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    Mar 12, 2015 4:05 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the willingness put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. It is a sentiment we certainly did not hear from the minister in the House the day after the tragedy in Makwa Sahgaiehcan.

    There really needs to be a recognition from the government that we are talking about systemic underfunding. Yes, while there is an investigation happening in Makwa, as there should, there are too many first nations across this country that have gone through that same tragedy.

    We do not need to wait for another child or another elder or anyone to die in a house fire on reserve for any reason, but certainly the lack of fire equipment, the lack of resources to support firefighters, and equally important, the lack of resources to properly equip houses are the issues we need to be addressing.

    I want to say that in recognizing that this is a systemic issue, we need systemic change, and that is where we hope to see the federal government take action.

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    Mar 12, 2015 4:00 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time granted me tonight to further discuss a crisis for first nations, the crisis of fire safety.

    According to a study done by the Government of Canada, first nations living on reserve are 10 times more likely to die in a house fire than people living anywhere else in Canada. I repeat, they are 10 times more likely. This is not isolated to one region or to only a few communities. This is a crisis that is occurring in communities across the country on a regular basis.

    I have spoken to dozens of people in the last couple of months, not to mention the families I have visited in my riding, who have personal experiences with death due to house fires. Members of communities from across the country have gotten in touch with me to share their stories of grief and devastation, what they feel and what their community goes through, when a tragic house fire occurs.

    In my home province of Manitoba, investigations have demonstrated that residents of Manitoba first nations are far more likely to die in house fires than people living off reserve because of the systemic underfunding of infrastructure. Fire fatalities are high because in many communities, the first nations are struggling with outdated and overcrowded housing as well as a lack of necessary resources to respond to fires when they happen. In fact, although fires on reserve make up less than 5% of all fires in my home province, they tragically account for up to half of the fatalities.

    The minister has this information, which is why, along with hundreds of first nations communities, my colleagues and I are left wondering why it is that nothing has changed. Despite the clear evidence that the current way of doing things is not working, the minister refuses to acknowledge the need to take action and the government's role in ensuring that fire safety in first nations is a priority.

    A 2012 study found that five reserves, with a combined population of 13,000, had the resources to budget roughly $18 per person for fire services. However, five non-reserve communities of the same size had the resources to allocate $51 per person. It is $18 on reserve per person and $51 off reserve per person. The current federal government and past federal governments have remained silent about this crisis. The minister continues to download the blame to communities that are facing a real need in terms of resources, all while knowing full well that like education, infrastructure for fire safety is funded at less than half of what residents in non-first-nations communities receive.

    The high numbers of fire fatalities on reserve clearly demonstrate that something is wrong. The system is broken. A 2010 federal report identified a number of recommendations to improve fire safety on reserve, including evaluating funding for resources and fire safety education. My question is this: What has happened to those recommendations? What actions have been taken by the government to ensure that all communities have the same access to the fire services they so desperately need?

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    Mar 12, 2015 3:35 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in the House this evening to speak in support of one of the most important pieces of legislation that has ever come to the House. This is the second time the NDP has brought this bill forward, and I am incredibly proud to support the work of my friend and colleague, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

    If the Government of Canada were to implement the principles set forth in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we would see a sea change in the relationship between Canada and the first peoples of this land. We would be living in a new era of respect and dignity for indigenous and non-indigenous peoples alike, as defined by the nation to nation relationship that first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples deserve.

    It is shameful and telling that Canada was one of the last state parties to become a signatory to the UNDRIP. It took three years of constant pressure to get Canada to sign. Those who were there have described the tactics that our government used to try and neuter some of the articles in the declaration. In particular, the government attempted to erase article 11, section 2, under which indigenous peoples have the right to free, prior and informed consent in matters which effect their land, well-being and culture. I will return to this point a bit later in my speech because it is so illustrative of exactly why the Conservative government's relationship with indigenous peoples in Canada is so damaged.

    The UN declaration is a document of power. In the hands of indigenous peoples, it is a tool and an instrument. Canada's first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples are using it to combat the legacy of colonial violence they have inherited.

    Across the country, court rulings have reflected the binding nature of Canada's signature on the declaration. They are amassing jurisprudence based upon the rights it provides, and the government has a duty with respect to the document. Beyond jurisprudence, we see indigenous peoples using the UNDRIP to teach their children and broaden their usage of a rights-based framework under which they are dependent upon the goodwill and good faith of Canada, but are the rights holders who are empowered to claim what is owed to them.

    I would like to take this time to share the words of some key leaders across Canada who have supported Bill C-641.

    This is what Grand Chief Derek Nepinak writes on behalf of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs:

    “By way of a standing mandate to support UNDRIP, I offer this letter in support of your initiative to have this bill pass and become enshrined in Canadian legislative processes as an important hedge against the derogation or abrogation of Indigenous rights”.

    Also from my home province, our NDP minister of aboriginal and northern affairs, Eric Robinson, has written a letter in support of my colleague's bill, which reads in part:

    “This will be a major accomplishment in providing clarity and direction for the Federal government and the private sector in recognizing Indigenous rights in this country. As has already been stated by others, Bill C-641 reaffirms Indigenous rights that were taken away by forced assimilation policies like residential schools and the Indian Act. The UN Declaration recognized that Indigenous peoples have the “collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples.” It is time to recognize these rights in Canadian Law”.

    Minister Robinson's words are well taken and reflect the fact that provincial governments need not take an adversarial stance against indigenous rights.

    Far too often, the Conservative government refers to aboriginal rights as something Canadians cannot afford. The Conservative minister of aboriginal affairs at the time that the UNDRIP was ratified was quoted as saying that the declaration of rights was “unworkable in a Western democracy under a constitutional government...because (native rights) don’t trump all other rights in the country”.

    It is shameful. It is as if the inherent rights of some people would come at the cost of the rights of others, as if human rights are not something that can and must be enjoyed by every human being on this planet. Not only is this logic utterly offensive and inherently racist, but it is absolutely incorrect. We can afford Indigenous rights. What we cannot afford is not to enshrine these rights in our country.

    Just this afternoon, I met with a delegation of chiefs from the Blueberry River and Doig River First Nations. They travelled from northeast British Columbia to speak to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and members of our opposition. When we met with them, they described a situation we hear more and more often. Their traditional lands are being usurped and destroyed as a result of industrial activity, and for decades, this has happened without their consent.

    Neither the federal nor the provincial government has taken their consent into consideration as they rubberstamp successive projects on their lands. They have taken their hunting grounds, pumped chemicals into their waters, and poisoned the animals. Their resource-rich lands, they told me, are now beyond repair. As well, the federal government has stalled in negotiating and resolving their land claims. They have been at the table for over a decade, and the government has shown such disrespect as to completely step away from the negotiations for periods at a time.

    These two nations have been left with no choice but to file against their provincial government in court. This ham-fisted way of dealing with first nations will stall economic development and business and will not help this development be sustainable and mutually beneficial.

    These two nations do not want resource development completely off their lands, but they do want their government to recognize their inherent right to free, prior, and informed consent, as set out by the UNDRIP.

    The fact is, we see the current government's opposition to indigenous rights, both in terms of the UN declaration and in terms of the bill before us today, all too often. Just this week, we saw the government's desire to push forward with Bill S-6, a bill that would attack the kind of legislative framework put in place by first nations in the Yukon and by Yukoners themselves to protect their environment.

    The government has attempted to ram through Bill S-6. Industry does not want it rammed through. Industry has made it clear that it wants to respect indigenous rights, because it knows that it is the safest way to do business in Canada.

    If the Conservative government were genuinely concerned about sound fiscal management, it would see the UNDRIP as an opportunity to foster better business relations with first nations. The Conservatives would understand that they cannot get away with overriding aboriginal title anymore. The Tsilhqot’in decision this summer proved that very thing.

    Today I am proud to say that an NDP government would immediately begin working towards a nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples. We would adopt the UNDRIP and we would enshrine its principles by ensuring that, at the cabinet level, every piece of legislation is reviewed through an indigenous lens and is in line with treaty rights, aboriginal rights, inherent rights, and of course, the UN declaration.

