged and productive in their own community but also how
to bridge the gap to what could be seen as a mainstream or another community?
Essentially, you are living in two different communities.
Ms. Klodawsky: Those are interesting observations. The notion of how
you are connected to others covers both groups in a way. How you are connected
with others at one level is about feelings of family and having someone who
cares for you that you can depend on in times of need. However, how you are
connected to others also has to do with those less intensive ties that might
connect you to knowing about jobs and giving you information about certain
opportunities and advice about how to manoeuvre in a system.
Social inclusion needs to have both as characteristics. What you do as a
public institution to encourage one might well be different than what you would
do to encourage the other.
With regard to the one around families, you can think of programs that help
mothers and children and that provide psychological services. I am sure you can
all think of a host of such programs.
The other, trying to promote bridging between groups and opportunities for
connection, requires quite a different set of initiatives, equally as important;
it involves for example community centres, where programs are not necessarily
specific to one group but rather provide opportunities for different groups,
such as among youth. Bringing Canadian- born and immigrant youth together is
quite vital. Getting them to know one another as just plain kids is important,
and that requires a whole different but equally important set of initiatives.
Senator Cordy: That was an excellent presentation. We had a
subcommittee on cities, and we saw some excellent programs happening across the
country. Non-profit and volunteer groups were taking the initiative to ensure
that people felt included within the community. If you do not feel included in
the community and are not part of the community, then it is not a very good life
for you in Canada.
We saw an excellent program when we went to Regent Park. Senator Eaton spoke
about that earlier. We saw that it was not just providing the houses. It was
tutoring and helping kids find summer jobs through the Pathways to Education
Program, which is excellent.
Ms. Klodawsky: I am aware of that program.
Senator Cordy: One thing we saw in housing, and the chair referred to
it earlier, is downtown redevelopment. I live in the Halifax region. When you
drive in downtown Halifax, you will say, "Does it not look beautiful?"
However, when you talk to the people on the ground helping people living in
poverty, you hear that although it looks beautiful, it is pricing itself out of
range for the people who used to live in the downtown area. They are being
pushed further and further out, which compounds the problem because they do not
have transportation and they are going further to get groceries and jobs and
those kinds of things. They are further removed from some of the support systems
that they would have. That is a big challenge when we look at housing.
You raised many excellent points. I would like to pick up on the quote by
Meyer Burstein about different at-risk groups requiring different policies. We
are in government, and governments try to make the right programs, but usually
what happens is a cookie-cutter approach. As soon as you try to veer off and put
the square peg in the round hole, suddenly you do not qualify for the funding
for a particular program. I remember talking to Jocelyne Greene, who worked in
Newfoundland on housing for those suffering from poor mental health, and she
said sometimes it is frustrating to sit down and fill out the application forms.
How can we get departments working together so that we have education and
housing and poverty and job training and all of those things coming together so
that you are not having to look over a myriad of departments? It is bad enough
looking through one department when you know what department is applicable. How
do we do that? How do we make different policies for different risk groups?
Ms. Klodawsky: It is no easy task. There is no magic bullet for that.
I mentioned the Homelessness Partnering Strategy. This is not the whole
solution, but it is intriguing. Many people have felt positively about the idea
of the federal government providing funding for municipalities to use to address
a problem within a sector, not to be directive on exactly how that money should
be spent but rather to require one community plan with broad stakeholder
engagement and to allow some flexibility in that funding. I know the City of
Ottawa experience more than any other, although I have looked at the program
across Canada, and there is general agreement that it did allow some
creativeness, innovativeness and engagement. It got people talking to one
another and thinking across some of those silos. That is a piece that I think is
Also, in terms of the federal government, there must be incentives for
departments working across silos. You need to make it count where people are
motivated in terms of evaluation and budgets and how the system of rewards
works. That is where I think there is often a challenge. There are all sorts of
good statements about committee this and interdepartmental that, but when it
comes to managers being assessed for what happens in their department, that same
kind of horizontal working together is not adequately recognized. I think more
work needs to be done in that area.
Senator Cordy: Thank you. It would certainly also save money, or the
money could be better utilized if government departments could work together. I
also believe that the municipalities have their ears to the ground and
understand the needs of their municipality better than the federal government in
Ottawa, so we have to trust they will use it.
Ms. Klodawsky: Another element, going along with what we have been
talking about, is that planning piece. We are all very well aware that, on the
ground, if you are living way out in the suburbs with poor bus transportation,
some of the policies that sound so great on paper will not work or will not have
the impact they need to. In order to spur on planning to do the right thing, you
need the engagement of municipalities and the institutions that influence land
Senator Cordy: The theoretical is not always the most practical.
Ms. Klodawsky: I tell my students that theory is very practical, but
you need to be able to bring it all together.
Senator Cordy: You talked about the immigrant youth having a hope for
a better future. We saw in France a few years ago that the immigrant youth came
in with great hope, but after the second generation when things were still not
any better and they did not feel any more included within the French society,
there was a lot of rioting. How do we take that hope and ensure that they have a
Ms. Klodawsky: From what I understand, it has to do with feelings of
being treated fairly, so that if a job were available, it would not go to the
person who had several generations in France, but both candidates would compete
equally. That is one piece — feeling that who you are and your skills are
recognized for what you bring to the table as opposed to there being some
categorization of who you are. I think trust is part of it. Feeling that you
will be treated fairly is very important.
Having available jobs that are decently paid that give you the hope that if
you work hard you will have enough money to have a good life is becoming more
and more of a challenge as well.
