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Honourable Leona Aglukkaq

Federal Minister of Health

Canadian Parliament

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario  P1H 1X9


23 October 2009


Dear Honourable Aglukkaq.


RE: Mental Health, Poverty and Affordable Housing in Canada


                I am sending this letter on behalf of the undergraduate nursing students at Brock University in St. Catharines Ontario.  The Brock University Nursing program is committed to educating and empowering nursing students to take an active leadership approach, and to be politically pro-active within the profession of nursing, ultimately maintaining and improving the fundamental role of health care and quality of life for Canadians. Given the current economic state of our province and country it is now more than ever that we must face and address the issues that affect the very essence of what it means to live with meaning and dignity. Living in poverty is a challenge for many Canadians with nearly 1.7 million citizens living below the poverty line and spending 47% of their income on rent[i]. Poverty is reaching a crisis state, and must be addressed to improve the quality of life for all citizens in this country. The purpose of this letter is to create awareness surrounding this issue so you may take action to solve this ever expanding concern.


I am deeply troubled by the statistics showing the challenges faced by Canadian citizens trying to maintain affordable housing while balancing family and work life. It is my position that the federal government must take immediate steps to improve accessibility to affordable housing, shelters, mental health services and job creation programs. Poor housing is a consequence of poverty, which in turn has been shown to impact mental health[ii]. Investment into programs designed to meet the specific needs of persons and their families experiencing poor housing and poverty will bring about better outcomes and decrease the long term burden on already overstressed and underfunded services such as mental health. The Housing First initiative in British Columbia is an excellent example of a successful strategy that focuses on the issue of poor housing. This initiative decreased the costs of mental health services from $55, 000 per year per person to $37, 000 per year per person. This has attributed to a savings of $211, 000, 000 per year[iii], in just one city. This design can be implemented in any city, in any province, increasing quality of life and decreasing government spending which can be reinvested into other areas of health care in need. This important step must be taken to ensure the stability and viability of our health care system both at the federal and municipal levels.


It is truly important that attention is paid to this matter and I am quite confident that as Minister of Health you will act upon this critical issue. The lives of citizens in this great country are dependent on the important decisions you make in ensuring safe, competent and wholly appropriate services to Canadians in need. Is not enough that the mayors of Canada’s top ten cities have declared poverty and social justice “a national disaster” which has been acknowledged by the United Nations? I truly hope that you define your leadership through pragmatic policy founded in the common values we all share as Canadians.


Most Sincerely,


Nathan Kelly

President, NSO

[i] Raphael, D. (2004). Social determinants of health. Canadian perspectives. Toronto, ON:

        Canadian Scholars' Press.

[ii] Evans, G., & Saegert, S. (2003). Poverty, housing niches, and health in the United States. The

         Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues; 59 (3): 569-589.

[iii] Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2008).

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