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    Mar 13, 2015 10:40 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-356, an act respecting a national strategy for dementia.

    According to the World Health Organization, there are roughly 35.6 million around the world who are currently living with dementia. This number is expected to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050.

    In 2011, 14.9% of Canadians aged 65 and older were living with cognitive impairment, including dementia. By 2031, this figure is expected to increase to a shocking 1.4 million people. Today we face the combined costs of dementia totalling $33 billion per year.

    This is not something that Canadians can afford, both economically and socially, to continue to occur. We need to enact change by putting in place a national strategy for dementia.

    The Liberal Party supports the need for a national plan to address Alzheimer's disease and all other forms of dementia. Canada today has almost as many diagnosed dementia patients as the United Kingdom does, at 847,000, despite a difference in population of 30 million. In B.C., more than 70,000 people have this disease, while another 15,000 people are diagnosed each year.

    Canada pledged in 2013 to find a cure or treatment for Alzheimer's by 2025. As one of the only G7 countries still without such a strategy, our time to do so is running out.

    The Alzheimer Society of Canada as well as the Canadian Association of Retired Persons and other related organizations are united in calling for stronger political leadership to battle this debilitating disease. They recognize society's need for our current government to support Canadians in their difficult battle against dementia, and to find a treatment for it.

    Another associated organization, Baycrest Health Sciences and its' Rotman Research Institute (RRI), is also working to accelerate scientific research regarding dementia. This institute recognizes that a person's risk for dementia doubles every 5 years after age 65.

    Their strong focus on the relationship between brain health and aging helps them to understand that as fewer people live to see these older ages, the number of Canadians with dementia could be cut in half if its onset were to be delayed by just five years. With the implementation of Bill C-356, such research could be carried out with promise for viable results.

    Unfortunately, however, federal leadership is required for any such action on a pan-Canadian dementia strategy to occur. Once again, the current government is not doing enough.

    In October 2014, Minister of Health announced she was in the “early stages” of discussions with the provinces to establish a national dementia strategy. The 2014 federal budget also promisingly committed new funding for research into age-related neurodegeneration. Sadly, this only represents a fraction of the resources truly necessary to even begin to focus on approaching this disease.

    Alzheimer's disease puts enormous emotional stress on millions of families in Canada and costs our health care system billions of dollars every year. Delaying the onset of Alzheimer's by 2 years can save our Health Care system $219 billion over a 30 year period. A national strategy for dementia may be able to make an astounding difference in advancing research in order to work toward achieving this goal, which would diminish this enormous economic hardship and subsequently and, most important, improve the lives of affected Canadians.

    As recently published in the Toronto Star, another possible solution has been proposed by the Alzheimer Society. This organization is recommending that an arm's-length not-for-profit organization be funded through the Public Health Agency of Canada at a cost of $30 million over five years. It would be responsible for research coordination, training for health care providers, delivery of health care services and education, including how to recognize early signs of the disease that affects people in their 40s and 50s. Such a program may provide a possible approach to relieving such aforementioned pressures.

    In our last election platform, the Liberal Party of Canada laid out a clear, comprehensive strategy for tackling the issue of dementia. Along with directing attention towards economic issues, we focused on awareness, education and prevention to support families and combat the social stigmas of dementia.

    The social implications of this disease are in equal need of many support services as related economic ramifications. Coping with the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia is exceptionally difficult.

    The Mental Health Commission of Canada recently issued a report of mental health indicators that showed caregivers are facing enormous emotional stress caring for elderly parents and sick children. Many women are leaving the paid workforce in order to care for a loved one, their mother, their mother-in-law, their aunt. There are so many stories that we all know. Some end up having to take a lower-paying job in order to be able to meet the needs of the loved one and family member.

    It is therefore necessary that we disseminate proper knowledge and the best practices possible in order to foster improvements in the quality of treatment and support for patients and families coping with these brain disorders, as we also work to ensure their economic security.

    I commend Mount Sinai Hospital and the Reitman family for funding a unit there that supports the families of those suffering from Alzheimer's in order for them to give the best possible care. It is sometimes so difficult and frustrating for families to have to provide care without really understanding the frustration and how normal it is to feel that way.

    The bill would require the minister to initiate discussions with provincial counterparts within 30 days of its coming into force in order to achieve its objectives of developing a national plan with national objectives.

    I do not believe there is any strategy that can just be a laundry list of things the government is already dabbling in, which seems to be what the government thinks is a strategy. The strategy has to be what, by when, and how, and actually be able to identify the partners necessary to make the strategy work. Such a process would help to establish a method of receiving input from affected Canadians and would continue to support greater research and implementation of related technology.

    Bill C-356 would also work with the international community in improving clinical guidelines in order to produce the best available practices for care, support and prevention of dementia.

    By investing in both research and prevention of Alzheimer's we can delay its onset for as long as possible so all Canadians can live their lives to the fullest potential. We need the research and practice-based evidence in order to determine what is the best possible support we can give to the families of those affected.

    We must work together to support the bill and most importantly, bring necessary aid to those so desperately in need.

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    Mar 13, 2015 9:35 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, this is again just purely ideologically driven instead of evidence-based, which is the way the government goes in all aspects, choosing ideology and pandering to its base rather than providing measures that save lives, save money and move in the right direction.

    The government does not understand that so many people suffering from addictions are victims of child abuse and the kinds of things that cause people to end up going down this wrong and unhealthy path. They have not been able to trust people in authority, whether that be people in their homes, teachers and so forth. Insite has provided an opportunity for them to see a way through and develop a therapeutic relationship with a health care provider for probably the first time in their lives. It has allowed them to get into addiction treatment and safe housing. That is the way to create safer communities, and that is why the title of this bill is offensive.

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    Mar 13, 2015 9:30 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, the community consultation has always been part of, and was indeed essential to, the success of the Vancouver downtown east side site. It was done with consulting the community. It was done with the support and the efforts of all three levels of government and the local police.

    What is more than irritating about the bill is that instead of using the five criteria that were listed in the Supreme Court ruling, these 26 new prescriptive criteria that must be met are actually intrusive into provincial and municipal jurisdiction. They interfere with the jurisdiction of the regulatory bodies on health care providers, and interfere with the choices of provincial and municipal police forces and provincial public health officers.

    It is clear the government just does not want these things to happen. Communities want them to happen. The government should get out of the way.

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    Mar 13, 2015 9:15 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, at third reading.

    I have a couple of other suggestions for the name of this bill. It could be called “the refusal to honour the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada bill”. How about “the pursuing ideology versus evidence act”, or “the refusal to save the lives of people with addictions act"?

    This bill was introduced in response to the Supreme Court of Canada 2011 ruling that Insite, in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, had been proven to save lives and reduce harm, and that the government's efforts to close Insite would violate section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to life, liberty, and the security of the person. It is clear that the government did not like this ruling, and therefore has tried to go about refusing to honour the ruling by another route.

    It is also clear that this bill will not fulfill the spirit of the court's ruling. Rather, it would make it cumbersome for a group or municipality to apply for a section 56 exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act which allows a facility to operate. However, the likelihood of any future sites opening in Canada would become slim to none. Making matters worse, Vancouver's Insite would have to apply for a renewal based on the same 26 different criteria as new applications, as well as two additional provisions.

    Section 56 of the CDSA gives the Minister of Health discretionary powers to grant exemptions from the act under one of three categories. They are medical purposes, scientific purposes, or in the public interest. Of the exemptions that have been granted for activities with illicit substances, two types are for law enforcement purposes. These are to train sniffer dogs using seized drugs in the public interest and to allow the Vancouver Coastal Health authority to operate Insite. It was initially for scientific purposes, but since the Supreme Court's decision, it is considered a medical exemption.

    The government's intentions have been clear from the beginning. It has always opposed Insite and has been trying to close it down since it formed government. Thankfully, the work of the community of Vancouver and the courts have stopped these attempts.

    I would also like the opportunity to thank the member for Vancouver Centre and the Liberal Party of Canada health critic for her tireless efforts on this file to ensure that public policy is based on evidence and not ideology.

    This is an ideological bill based on crass political motivation from a government that has always opposed evidence-based harm reduction measures such as safe injection sites. Only an hour after the legislation was introduced, Conservative campaign director Jenni Byrne issued a crass and misleading fundraising letter to supporters, stating that the Liberals and the NDP wanted addicts to shoot up heroin in the backyards of communities all across the country.