Senator Martin: Thank you very much for your presentation today and
for all the comments to my colleagues. I want to connect to the last discussion
regarding youth and community and partnerships. I do believe that is an
absolutely important strategy for all communities across Canada. I have seen
very effective partnerships in Vancouver as well as in some of the other cities
I want to refer to the quote you read from Meyer Burstein, that "Different
at-risk groups require different policies" because of their diverse needs. It
is a challenge for us around this table to develop policy that could somehow
meet the needs of a broad range of communities and at-risk groups. The key is
partnerships and what Senator Eaton said about being connected to community.
For me that quote was one of the most important points you raised, because
that is what effect we can have, sitting around this table, when legislation
comes through. As we study these policies, what role does the federal government
have? We have a very specific role, and when we look at what cities are doing,
there are many service organizations and community groups, and the partners
together will meet the needs of that community, but there is a specific role for
Could you perhaps elaborate on this quotation? His conclusion is very true:
It is quite complex, so one policy could not possibly capture these needs.
Ms. Klodawsky: The federal government has an important leadership role
as an enabler for certain constructive ideas to be nurtured, to be encouraged,
to be promoted, and also the federal government has a very important role in
providing the evidence and information that allow different communities to have
good access to information and not have to reinvent the wheel every time. I
speak to the homelessness sector because it is the area I know best in terms of
the discussion we are having today.
The Homelessness Partnering Strategy certainly has nothing and never had
anything to do with ending homelessness. The resources that were made available
to that initiative were far too modest and they were criticized, rightly, for
promising something they could not achieve. However, insofar as the cities were
and still are facing incredibly difficult problems with individuals who are
facing homelessness, at least that money and the opportunity to work with that
money in ways that made the most sense for their communities helped cities
manage homelessness. I have written about this. That particular program is
really about managing, not about ending homelessness. However, it did help them
manage in ways that involved more coordination, more innovation, and more
creative kinds of ways of dealing with this very difficult problem. That is the
way in which I believe this is a model.
Senator Demers: At least 10 times the word "money" was mentioned,
and Senator Cordy mentioned the word, too. Every time I am in a committee it is
about money, and I understand that. Do you feel the money is put to good use? Is
there more red tape? To your knowledge, does the money go into the right
channels? Does it go for the right situation? No matter how much money you give,
if it is not administered correctly or is not going to the right channels but to
the wrong pocket, we will be talking here two years from now.
Ms. Klodawsky: There is a real tension between having to account for
every dollar, making sure that it is spent in the right way, and using that
dollar for something that will help. There is a real tension there. I have
heard, in a number of different areas, that the accountability demands have
become so excessive that they are using up a lot of energy that should actually
be spent on getting the programs off the ground. There is a dilemma there.
Senator Demers: I am sure Senator Meredith went through that a lot.
I do not want to be disrespectful here, but do we not know where the money
Ms. Klodawsky: No, I am saying that I believe we have gone the other
way. We know so much about what is happening to every dollar that we are
spending too much on the bureaucracy to manage that money and not enough on
getting the money out the door into programs.
The Chair: I think we found when we did the study on poverty, housing
and homelessness that a lot of money was being spent, but it was not being
channelled in the right way. We came to the conclusion that we did not really in
the long run need more money; we just needed to use the money better and spend
it smarter than we had been doing.
I will start off the second round with a follow-up to what I asked you
earlier. The United Way report on vertical poverty said that about 25 years ago,
when housing was being built by the private sector, certain percentages would be
set aside for low-income people and then modest and more moderate incomes, so
there would be a mixture of incomes, which led to a better integration of people
and a more inclusive kind of atmosphere to live in. The United Way report said
this is not happening anymore, which I find disturbing. Have you found that in
Ottawa or other cities? Is this just a Toronto issue, or is it becoming more
Ms. Klodawsky: In fact, it is an issue internationally. It is a global
issue. It has to do with a number of quite specific changes at one level that
are all pushing in the same direction, the direction of a much more
market-oriented urban development.
When the market decides, the attractive areas become the areas where housing
is built for people who can afford to pay a lot of money to live in those areas,
and it becomes much more difficult to build housing for people who cannot afford
In addition, the cost of building housing is growing very rapidly. In Ottawa,
the construction costs have risen dramatically in the last several years, making
it even more difficult to provide more affordable housing. Those are a couple of
The Chair: Is it becoming a general issue in many communities?
Ms. Klodawsky: Yes. I was in New Delhi a few months ago. A government
minister speaking at a conference I attended pointed out — and she captured it
succinctly and well — that we are really now facing a challenge of a city of
beautification versus a city of livelihoods. Maybe the city of livelihoods is
not as pretty, but in that city of livelihoods you have people able to access
jobs, people able to access some kind of way of making money, and people able to
have a full life.
Senator Braley: Part of it has to do with the original social
geography of building greenbelts around cities rather than spokes through
cities. It started in London, England, and was followed in Toronto with the 407
and with the 401. It is the same thing and the same mess. Hamilton is probably
one of the worst communities with 32 per cent. We do more with our volunteers
than we do with what goes through the money in the government in different
My wife is speaking tonight to 200 or 300 people at Out of the Cold. Some
guys drive themselves up in cars. They do not need to be fed, but we got
problems. In the north end schools, where they go to the lower-income housing,
we feed the youngsters breakfast. They come to school. They start to get
educated and start to believe that they cannot and will not be on welfare for
the rest of their life. When I am interviewing people for jobs in all the
factories I have, the first question is, "What are the benefits?" If they have
to wait 90 days for benefits, they say they are not interested in the job. They
have been trained what to say to be able to continue collecting welfare or other
forms of government assistance. This problem absolutely blows one away.
If volunteers are managed, they can do a better job than paid workers,
because as soon as you get a group of people who are paid, whether it is garbage
collectors or what have you, rather than volunteering they want to be paid, then
unionized, et cetera. That is why it costs us a fortune to do these things.