    I would like to end by quoting the late hon. Jack Layton, the former leader of the NDP and leader of the official opposition.

    In a letter to the UN back in 2006, when they were on the brink of ratifying the declaration, Jack wrote:

    I write today to express my Party's support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The New Democratic Party is the social democratic party in Canada's parliament and it is our belief in social justice and equality that leads us to support this declaration.

    There are many sound economic, social, and legal reasons to support this bill, but as Jack Layton said, at the heart of the issue is the principle of equality and social justice for all. These are the principles of human rights, and we stand for them.

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    Mar 12, 2015 11:55 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Conservatives shut down debate on Bill S-6, legislation that would gut the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act. There was no real consultation with first nations, and nearly all of Yukon's first nations are opposed to Bill S-6. In fact, they are already preparing to fight it in court.

    At what point did the Conservatives decide that nation-to-nation consultation with Yukon's first nations did not matter anymore?

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    Mar 11, 2015 4:40 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I was here to hear the minister's response, who pointed the blame on the city of Ottawa.

    We are aware that there were changes made to the criteria around homeless funding. While the city of Ottawa must take leadership in restoring funding, there needs to be broader federal leadership when it comes to investing in services for the homeless that are particular to indigenous people who find themselves in urban centres living on the margins or falling through the cracks. I know this to be the case in my home community. That funding has not been sustainable, has not been long term and obviously causes a great deal of distress for not only those on the street, but also for those who are keen to provide these services.

    I would ask the parliamentary secretary and his government to consider the importance of supporting funding when it comes to homeless services for first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in Canada.

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    Mar 11, 2015 4:35 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in this House to follow up on our discussion about the cuts experienced by the Odawa Centre as a result of changes to federal funding geared toward helping the homeless.

    Shawenjeagamik Aboriginal Drop In Centre at 510 Rideau, which helps Ottawa's indigenous homeless population, is under great financial duress due to changes to federal funding geared toward helping the homeless. Through the Odawa Friendship Centre, a desperately needed drop-in centre that has been operating for over 10 years, first nations, Métis, and Inuit people in Ottawa have had a place to go. In fact, it is a place that has been vital to the healing of first peoples in Ottawa, many of whom are at risk and in transition.

    Shawenjeagamik is committed to enhancing the health and well-being of the aboriginal homeless community. It is a place where everyone is treated with respect and dignity. Its protocol is guided by seven gifts of the grandfather teachings: honesty, humility, trust, love, bravery, caring, and courage. Here in Ottawa it offers unique, culturally appropriate services that provide not just a physical space for people to go, but a space that embraces a diversity of needs and responds with care and compassion.

    A couple of weeks ago, I attended a rally that was held here in Ottawa in front of City Hall to bring attention to the need for the centre. I heard from many of the people who frequent what is known as “510”, and they clearly articulated how important that space is for them. It is important for them to find services that meet their physical needs and also their emotional, spiritual, and cultural needs.

    Those who have spoken out, whether in the news, online, or at the rallies in support of the centre, have rightly drawn the connection between the history of colonialism here in Canada and the deep need for a culturally appropriate space for those who are still trying to overcome trauma in their lives.

    Shawenjeagamik welcomes close to 100 people a week and supports these individuals by providing hot meals, laundry services, crisis counselling, and transition services. As well, indigenous homeless clients from across the city are referred to 510 Rideau for culturally appropriate support based on trust, friendship, and mutual respect.

    I rise in this House to follow up on the question that I asked a few weeks ago in asking the government when Shawenjeagamik, 510 Rideau, can see some response to the need that it has and avoid what could happen if that need is not met, which would be closing its doors, which would in turn leave many first nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples in Ottawa without a place to go.

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    Mar 11, 2015 2:40 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, what a shame it is that we in the opposition have only about five minutes to speak to a piece of legislation at second reading that is critical when it comes to a specific region in the country.

    It is a crying shame that the people of Yukon cannot depend on their member of Parliament to bring forward opposing voices to Bill S-6. While we are honoured to do that, I want to point out that it is the Conservative government that is taking away time, time that we could use to share the voices of the people from Yukon, to share the voices of first nations in Yukon, and instead it has chosen to muzzle and silence them in this House.

    It is clear that the people of Yukon have not given the mandate or the authority to the federal government to implement Bill S-6.

    Bill S-6 will serve to dismantle YESAA which belongs to the people of Yukon, including first nations. It was developed by Yukoners and for Yukon. Yukoners, including first nations and industry, are now saying that they do not want or need the changes imposed on them by Bill S-6. They are actively campaigning against it in astonishing numbers.

    In fact, contrary to the rhetoric we have heard in this House, we know that there have been no public consultations on Bill S-6 at any point by the federal government in Yukon.

    It does not enjoy first nations consent. For this reason alone, it is incumbent upon the House not to pass this bill. It is unlawful for the federal government to impose regulations upon a regulatory body, such as the YESAA board without the consent of Yukon first nations.

    Grand Chief Ruth Massie said, “This whole process attacks the integrity of our constitutionally protected agreements and Yukon First Nations will stand by their agreements even if it means going to court, they give us no choice. We did not sign our agreements to implement them in the courts but we will protect them”.

    This speaks to a broader agenda put forward by the government, which is to attack first nations' rights as a result of its failure of consultation and achieving consent, and instead pushing first nations to pursue costly litigation that in some cases is difficult for them to afford, a process that only makes money for federal government lawyers who choose to fight first nations in court.

    The people of Yukon and first nations alike are baffled by the content of Bill S-6. Yes, YESAA recently underwent a five-year review through which recommendations were made. However, the four amendments that are the cause of concern appeared nowhere as recommendations in the five-year review. These four changes are contrary to the intent of the land claim agreement and undermine the neutrality of the YESAA process.

    Once again, Grand Chief Ruth Massie said, “Yukon first nations have met with the Government of Canada, specifically the Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs and have asked them to remove four problematic amendments proposed to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act legislation established in Chapter 11 of the Umbrella final agreement and each final land claim agreement of the 11 Yukon First Nations”.

    It is not only Yukon first nations that are opposed to Bill S-6, Yukoners have been coming out to public meetings and showing their opposition in public venues in a significant way. It is also industry and members of industry that have been clear in their opposition.

    I would like to read into the record a quote from a letter sent by the CEO of the Casino Mining Corporation, Paul West-Sells:

    On behalf of Casino Mining Corporation, I am putting forward our company's concerns regarding the fragility of intergovernmental relations in the Yukon surrounding Bill S-6 and the negative impact this is having on the territory's mineral industry. It is imperative for Casino that the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act has the broad support of all governments in order to ensure the confidence of both project proponents and Yukon Residents in the YESAA process and to facilitate investments in the territory.

    So there we have it. I also want to make a final comment with regard to the Fraser Institute report that we keep hearing about. This has been proven to be a flawed report. In fact, the day it became public, the extent to which this report was flawed, the Fraser Institute itself removed its data collecting portion on its website.

    Finally, this is about standing in opposition to a federal government that is seeking to silence the voices of northern Canadians and northern first nations in our country. I am proud to stand with the NDP. We are standing with Yukoners and Yukon first nations, and saying no to Bill S-6.

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    Mar 11, 2015 1:00 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, here we are again with the government shutting down democracy, for the 90th time. In this case, it serves to silence the voices of first nation peoples in the Yukon.

    As Grand Chief Ruth Massie pointed out, this whole process attacks the integrity of their constitutionally protected agreements, and Yukon first nations will stand by their agreements, even if it means going to court. She said, “They give us no choice. We did not sign our agreements to implement them in the courts, but we will protect them”.

    It is a disgrace that the current Conservative government is not only shutting down debate but is seeking to silence the voices of Grand Chief Massie and the first nations that are standing up for their rights and have been part of developing the YESSA agreement.

    We will stand here in solidarity with them, sharing their voices and their words. We will fight back on this terrible piece of legislation.