    Despite this bill being tabled by the Minister of Health, it was given to an enforcement department, the committee of public safety and security. This is further evidence of the government's view of addiction as a criminal act. The public safety and security committee heard witnesses from three meetings, with many expressing concern that this bill would effectively shut down the current safe consumption site in Vancouver and deny the creation of further sites.

    There were amendments suggested by the Province of British Columbia, the chief public health officer of British Columbia, and the City of Vancouver, which were consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada criteria. Even witnesses in favour of the legislation expressed concern that in some parts the legislation is too restrictive. Over 60 amendments were moved by the opposition parties to bring this legislation in line with the Supreme Court ruling. However, the legislation, as usual, was not amended.

    The Liberals proposed amendments to the legislation at committee to amend clause 5, which outlines the criteria that new and existing applicants for exemptions must meet by deleting measures that were not outlined in the Supreme Court ruling. Due to a motion passed by the Conservative majority at the public safety committee, a party can only have five minutes to speak for each clause of the bill while moving amendments. Clause 5, which is the majority of the legislation, required several amendments.

    Due to the time constraints, the Liberal Party was unable to speak to the majority of the amendments, as time had elapsed. This is undemocratic and restricted our right to speak and to explain our amendments at committee.

    Liberals recognize the need for some form of legislation based on the Supreme Court of Canada ruling. However, this legislation does not reflect the spirit nor the intent of the court's decision.

    As stated in the 2011 Supreme Court ruling:

    The factors considered in making the decision on an exemption must include evidence, if any, on the impact of such a facility on crime rates, the local conditions, indicating a need for such a supervised injection site, the regulatory structure in place to support this facility, the resources available to support its maintenance, and expressions of community support or opposition.

    Instead, of the five criteria listed in the Supreme Court of Canada ruling, Bill C-2 lists 26 different prescriptive criteria that must be met, including the areas that are intrusive into provincial and municipal jurisdiction. It also interferes with the jurisdiction of regulatory bodies on health care providers, as well as provincial and municipal police forces and provincial public health officers.

    Liberals support the need for broad community consultation for the establishment of any safe consumption site, which is how the Liberal government established Canada's first safe consumption site in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. When the Liberal government gave the exemption to Vancouver's safe consumption site, we consulted broadly and worked in conjunction with provincial and municipal governments, public health authorities, business associations, and the public.

    Insite was the product of co-operative federalism. Local, provincial, and federal authorities combined their efforts to create it. The Vancouver police support Insite, as well as the City of Vancouver and the British Columbia government.

    It was initially launched as a scientifically based research project based on experience with SCS in Europe and Australia on very high, at-risk and resistant groups, which had proven to be successful. It has saved lives and improved health without increasing the incidence of drug use and crime in the surrounding area.

    lnsite has an average of 700 to 800 visits a day, and over 275,000 visits annually. As of March 2010, there have been over 1.5 million visits, over 12,000 unique individuals registered, and an average of 11 visits per month, per person

    It has been proven to reduce harm. There has been a total of 2,395 overdoses since the facility opened, with zero fatalities. There were 20,000 referrals to health services in 2008-09, and over 50% of those were to detox.

    lnsite users are 30% more likely to engage in addiction treatment than non-lnsite users. It has also dramatically reduced the rate of new HIV infections in the Downtown Eastside. There are three in ten injection drug users in the Downtown Eastside who are HIV positive; 18% of lnsite clients are HIV positive. There were 30 new HIV cases in the Downtown Eastside in 2011, compared to 2,100 new cases in 1996.

    I would like to highlight the four pillars of any effective drug strategy: harm reduction, prevention, treatment, and enforcement. The bill underlines the government's misguided decision to remove harm reduction from the equation and from an effective drug strategy.

    As Liberals, we support evidence-based policies that reduce harm and protect public safety. Liberals established Vancouver's safe consumption site, which has proven to be effective in supporting those suffering with mental illness and addictions, reducing crime and protecting public safety.

    Across Canada, medical officers of health, such as David McKeown, in my home community of Toronto, need this public health approach to get on with creating new life-saving facilities such as this.

    Unfortunately, the bill raises the criteria to establish a safe injection site to such an extraordinary high level that it would be nearly impossible for any future site to be established in Canada.

    Legislation proposed in this House must adhere to the rule of law. The ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada was clear. This legislation would put lives at risk and would likely be challenged in the courts again.

    We cannot support the legislation. To put it bluntly, we cannot help people if they are dead.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:50 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, the Military Police Complaints Commission found the military's investigation of the death of Corporal Langridge to be incompetent and lacking professionalism. Its handling of this traumatic situation has been mired in secrecy and a seven year ordeal for the family.

    The family has asked to see the entire board of inquiry report, but have been stonewalled. Instead, this week it was provided with a selective partial report, which blames the soldier and his family for this horrible tragedy.

    Will the government denounce these deplorable findings and commit to releasing the full report?

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    Mar 13, 2015 7:50 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for becoming the new health critic for the New Democratic Party.

    As the health critic, could he explain to me why the bill was sent to the public safety committee instead of to the health committee?

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    Mar 12, 2015 3:25 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, Bill C-641 would require that in consultation and co-operation with indigenous peoples in Canada, the government take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws in Canada would be consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. The declaration is an expression of the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples, and sets out principles of partnership and mutual respect that should guide the relationships between states and indigenous peoples.

    I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the tireless efforts of indigenous leaders from Canada, such as Chief Wilton Littlechild, Grand Chief Edward John and so many others, without whom this groundbreaking document would never have been realized.

    In fact, the principles laid out in the declaration are similar to Canada's existing legal duties to meaningfully consult and, where necessary, accommodate aboriginal communities before adopting or implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect their inherent and/or treaty rights. In fact, it codifies what indigenous peoples across the country know is necessary, expressed as “Nothing about us without us”.

    We need to realize that there is still a lot of work to be done in order to meet the urgent needs of aboriginal peoples in Canada and ensure that aboriginal and treaty rights take on their full meaning and become part of an enforceable framework.

    Unfortunately, since coming to power, the Conservative government has pursued a paternalistic and non-consultative approach with indigenous peoples in Canada, going so far as classifying them as adversaries in terms of resource development.

    The education gap is widening in terms of both funding and outcomes, housing shortages are becoming more acute, water and waste water systems are in crisis, and tragic gaps in first nations health outcomes are continuing unabated.

    The clear frustration of aboriginal peoples is understandable, given the litany of broken promises, the complete lack of progress on issues of vital importance to them, and the refusal of the government to fulfill its legal obligation to consult on matters that may impact their inherent and/or treaty rights.

    There is no doubt that the federal government is responsible for healing relations with the first nations, Inuit and Métis people of Canada, and those relations must be based on the principles set out in the the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or UNDRIP.

    The Liberal Party of Canada has long expressed support for these principles, and as the parliamentary secretary noted, passed support of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at our Liberal policy convention in 2014. We continue also to urge the government to move forward with its implementation. We think implementation requires federal leadership across all government departments and across all jurisdictions. All levels of government must understand the principles in this declaration that Canada signed on to.

    The Liberal caucus will therefore be supporting the bill. The declaration establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well-being, and rights of the world's indigenous peoples. It addresses both individual and collective rights, cultural rights, identity, and the right to education, health, employment, language, and others.

    The declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007, with an overwhelming majority, when 143 states voted in favour and only four voted against, with 11 abstaining. Unfortunately, Canada was one of the four countries that initially rejected the declaration.

    As is the case with many other international issues, the Conservatives' obstructionist approach in this case is further tarnishing Canada's reputation on the world stage.

    Subsequent to that UN vote, all four states that initially rejected the declaration have endorsed it. Australia endorsed the declaration in 2009, the U.S. indicated its endorsement in 2010, and New Zealand joined with its endorsement in that same year.

    In 2010, Canada also seemingly joined the international consensus by issuing a statement of support for its principles. Unfortunately, the Conservative government has done nothing since that statement to implement the principles in the declaration. As we heard from the parliamentary secretary, it does not even believe most of what it signed and has consistently used the excuse that it is merely aspirational in nature.

    Certainly, in an order paper question that I tabled in this House, the response from the government was very clear. When asked what it was doing to implement the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, the answer was pretty well nothing. Nothing, because it is aspirational. Nothing across government departments. Nothing in terms of dealing with the provinces, territories and municipalities, as all levels of government must understand and honour this international declaration.

    While it is true that UN declarations are generally not legally binding, they do represent the evolution of international legal norms and reflect the commitment of states to make progress toward specific shared goals while abiding by certain principles.