That is a long way from the basics of helping your neighbour and reaching out
and touching and spending your time volunteering. So many things can be done to
improve our society, but we are not structured that way. We are structured for
accounting and seeking promotion, for making more money from the system. It is
Ms. Klodawsky: I will speak as a volunteer. I am the vice-president of
an organization in Ottawa called Multifaith Housing Initiative. We are less than
10 years old, and we have started to purchase housing because our mandate and
our wish is to increase the amount of affordable housing available in Ottawa.
Even though we have many volunteers, the work involved requires staff in
order to make things work. Volunteers need to be managed and need to have
someone they know will be in the office that they can call. With housing units,
the inhabitants need to have someone to call if the plumbing breaks down. We
still face very rapidly increasing housing costs.
Senator Braley: Yes, the costs are going up because the governments
keep making different and additional rules. It costs about $200 per foot to
build a house under the current regulations. Some build for $300 a foot and some
for more. We used to build them for a $100 a foot. I have several construction
companies, so I know the problem. It is a matter of what level you want to
There is a whole pile of problems, and who makes those decisions? The key is
that if you feed the youngsters breakfast and lunch in kindergarten and grade 1,
they come to school and they learn and become better, in my opinion.
Senator Meredith: Thank you again for your presentation. Senator Eaton
mentioned urban development and the strain that is currently on the budgets of
municipalities. Social programs, which taxpayers' dollars are going to, are
sometimes the first to be cut, and that ties into the inclusion of individuals.
You spoke about the federal government being the lead and providing the
reports and providing the monies to fund these types of programs. My colleague
commented about grassroots organizations that are doing effective work. Would
money be better spent if it were provided to those grassroots organizations,
which know their clients and are results-oriented, rather than going through the
bureaucracy of municipalities?
For example, would it be better to set up a computer centre to teach young
people software applications or how to repair computers and then, taking it one
step further, how to get a job? Would money be better spent if it went directly
to organizations such as the Salvation Army, the Toronto City Mission and other
non-profit organizations that are making a difference and having an impact on
the lives of these individuals?
Giving dollars to municipalities is not effecting the changes we need.
Ms. Klodawsky: I think you need both. You need government to maintain
and oversee the development of both hard and soft infrastructure that is the
framework for enabling community groups, non-profit groups, grassroots groups to
do their thing effectively.
If you are worried about the state of the road outside your office and
whether people will be able to get to your office without breaking their legs,
you will not be very effective. Infrastructure is not flashy, but it is
absolutely essential, and government is the only institution that can take care
of the spine that allows everything else to function.
Senator Meredith: That is infrastructure projects. I am not talking
about huge developments going on in cities, such as building stadiums, which
create jobs. I am talking about actual impact on the lives of individuals who
are excluded from society because they are not getting access to certain
programs, and non-profits are delivering those services.
Ms. Klodawsky: We have been talking about the problems of a kind of
urban redevelopment that is polarizing rich areas and poor areas. Without proper
planning, the jobs of all these grassroots groups will be much harder. We need
to be promoting the kinds of initiatives that encourage mixed-income
communities, so you really do need both.
Senator Meredith: Thank you.
Senator Eaton: Why do we not use schools and churches more? They used
to be the focus of community life. Many churches sit empty, and in many schools
the teachers look at their watches and leave at 3:30. I am not getting at the
teachers, Senator Cordy, but they have buildings, playgrounds, libraries and
halls. Why are not we using them more to drag people off the street to do
Ms. Klodawsky: That is an interesting question. In Ontario the school
boards have a different governance structure than the city planning departments.
There are gaps in some places where much more work could be done together. Some
efforts are being made now to do just that, but some barriers also that stand in
Senator Eaton: Father Massman at St. Paul's Basilica in Toronto runs a
breakfast club and drug-free days. He has soccer groups for kids who live in the
area. Muslim women come to him for food baskets, and he has to be reminded that
he cannot hug them. He has reached out. He is a good example of someone who has
The Chair: I know him well.
Senator Cordy: Perhaps Senator Eaton would like to shadow a teacher
for a couple of days.
Senator Eaton: After Mr. Layton has shadowed me for a couple of days.
The Chair: Let me welcome Ratna Omidvar, who has come from one city to
another during very challenging weather conditions. Welcome.
Ms. Omidvar is the president of the Maytree Foundation, a private charitable
foundation committed to reducing poverty and inequality in Canada and to
building strong civic communities. The Maytree Foundation seeks to accomplish
its objectives by identifying, supporting and funding ideas, leaders and leading
organizations that have the capacity to make change and advance the common good.
Ms. Omidvar has provided us with some materials: Cities of Migration,
DiverseCity Counts, and Maytree's From Insecurity to Prosperity:
Practical Ideas for a Stronger Canada. That is what we need, practical ideas
on social inclusion and cohesion.
If you would like to make some opening remarks, we will then have some
questions for you.
Professor Klodawsky, you are welcome to stay. There may be questions that you
might want to answer further, too.
Ratna Omidvar, President, Maytree Foundation: Thank you for this
invitation. I had severe doubts about whether I would make it, but one does not
really experience the true glory of this country unless in a storm traveling by
VIA Rail from Toronto to Ottawa. I thank you for making sure that I experienced
I will not speak about all the work we do but rather will answer your
question around inclusion and exclusion. While inclusion and exclusion are
broadly understood as being about all of us, I will focus my comments on recent
immigrants and visible minorities, for good reason. The foundation has done a
lot of work in this area. We also have a strong interest in the prosperity of
Because of the intersection of who lives in urban Canada and the future of
urban Canada, the two issues are inextricably linked. On the one hand, we all
know that the prosperity of Canada, to a large extent, depends on the prosperity
and growth of its urban centres. On the other hand, we know that these urban
centres will not flourish or prosper unless there is a large group of new
immigrants, who are primarily racial minorities, though not all; 75 per cent of
immigrants are racial minorities. Forgive me if I mix up the two terms. I think
you get the picture.