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    Mar 11, 2015 11:50 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, we all know that the regional economic development agencies play a critical role across the country. They help small business and support our communities in diversifying. However, under the Conservatives, money approved by Parliament for regional economic development in the west has been left unspent. The Conservatives allowed nearly $70 million to be unspent over four years. This is money that our communities badly need.

    When will the Conservatives commit to diversified economic development and stop taking the west for granted?

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    Mar 10, 2015 1:55 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

    Since she mentioned her visit to Manitoba, I think she would agree that the solution is to elect an NDP government. That is a partisan comment, but it is the truth.

    The Government of Manitoba recognizes that social entrepreneurship is a source of revenue and innovation. Our province has a diversified economy, since we recognize that we must not rely on just one resource or one industry.

    In that province, the NDP government has made incredible investments in education, and particularly in post-secondary education, without the support of the Conservative government.

    As I said, we still have considerable challenges to overcome, especially when it comes to first nations. That is where we are really seeing the lack of leadership on the part of the federal government, be it the current Conservative government or the Liberal government of the past. Not only have they refused to find solutions, but they have also contributed to the problem. They are part of the poverty problem facing Aboriginal people in our province.

    The answer is simple: we need an NDP vision, and I know that we can make that happen in a few months.

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    Mar 10, 2015 1:50 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. It is clear that this is not going to do much.

    The priorities my constituents share with me have more to do with the need to invest in child care, housing, education and economic partnerships that affect our communities. This $2 billion could be used for so many other things.

    This program is a gift from the Conservatives to a number of Canadians who are already rich. The Conservatives keep neglecting the rest of Canadians, who are living in increasingly tougher situations because of the growing inequality in our country. They want an alternative vision. What the government is doing is extremely disappointing. Even Mr. Flaherty himself was opposed to this measure.

    The Conservatives are saying that this measure will improve things for thousands of Canadians, but that is not so. If the government respected the intelligence of Canadians, which it does not, then it would see that this money could be spent on other priorities.

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    Mar 10, 2015 1:40 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek for his comprehensive speech, his analysis of what exactly is happening to our country under the leadership of the current Conservative government, as well as the foundations that were weakened or even taken away by the previous Liberal government.

    I am very proud to stand in this House to speak to our opposition day motion. I want to make sure that it is clearly known what we are putting on the table. We propose, as the motion says:

    That, in light of sustained high unemployment since the 2008 recession and the long term downward trend in job quality since 1989 under successive Liberal and Conservative governments, as documented by CIBC, the House call on the government to make the first priority of Budget 2015 investment in measures that stimulate the economy by creating and protecting sustainable, full-time, middle-class jobs in high-paying industries in all regions of Canada and abandoning its costly and unfair $2 billion income-splitting proposal.

    This is all about priorities. We know that we are entering a time that is crucial when it comes to acting on priorities: budget time.

    We have been very clear from the beginning that our priority in the NDP is one where we seek to invest in the economy. We seek to stimulate the economy through investment and through the protection of sustainable, full-time jobs in high-paying regions across the country, and investing in initiatives in housing, transit, broader infrastructure, education, and health care.

    Then we look at what the Conservatives are proposing. Despite the rhetoric about a strong economy and supporting job creation, they are choosing to spend $2 billion on an income splitting proposal. This is at a time when Canadians have been told to keep their purse strings tight and not to expect to see any spending. In fact, those who are working for the federal government have seen record job losses. Canadians across the country may have seen their jobs leave the country. Some continue to be in poverty, and chronic poverty continues to go unaddressed by the current federal government. On the other hand, we see a commitment to income splitting.

    I had the opportunity to speak across my constituency on what is happening to our country, and I feel that is very much what we are talking about today. We are talking about the vision of Canada that we have seen the current government hold steadfastly to, and the kind of direction the Conservatives have taken us in.

    I come from a part of the country that is very diverse, particularly in terms of indigenous communities. There are also people who have settled there from across the country and from around the world. However, we need look no further than northern Manitoba and a lot of our northern regions in terms of the kinds of inequality that people across our country face.

    Many of us were horrified just a few weeks ago by a report indicating that first nations in Manitoba face some of the greatest challenges in terms of quality of life. We know that across the country, first nations children face the highest rates of poverty, at about 25%, and if we look at Manitoba, that number jumps as high as 62%.

    In this case, we are not talking about job creation only, or a strong economy as the government talks about. We are talking about chronic, sustained, deep-rooted poverty.

    I wish that the federal government would spend some time talking about a vision when it comes to poverty on first nations. However, sadly, any time we hear Conservatives talk about indigenous issues, it is often to disparage indigenous leaders or peoples, or in the case of legislation like Bill C-51, to create barriers and threaten indigenous communities that are pushing for their rights to be recognized and for better opportunities in their communities and across the country.

    Instead of spending $2 billion on income splitting, we would like to see the government place a priority on eliminating poverty, understanding that it has a different face in parts of the country, understanding that there needs to be investment in first nations education, that there needs to be investment in health care on reserve and that there needs to be investment in housing.

    By making those investments we create economic opportunities. For example, in Manitoba, with the growing indigenous population, if more and more young people leave the north or in the inner city have a better chance at an education in terms of primary education, but also secondary and post-secondary, that they will be better able to contribute to their local economies, to our national economy, whether it is by accessing existing jobs or creating and innovating new jobs.

    I also have the honour of representing people who depend on the resource extractive industry. I have no doubt that every single one of them would say that $2 billion can be better spent on the priorities many of them see as imminent, rather than spending it on income splitting.

    Many of the folks I represent have seen their jobs exported outside the country because the government has not stood up for them, whether it is because of the softwood lumber deal or whether it is because of the way in which the agreements for foreign companies to buy out Canadian companies have become largely rubber stamps under the leadership of the government.

    In the case of Thompson, my home community, a Brazilian multinational bought out a Canadian company, Inco, and soon after threatened to export all of our value-added jobs, jobs that we know are fundamental in our community and fundamental to our province.

    Thankfully, as a result of public pressure and regional engagement, the company came to the table to try to find a solution. It was little thanks to a federal government that continues to allow foreign companies to buy out Canadian corporations, and either quickly or over a range of years, export value-added jobs, jobs that sustain our communities and our entire country in many cases.

    I would also say that when we are talking about where we could spend $2 billion, it is pretty clear that when we look at the needs of newcomers to Canada, we need to see investments in education and training, in credential recognition, which arguably does not have a monetary cost but would allow people who come with tremendous expertise from around the world to contribute to our communities and our economy in a much greater way. Instead of that, the federal government chooses once again to spend $2 billion on income splitting.

    I want to spend just one moment on what income splitting is really all about. Not only is it a ghastly waste of money in terms of $2 billion, but it is a proposal that has everything to do with reinforcing inequality in our country, and particularly marginalizing women in our country, because income splitting encourages women, who often earn less than their male partners, to stay at home and focus on what I am sure many in the government would consider the more “traditional” caring duties that women are supposed to do.

    I want to say that I was taken aback with the Prime Minister's reference today to others being anti-women in their agenda when in fact many have argued, and I have certainly argued in this House, that income splitting is anti-women's equality. When it comes to things that we can really do to improve the equality of women, improve the equality of all Canadians, in means taking away that $2 billion, that waste of money on income splitting and moving it to the real priorities that we in the NDP are putting forward, and we know that many Canadians are putting forward as well.

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    Mar 10, 2015 11:50 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, another example of this government's shameful behaviour toward first nations is its failure to fulfill its commitment to resolve specific land claims.

    This was detailed in a report released yesterday by first nations, tribal councils and organizations. It denounced the bad faith shown by the department in negotiations.

    Our leader and our caucus have endorsed this report. Will the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development listen to the recommendations laid out in this report and answer for his department's failure?

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    Mar 10, 2015 11:45 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women took the unusual step of launching an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. It found that Canada has committed a grave violation of the rights of indigenous women, and it recommended a national inquiry and a national action plan.

    The Conservative government has rejected both. Why do the Conservatives continue to reject a national inquiry and a national action plan that would help end the violence that indigenous women face in our country?