    Further, as noted by the Native Law Centre at the University of Saskatchewan:

    The Declaration did not create new rights for Indigenous peoples—but expanded upon existing human rights law and clarifies how those general human rights protections apply to Indigenous peoples.

    Even if the government sees this document as merely aspirational, it is time to move forward with tangible actions to support achieving those aspirations. I am particularly disappointed to hear from the parliamentary secretary that the government will not be supporting this private member's bill.

    Just last year the current government rejected the UN Indigenous Peoples World Conference outcome document because of its call to implement the declaration. The 2014 UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples brought together over 1,000 indigenous and non-indigenous delegates to discuss the realization of indigenous rights. The outcome document calls on member states to take:

    ...appropriate measures at the national level, including legislative, policy and administrative measures, to achieve the ends of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    The outcome document also affirms provisions in the UN declaration that decisions potentially affecting the rights of indigenous peoples should be undertaken only with their free, prior and informed consent. This seems to be the issue the government takes issue with. It is so disappointing that it did not understand that the declaration really insists on people moving forward on that. If it is aspirational, it means it still has to move forward and make some action that demonstrates an understanding of what has been signed.

    The Conservative government refused to even send a minister to the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and then rejected the outcome document. This government seems to take particular issue with the principle that decisions potentially affecting the rights of indigenous peoples should only be undertaken with their free, prior and informed consent.

    As the parliamentary secretary said, article 19 states that countries “shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned...to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them”.

    Article 32(2) states that countries “shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned...to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development...”.

    The practical implications of the concept of free, prior and informed consent are not dissimilar to the legal duties already imposed on governments by treaties and now enshrined in our Constitution.

    My message to Canadians is that true reconciliation can only be achieved if we understand the history, the culture and the rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada. It is a process that we called “Idle? Know more!” It is something that colleagues here need to be part of, in terms of how we can go forward with as my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou has said, in order to achieve true reconciliation.

    I encourage all of us here in this House to take special time with the users guide and parliamentary handbook that has been developed on DRIP, and I hope we will move forward together in spite of the present government.

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    Mar 12, 2015 12:00 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, the C. D. Howe Institute made it clear: low immunization rates in parts of Canada are a major health concern.

    Only one province, Newfoundland and Labrador, has achieved the 95% vaccination coverage needed for herd immunity. Quebec is in the midst of a serious measles outbreak: 119 people, with another 700 at risk.

    The report recommends better public education and real-time information on who is and who is not immunized.

    Will the government implement, on an urgent basis, the C.D. Howe recommendations?

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    Mar 09, 2015 11:35 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Aboriginal women and girls are five times more likely to be murdered in Canada. Unfortunately, the Minister of Status of Women has dismissed this ongoing tragedy by blaming aboriginal men, by highlighting domestic abuse. She has sadly demonstrated her ignorance of the RCMP report, which found that indigenous women were actually less likely to be killed by a spouse or a former spouse than non-indigenous women.

    Will the government finally accept the consensus, get the facts straight and call for a national public inquiry now?


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    Feb 26, 2015 11:35 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, the Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women released a comprehensive review of 58 relevant reports and found that only a handful of the over 700 recommendations have been implemented. The coalition said that only a national inquiry will have the scope, resources, and accountability to ensure the implementation of an effective and coordinated action plan to end the violence.

    On the eve of tomorrow's round table, will the government finally get on the right side of history, listen to the premiers, aboriginal leaders, experts, and families, and call a national public inquiry?

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    Feb 24, 2015 4:40 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Chair, I would ask if the member could explain why anti-Semitism is different from all other forms of discrimination and racism.

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    Feb 24, 2015 9:10 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer the member's question in a slightly different way, which would be to say that the former Liberal government had to tackle some tough stuff.

    I remember the assisted reproduction issue. After the task force reported, it was very important that Minister Rock come forward with something. What he chose to do was come forward with a white paper, immediately, that we then discussed at the parliamentary committee.

    He then came forward with a draft bill that we discussed. There was also the opportunity, both, I believe, in that bill, but certainly in the Young Offenders Act, for Parliament to discuss it after first reading. We, as a Liberal government, were always able to understand that we had to have Parliament's input. We had to listen to experts with the lived experience.

    I also think the timeline as the member lays out is not really possible unless we get on with this now.

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    Feb 24, 2015 8:55 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, it is with some sadness that I rise today in response to what we have heard so far from government members. This issue should have been an opportunity for Parliament to show itself at its best. It is about the relevance of Parliament and Parliament doing what the Supreme Court of Canada has asked it to do.

    We on this side had hoped that this motion would nudge the government to do the right thing, as it did two years ago when we asked for a special committee on missing and murdered indigenous women. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice at the time had no objections to the establishment of a special committee. Now we have a reference, literally, from the Supreme Court and somehow, all of a sudden, government members are objecting. What is also extraordinary is that if their strategy is to get an extension, there is absolutely no reason that I can see for the Supreme Court to grant one if there seems to be no work under way on what it has asked Parliament to do.

    I come from an institution whose Latin motto was non quo sed quomodo: it is not only what we do, but how we do it. This is the time for Parliament and parliamentarians to demonstrate to Canadians that the way we will go about making decisions will be in an open way, by tackling the tough things, hearing all points of view, and not in a closed-minded way where it will appear to Canadians as if the government has already made up its mind and Parliament will not have a say and, therefore, that citizens and Canadians will not have a say.

    There is no question that this debate evokes strong feelings. Therefore, it is really important that Canadians see that we are prepared to tackle this very difficult decision and important challenge that the Supreme Court has given us to get this right and put in place the safeguards that it and all Canadians know need to exist. As physicians, the member for Vancouver Centre and I both know when it is not time to prescribe. It is not time for us to prescribe what to do; it is a time for us to listen. It is the only way that we will get it right.

    It is a very serious piece of work that we have been asked to do, but it is very serious that Canadians understand that it is Parliament that has been asked to do this work and to consult Canadians. It is not okay for Parliament to abdicate from this challenge that it has been given by the Supreme Court of Canada and to abdicate it to a government that has a terrible track record in consulting Canadians, asking civil servants to attend information sessions but then not listening to what was heard. We have a responsibility to develop a very transparent and accountable process so that Canadians will know what we heard and that we listened to them.

    It is about listening to people with expertise and those with lived experience. It is about an opportunity for a democracy between elections to show Canadians that they were listened to and allowed to shape public policy. It is what Jane Jacobs said, that good public policy comes when the decision-makers can see in their mind's eye that people are affected. We need to listen to the people who will be affected by this legislation and get it right.

    The words in paragraph 127 of the judgment, even as my colleague said, are clear, but Canadians may have very different interpretations of what constitutes a “competent adult person”, what “clearly consents” means, what “grievous and irremediable” are, what is “enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition”, and how we can ensure that Canadians are not intimidated and the vulnerable are not put at risk.

    I can only interpret this as the government's refusal to govern, its refusal to tackle the tough stuff. It is hiding from it and I hope that it still has time today to take the little offering that Liberals have given on how we can show that Parliament will do its job, and that the government is not merely an administration in campaign mode that refuses to deal with the tough decisions.

    It is very clear that there are many ways the government could go about this, such as a white paper for consultation or a draft bill. The online consultation that it talks about just will not work unless there is an understanding of what the questions are and whether they actually will be listened to. Some of the members are already suggesting that they need an extension or that they need to use the notwithstanding clause.

    There is no question that the Supreme Court of Canada did its job unanimously. It is time for us, as parliamentarians, to do ours.

    I attended probably over 2,000 births in my career as a family doctor, and I felt that my job was to ensure they were safe, elegant and what the family wanted. I attended far fewer deaths, but it was also my job to see they were serene, pain-free, and that people were able to die in dignity. All of us in the House have our stories, and we know that we have to do better.

    Initiating this debate will be imperative for us to get on with the other undone business in the country in terms of the serious approach to palliative care and end-of-life care, and a serious approach to a pain strategy.

    Doctor Chochinov's article from The Star, on Wednesday, February 18, really spoke to the fact that doctors were not well trained to engage in the end of life conversations. Many of the goals of care are unclear. In view of the Supreme Court's decision, these issues have never been more important and they have to be dealt with, not only by Canadians but by medical schools and associations. We have to know that real choice in end of life does not happen if people do not have optimal palliative care and optimal dignity in their lives.

    I was lucky enough that my mom, at the end of her life, was able to die in dignity with a pain pump that she controlled. With my dad, on the other hand, it was not to be the end of his life. He broke his hip. He was in unbearable pain and had unacceptable pain relief, and he died 72 hours later. We did not want him to die then. Again, without a decent pain strategy and without decent palliative care, we will be unable to give people real choices.