I would say this about immigrants, racial minorities and exclusion:
Immigrants are particularly vulnerable, for a number of reasons. They are
overrepresented in the poverty statistics of this country. They are twice as
likely to be unemployed as the average Canadian, and they are twice as likely to
earn half as much. Immigrants have restricted access to Employment Insurance,
for a number of structural reasons. They are also likely to have more years of
education and training. The votes of visible minorities count for less because
of historical electoral arrangements in our country. In many cases, racial
minorities in large urban centres experience multiple examples of exclusion, not
just the one I think we are all likely to think about, which is economic
Even if immigrants are employed or self-sufficient, they experience exclusion
of a different kind, and that is exclusion from places of decision making,
influence and power. In the research package I provided, called DiverseCity
Counts, we counted the number of leadership positions in the Greater Toronto
Area, GTA, within five majority- minority cities, which is the new language for
cities like Markham, Brampton, Mississauga, Richmond Hill and Toronto, where
visible minorities and immigrants make up close to the majority of the
population share. In these cities, where 49.5 per cent of the residents are
racial minorities, fewer than 14 per cent of visible minorities own shares in
companies, sit around boardrooms or corporate headquarters, run large
non-governmental organizations, NGOs, or hold senior positions in public office.
We have collapsed that, and we count this every year. Last year it was 13.5 per
cent. This year it is 14 per cent, partly because we have had some elections in
the meantime, and we include political leadership as part of this.
There are also new trends in exclusion. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program
now brings into this country almost as many temporary foreign workers as landed
immigrants. Temporary foreign workers have variable rights. Their rights depend
on which province they land in and which employer they are working for. If they
are low-skilled temporary foreign workers, they are particularly vulnerable. I
would suggest to this group that we have opened the door to a failed experiment
from Europe, which is the Gastarbeiter, or guest worker, program. It was
predicated on exactly the same premise: Let us bring in widgets to do the work.
You do not get widgets, senators. You get human beings, and that is the truth.
A newer challenge is one of self-segregation within a number of ethnic
enclaves. We can look at Markham and Brampton. You were talking about teachers.
I know of schools where the only white face is that of the teacher. When you add
to that the speed of information, globalization and travel, it is perfectly
possible to have a home in Toronto but to emotionally live and exist somewhere
else. This is what I would call spatial segregation and exclusion overlaid with
I say all this with a healthy sense of admiration for what this country has
achieved. We are known the world over for our success in immigration and for our
models of multiculturalism. I would suggest to you that our successes are in the
medium and long term. If you look at the rising numbers of immigrants who own
homes, who take out citizenship and who intermarry, these are important
indicators of inclusion. These are indicators in the medium and long term. By
the way, these accrue mostly to national governments. In the short term, the
issues of housing, unemployment and underemployment are problems we are having
an increasingly hard time dealing with. Someone aptly said that what we do is
say, "Welcome to Canada, work hard, but beware; it may be your children who will
succeed, not you."
Another way of expressing this is that whilst we welcome people into our
metaphorical home and open the door widely, we cannot quite bring ourselves to
say, "Come and stand next to me by the fireplace," which is the centre of
I sometimes use the terminology of integration and inclusion side by side.
They are linked concepts, but they are not the same. Integration means that the
immigrant or the racial minority fits in, speaks the language, obeys the law,
votes, and pays taxes. Inclusion goes a step further. This is where the
immigrant is an active partner in changing institutions and in helping us to
evolve our systems and our structure.
Think of one as part of participation and the other as ownership. In
integration, the onus is on the immigrant to do his or her bit. In inclusion, I
would suggest to you, the onus is just as much on the host society to shift and
change. Neither of these happens accidentally. You must have intentions,
instruments, and investments.
I am sure no one around this table believes that inclusion is the cure for
all our ills. It does not mean we will all love each other or live in la-la
land. However, inclusion does have the power to change the "me" and the "I"
into the "us," and I think that is what we are talking about.
I want to give you some practical examples of what Maytree Foundation does.
We are not an institution that describes the problem without investing, in some
part, in finding the solution. Sometimes we fail, and we learn from failure.
Often, because we have thought these things out well, we find the sweet spot and
are able to work on it.
For instance, we started an experiment in Toronto to deal with the systemic
and apparently unsolvable problem of ensuring that skilled immigrants who come
to this country with education and experience are in fact actually working in
the jobs they were technically selected for. You must have heard about the
research and the reports. We decided we would not do any research. We were
simply going to implement solutions on the ground, and we would implement these
solutions with employers since, after all, they are the ones who hire. We
summoned bank presidents and some of Toronto's most significant business leaders
to the table, and with them we crafted a number of practical, incremental
This has been so successful that we are taking this idea to cities across
Canada, with the help of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. We have
initiatives in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal — which is very gung-ho
about following these experiments — Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Hamilton,
Kitchener, and so on. This is an example of sticking to work on the ground, as I
think you were saying, working with the people on the ground to roll out
solutions. However, what is different about this is that we are working with
employers. It is not just aspirational social- justice speak; it is actual
business speak. Trust me: Gordon Nixon, the CEO of the Royal Bank, is involved
in this, and not only because he is a believer in equity. He knows his bottom
line and where talent is coming from. He knows who is buying his products and
who will be his customers in the future. That is one example.
On the inclusion side, we are interested in ensuring that the political
landscape in the city is more reflective. We are not talking about quotas, by
the way. We are talking about what is more reflective of the people who live in
urban centres. We have a school for would-be politicians who need to understand
the lay of the land, how to get nominated, and how to hire their campaign
managers. We train both campaign managers and candidates.