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    Feb 26, 2015 11:50 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, Amnesty International's annual report highlights systemic violations of the rights of indigenous peoples in Canada. The report identified shameful behaviour from the federal government, including being the only country to take issue with outcomes from the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, and of course, refusing to take action on missing and murdered indigenous women.

    Will the government pay attention to the international community and end the systemic violations against indigenous peoples in our country?

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    Feb 25, 2015 2:10 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to a good part of the member's speech in highlighting the current government's agenda when it comes to crime and, loosely, the concept of justice.

    What we have seen, not just in this bill but also in a series of other bills in this area, is problematic doublespeak. The government claims to be committed to fighting child sexual offences. It seems committed to throwing people in jail. Yet, we know that over a five-year period, the RCMP withheld some $10 million in funds earmarked for its National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre. The cuts, made partly as an RCMP contribution to the government's deficit reduction action plan, have occurred even as the number of child exploitation tips from the public increases exponentially.

    We are hearing from government members that they are taking tough action, and yet we know that the RCMP itself did not spend the money allocated, and instead returned it to government coffers so that the government could make it work, supposedly.

    I would like to ask what this doublespeak is all about and why this took place.

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    Feb 19, 2015 4:05 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the reference to the kinds of commitments that have been made to our region. They are commitments people have fought for. In fact, I have been involved in advocating for many of these priorities, alongside chiefs, councils, leaders, and regional leaders. The reality is that there is so much more that needs to be done.

    Recent reports documented by the Canadian Press indicate chronic underfunding and a systemic issue at hand. The reality is that, yes, important infrastructure investments are being made as a result of tireless advocacy, but much more needs to be done.

    When we look at the disproportionate levels of poverty, it is clear, and I am sure that it is clear to many members of the government, that the status quo is not working.

    The government member across referred to the minister's commitment. I will highlight the fact that over the last couple of days, in raising the issue of fire safety, I have been struggling to find the minister's commitment. In fact, I have seen much enthusiasm to try to blame first nations rather than to get to the table and make the difference that is required.

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    Feb 19, 2015 4:00 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to follow up on a series of questions I asked of the government some time ago, specifically the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, about the high and unacceptable rates of poverty faced by first nations in our country. I specifically highlighted the rates of poverty and the challenging life conditions existing in my home province of Manitoba.

    I am honoured to represent 33 first nations. These are incredible communities. They are diverse, young, with much hope and energy, yet as the research that has come out in recent weeks shows, they face the greatest challenges when it comes to living conditions. Many people in these communities characterize their living conditions as third world.

    This is Canada. It is 2015. We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and yet the first peoples of our country still live in conditions that most Canadians could not even imagine exist here. We are talking about homes that are mouldy and overcrowded. I have been in homes where 17 people are living in that one house. We are talking about lack of water and sewer services. Yes, in communities like Island Lake, progress has been made, but too many people still lack access to running water.

    I have been in homes that have to resort to outhouses because of issues with plumbing and infrastructure, which simply do not exist. I have been in first nation schools that, as we know, are notoriously underfunded by this federal government, and were by previous Liberal governments as well. Teachers do not have enough money to buy books, and there are not enough resources to hire specialized teachers, and kids have to do with less, simply because they are from first nations.

    These levels of inequality and poverty are unacceptable.

    I want to point to the unprecedented conversation happening in Manitoba and in many other parts of the country about the levels of systemic discrimination that first nation and indigenous people face in our country. On so many measures, aboriginal people fall lower, or in some cases higher, than other Canadians. But in all cases they face greater challenges. We know this has everything to do with the federal government's approach to indigenous peoples, not just over the last few years, but over decades as well. It is under this Conservative government that we have seen deep cuts and real neglect in treating indigenous peoples with respect, with a nation-to-nation relationship framework, and understanding and working in partnership with indigenous communities to be able to address the significant challenges they face.

    As a result, I rise in the House to refer to the levels of aboriginal poverty. Some 62% of aboriginal children in Manitoba live in poverty and 25% of aboriginal children across the country do so as well. I ask how this federal government does not see a problem. On behalf of the people I represent, and in conjunction with so many indigenous people across the country, I ask for federal action to deal with these unacceptable realities.

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    Feb 19, 2015 1:20 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to caution the member across the aisle for deriding my commentary. If he had been listening closely, he would have heard that many of the words I spoke in the House are the words of some of the strongest activists in this country, the words of Pam Palmeter, Clayton Thomas-Muller, the representatives of the Yinka Dene Alliance, and Ellen Gabriel. These are people who are known to first nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. These are people who are known to Canadians. Therefore, I do not take it lightly when I share their words and beliefs.

    As I have pointed out, these people have seen firsthand how far and inappropriate the reach of the government and its arms have been toward them, in some cases even personally. When they say that this bill spells nothing but trouble, he and the members of his government should know well that they know what they are talking about.

    I will leave it at that, with the hope that the voices of indigenous peoples will not just be heard by the members of the government but also respected and acted on by their withdrawing this horrid bill.

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    Feb 19, 2015 1:05 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to join my colleagues in the NDP who have expressed our opposition to Bill C-51. We have signalled to Canadians that what is most important for us is standing up to fear and standing up for the ability to defend our rights.

    I also stand in the House to share a perspective as the aboriginal affairs critic for the NDP, to speak out on the potentially harmful and even devastating impact this piece of legislation would have on indigenous activists and communities.

    Bill C-51 seeks to criminalize dissent. As we know, indigenous peoples—first nations, Métis, Inuit, or indigenous peoples in general—have often been at the forefront in fighting for what is important to them and, in many ways, what is important to all of us. These activists, these leaders, these members of their communities are not terrorists and do not pose a danger to the lives of anyone. These individuals have taken it upon themselves to stand to protect their inherent land rights, the welfare of their people, and the environmental integrity of this planet. These are the indigenous activists who work across this country seeking justice, and they are all deeply concerned by the threat posed by Bill C-51.

    I should note at this point that I will be sharing my time with the member for Halifax.

    The problem with this legislation is very simple. It lumps legitimate dissent together with terrorism. Indigenous peoples have a right to seek environmental and social justice through protest, communication, and activism. This bill would call that work criminal. It would call that work terrorism.

    I have taken it upon myself to reach out to a number of indigenous community leaders across the country and have gathered some of their comments in this speech. Theirs is a perspective that must be heard, as we stand on the brink of passing into law a bill that would greatly curtail all of our rights and freedoms. The Conservative government is seeking to use its powers to control and censor the voices it does not want to hear.

    Pam Palmater, the Mi'kmaq lawyer and Idle No More activist, gave me permission to share her thoughts. She said:

    As treaty and territorial allies, First Nations and Canadians face a formidable foe and threat to our collective futures. Idle No More raised awareness about the break down in democracy in general and human and Aboriginal rights specifically. Hundreds of thousands of people across Canada rose up against Bill C-45—the large, unconstitutional omnibus bill pushed through Parliament without debate which threatened our lakes and rivers. This time, the threat is personal—any one of us could go to jail for thinking or voicing our opinions. All of the rights, freedoms and liberties upon which Canadian democracy rests will be suspended with Bill C-51. This bill creates what has been described as Harper's "Secret Police force" with terrifying expanded powers.

    Ms. Palmater is not wrong. This 63-page omnibus bill includes measures that would give increased powers to CSIS not only to spy on citizens who it believes pose a threat but also give it the right to disrupt their activities whenever it deems necessary. CSIS may do this without a warrant or any checks or balances.

    Under Bill C-51, no one will have oversight over the will and whims of Canada's spy agency. Without calling into question the ethics or integrity of those people who work at CSIS, I can say as a citizen that I am uncomfortable in principle and in practice with any one government body having this kind of unchecked control.

    Upon until now CSIS has been an intelligence gathering agency. This bill would give it powers to act as a quasi law enforcement agency. The Prime Minister is in actuality creating a special secret police force in Canada, and these secret police will be able to surveil and target anyone they want.

    Indigenous and environmental activists are afraid about what that could mean when they organize to protest a pipeline, when they communicate among themselves to reclaim territory that is theirs, and when they speak out in defence against the government in any way, which is their right to do.