    As members know, the Canadian Medical Association has said that it wants clarity on how the courts actually distinguish between the definition of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Canadians expect us to do differently.

    We know the safeguards have to be there. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities has been eloquent in terms of the need to protect the vulnerable. We know from our history with HIV-AIDS, when it was a death sentence, that people whose physicians chose to help them take their lives woke up and realized that they were merely depressed.

    We know there are power differentials. Families descend on a vulnerable senior who they say has had enough. Mainly, there is a financial reward, or they are just tired of providing care.

    As the member for Mount Royal has said so often, our society is judged by how we look after the most vulnerable in our society. We cannot let them down.

    There are need objectives that we could use. Ontario has an objective where 70% of people over 70 would have an advanced directive as they go forward.

    We need everybody to read Willie Molloy's Let Me Decide. We need to get on with the kind of efforts that the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians has mentioned.

    Dame Cicely Saunders said:

    You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.

    There is no question that too many are suffering at the end. Too few die peacefully and with dignity. We need a process that uses the research, the knowledge translation, the policies, the political will, the practice, and the applied research to ensure we design a truly excellent and exemplary process for the people who expect this of their Parliament.

    We must tackle this as a Parliament. We cannot let the government do this in some sort of backroom way. We cannot deal with what is practically prorogation and padlocking this place any longer, thinking that things will happen elsewhere or will not happen at all until the next government.

    We implore the government members to do the right thing and let Parliament do its work. The Supreme Court and Canadians ask no less of us.

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    Feb 24, 2015 8:00 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, some of the steps the member outlined, particularly his phrase, “we must all come together”, speaks to the need to get on with this.

    I am concerned that the member for Kitchener Centre and the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin have already decided that the “notwithstanding” clause should be implemented, and that the member for Vegreville—Wainwright already thinks there is not enough time and that the Conservatives need an extension.

    Could the member explain to me why it is important for not only for his caucus to have a proper conversation? Why can we not do what Preston Manning has said and let the the people speak in Parliament in a transparent way so we can get this right? What would be the way to all come together and listen to Canadians, rather than a conversation in some backroom with where Conservative members of Parliament are told what to do?

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:50 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, it is clear that this week's national round table on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls will not replace a national public inquiry. It could, however, be a step in the right direction. There is a cry for federal leadership and genuine collaboration to address this national tragedy that is ongoing.

    Why would the Prime Minister refuse to attend this week's round table on what is clearly an urgent national crisis? Is it because it is not very high on his radar?

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    Feb 06, 2015 10:50 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure this afternoon to support a good bill introduced by the member to establish a day in honour of the role that midwives play in births and the health of mothers, newborns and children. This day will raise people's awareness of the work midwives do and the important role they play in our health care system. Nevertheless, they should be authorized to carry out only those functions within their scope of practice.

    Midwives have an important role to play in our health care system for low-risk, healthy pregnancies. Women carrying high-risk pregnancies should be triaged. Still, midwives play an essential role overall in promoting health and reducing maternal and infant morbidity and mortality. We need to recognize and promote midwives' potential to enhance the well-being of women, families and society.

    Even though midwives play an important role, they can offer only the types of care authorized within their scope of practice. Midwives provide specialized primary care for women whose pregnancies are planned and who are expected to have low-risk births.

    It is amazing to be able to support this today, and to remind all members that it was the International Confederation of Midwives that drew attention to the fact that in the millennium development goals we were falling way behind in the area of maternal, newborn, and child health. I remember a round table here, and that we were very pleased that the government was able to attend and to hear the words of the midwives and how important it would be that Canada get behind this important issue of maternal, newborn, and child health going forward. Now we celebrate the work of the midwives in their work around the world, not only in improving maternal and child health, but also in the fight against female genital mutilation.

    As my colleague said, midwives have been practising here in Canada for as long as people have lived here. As the immigrants and the settlers brought midwives with them to the new country, it then became a problem. There seemed to be a turf war, and midwives were made illegal. They were practising their craft, but in a very uncertain time.

    The Government of Quebec, in 1691, established three autonomous branches of medicine: physicians, surgeons, and midwives. In 1861, in King's College, a school for midwives opened in England. It was opened by Florence Nightingale, but closed two years later. It seems that midwives have somehow always ended up doing just what they do best, but often in an uncertain legislative framework.

    It was interesting that it was Sir Wilfred Grenfell, of the Grenfell Mission, who began the first civilian hospital in St. John's, in Battle Harbour. It was staffed by nurses with midwifery skills from Britain, and the British midwives were the nurses who continued to staff other hospitals around the country.

    I myself am hugely grateful that in the Canadian winter of 1973, I had the opportunity to go and learn midwifery and obstetrics and gynecology from the midwives in Barbados. I remember being very grateful that I learned these skills first from the midwives in Barbados, who really did believe that birth was a normal thing to happen, before I came back and did my rather medical-model rotation at a hospital where it seemed, in those days, that birth was taught as a disaster waiting to happen.

    It has been an amazing relationship with midwives. In 1987 the Government of Ontario published its first report of the task force on the implementation of midwifery in Canada, and I was very proud that I was later asked, as the law came into effect, to chair the midwife implementation committee at Women's College Hospital in Toronto.

    As well, at the international convention on midwifery in Vancouver in 1993, we were extremely proud to celebrate what midwives were bringing to us in the research community in terms of qualitative research. Hearing the narrative of women's experience in real qualitative research was of huge assistance to us in changing our ways and being able to move to what is now known as family-centred maternity care, the ability to create an atmosphere centred around mothers and babies, not the convenience of physicians.

    After that, I was very pleased to see British Columbia bring in their law in 1998 that allowed midwives to register to practise. We seem to have gone on from there.

    At this time, I would like to thank all the midwives who taught me so much. It is so exciting to have this opportunity to thank them. The Vicki Van Wagners and the Holliday Tysons and the Mary Sharpes and other people went on as soon as it was legal. They scattered across Ontario to become professors at places like Laurentian, McMaster, and Ryerson University.

    I am so thrilled to have been able to see in practice the new birthing centre on Dundas in Toronto, run by the Seventh Generation Midwives of Toronto, with the beautiful birthing rooms designed by Christi Belcourt, the amazing Métis artist, who was able to put an indigenized approach to midwifery right in the core of Toronto. It makes us all so proud.

    Research is imperative, as always. Midwives have always been very keen on the research that accompanies the process. At the centre it was interesting to see the transfer rates, the triage indicators of acceptable clients, and the ability to carry through the birth in a good, safe way being documented. It is extraordinarily good research.

    The original goal in Ontario was to give women and their families real choices about where they would want to give birth, whether in their home, in a birthing centre, or in the hospital. Those choices are now there.

    As the critic for aboriginal affairs, I was equally thrilled when the first students were admitted into the midwifery program at Tsi Non:we lonnakeratstha Ona:grahsta' on the Six Nations in Ohsweken, Ontario. With this three-year program of 10 months of academic and clinical practice each year, we are finally able to have indigenous midwives practise in indigenous ways, which speaks to the medicine wheel instead of the medical model.

    We on this side of the House are very pleased to accept this bill, and we will be celebrating the first national day to acknowledge midwives along with everyone else in this House.

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    Feb 06, 2015 8:35 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives keep trying to deny it, but they actually cut the building Canada fund by 90% and now are trying to mislead Canadians with empty promises of money years in the future.

    Yesterday the big city mayors called on the federal government to immediately invest in transit, housing, and other critical infrastructure. It is time for the Conservatives to do their part to make livable, humane, affordable cities.

    Will the government flow the increased infrastructure money this year to improve quality of life, create jobs, and spur economic growth?

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    Feb 05, 2015 11:55 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, the government has refused to meaningfully consult with aboriginal communities. It has damaged the relationship, but also damaged the economy.

    Today's report from the Chamber of Commerce highlights that the government's failure to consult with aboriginal communities is a key barrier to competitiveness in Canada. The chamber is urging the government to “...be far more proactive in engaging with Aboriginal consultation”, and to get on with resolving land and treaty claims.

    Will the government heed the advice of the chamber and finally take its duty to consult seriously?

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    Feb 03, 2015 11:50 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, today, Dignity for All highlighted the shocking extent of hunger in Canada, especially amongst aboriginal peoples and northerners. Food bank usage is up 25% since 2008, and 70% of people in Nunavut are struggling to feed themselves. Canadians were horrified that the government's response to northerners scavenging for food at the dump was to deny the problem instead of fixing it.