We are concerned about the fact that the only time the media wants to speak
to people like me is to talk about immigration and multiculturalism. They do not
talk to me about equalization or health care transfers. We have developed a
vibrant project with the media, and we are pushing out new voices and
perspectives as much as we can.
Possibly the most interesting work we have done is around the boardrooms of
our cities and institutions. You know from any city you are in that our system
of democracy involves citizens making decisions on the public good, our
hospitals, museums, NGOs, the Royal Ontario Museum, the university health
network, et cetera. These are all places where significant power and privilege
are exercised on behalf of the public. We have infiltrated more than 500 people
who are qualified, able and ready to serve the public good in these places of
power and privilege.
Our search for solutions has taken us outside our borders. Just because we
are a success story in the eyes of the world in immigration does not mean we do
not have much to learn from other cities. We have focused our work and our
search for solutions on cities because cities are a natural place. They can be
places of despair, creativity, innovation and exclusion. Sometimes they can be
all of these things at the same time.
We are optimistic about the solutions that we have seen in cities. I will
give you a few examples. These will come to you as a surprise: In Cardiff, the
police force teaches English to refugees. It is counterintuitive, I know, but
because of that, new refugee communities have developed trust over time with the
instruments of law and order, which traditionally they have not had. In Germany,
soccer is the name of the game and is a primary tool for integration. I would
suggest to you that we need to learn this lesson in this country because we tend
to focus on integration in lonely ESL — English as a second language — classes
in strip malls, whereas you can build a nation on a hockey field when kids play
together side by side.
I was at a mosque in Germany. Despite all the bad publicity Germany gets, at
the local level it is doing creative things. In Duisburg, Marxloh is not only a
mosque but also a community centre. In one room, young kids are learning the
Quran, and in another room, German hausfrauen are enjoying their coffee
klatsch. They are doing this as a result of intensive community planning.
This is the one mosque in Europe where the prices of properties surrounding the
mosque have gone up and not down.
We have gathered more than 90 stories from across the world. We are pushing
these out to communities in Canada and elsewhere because we believe firmly that
place matters. People may come to Canada, but they live in Toronto or Vancouver.
The first experience of inclusion or exclusion happens in the local community.
Attachment to your place through local institutions, such as your schools,
libraries, hockey fields, is so important. We cannot emphasize enough attachment
to local place as a way of getting over the emotional segregation that I spoke
We know that inclusion is a two-way street; just as this side must change, so
the other side must change. There are some encouraging signs. In Toronto we are
building more cricket pitches than baseball pitches given the obvious shifts in
demographics in our country. In Markham, which is home to the largest enclave of
ethnic minorities in Canada, primarily Chinese and South Asians, lessons are
extremely instructive. Lessons from business are extremely instructive. For
example, the banks have lowered the heights of their counters to adapt more
typically to the heights of people like me.
We have learned that cities go their own way. Notwithstanding national and
provincial policies, sentiments or media, because of the daily business of
living side by side and making sure life goes on, they arrive at very practical,
innovative solutions in the most unlikely places, Cardiff being an example.
All actors are inclusion actors, such as the postman, the businessman, the
librarian, the school teacher and the neighbour. I am always concerned when this
conversation about inclusion seems to put the inclusion types into one corner
and everyone else throughout the rest of the room. No; this is about all of us.
We have many of the right ingredients in place, which speaks to our success
in the mid-term and long term. We have our Charter, a multiculturalism policy
and a relatively short incubation period before people can take out their
citizenship. However, we also need to focus on what happens on the ground. Jane
Jacobs wisely said that the level of government closest to the people is best
positioned to deliver services to the people. I would put my bets on local
government and local actions. I will stop there.
The Chair: You have a wealth of experiences. Thank you for sharing
I will start the questions. I mentioned earlier to Professor Klodawsky two
recent studies in Toronto that you would be familiar with. One was done by the
United Way on vertical poverty, and the other was on the continuing work of
Professor Hulchanski. Some of the alarming information in these studies seems to
affect the issues of social inclusion. We are told by the United Way that about
25 years ago we were integrating people into high-rise buildings in various
percentages according to income. That integration is disappearing. We are told
by Professor Hulchanski that in terms of income and equality issues, the
wealthier are occupying the central core, while the socio-economic status of the
ribbon around the suburbs through Scarborough and Etobicoke, for example, is
decreasing. Another alarming figure he gives is that the middle class is moving
further out. In Toronto, we have seen the middle class go from 66 per cent down
to 29 per cent between the 1970s and today.
How do these add to the challenge of social inclusion?
Ms. Omidvar: I would add another circle around it. The professor's
study is focused on the city of Toronto and the doughnut effect, which he talks
about. Another phenomenon occurs. Immigrants and other racial minorities used to
come to Toronto. The Portuguese, the Jewish and other people lived in Kensington
Market but have moved to the suburbs. Today, they are moving directly to the
suburbs, such as Markham, Mississauga, Peel and Brampton, in part because
housing is cheaper there. However, they do not factor in transportation and
other costs to living in the suburbs.
The waiting lists for social housing are enormous. We have had no investment
in affordable housing. I would say it is not only social housing but also
affordable housing. We do not have a national housing strategy in this country.
We do not have an affordable housing strategy, unless you want to think about
the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, CMHC, as one instrument, and we do
not have a transportation strategy. When you put all those together, we find
that people are pushed out to places where there are fewer services, although
the rents might be cheaper. I know people who live in Thornhill, which is sort
of uptown Toronto, and work in Mississauga. Imagine what happens to a factory
worker, who is almost always an immigrant, when the bus breaks down; she loses
her job. It is quite severe in Toronto. I will not speak for other cities.
We need significant investments in the social infrastructure of the city
alongside vibrant community-based activities with NGOs. The solutions are known;
the action is simply not there.
The Chair: You have said that you believe in place-based solutions.