    Clayton Thomas-Muller, a renowned activist, wrote to me today about the work he does:

    Our movements are about justice. To criminalize Indigenous dissent, then, is to repress Indigenous rights in Canada, and our responsibilities to protect the land. We are transparent, open, base-driven movements that take a non-violent, peaceful direct action approach.... The state is criminalizing Indigenous peoples who are acting within their right to exercise jurisdiction over their lands. This is an abuse of democracy. It is clearly about providing a right-of-way for the mining and energy sector.

    On the front lines of much environmental activism are the first nations of the northwest coast in British Columbia. Many nations have made it their responsibility to oppose the Enbridge pipeline and other projects they see as grave threats to their lands, their fish, and their sovereignty. These people have already been targeted and insulted by the government. They have been called dangerous radicals by the Minister of Natural Resources.

    Are these the dangerous people that CSIS will exert its new powers over? Will these people be spied on, arrested, and detained for unacceptable lengths of time with no clear charges? Art Sterrit, the director of Coastal First Nations, is afraid they will be. He wrote to me this morning and said:

    The pipelines and oil tankers that this legislation apparently seeks to build under the guise of fighting terrorism, strike real terror in the hearts of our communities.

    An oil spill in our coastal waters would be a terrorist attack. It would kill our livelihoods and wipe out our culture. How can [the Prime Minister's] government talk about threats to Canada's territorial integrity while he threatens the territorial integrity of first nations in BC and across Canada with his government's support of risky and dangerous projects like the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline? If passed, this legislation would be a major setback in building trusting relationships between First Nations and the Government of Canada.

    As well, I spoke with Geraldine Fleure of the Yinka Dene Alliance. She said to me that she and her community already feel heavily targeted by the government for their anti-pipeline work. They are trying every day to create a safer, thriving community for their children. It's hard. They are challenged by poverty, but the fight to protect their lands and their waters is not one that they will ever give up. Bill C-51 will make it harder. It is another blow to their ability to provide a safer future for their children.

    It is not enough for members of the House to rise and say to indigenous people that they do not have to worry about being treated as terrorists. First nation, Métis, and Inuit peoples have reason not to trust the government. For years, they have been targeted and harassed. No one knows this better than Ellen Gabriel of the Khanesatake Mohawk Nation in Oka. She writes:

    During the 1990 Oka Crisis, Mohawk people on the front lines were attacked by police, shot at, denied their basic human rights and their right to privacy violated hundreds of times by the authorities under the direction of the Government of Canada and Quebec. Many Mohawks received notices by mail from authorities that they were being monitored and their phone lines tapped, and were not given much of an explanation except being provided with a photo copy of the criminal law code highlighting the reason their privacy was under attack: "suspected of criminal and terrorist activities...threat to public security". This continues today and has always been the case for Indigenous peoples who resist colonial laws and dispossession from their lands.

    Too much is at stake with this bill for all Canadians, but it is crucial that those who will be disproportionally affected will have their chance to be heard in the House. It is crucial that those fighting for justice, for dignity for their communities, and for all of us be heard.

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    Feb 19, 2015 11:40 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, the safety of first nations is at stake. First nations like Makwa Sahgaiehcan were left with no fire protection services, which cost the lives of two children. First nations and Canadians across this country have been moved by this tragedy and want action from the federal government. However, instead of stepping up, the minister chooses to blame everyone else.

    This cannot happen again. What will the minister do to ensure that this kind of tragedy not only does not happen but that first nations will have the kind of services and equipment they need and deserve in their communities?

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    Feb 18, 2015 11:45 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, the minister may already know that people living on a first nation in Canada are 10 times more likely to die in a house fire than in any other community in our country. This has everything to do with the lack of federal funding to first nations when it comes to fire and emergency services.

    The family deserves better. First nations across the country deserve better. When will the federal government stand up and show some leadership so that tragedies like the one that happened in Makwa Sahgaiehcan do not happen again?

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    Feb 05, 2015 11:50 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, the Odawa drop-in centre, which helps Ottawa's indigenous homeless population, will be forced to close in March due to changes to federal funding geared toward helping the homeless. This centre has been operating for over 10 years. It is vital to the healing of first nations, Métis, and Inuit people in Ottawa who are at risk or in transition.

    Will the minister intervene to reinstate the funding for the Odawa centre?

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    Feb 02, 2015 11:50 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I am talking about levels of child poverty that are unprecedented in our country. This country is having an unprecedented conversation about systemic racism, and the only one that is not part of it is the federal government.

    Internal reports from AANDC last week showed that first nations in Manitoba have the most challenging living conditions. People love their communities. They love where they come from, and they want to be part of making these places better, but they agree that conditions must change. Under the government, access to education, housing, and economic opportunities are below other first nations, and, of course, non-first nation communities.

    Will the minister step up, acknowledge the systemic discrimination, and be part of the solution?

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    Feb 02, 2015 11:45 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, this government has also abandoned aboriginal communities. Aboriginal people continue to face deplorable living conditions. They are often living in poorly insulated, overcrowded houses with no clean drinking water.

    Departmental statistics show that nearly 25% of aboriginal children live in poverty in Canada, a G7 country. That is unacceptable.

    What is the government waiting for? When will it finally take action?


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    Jan 28, 2015 12:00 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, the government has made yet another sneaky, back-door move. This time it has done it by tripling the threshold for communities and provinces to be able to access disaster assistance.

    We all know that Manitoba has experienced serious flooding over the years. This change will leave Manitobans on the hook for millions of dollars for disaster assistance.

    Does the government not care about downloading its responsibilities onto the provinces, or does it just not care about Manitobans?

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    Jan 27, 2015 11:50 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, as the Conservatives waste thousands, they are downloading huge new costs onto provinces. Most recently they tried to sneak through changes making it harder to qualify for federal assistance in the wake of natural disasters. This will have a huge impact on Manitoba. In the last five years we have had three major floods as well as other disasters. Under the new rules, the current government is upping the threshold, leaving municipalities and the province with no relief.

    How can the minister justify leaving behind disaster-stricken communities across my province?

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    Jan 26, 2015 11:55 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, indigenous Canadians want action, not rhetoric, and that is what we need to end racism in this country.

    Speaking of systemic discrimination, let us talk about nutrition north. People in northern communities have been forced to root around in garbage dumps to find food, but instead of fixing the issues with nutrition north, the government has said that it is looking at alternative programs.

    We are such a wealthy country, there is no excuse for people in the north of this country to look to the garbage dump for food.

    Why is the government refusing to take immediate action in fixing nutrition north?

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    Jan 26, 2015 11:50 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, thanks to recent media coverage, Canadians are finally talking about the horrific levels of racism faced by indigenous people in cities like Winnipeg and elsewhere.

    From health care to police protection to employment and education, indigenous people are too often treated as second class citizens. That treatment as second class citizens often has a direct correlation with government policy put forward by this federal government.

    Instead of being part of the problem, will the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs commit to working with indigenous communities and Canadians to put an end to the racism that indigenous people in Canada face?


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    Dec 04, 2014 11:30 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, initiatives are not enough, and they certainly did not save the life of Zahra Abdille, who was murdered along with her two children a few days ago in Toronto.

    It is a heart-wrenching case of the way the system has failed Canadian women: no access to housing, no access to legal aid, nowhere to go. That is what happened to Mrs. Abdille.

    Will the government commit to action, a national action plan to end violence against women, for women like Zahra and other women across our country?