    Why is the government spending $2 billion a year on income splitting for our wealthiest families instead of dealing with urgent issues like hunger?

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    Feb 02, 2015 11:50 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is cynically trying to balance its budget by holding back money that is allocated to Canadians with disabilities. In previous years, almost every penny allocated to the enabling accessibility fund was spent, but last year the government lapsed more than a third of that budget. More shocking is where this small amount of money is going; almost three-quarters of the money is spent in Conservative-held ridings.

    Will the government stop playing politics with some of Canada's most vulnerable people?


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    Jan 30, 2015 8:25 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, as oil prices plummet, the government has an obligation to mitigate the damage to the Canadian economy by responding to the urgent infrastructure needs of provinces, territories, and municipalities.

    The Conservatives have slashed infrastructure spending by 90% this year, impeding jobs and growth. Will the Conservatives stop their cynical back-loaded promises and ensure that the badly needed infrastructure funds flow this year and actually do something that will drive jobs and growth?

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    Jan 27, 2015 11:10 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, International Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed every January 27 to mark one of the darkest atrocities in human history, the systematic killing of six million Jews during the Second World War.

    This year's solemn day of remembrance has a special meaning. It is also the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The victims of the unfathomable crime against humanity were six million daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, people whose lives were ended prematurely through acts of blind hatred.

    Today is a day of deep reflection not only for the Jewish community but for all Canadians and people around the world. On this day and every day we must give special meaning to the words “never again”, by pledging to actively stand up against hate, injustice, anti-Semitism, and racism and refuse to be silent in the face of genocide.

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    Jan 26, 2015 12:20 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    With regard to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the transmissible spongiform encephalopathy of mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose: (a) since 2006, what government funding has been allocated or provided to research this disease, broken down by (i) department or agency, (ii) year; (b) what documents have been produced by government departments or agencies with regard to existing or future economic, health or environmental impacts of CWD including, for each document, the (i) date, (ii) authoring department or agency; (c) what documents have been produced by government departments or agencies regarding CWD generally including, for each document, the (i) date, (ii) authoring department or agency; (d) for each year since 2006, what measures have been taken by the government to mitigate the spread of CWD in Canada, including (i) the department or agency responsible for each measure, (ii) the date each measure was initiated, (iii) the duration of each measure, (iv) the objective of each measure, (v) whether those objectives were met; (e) what strategies and programs are currently in place or are being developed to deal with the potential spread of CWD to animals not currently susceptible to the disease, and to humans; (f) since 2006, what meetings or consultations have been conducted with provincial or territorial governments regarding CWD and what documents or decisions were produced from those meetings or consultations, including (i) the initiating and responsible federal department or agency, (ii) the date of the document that was produced or of the decision that was taken; (g) since 2006, what consultations, meetings or outreach has any federal department or agency had with any First Nations, Inuit or Metis government, organization or representative, including the (i) date of the interaction, (ii) names of participants, (iii) topics discussed, (iv) outcomes, (v) documents produced as a result of the interaction; (h) since 2006, what measures has the government put in place to monitor the spread of CWD, including (i) the department or agency initiating each measure, (ii) the date each measure was initiated, (iii) the duration of each measure; and (i) what measures are currently being considered by government departments or agencies as a result of, or in relation to, CWD?

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    Jan 26, 2015 11:55 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, we now know that first nations on reserve have been excluded from Canada's job numbers. The government is flying blind when it comes to the real need for job training, a fundamental component of the Canadian economy.

    Canadians are fed up with the Conservative government relying more on ideology than credible information.

    Will the government close this unacceptable gap in employment statistics and stop making it up as it goes along on the economy?


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    Dec 11, 2014 11:35 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, newly elected National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde vowed yesterday to keep pushing for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Earlier this week, Canada witnessed the courage and eloquence of Rinelle Harper as she added her voice to the calls for an inquiry.

    Will the Prime Minister get on the right side of history and immediately call a national public inquiry so that we can put an end to this ongoing national tragedy?

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    Dec 02, 2014 11:55 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, northerners are fed up with the environment minister's litany of denial. The people of Rankin Inlet are scrounging through the dump for food.

    Does she think APTN hired actors to do this? Is she denying that she contacted the hamlet office demanding an apology to the Conservative Party and an endorsement of Nutrition North Canada? Is she denying that her office threatened to sue officials from Rankin Inlet?

    Will the minister just put down her newspaper and do something for northerners unable to feed their families?

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    Dec 01, 2014 11:55 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, last week the Auditor General severely criticized the complete lack of transparency in Nutrition North and reported that it is not even designed to make food more accessible or affordable. This is what northerners have been saying since the beginning.

    Northerners are fed up with the shameless government talking points calling this program a success. Will the government finally commit to working collaboratively with northerners to design a transparent program that will help them feed their families?


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    Nov 17, 2014 11:40 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, these documents also show that the minister's own department is telling him that more money is needed to provide first nations children with education that is equivalent to other kids in Canada. It is unconscionable that he is playing politics with the future of first nations children by holding essential education funding hostage to the government's flawed first nations education bill.

    Will the minister commit to delivering this badly needed education funding immediately?

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    Nov 17, 2014 11:35 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, uncovered government documents have revealed that the Conservatives have been secretly shifting over $500 million allocated for the already underfunded infrastructure needs like water and housing to the chronically underfunded social programs, while still refusing to close the gaps in areas like education on first nations.

    Will the minister stop hiding the underfunding and mismanagement with dishonest shell games and finally work in good faith with aboriginal communities to properly fund these programs?

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    Nov 07, 2014 9:25 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    With regard to government funding, for each fiscal year since 2007-2008 inclusive: (a) what are the details of all grants, contributions, and loans to any organization, body, or group in the electoral district of St. Paul's, providing for each (i) the name of the recipient, (ii) the location of the recipient, indicating the municipality, (iii) the date, (iv) the amount, (v) the department or agency providing it, (vi) the program under which the grant, contribution, or loan was made, (vii) the nature or purpose; and (b) for each grant, contribution and loan identified in (a), was a press release issued to announce it and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file number of the press release?

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    Nov 05, 2014 11:15 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, next week is Family Doctor Week. I am proud to stand in the House to acknowledge the outstanding contribution of family doctors to the quality of life of Canadians.

    I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight the upcoming family medicine forum, which will take place in Quebec City from November 12 to 15, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

    Family doctors understand the importance of patient-centred care and access to a family doctor defines the haves and the have-nots in our health care system.

    I would personally like to acknowledge the tremendous care provided to our family by our family doctors, Jean Marmoreo and Rae Lake.

    I encourage all Canadians to take time to recognize the dedication of their family doctors to their patients and the crucial role they play in access and advocacy for health and quality health care.

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    Nov 04, 2014 3:35 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, yet again, the parliamentary secretary and the Government of Canada continue to disappoint. In fact, they continue to disappoint by continuing to use the word “continue”. Again, it is as though everything that they are doing now is perfect, yet this tragedy continues.

    They talk about funding shelters. There are 44 shelters in over 600 first nations in this country. This is not good enough.

    We have not seen any commitment to an increase in resources. The people of Canada, the families and the friends of the victims of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and frankly the 96% of Canadians not from an indigenous background are fed up. They want to see action. They know it only begins with a national public inquiry that will get to the facts and be able to determine the actions that will work.

    We will not let up on this, and we hope that the government will come onside. If not, we will wait until the next government, and we will do it.

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    Nov 04, 2014 3:30 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, for a very long time, since the cancelling of the funding of Sisters in Spirit in the Native Women's Association of Canada, we have been calling for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. Indeed, in 2010 Anita Neville and Todd Ross made sure that it was clear that there needed to be a national public inquiry in order for us to get to the bottom of what this horrible tragedy was all about.

    Later the AFN and the Native Women's Association called for a national public inquiry, and it has become clear to everyone across the country—except the Conservative government—that indigenous women and girls are dramatically more likely to be victims of homicides and to go missing in Canada. In fact, while only 4% of women in Canada are indigenous, this demographic accounted for a staggering 23% of female homicide victims in 2012. This means almost one in four female murder victims in Canada is indigenous.

    The RCMP statistics identified almost 1,200 victims since 1984, doubling the previous Native Women's Association of Canada estimate. In fact, it was a year and a half ago, on February 14, when we debated in the House the need for a special parliamentary committee. It was because of that special parliamentary committee that the RCMP actually picked up the phone, called other levels of policing, and found out that its unbelievably low estimate was extraordinarily higher than it had thought, at almost 1,200 victims.