You have pointed out the importance of the government closest to the people. You
mentioned Jacobs. At the same time, you said earlier we all have to be concerned
about this. The federal level has to be concerned about this because most people
live in our cities. The quality of life in our cities affects our future
prosperity in this country. These are issues of concern at the federal level.
What can the federal level do given these different views that you have
expressed to help facilitate ensuring future prosperity and quality of life
through social inclusion, but still having it primarily operating at a local
level through either the municipality or the non-profit organizations, the NGOs?
Ms. Omidvar: I am not suggesting that the federal government does not
have a role. It has a very important role, especially in setting national
standards and frameworks. However, I am always concerned when the federal
government, from way up here in Ottawa, starts prescribing what exactly should
happen on the ground. Municipalities, because they are closer to the people, are
better suited to understanding their needs, the needs of their communities, the
needs of their residents and the capacity of local NGOs. This is important. We
do not want to ascribe the same thing to all NGOs. That is not the case. There
is variable capacity among NGOs. The local municipality is best positioned to
know who can do the job.
The federal government has to recalibrate its relationship with
municipalities. That has to be the starting point. It has to give them more
respect and more power. We are more proactive, especially with MTV — Montreal,
The Chair: I thought that was a television station. Let me move now to
the committee, starting with the deputy chair of the committee, Senator Ogilvie
from Nova Scotia.
Senator Ogilvie: Thank you for your presentation. I found it
refreshing and obviously enthusiastic with regard to this challenging area. I
have an observation at the beginning and then a specific question for you.
I was pleasantly struck by your referring to the fact that you do not get
involved in the research; you get involved in the application, the action and
moving forward. When we were coming into this particular study and looking at
some of the background, it struck me that if we have not learned enough from
research by now, I am not sure much more research will help us. Through the last
20-odd years of my life where I have paid some attention to this, I have
identified an enormous number of examples that have been remarkably successful
in various areas. It seemed to me, and I thought you were implying, that we
should learn from these and implement and adapt from the many successful
My specific question for you is about the project you have that is funded by
the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. My experience is that that foundation is
successful in choosing projects that lead to some benefit to society. I am
wondering whether you would be willing to take a bit of time and give us a
little more sense of what that specific project is.
Ms. Omidvar: The Maytree Foundation and the J.W. McConnell Family
Foundation are like sisters in a way. Maytree floated this local experiment in
Toronto where we brought together employers, NGOs, local government, provincial
and federal government, our universities and community colleges. We sat around a
table like this and said to ourselves that we will focus on designing and
imagining solutions for skilled immigrants. We will not do any research. We will
talk proactively to employers. We asked employers — the banks, the consulting
companies, the big legal companies, the tech companies who hire in Toronto —
what we need to do to open their employment practices to immigrants. We crafted
a number of solutions. This worked very well. More than 4,000 people have moved
from unemployment to full employment, and I am talking about jobs worth $50,000
We turned our attention to other cities, and that is where McConnell came in
and said that together we will take the lessons from Toronto and bring them to
I forgot to say that Halifax is a site for our work. We are working in
Halifax with the Greater Halifax Partnership, which is kind of a quasi board of
trade, and with their corporate members. Halifax's interests are slightly
different than Toronto's. It wants to attract immigrants, so we have helped to
create a similar table to the one we had in Toronto.
Obviously I am learning that in a country as big as Canada, each place is
different. I am also learning, senator, and you will appreciate this, that
everyone loves to hate Toronto: "What worked in Toronto will not work here."
We are very sensitive about local variations, but the agenda is moving forward
in each of the nine cities we have.
Our objective over the next five years is to create a national, pan-Canadian
movement. I am here partly because I have meetings tomorrow with other people.
Our proposal to the Government of Canada is that we should invest in what people
call a national mentoring program, which matches an unemployed immigrant in a
certain occupation with an employed counterpart, as close as possible, through
technology. We have loads of research and data to say that this is low-hanging
fruit. It works. When you bring two people together, regardless of nationality,
if their commonality is their occupation, they start speaking a different
language to each other. They talk tech, science or marketing or these other
things, and they develop a bond. An unintended outcome of the mentoring project
is that you walk in someone else's shoes, and you start owning their story and
their success. Social cohesion — bang. We are huge enthusiasts, and McConnell
and Maytree will go to bat in asking the federal government to spend X amount of
dollars on X, Y and Z. Let us look at where the results are not coming in,
because here are results that are black and white and proven.
Senator Ogilvie: Thank you. That was helpful. I am confident that our
writers have recorded many of the important observations you have brought to us.
Certainly your own work has received enormous credibility in its own right, and
the attraction of foundations such as those two provides outside and independent
verification of the importance of your work.
Senator Eaton: I was interested in everything you had to say, but I
have just a comment on leadership in Toronto. I was on the board of the Royal
Ontario Museum for 20 years. I am no longer, but I was in the 1980s, 1990s and
into the 2000s. I am still on the board of the National Ballet of Canada and St.
Michael's Hospital. We have a terrible time finding minority representation on
these boards. Often we approach people, and they say, "I am raising money for
my own centre, for my own charities in my own community." It is hard to get
them interested in the wider community. I know with the campaign at the ROM, we
got good people, but it was very difficult. At St. Michael's, it has been
difficult. The National Ballet has been very difficult. In fact, I can phone you
next week, and you can offer me some names.
Ms. Omidvar: I tend to both agree and somewhat disagree with you. I
think the National Ballet could be a challenge because of the nature of the
institution and what it occupies.
Senator Eaton: I just know it is hard.
Ms. Omidvar: I know it is hard.
Senator Eaton: St. Michael's Hospital is very difficult.
Ms. Omidvar: One reason we took this on is because we came across so
many people like you, senator, and we said there must be a systematic way of
dealing with this problem as opposed to simply who you know or who can you
recommend. Therefore we now have a database of more than 1,500 people.