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    Dec 03, 2014 12:25 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    With respect to the Action Plan to Address Family Violence and Violent Crimes Against Aboriginal Women and Girls mentioned by the Minister of Status of Women and found on the Status of Women Canada’s Website: (a) what is the definition of the word “community” as used; (b) what is the definition of the word “aboriginal” as used; (c) how much of the funding mentioned in the Action Plan was announced for the first time in the Action Plan; (d) what criteria were used to justify the funding granted through the Action Plan; (e) what consultation was conducted in order to create the Action Plan, (i) who was the consultation conducted with, (ii) what are the details of any records or documents pertaining to these consultations; (f) how much of the overall funding discussed in the Action Plan is reserved exclusively for (i) First Nations peoples, (ii) Inuit peoples, (iii) Metis peoples; (g) how will the funding and programs mentioned in the Action Plan specifically include or exclude First Nations, Inuit and Metis regardless of residence; (h) how will Inuit, Metis and First Nations fairly benefit from funds and programs promised in the Action Plan; (i) what criteria will be used to ensure fair distribution; (j) what are the expected outcomes and outputs of the Community Safety Plans, (i) how do organizations, individuals, First Nations or communities apply for funding, (ii) how are funding recipients expected to account for that funding, (iii) what studies have been done to assess what resources will be needed in order to apply for and account for that funding, (iv) how was the need for this amount of funding determined; (k) what are the expected outcomes and outputs of the funding allocated to Justice Canada in order to “break intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse”, (i) how do organizations, individuals, First Nations or communities apply for this funding, (ii) how are funding recipients expected to account for that funding, (iii) what studies have been done to assess what resources will be needed in order to apply for and account for that funding, (iv) when will this funding be made available, (v) how was the need for this amount of funding determined; (l) what are the expected outcomes and outputs of the funding secured for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC)’s Family Violence Prevention Program, (i) how do organizations, individuals, First Nations or communities apply for this funding, (ii) how are funding recipients expected to account for that funding, (iii) what studies have been done to assess what resources will be needed in order to apply for and account for that funding, (iv) when will this funding be made available, (v) how was the need for this amount of funding determined; (m) what are the expected outcomes and outputs of the new 5 million dollars over 5 years secured for Status of Women Canada, (i) how do organizations, individuals, First Nations or communities apply for this funding, (ii) how are funding recipients expected to account for that funding, (iii) what studies have been done to assess what resources will be needed in order to apply for and account for that funding, (iv) when will this funding be made available, (v) is this funding to be distributed through the existing Women’s Program, (vi) will this funding be renewable after two years, (vii) will this funding include projects pertaining to research or advocacy, (viii) how will this funding be distributed fairly among First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples, (ix) how was the need for this amount of funding determined; (n) of the 241 million dollars invested in the On-Reserve Income Assistance program, what percentage of this funding was allocated to women, (i) what gender-based analysis has been conducted for this program, (ii) how much of this funding was made available to Inuit, (iii) how much of this funding was made available to Metis peoples, (iv) how much of this funding was made available to First Nations; (o) what are the expected outcomes and outputs of the 1 million dollars secured for Status of Women Canada’s Women’s Program, (i) how do organizations, individuals, First Nations or communities apply for this funding, (ii) how are funding recipients expected to account for that funding, (iii) what studies have been done to assess what resources will be needed in order to apply for and account for that funding, (iv) when will this funding be made available, (v) how was the need for this amount of funding determined; (p) what are the expected outcomes and outputs of the 1.5 million dollars secured for Justice Canada to support Aboriginal Victims Family Violence Prevention Program, (i) how do organizations, individuals, First Nations or communities apply for this funding, (ii) how are funding recipients expected to account for that funding, (iii) what studies have been done to assess what resources will be needed in order to apply for and account for that funding, (iv) when will this funding be made available, (v) how was the need for this amount of funding determined; (q) how much money did the government spend on the Family Violence Prevention Program of AANDC between 2010 and 2015; (r) what are the expected outcomes and outputs of the 158.7 million dollars secured for the Family Violence Prevention Program of AANDC, (i) how do organizations, individuals, First Nations or communities apply for this funding, (ii) how are funding recipients expected to account for that funding, (iii) what studies have been done to assess what resources will be needed in order to apply for and account for that funding, (iv) when will this funding be made available, (v) how was the need for this funding determined; (s) what are the expected outcomes and outputs of the 18.5 million dollars that will directly support shelters, (i) how do shelters receive this funding, (ii) how are shelters expected to account for that funding, (iii) will this funding be made available to build new shelters, (iv) what percentage of this funding will be accessible to Inuit, (v) what percentage of this funding will be accessible to Metis, (vi) how much of this funding will be allocated to each reservation, (vii) how was the need for this amount of funding determined; and (t) how much funding did on-reserve shelters receive yearly from 2010 to 2015?

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    Dec 01, 2014 2:55 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that question. Sadly, though, as we know from the work that was done at committee, this bill is actually a veiled attempt at making it more difficult for places like InSite to operate and almost impossible for a place like InSite to open elsewhere in Canada.

    Obviously we all believe that consultation is critical, but the way certain aspects of this bill are framed in this case is not actually to that point. It is about shutting down possibilities for continuing to do this important work in our country. We have heard this over and over again from experts. We have heard it from survivors of addictions. As I have pointed out, in article after article, peer-reviewed journal articles lead us to understand that the current government's rhetoric is actually not in line with best practice and where we need to be going.

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    Dec 01, 2014 2:40 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House to speak to this important piece of legislation. I recall speaking to it at a previous stage, and sadly, I continue to be dismayed by the points raised by government members and the ongoing desire of the government to stifle what is important policy. It continues to disrespect the decision made by the Supreme Court, and more fundamentally, to actively remove some of the safeguards that would allow people, to put it as simply as possible, to stay alive.

    This is an issue of life and death. Sadly, some of the rhetoric we are hearing from the government side, rhetoric that is not evidence based, does not take into account the difference safe injection sites make, whether it is here in Canada on the Vancouver east side or around the world. It is truly ideological rather than in the best interest of people living with addictions or in the best interest of people in our communities across the country.

    We in the NDP have supported amendments to this bill, amendments that were not supported by the government. We oppose the main motion at report stage. The amendments proposed by the member for Vancouver East were to delete every clause of this bill.

    We know that this is a thinly veiled effort to stop supervised injection sites from operating, which is in direct defiance of a Supreme Court ruling on these sites.

    This legislation sets out a lengthy and arduous list of criteria that supervised injection sites would need to meet before the minister would grant them an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. These criteria would make it much harder for organizations to open safe injection sites in Canada.

    We in the NDP believe that decisions about programs that may benefit public health must be based on facts, not ideology. In 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that InSite provided lifesaving services and should remain open with a section 56 exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The court ruled that it was within InSite users' charter rights to access the service and that similar services should also be allowed to operate with an exemption.

    Over 30 peer-reviewed studies, published in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, and the British Medical Journal, have described the beneficial impacts of InSite.

    Furthermore, studies on over 70 injection sites in Europe and Australia have shown similar benefits. InSite is one of the greatest public health achievements in our country, and we believe that it and similarly beneficial sites should be allowed to operate under proper supervision.

    We want to outline that this is a deeply flawed bill based on an anti-drug ideology and false fears for public safety. This is another attempt to rally the Conservative base, as evidenced by the “Keep heroin out of our backyards” fundraising drive that started hours after Bill C-2 was introduced in Parliament. This bill, which will make it almost impossible to open safe injection sites, will actually put heroin back into our neighbourhoods.

    We would also point out that Bill C-2 directly defies the 2011 Supreme Court ruling, which called on the minister to consider exemptions for safe injection sites based on a balance between public health and safety. It called on the minister to consider all the evidence on the benefits of safe injection sites, rather than setting out a lengthy list of principles by which to apply judgments.

    The NDP believes that any further legislation on supervised injection sites should respect the spirit of the Supreme Court's decision, which is not the case with this bill. We believe that harm reduction programs, including safe injection sites, should be granted exemptions based on evidence of their ability to improve a community's health and to preserve human life rather than on ideology.

    Along with my colleagues, many of us have pointed out that since InSite opened on Vancouver's east side, we have seen a 35% decrease in overdose deaths. Furthermore, InSite has been shown to decrease crime, communicable disease infection rates, and relapse rates for drug users.

    It is not missed by me, and I am sure many others, that today, on International AIDS Day, we are recognizing the importance of supporting public policy and public health strategies that save lives instead of endangering them. Sadly, what we are seeing is the government use ideological arguments and fearmongering to both disrespect the Supreme Court and to come up with policies that put people at greater risk.