    This epidemic of violence must end, and the Conservative government, which claims to be tough on crime and to stand up for victims of crime, cannot continue to ignore this national disgrace. The government's recent so-called “action plan” simply implements the whitewashed recommendations of the Conservative-dominated Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. In fact, that report ignored all of the recommendations of the witnesses that were heard from and put in place a laundry list of things that were already being done and were thought to be sufficient when, clearly, what was being done was not sufficient.

    These piecemeal government initiatives that were articulated in its so-called action plan listed many things that were not even specific to indigenous women and girls. For instance, the $25 million of so-called “new money” is simply a re-announcement of the funding of budget 2014, which is simply an extension of the temporary funding of $25 million over five years first announced back in 2010. This kind of political smoke and mirrors is why a national action plan must be rooted in a non-partisan national investigation into why this problem has persisted for decades and why all of us in the House recognize that successive governments have been unable to fix it without articulating the facts.

    The Prime Minister's stubborn refusal to call a national public inquiry into this ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is in stark contrast to the overwhelming consensus in Canada. The Prime Minister is on the wrong side of history. Grieving families, indigenous leaders, opposition parties, victims' advocates, civil society, and every single provincial and territorial premier have all urged the government to call a national public inquiry.

    The Prime Minister's opposition is ill-considered and short-sighted and is killing people. We can and must rise to this challenge and call a national public inquiry now.


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    Oct 31, 2014 8:40 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, in the wake of SARS, the Naylor report made it clear that Canada needed a public health agency headed by a chief public health officer who could speak directly to Canadians.

    Buried in the latest omnibus bill is the demotion and muzzling of the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. He has been stripped of his abilities to set priorities, determine appropriate resources, and speak directly to Canadians without political interference.

    Will the government reverse this latest act to muzzle science?

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    Oct 28, 2014 11:35 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, Toronto Mayor-elect John Tory is committed to working with all levels of government to invest in the infrastructure on public transit, essential to making our community competitive.

    The Ontario finance minister is already committed to working collaboratively with him to make these critical investments.

    Will the Minister of Finance stand up for his city and reverse his decision to slash infrastructure spending by almost 90% this year and increase the funding necessary to improve the quality of life for Torontonians, which will create jobs now?

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    Oct 10, 2014 9:10 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    With regard to government funding, for each fiscal year since 2007-2008 inclusive: (a) what are the details of all grants, contributions, and loans to any organization, body, or group in the Northwest Territories, providing for each (i) the name of the recipient, (ii) the location of the recipient, indicating the municipality and the federal electoral district, (iii) the date, (iv) the amount, (v) the department or agency providing it, (vi) the program under which the grant, contribution, or loan was made, (vii) the nature or purpose; and (b) for each grant, contribution and loan identified in (a), was a press release issued to announce it and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file number of the press release?

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    Oct 10, 2014 8:35 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, on the UN International Day of the Girl and inspired by the fearless advocacy of Nobel laureate Malala, we must reflect on the action needed here in Canada regarding indigenous girls. Twenty-three per cent of female murder victims in Canada are indigenous even though they are only 4% of the population.

    Will the Prime Minister finally accept that this ongoing tragedy reflects complex sociological issues, such as racism, sexism, poverty, foster care, education, and call an inquiry to keep indigenous girls in Canada safe?

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    Oct 03, 2014 8:55 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, tomorrow Canadians from coast to coast to coast will attend vigils for missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and stand in solidarity with their families. The premiers, indigenous leadership, and the international community all understand the need to deal with the sociological root causes. They have demanded a national inquiry.

    Could the Prime Minister finally admit that he was wrong, get on the right side of history, and call a national public inquiry now?


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    Sep 30, 2014 3:30 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, I am starting the debate on behalf of the status of women critic, the member for Etobicoke North.

    This debate concerns the instructions to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women on violence against women. It also concerns the amendment proposed by the member for Churchill.

    I am pleased to speak in favour of this motion. As members know, the Liberals have consistently supported ending violence against women by any measures that would help do so, and we have also been consistent in the call for a national action plan to end violence against women. As well, since 2010 we have been calling for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous aboriginal women and girls, which we know would very much inform any action plan in any real success in dealing with this terrible tragedy.

    We will also support the subamendment moved by the member for Churchill, as the motion will be amended by replacing the words “education and social programs” with the words “education programs, social programs and policies”.

    We believe that gender-based violence cuts across boundaries, cultures, religious memberships, and socio-economic status and we believe that we must all work together to end it. We believe that a study by the status of women committee could do a great deal to further better understanding of this and to put in place recommendations that would actually act on this.

    Particularly at this time of year, when we are also appalled by what has transpired on the campuses in this nation, we really want to better understand how people in Canada could even talk about something as appalling as a “rape culture”.

    We are upset that despite repeated calls, the government has refused to take real action, instead favouring the status quo. As we saw from the so-called action plan that the Minister of Status of Women tabled a week ago, we are only seeing a laundry list of things that the government was already doing, with no new money and indeed no real hope for a change in the outcomes based on this.

    It is interesting to look to what was tabled by the UN in 2008, called Framework for Action, Programme of United Nations Activities and Expected Outcomes, 2008-2015, which we can find at http://endviolence.un.org, which I will post on my website.

    The Framework for Action in 2008 identified five key outcomes as benchmarks for the campaign to be achieved by all countries by 2015. It is shocking and appalling that its recommendation for adoption and implementation of multi-sectoral national plans of action that emphasize prevention and that are adequately resourced clearly has not been done by the government.

    Neither has the framework's insistence on the establishment of a data collection and analysis system on the prevalence of various forms of violence against women and girls. As we learned at the special committee on missing and murdered indigenous women, the data itself is not good enough. We look to places like New Zealand for much better data.

    Also, with regard for the idea of the establishment of national and local campaigns and the engagement of a diverse range of civil society actors in preventing violence and in supporting women and girls who have been abused, we again can only be saddened by the fact that the Minister of Status of Women tabled a so-called action plan that is not what, by when and how. Neither were any partners or civil society actors named in that action plan, nor was it adequately funded, as was required in the UN Framework for Action that Canada should have understood was serious in 2008 when the UN tabled it, and which will be reported on next year.

    The House needs to recognize that in the fall of 2013, the status of women critic for the Liberal Party, the member for Etobicoke North, tabled a motion at the status of women committee to study violence against women. While the motion was discussed in camera, clearly the committee has yet to study that issue.

    The member for Etobicoke North also tabled seven motions pertaining to the status of women, with one motion specifically calling for a national action plan to end violence against women, Motion No. 470, yet nothing happened.

    While we will vote in favour of this motion, we believe it is only one step in a multi-pronged approach to ending violence against women. We are saddened that if the Conservatives were serious about ending violence against women, they would pledge to develop a national action plan that had real action in terms of what, by when and how, with measurable outcomes and adequate funding.

    We are still disturbed by the government's violent opposition to listening to these stakeholders, the aboriginal leaders, as well as all the premiers, to call a national public inquiry on violence against aboriginal women and girls. We hope this motion will act as a catalyst to take further substantial action to end violence against women and girls in Canada.

    Every year in Canada violence and abuse drive over 100,000 women and children out of their homes and into shelters. According to the study by the Department of Justice, violence against women costs Canadian society $7.4 billion each year. Based on 2009 figures, the report states that the cost to victims directly is $6 billion annually, including $21 million in hospitalization, visits to doctors in emergency rooms, as well as $180 million in related mental health costs.

    Furthermore, in Canada women continue to outnumber men nine to one as victims of assault by a spouse or partner. Girls between the ages of 12 and 15 are at the greatest risk of sexual assault by a family member.

    We will attend the vigils this Saturday on the Hill, in Toronto and all across Canada for the missing and murdered women and girls of indigenous origin. Aboriginal women are three and a half times more likely than non-aboriginal women to be victims of violence. In 2010, the Native Women's Association of Canada estimated the number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls over the last 30 years at 582.

    We know that this report acknowledged the limitations to the record keeping, as there was no national missing persons database and police records did not always indicate aboriginal status.

    The initiative was led by the group, Sisters in Spirit, which was defunded by the government in 2010. That is why and when we first called for a national inquiry. It found that many victims were targeted simply because they were aboriginals and their attackers assumed they would not fight back. The 2014 report from the RCMP put that number at almost 1,200.

    In February 2013, we tabled the motion calling for the special committee. The outcome of that committee was seriously disappointing, as the Conservatives used their majority to put in a series of recommendations that were only the status quo with words like “maintain” and “continue” and no real action, no recommendations for new funding and a complete betrayal of the responsibility of the government and Parliament.