Senator Eaton: I will be happy to give Alayne Metrick, chair of St.
Michael's Hospital Foundation, your name because we would love to have greater
Ms. Omidvar: We can help you. I am not guaranteeing it. Hospital
foundations are a particularly hard one because they want a significant amount
of financial —
Senator Eaton: No, they want people to go into their communities and
Ms. Omidvar: Fine. We can do that. It has to start somewhere, right?
Senator Eaton: I agree, but that is not my question. My question is
this: Has technology — computer Internet access, fax, Skype — made it easier for
people to, as you say, live in one place but have their heart and their
connections still at home?
Ms. Omidvar: Yes.
Senator Eaton: What is the answer to that?
Ms. Omidvar: Attachment to your local community. No matter how
attached you are to that other village, you still have to go out of your house
to buy the groceries and to get the newspaper. You have to walk the street. I am
a huge believer in keeping it local. For instance, if communities are interested
in planting trees in their neighbourhood, just the project of working together
to bring that tree gives them ownership. We need to ensure that our public
spaces, our libraries, our schools, our sports fields, are places where there is
I came to this country 25 years ago. I love telling this story. It will give
you a giggle. My daughter is a rhythmic gymnast, with the ribbons and all of
that stuff. I knew nothing about the sport. All I knew is we needed our child to
be in an activity so that she could be away from television. I spent hours with
mothers making that horrible Canadian confection called peanut butter and jelly
sandwiches. That was my best integration experience.
Senator Eaton: You have opened the door to another question. You are a
woman with children, which picks up on one of your groups — single women or
women with children stuck at home. That is an important part of bringing them
into the community and teaching them to volunteer and to have the nerve to go
out. Also, some women are not allowed or not encouraged to go out of the house.
Is that a problem? Do you see that as a challenge?
Ms. Omidvar: These are all challenges, but I also know of communities
in Brampton where women who are not encouraged to go out do develop what we
would call bonding capital. I have read Robert's Putnam's theories in Bowling
Alone. We have become such a diverse society that we do not eat together; we
do not talk together; and we do not even bowl together anymore. I have seen
encouraging signs of women coming together in knitting, cooking or daycare clubs
and developing bonding capital. That is the first step. I do not have all the
Senator Eaton: Oh, but we were hoping you did.
The Chair: I will move on now to our newest senator, from Toronto,
Senator Meredith: Thank you. This is enlightening. I could have
listened to you for another three hours, and I have 600 questions for you, but I
wanted to still feel the love of my colleagues here so I will not ask all 600
I commend you on the work you are doing. In fact, I reached out to you a few
months ago, before I was appointed to the Senate and my life changed in terms of
my activism within the community, working with Vidoll Regisford. He was here
just yesterday. That was with respect to having an impact on the community and
the work you are doing and the fact you have taken a proactive approach with
respect to results rather than looking at reports. We know what the problems
are, and you have implemented some great things. I appreciate that.
You have the mentorship program to link potential employers with immigrants
who come to this country. That is a vital component, and I am glad to see that
program started and that you are getting some great traction on that.
My question is with respect to credentials. What is being done? Are you
getting any negative feedback from the associations who are not recognizing the
credentials of those highly skilled immigrants who are coming to this country?
What could this committee and the government do to put more pressure,
legislation, what have you, to ensure those doors of opportunity are opened to
those highly skilled immigrants who come here?
Ms. Omidvar: This is a complex field; we could be here for a full day,
but I will give you the basics of my understanding. We have worked with
regulatory bodies in Ontario for a long time. We have helped them create a
network of their own that is dedicated to developing best practices within the
network — engineers, doctors, veterinarians, teachers, what have you — so that
if the engineers find something interesting they can pass it on to the teachers
and so on. We thought that was a wise investment of our resources.
The Government of Ontario has passed the Fair Access to Regulated Professions
Act, FARPA, and it has the Fairness Commission with Jean Augustine as the
Fairness Commissioner, whose mandate it is to ensure that credentialing bodies
and regulatory bodies are reporting out on numbers, processes, complaints and
things like that. Ontario is a little further ahead. This is little known: More
than 200 internationally trained medical graduates are receiving internship
opportunities in Ontario. Progress has been made.
I would say that because regulation of regulated occupations is largely a
provincial responsibility, the federal government can act in developing an
umbrella mechanism that works with the provincial organizations, such as
Professional Engineers Ontario, that have national bodies, like the Canadian
Council of Professional Engineers. There are national memberships. I would work
with the national associations and I would bring them together, as the
government is doing. I would make sure that the information to immigrants is
getting through about the right processes because there is a lot of
misinformation. Maybe I would even go beyond that and start talking to
immigrants overseas before they pack their bags — not the applicants but the
visa holders. I would say, "There are five or ten things you can do if you want
to practice engineering in Nova Scotia. Here are the people you need to talk to,
the universities, the upgrading, an online mentor and all the papers you will
need." I would make it easier on the immigrant, but I would also build capacity
at the national level.
The Chair: This gives me an opportunity to put in an advertisement
here. A week from tomorrow, our session will be on credentials. We will have a
panel to talk about that whole issue. This is the overview today. Many of the
things that have been talked about will come up again in more detail as we go
through the 12 meetings. This is the first of 12 meetings on this topic.
Senator Seidman: I must say I am sitting here and I am listening to
you and I am marvelling at what you have to teach us about this important issue.
I do thank you for making it here on the train and enduring this enormous
What I hear from you is proactive, independent and creative. You are using
the resources and the advantages that pillars of our communities have to offer.
I truly commend you for that. It is practical in its approach. You mentioned
Montreal, and I am from Montreal. I do believe you have an affiliated program
there called Alliés Montréal?