    Throughout my years of being a member of Parliament, I have travelled and have spent a lot of time visiting in my constituency. I have met many people who suffer from addictions. Many people can trace that disease back to the trauma they have gone through, whether it be because they were residential school survivors or the children of residential school survivors or whether it be the trauma related to intense physical or sexual abuse or the ongoing trauma that comes with living in poverty and in a state of hopelessness.

    One of the recurring messages I get is how much people want and need help. We know that not all people living with addictions are in a place where they can get help, but the reality is that many people, through the support of friends and maybe family, get to that point, and maybe more than once in their lives. We need to make sure that they have somewhere to turn once they have made that decision, once they know that they can no longer keep going down the path they are going, a path that will almost certainly lead to destruction, or even death. We need to make sure that there are institutions and services where people can get help.

    As I hear these compelling stories from people who need help and want help, I see too many examples in my constituency of there being nowhere to turn.

    I think of the medicine lodge in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation that has struggled to secure federal funding year after year to provide healing and addiction services to indigenous people who go there to get help, not just from our area but from across the country. It has had to fight to secure funding for programming that works, for culturally appropriate programming, and for support for indigenous people across Canada.

    I think of Whiskey Jack, an incredible program for young people in our constituency, located in the PCN. It is a program that works with many underage youth who are suffering addictions, some of them at risk of falling through the cracks in their communities and in our society. This service that is run by committed people in our north is there to help them. Sadly, support from the federal government has always been an ongoing issue.

    We need more services. In Thompson we were very excited to hear about the new detox beds in our local centre, yet all of that money came from the provincial government rather than from any partnership with the federal government.

    The reality is that the current government is not just pulling away from InSite and from supporting people with addictions; it is pulling away from people who live on the margins of our society and have so much to lose, including their own lives.

    I take seriously the need for us to take on our duty as leaders, as legislators, to make decisions based on evidence, based on fact, and based on respecting humanity rather than on ideology, as we see from the current government.


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    Nov 28, 2014 9:10 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of my constituents in Flin Flon and Thompson, as well as Canadians from Saskatchewan and Alberta.

    The petitioners call on the federal government to change course, protect home delivery and protect our postal service, which is an integral service to all of our communities across this country.

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    Nov 28, 2014 8:30 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, nearly 100 people in the north are being forced to rummage through garbage for food to survive. Food prices are outrageous. Some fresh foods cost 10 times what they do in the south.

    Instead of reaching out and moving heaven and earth to resolve the situation, all their MP is doing is making intimidating phone calls. That is unacceptable.

    Can the government tell us when it learned that people in Rankin Inlet were going to the landfill to find food and what it has done to deal with this crisis?

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    Nov 27, 2014 1:00 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley for turning part of the focus of this discussion to the role of the government in regulation. While we are working in good faith on this very issue, the reality is that the current government has an abysmal record when it comes to looking out for the safety of Canadians. We are not just seeing a dangerous path being taken when it comes to pharmaceuticals. As we have seen with our own eyes, communities in this country have paid a high price for deregulation when it comes to rail safety. We have seen it when it comes to environmental safety. We have seen it when it comes to our food supplies.

    Regarding this spirit that has taken over and the desire of the government to right wrongs of the past, I hope that same sentiment and precautionary principle will be taken and applied, and that a result the Conservatives will increase regulation and support those who keep us safe, in whatever sector they might be, so that we do not end up here 50 or 60 years later having to find recourse for the deep, tragic mistakes that we have made.

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    Nov 27, 2014 12:50 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in this House to speak to our opposition day motion. It is truly a historic opposition day motion that serves to realize justice for the victims of the thalidomide scandal and for their families.

    We know that in 1961 the Government of Canada approved the sale of thalidomide as a safe drug to treat nausea in pregnant women. The drug had tragic consequences for many families. The government has never apologized for the devastation it caused. After decades of discussing compensation, it provided an inadequate one-time payment to survivors. Our motion calls upon the government to right the wrong and commit to support thalidomide survivors.

    What is critical for us is threefold. One, we need the government to right the wrong and support thalidomide survivors in our country. Two, we need to recognize that drug safety is a clear federal responsibility. The federal government approved this drug as safe for use by pregnant women and bears the responsibility for the suffering of innocent Canadian families. Three, victims of thalidomide have waited for over 50 years to get the support they deserve. Canada's thalidomide survivors are considerably worse off than their peers in other countries. They need support and compensation now.

    We know that this is truly a global tragedy. Approximately 10,000 thalidomide survivors were born worldwide. We may never know how many Canadian families were ultimately affected by thalidomide, but today fewer than 100 survivors are still alive in Canada.

    Decades of dealing with the consequences of thalidomide have left survivors dealing with very severe and debilitating pain. In many cases, their health care needs exceed what provincial health care systems are able to provide. Fifty years of attempting to work around their limitations has taken its toll on them. Many survivors are now suffering from nerve damage and painful wear and tear of their bodies. This has caused enormous challenges for them, including loss of ability to use their limbs to care for themselves; damage to their spines and joints, which severely limits their mobility; limited ability to maintain employment; and dependence upon others for basic tasks, such as using the toilet, dressing, and preparing meals. The deterioration of their health has placed them in a precarious financial situation in which they are dependent upon aging parents, unable to work, and further losing their self-sufficiency.

    While the Government of Canada began discussing compensation for families affected in the 1960s, the only support provided to the families to deal with their urgent needs was a small lump sum payment made in 1992.

    We recognize today that we were pleased to see the government's support for our opposition day motion; however, in that support, we also expect a true understanding of the concept of righting the wrong. It involves not just an apology but financial compensation.

    As the status of women critic, I work with advocates for disabled women and disabled women themselves. I am constantly struck by how disabled women in Canada face some of the highest rates of poverty, some of the highest rates of violence, and some of the highest rates of marginalization.

    In fact, we know that as many as 75% of disabled women in Canada are unemployed. The average employment income for women with severe or very severe disabilities was only $17,459 per year in 2006. Obviously thalidomide survivors could relate to that experience. We know that disabled women in particular, but also people with disabilities more broadly, often face extreme housing insecurity. They are either unable to access affordable housing or the affordable housing that may exist is not accessible to people living with disabilities.

    I have also come to know through my work that advocating for women, particularly women with disabilities, is particularly challenging, because organizations that represent the disabled are cash-strapped and often have to deal with major restrictions when it comes to applying for funds and grants to be able to continue their advocacy, if it is even allowed, which in many cases it is not, as we have seen under the current government.

    There is no doubt that thalidomide survivors have fallen into the category of the severely disabled, but in order to understand what they went through, we need to recognize that their story has everything to do with the federal government having shirked its responsibility decades ago.

    We know from other countries, including the U.S., that rigorous work was done to ensure the safety of thalidomide, and it became clear that it was not safe at all. However, in Canada, the same was not done. The same due diligence was not exercised by the federal government at the time.

    Many women, who I am sure were very happy to know that they were pregnant, were told by their doctors, people they trusted, who in turn trusted others, that thalidomide would be okay, and they took it to deal with difficult symptoms during pregnancy. However, it is particularly disturbing that this chain of command went through the federal government.

    The federal government had, and continues to have, a responsibility to ensure the safety of the pharmaceuticals that Canadians use. However, the government at the time shirked that responsibility. It is a simple, clear pinning of responsibility on the government, which failed to do the due diligence that was required at the time. Sadly, it led to devastating impacts.

    This is very much connected to the issue of maternal health, which is an issue I have been very involved with as the Status of Women critic for the NDP. We are pleased to see that the government is supporting this motion, but at the same time on the broader issue of maternal health, we have seen the Conservative government failing many times to take a leadership role.

    I will speak for a moment about the importance of supporting pregnant mothers, and mothers after they have had children, making sure that they and their children, whether babies, toddlers or grown children, are healthy.

    The reality is that we do not see that kind of leadership and support from the current federal government. In fact, in Manitoba there is a cutting-edge program known as “Strengthening Families”, which focuses on the health of indigenous women, children, and families in 16 first nations in the province. Even though it has received accolades from experts in the field of maternal health and has made a marked difference for first nations in Manitoba, it is devastating to know that the government is willing to cut the program by the end of this fiscal year. Therefore, success, when it comes to maternal health, is clearly not recognized by the Conservative government and not valued, because if it were, the program would be extended.