    During the upcoming committee hearings, I hope they will see what a real action plan on violence against women looks like.

    I will put on my website today the excellent work of the Library of Parliament in its analysis of the Australian national action plan. Hopefully, for once in this country, we will get a national action plan for when and how, and we can stop this terrible tragedy.

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    Sep 22, 2014 11:10 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, Toronto St. Paul's constituents are rightly worried about the impact of a possible rail accident in our community.

    Ensuring the safety of Canadians through effective railway regulation is a responsibility that falls squarely on the shoulders of the federal government. Unfortunately, over the past several years federal regulators have consistently failed to address systemic weaknesses in railway oversight.

    As we saw in Lac-Mégantic, a rail accident can have horrific impacts on the lives of Canadians and the environment. The investigation into the Lac-Mégantic tragedy revealed that the rail company had an ineffective safety management system and a weak safety culture overall.

    It is the Government of Canada's job to audit those safety management systems and to make sure they are effective. The government's systemic failure to adequately conduct those audits was highlighted not only in this investigation but also last fall by the Auditor General and back in 2007 by the rail safety review panel.

    It is time for the federal government to do its job and ensure that the safety of Canadians is protected.

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    Sep 15, 2014 8:50 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his difficult question.

    The projections are suggesting that there will be 20,000 people affected. It is very important that Canada contribute as much as it can. As always, an expert analysis is needed. After that, it is very important that parliamentarians determine the extent of our contribution.

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    Sep 15, 2014 8:45 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, some of the public health experts have suggested that in lieu of the travel ban, which was not recommended, that there could be a better approach, whether through CBSA or the airlines, such as information being given at airports as to where one would be and then to list the symptoms that one should look for. We know that with this disease people are not infectious unless they have symptoms. Again, it is very important that people who have been to these areas know what symptoms to look for and know how to get help.

    Again, it is a bit controversial that these travel bans were put on. We need to hear from the experts to find out if they think they are appropriate or whether they have complicated efforts in the region. It is also important for the Public Health Agency and International Development to have a look at the website to try to make an easier on-ramp for Canadians who might want to go and help in the region.

    As my colleague from Mississauga said, this will not ever just be about money. Right at the moment, people need personnel and equipment. Experts and people who can actually go over and know how to work safely and teach and train other personnel will be hugely important.

    In the U.S. there has been a specific call, which was very eloquent and easy. We have not seen that in Canada, the just asking for people like we did in Kandahar where so many amazing people were able to go and work in the hospital there, in X-rays and doing all kinds of things. I think Canadians would be generous with their time if they knew exactly how to do it.

    The government needs to have a multifaceted approach because this crosses many government departments such as International Development, Foreign Affairs and Health Canada. We talked and heard about a whole-of-government approach to this, but we need to effect it. Just studying this at the health committee will not be enough.

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    Sep 15, 2014 8:40 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, I completely agree. Inviting Canadian public health experts and international experts in order to support parliamentarians as part of a proper study in committee is a good idea. However, all parliamentarians must be briefed immediately.

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    Sep 15, 2014 8:20 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie for requesting tonight's debate.

    I have been listening this evening, and I think none of us want this to be a political issue. However, all of us, as members of Parliament, are asking the same question: Is Canada doing enough, or should Canada be doing more? That is what Canadians are asking us, particularly those who come from the countries so desperate at this moment. They are pleading.

    This infection is not contained. Without containment, everyone in the region is at risk. As we are learning today, even the United States of America is preparing for the possible eventuality that the disease could come to us.

    We learned a lot in 2003 from SARS, because we were not prepared and because we really did not have the structures in this country to speak to one another. From Dr. Naylor's report, “Learning From Sars”, we know that we had to do better on collaboration, co-operation, communication, and clarity as to who does what and when.

    The Public Health Network has now been set up, as has the Public Health Agency of Canada. The Public Health Network is doing an excellent job across the country with its weekly calls and letting one another know what it is doing, what is at risk, and what it believes can happen internationally.

    The Public Health Agency, unfortunately, is still without a permanent chief public health officer of Canada. It means that at times like this, there is not the trusted voice speaking directly to Canadians. Dr. Greg Taylor, as the deputy chief public health officer, has done his best, but when the lessons were learned from SARS, it was extremely explicit that there needed to be a trusted voice of public health speaking to Canadians at times like this.

    Frankly, it has been over a month since Canadians have had any conversation about this from any public health official of Canada. At that time it was merely an announcement of the expert and exciting news about the possible vaccine. Again, when it is delivered by the Minister of Canadian Heritage in her home town, it unfortunately smacks of politics instead of being a clear message to Canadians about what they need to know and what they should be telling their families and friends about this exponentially increasing disease around the world.

    It has only been ten days since the excellent CBC post by Amber Hildebrandt, which talked about the “...dire predictions of 20,000 people — more than six times the current toll”. In the article she talked about Médecins Sans Frontières, saying that its “1,800 staff are overwhelmed” and that it is turning to “governments capable of rapidly deploying military units and running self-contained field hospitals”. That is what MSF is asking for, and that is what we have not heard tonight.

    We have not heard once tonight from the government side that it will assess and do more if necessary. Canadians want to know that Canada will step up. They have not heard that message.

    The parliamentary secretary said that the critics had had a briefing. I have to say that the briefing deck I just looked at is pretty thin gruel when we look at the international assistance, co-operation, and collaboration. There are three bullet points that start with the $5 million we have heard about countless times tonight.

    The NML, or the national microbiology mobile lab, was sent, but then the three staff were brought back because there was an infection in the hotel, which is again a mixed message Canadians are hearing. They have not had an explanation. If it could only be contracted through bodily fluids, human to human, people did not know why those staff came home.

    Those are the questions that Canadians are asking parliamentarians, and it is the reason that parliamentarians need proper briefings, in order to contain the fear. We do not want to fearmonger, but we do want to have specific answers, and also the donation of the doses of experimental vaccine.

    There are three bullet points in a deck, and then unfortunately the closing remarks merely say that the Public Health Agency of Canada will continue to monitor the situation in West Africa and keep Canadians informed as the situation evolves.

    What Canadians want to know is whether we are doing enough, and should we be doing more? That was supposed to be the point of the debate tonight. It is upsetting that we end up with this political defensive response instead of learning. We actually want to hear from medical professionals. That is why it is extraordinary that in Canada we have this approach, which unfortunately is inadequate information from people who are not medically trained or able to instill confidence in Canadians. From the articles in the Lancet, to all the things that should have, could have, or would have happened as proposed by the WHO, in 2011, this is now being called an international response that is fractured and delayed. Everyone is now scrambling as this thing is getting worse and worse. As Dr. Cornish from MSF Canada has said, the international response has been “lethally inadequate”.

    The past deputy chief public health officer to Canada, Dr. Paul Gully, in that same article, talked about how a unified and coordinated response should work with other member states, hopefully led by the WHO. He is concerned that the deployment needs consular response, the ability to evacuate workers if needed, money to pay health workers and insure them, plus training, food, lodging, and travel. A lot of coordination would be required, and Canada probably has some capacity that it could share. However, he agrees that it is not that simple. He is saying that it is our responsibility.

    It was Dr. Cornish who said that the world has to step up to this emergency, and if the call is unanswered, this could turn into a disaster and an outbreak of cataclysmic proportions.

    Even as we have experienced the debate tonight, things are changing today. Already in the U.K., they are reporting the CDC decision to issue a six-page action plan on how to tackle Ebola for U.S. hospitals. Now is the time to prepare. They warned a week ago that the disease was out of control, as a CDC worker contracted the illness. World leaders are pledging to invest millions, particularly with the President of Liberia's urgent plea to the President of the United States.

    It is an urgent issue and call to action today from the CDC. This is the first time we have heard experts saying that it is only a matter of time before the illness is widespread across America. This is really different, and it is hugely important to us here in Canada to understand that if we do not step up and help to contain this infection on that continent, we are going to be very sorry. I think that Canadians have been saying to me over the last little while that we could and should be doing more.

    Today we learned that the UN Security Council is going to hold its emergency debate on Ebola on Thursday, and it will get attention in Washington, as we talked about earlier in one of my questions, as members of Congress are slated to hear from the federal officials who are leading the nation's efforts. Of course, President Obama is scheduled to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta and will be briefed. Tomorrow it is expected that President Obama will detail his plans to boost the nation's efforts to help West Africa battle the Ebola outbreak, and The Wall Street Journal is just recently reporting today that the plan could include sending more portable hospitals, medical staff and supplies, as well as training health workers in the outbreak countries.