Ms. Omidvar: Yes.
Senator Seidman: Could you tell me about it, please?
Ms. Omidvar: It is the same program I described, the same initiative
with McConnell. It is a responsive approach. We put ourselves out and ask cities
if they want to work with us. Montreal approached us.
In every city the convening authority is different. In Toronto it is a
private foundation, the Maytree Foundation; in Halifax it is the board of trade;
in Vancouver, it is the community foundation; in Edmonton, it is the city.
Everything is different in Quebec. It amazes me. Montreal has an association
of elected officials. I am afraid I cannot pronounce it, but it is an
association of elected officials — provincial, municipal and federal — from
Montreal. This association put forward the request that it wanted to work with
us to develop innovative programs. I believe the association's champion is the
CEO of the National Bank, and of course Bell. I think they are working with
Bell, but I could be wrong. They are working with significant employers in
replicating some of the ideas that Halifax, Toronto or Vancouver has innovated.
They are also taking many of our good ideas from around Canada that employers
have used. Employers are employers; it does not matter where they are. If this
works for the Royal Bank, you bet Scotiabank will steal from it. They are
translating, in a culturally appropriate way, all our material into French, and
they have their own website.
It is an exciting initiative because the people around the table are elected
officials. They have their hands on the levers of power.
Senator Seidman: I appreciate that.
Ms. Omidvar: I would be happy to put you in touch with them.
Senator Seidman: I would appreciate that very much.
The Chair: I might add, the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment
Council was actually mentioned in our report on poverty, housing and
homelessness. It was mentioned with the various best practices. You will
remember we also said in that report that we thought we should be helping to
spread best practices across the country.
In the last federal budget a year ago, $20 million was put toward spreading
the Pathways to Education Program in much the same way, adapting it to the local
community and going on the invitation of the local community.
Ms. Omidvar: Maybe you can help us get $20 million for our little
idea. No one gives me $20 million, senator.
The Chair: There are people here who speak to Mr. Flaherty more often
than I do.
Ms. Omidvar: That would be very nice. Thank you. We would love to.
Senator Cordy: Thank you very much. I was delighted that the Pathways
program started this past fall in Nova Scotia. Having seen it in Regent Park and
other areas, I think it is an excellent program.
I am also delighted that you are working with the Greater Halifax
Partnership, because I think it will be a good arrangement. We do need more
immigrants coming to Atlantic Canada, but I will speak specifically for Nova
We are very lucky, because both presenters today have given us a great start
to our study on inclusion. Thank you both very much. They were both excellent
You talked about the need at the national level for national standards and
housing strategies, transportation strategies and monitoring programs. You also
said, on the other hand, that the level of government closest to the people has
a better handle on what the needs are. We said earlier that we should not have a
cookie-cutter approach, that every community, even different parts of
communities, have different needs.
Then you talked about examples of things happening in Germany and Cardiff.
Keeping in mind that the level of government closest can meet the needs best,
the federal government certainly has a responsibility.
Have you looked at federal governments outside of Canada that have really
done an excellent job? You mentioned Germany. Does it have a program that we
should be looking at? Is there an example, looking at it from the federal
perspective? We would be the ones to create the national standards or the
national mentoring program, or indeed to funnel the money down to the
municipalities. I think one of you talked about the need to have more trust in
the municipalities that they would spend the money in the best way.
Ms. Omidvar: In Prime Minister Blair's time, social inclusion was big
language. He had a communities program; I forget what it was called. I do not
know whether you would remember that.
The U.K. probably comes closest as an example, but not in this context of
cutting back and their notions of big society, with citizens stepping up and
taking on roles. That is not what I am talking about. In Prime Minister Blair's
time, excellent frameworks on social inclusion were put forward, and some
interesting work was done in what you would call marginalized communities in
London and other places. There was a significant flow of money to places.
I visited one of these places, and it was quite interesting to see how they
had turned themselves around. There was business; there was mixed housing. It is
never one strategy that makes it work but a combination.
However, because social inclusion is, I think, politically a hard concept to
get your head around, there is no minister or ministry for social inclusion. If
I were ever in power — I do not have political aspirations, and maybe I am going
off topic here a little — but our policy of multiculturalism is largely
aspirational. It does not really have any guts or glory attached to it. It has a
very weak ministry. Quite frankly, that word is so loaded with myths and
perceptions that it is time to do away with it.
I would say that is your opportunity. Replace the multiculturalism policy
with an inclusion policy, and then work it from there. That is your opportunity.
Some people would say that is new wine in old bottles. I actually think it is a
smart thing for this group to think about, because you already have a structure.
You already have an investment, small as it may be, and you can shift it to make
it a policy about all of us.
I get so irritated about the misperceptions on multiculturalism, but I
actually believe there is nothing we can do about it. The genie is out of the
bottle. People think that multiculturalism is about this, but it is not; it is
actually about that. No one is out there correcting it. Let us just have a new
wine bottle on the table. That would be my suggestion. We probably come closest
Senator Cordy: I think the language would be important.
Senator Martin: I am inspired by what I have just heard. In terms of
language, I have always said we say "foreign" credentials, and when we talk
about negative things, it is a "global" recession or a "global" pandemic. I
always thought "international credentials" sounds so much better.
Ms. Omidvar: Yes. I think language is important.
Senator Martin: Thank you for your passionate presentations.
The Chair: It turned out that we heard you in two segments. Professor
Klodawsky carried us through the first part, and you, Ms. Omidvar, carried us
through the second part of this meeting. You both have provided a valuable
overview for us to start this study. Hopefully it will come to some good
conclusions and recommendations on inclusion.
Thank you very much, and thank you both for getting here through all the
snow. It was a little less travel for Professor Klodawsky; certainly more for
(The committee adjourned.)