    As members know, Congress is currently considering Obama's $88-million request for the Ebola response, which is included in the resolutions to fund government for three more months, past the end of its fiscal year, and that the U.S. House of Representatives has already introduced a bill that includes the amount the administration requested. Also tomorrow federal health officials will testify before a joint Senate committee hearing on Ebola and the response change. Health officials on the witness list include the CDC, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

    It is urgent that Canadians hear from the Public Health Agency of Canada directly and that journalists and others are able to ask the really important questions, which are the core of this debate. Could and should Canada be doing more? That is what tonight's debate is about. Are we doing enough? In order to sleep soundly in our beds at night, I think that across all party lines everybody needs to know that we have asked and had good answers to those questions. Otherwise, we are not doing our jobs as parliamentarians.

    We want Canadians to hear from the medical authorities as to what is possible from our international development authorities, what is possible in terms of foreign affairs in terms of consular support, what we are stepping up. Those same places that the protective equipment announcement came from tonight also have the portable hospital units. Should and could we be at least considering that? How do I answer when I am asked: should we be sending portable hospitals, should we be sending some of our beds, should we be sending some of the things that we have in depots all over this country where the protective equipment came from? Should we be digging deeper into what is possible? It is a hugely important issue.

    During SARS we were really reeling because we did not have the structures in place at the Public Health Agency of Canada, or the Chief Public Health Officer of a public health network. We are asking the government to let those people do their work and let them speak directly to Canadians and brief parliamentarians. A call to brief the critics of the two opposition parties is not speaking to our party. Are they supposed to then brief their caucus on this? Surely not. They have to come to committee, tell us what is going on and then tell us what could be possible. Then, after we are given the menu of choices and have it costed out, it is up to Parliament to decide whether we should do more. Then we will do the risk assessment and be able to make good decisions as a Parliament in the same way as tomorrow night we will debate the contribution in terms of Iraq.

    As Dr. Keith Martin said, this should be dealt with as a natural disaster. We have to have that mentality of disaster response as opposed to being able to just say that the $5 million is enough and here is a little bit more equipment.

    This is not what I am hearing.

    I have to say, as I asked earlier in the day, we lived in Toronto with the ill effects of a travel advisory for a disease that actually, evidence-based, could not be contracted in the community. I am hearing from many people that the travel advisory to those very vulnerable countries is perhaps dangerous. Again, people can only get the disease through human-to-human contact and by bodily fluids. It is difficult for people to understand why this travel advisory was advised when many other countries have not done that. What I am hearing is that this travel advisory may well impede some of the assistance getting into these countries.

    One of the other things we are hearing is that there are many doctors and nurses, health professionals across Canada, who are thinking about joining the amazing Dr. Eilish Cleary, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, who felt called to go and help. Obviously, there is Dr. Theresa Tam from the Public Health Agency. There are other people with skills who want to know if they can help. It is too difficult for them to find out how to do that in the current configuration of websites and in CANADEM or in the ways that this is structured, because most of our processes are not done for emergencies like this, and not for this specific kind of medical assistance.

    We hope that the government will listen to what the President of the United States decides to do tomorrow, including appointing an Ebola czar who will be the person who Americans can listen to as to what is going on.

    It is extraordinarily important that Canadians have confidence, and that as they see what the CDC has rolled out in terms of all the American hospitals, the handbooks, and the buddy system to make sure people wash their hands and to make sure that all the basic public health rules that are sometimes not observed are followed. This is a teachable moment for even the upcoming winter flu. We could do a better job now in preparing for this.

    It is clear that President Obama's announcement is to “underscore” just how extraordinarily serious the administration has been in confronting what they call a top national security priority. What a senior administration official has said is that what is needed is on a scale that is unprecedented.

    I think that Canadians think that $5 million and some special equipment is not an unprecedented contribution. This is business as usual in terms of $5 million here and $5 million there for a whole myriad of problems that countries in the world are facing.

    We need a risk assessment as to what is the appropriate contribution for Canada to contain this epidemic and prepare Canadians for any eventuality in this country so that they feel confident. However, that can only come if they stand up, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the public health leadership in this country, and we let them speak directly to Canadians, let them speak directly to parliamentarians. We have to stop this game of politics and defensiveness, where everything we are doing is perfect, when too many Canadians have too many questions and too many parliamentarians have too many questions. Frankly, tonight's debate was very helpful in terms of getting some of this out.

    However, the answers to the questions are not being given by people who actually have the medical knowledge to be able to give reassurance to Canadians or even to parliamentarians.

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    Sep 15, 2014 7:10 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her comments, but, yet again, I want to remark that reassurance from a parliamentary secretary is not the same as the reassurance from a medical officer of health.

    Tomorrow, members of Congress are slated to hear from the federal health officials who are leading their nation's efforts. President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, where he will be briefed. As we know, Samantha Power and the Americans have insisted on a security council debate on Thursday. This is a week after this disease was designated out of control. Today, the Centers for Disease Control drew up a six-point action plan that says now is the time to prepare. They are saying it is only a matter of time before the disease arrives on home soil.

    I heard the member say many times that we have not yet had a case in Canada. That is true, but having lived through 2003 when we had not yet had a case of SARS in Canada, it is no time for complacency. I would ask the member when parliamentarians and Canadians at large will hear from the acting chief medical officer of health. That was the lesson we learned from SARS. We must be hearing directly from medical people, not from politicians, if we are going to expect Canadians to have confidence in our public health system in Canada.

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    Sep 15, 2014 5:50 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, The New York Times is reporting tonight that tomorrow President Obama will be going to the CDC to hear first-hand what the situation is from its point of view and appoint an Ebola czar to coordinate the efforts of the United States internationally.

    Does the hon. member think that having the minister of heritage and culture do a press conference on the Ebola virus is an appropriate response by the government, or whether, as was the original understanding of Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, it should be Canada's doctor speaking to the people of Canada explaining what this disease is and the risks? How can we ensure that politics is out of this and information about a serious infectious disease is delivered by physicians and medical people as opposed to politicians?

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    Sep 15, 2014 4:25 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, I am also grateful that people like Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr. Eilish Cleary have gone to the region. They make us very proud because Canada has had tremendous leadership on the Ebola virus for a very long time, including in Angola over a decade ago.

    As the member explained, this disease is very difficult to get, other than human-to-human direct contact, bodily fluids. I wonder two things. As a member from Toronto who was on the receiving end of the travel advisory in Toronto during SARS, I wonder if the member could explain why the travel advisory has been given to Canadians going to Africa when we know it will seriously affect the economy of the region. Indeed, the member is saying that the risk is low. I have been hearing all summer that it is very difficult for those countries that Canada has taken this stand, when other countries have taken a different stand.

    In the member's explanation that even though there are no direct flights from that region to Canada, are passengers on flights from London and connecting flights given information about Ebola on landing in Canada, including being asked if they have been to the region and letting them know about the symptoms and the fact that they should seek medical advice if they get these kinds of symptoms?

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    Sep 15, 2014 12:30 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    With regard to government funding, for each fiscal year since 2007-2008 inclusive: (a) what are the details of all grants, contributions, and loans to any organization, body, or group in the Northwest Territories, providing for each (i) the name of the recipient, (ii) the location of the recipient, indicating the municipality and the federal electoral district, (iii) the date, (iv) the amount, (v) the department or agency providing it, (vi) the program under which the grant, contribution, or loan was made, (vii) the nature or purpose; and (b) for each grant, contribution and loan identified in (a), was a press release issued to announce it and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file number of the press release?

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    Sep 15, 2014 12:00 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is on the wrong side of history. He stubbornly refuses to listen to premiers, indigenous leadership, the international community, and most importantly, the families of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. His response, “we should not view this as sociological phenomenon”, is actually a refusal to accept his responsibility to prevent the deaths and stop this tragedy.

    Will the Prime Minister apologize for his heartless and irresponsible remarks and call a national public inquiry now?


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    Jun 19, 2014 11:25 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, members of the Ontario Bar Association described the Minister of Justice's recent fifties rant as disappointing, bizarre, frustrating, and offensive.

    As a parent, daughter, and granddaughter of women who worked full time, and as the critic for aboriginal affairs, I ask the minister to apologize to all Canadians for blaming motherhood for his abject failure to ensure that the Federal Court reflects the diversity of the society it is entrusted to judge.

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Carolyn Bennett

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