    Maternal health is an integral part of the discussion around thalidomide. It an integral part of the discussion on how we can move our country forward and ensure that women, children, and families are better off across Canada.

    As we deal with these broader issues, I am honoured to stand here today with my colleagues. In particular, I want to recognize the leadership of my colleague from Vancouver East, who has stood up for these 95 Canadians and the so many more who, sadly, are not alive to tell their story. They need justice, and ultimately their families need justice, and Canada needs to see that justice as well.

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    Nov 27, 2014 11:40 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, a new survey has found that 33.6% of workers have faced domestic violence and that this violence follows workers to their jobs every day. It can continue throughout the day through abusive texts, e-mails, or phone calls, and it has a devastating impact.

    Will the Minister of Labour convene a round table meeting that includes labour, employers, and government officials as a first step in dealing with this widespread problem?

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    Nov 17, 2014 12:10 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the chair of our committee for presenting the report. On behalf of the NDP official opposition members, I would also like to thank every single witness who came forward, particularly survivors of eating disorders, who came with such courage and told us what we need to do.

    Sadly, we find that this report is wanting. Our recommendations in our part of the report indicate that there needs to be strong leadership from the government, that we are at a crisis point in the way women and men who are living with eating disorders are not being supported. This is across the board in every region across the country. There is a deep need for federal leadership when it comes to data collection, supporting health care, and finding solutions for families who are trying to support their loved ones. We hope that the recommendations we have put forward will be duly implemented as soon as possible.

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    Nov 17, 2014 11:45 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, just over a week ago, Rinelle Harper, a young indigenous woman from northern Manitoba, was brutally attacked and left to die by the river in Winnipeg. Because of her incredible strength and the support of her family and her friends, she is getting better. However, until Canadians as a whole address violence against indigenous women, the violence will not stop.

    The question is this. When will the current government take leadership to put an end to violence against women, come up with an action plan, and support the families, so that what Rinelle went through and what thousands of indigenous women go through will never happen again?

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    Nov 04, 2014 11:40 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, access to affordable, quality child care is part of ending child poverty in our country. Food Banks Canada agrees that access to affordable child care enables parents to enter and remain in the workforce. When mothers are better off, so are their children.

    The Conservatives' promise of creating 125,000 child care spaces has been at a standstill for eight years. Why has the government failed to create even one out of the 125,000 child care spots it promised?

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    Nov 03, 2014 2:10 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order, during the 80th time the government has brought in time allocation, to bring forward a motion addressing the fact that we are not having the time or due process to look at this bill carefully, the way it ought to be looked at.

    I would like to seek unanimous consent to move the following motion.

    I move that notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, that Bill C-43, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, be amended by removing the following clauses: a) clauses 102 to 142 related to the Industrial Design and Patent Acts; b) clauses 145 to 170 related to the proposed Canadian high Arctic research station act; c) clauses 172 and 173 related to changes to the provision of social assistance for refugees; d) clauses 186 to 190, related to the Investment Canada Act; e) clauses 191 to 210 related to the Telecommunications Act and Broadcasting Act and the charging of pay-to-pay fees; f) clauses 225 and 226 related to the employment insurance small business job credit; g) clauses 306 to 314 related to temporary foreign workers and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; h) clauses 376 and 377 related to the proposed extractive sector transparency measures act;

    that the clauses mentioned in section a) of this motion do form Bill C-45; that Bill C-45 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology;

    that the clauses mentioned in section b) of this motion do form Bill C-46; that Bill C-46 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology;

    that the clauses mentioned in section c) of this motion do form Bill C-47; that Bill C-47 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities;

    that the clauses mentioned in section d) of this motion do compose Bill C-48; that Bill C-48 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology;

    that the clauses mentioned in section e) of this motion do compose Bill C-49; that Bill C-49 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology; that the clauses mentioned in section f) of this motion do compose Bill C-50;

    that Bill C-50 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities;

    that the clauses mentioned in section g) of this motion do compose Bill C-51; that Bill C-51 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration;

    that the clauses mentioned in section h) of this motion do compose Bill C-52; that Bill C-52 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology;

    that Bill C-43 retain the status on the order paper that it had prior to the adoption of this order; that Bill C-43 be reprinted as amended; and that the law clerk and parliamentary counsel be authorized to make any technical changes or corrections as may be necessary to give effect to this motion.

    That is why we are proposing this motion calling for real debate and a real examination of these issues that matter so much to Canadians.


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    Oct 31, 2014 8:45 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, after months of dragging their feet and making excuses, Conservatives reluctantly agreed to stand up to the rail companies. Despite Conservative promises though, the rail companies have not hit their targets for three weeks and no fines have been issued, not a single one.

    Why is it so complicated? The rail companies clearly have not delivered. Why has the government not followed through on its commitment?

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    Oct 23, 2014 3:25 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to express our opposition to the motion on behalf of the official opposition.

    Violence against immigrant and refugee women in Canada is a real problem with systemic roots. Immigrant and refugee women are at higher risk, and the Conservative government is empowered to make critical changes. Sadly, this motion is not one.

    Sponsorship laws must be changed so that women who experience domestic violence can safely leave their marriages without fear of deportation. Humanitarian and compassionate grounds for staying refugee deportations must include the threat of violence against women. Foreign embassies and consular officials must be trained to deal with instances of domestic violence and forced marriage. Legal aid must be increased to support divorce and custody cases that are brought forth by immigrant women. Culturally sensitive shelters, medical aid, police services, and counselling services must be increased, funded, and sustained. All this I have heard directly from women and service providers across the country as I have consulted for Motion No. 444, a motion to create a national action plan to end violence against women. As well, the issue of forced marriage has been raised in these consultations by those who are experts on the subject.

    The motion before us is particularly insidious, because it seeks to exploit the reality of forced marriage, which is violence against women, to mask something that, according to all experts, has nothing to do with it. The premise of the motion is entirely speculative, and no credible data exists to substantiate it. The language of violence against women is once again being used carelessly for political gain.

    In my years on Parliament Hill, I have rarely come across a motion that is so misleading on the nature of a problem and that relates to such a serious issue as violence against women. That is why New Democrats will be voting against the motion, and I urge the government member to withdraw it and truly deal with the root issue, which is the violence and inequality women face.

    My colleague, the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard, explained to me that while the study of immigrant and refugee women was taking place in the standing committee, Conservative members of Parliament were inexplicably insisting that proxy marriage was a problem, while expert witnesses were testifying that in fact it was not. In fact, what we see in this motion is a veiled attempt to further hinder family reunification in Canada.

    Proxy marriage is a legal marriage that takes place long distance over the telephone or even by Skype. Forced marriage is a form of domestic violence and a global human rights issue. It takes place without consent, has nothing to do with immigration, and is already classified as a crime in Canada and in most countries around the world.

    The fact is, forced marriage is the subject of several myths, and the rhetoric I have heard to justify this motion only exacerbates those myths.

    The South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, SALCO, has been working since 2005 to create empirical data and research on the subject of forced marriage, and in its report published in 2013, it was able to dispel those myths.

    Number one is that forced marriage is not an immigration issue. The report said that forced marriage “impacts Canadian citizens. It is not restricted to a particular geographic area or culture”.

    Number two is that forced marriage is not a thing of the past. It “is very much an issue that continues to affect Canadians today”.

    Number three is that forced marriage happens only in certain cultures. “The survey results reveal that forced marriage takes place across cultures and religions”.

    Deepa Mattoo from SALCO said that this motion confirms that the current government lacks the tools for the proper identification and understanding of forced marriages. There has been no indication from the research done by the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario and the Department of Justice that forced marriage victims face victims face proxy marriages. She said that the proposed motion suggests once again that our lawmakers and government are focusing on potential fraud elements in spousal sponsorship situations but that the issue of forced marriages continues to be ignored and sidetracked.

    Inventing a link between spousal sponsorship, immigration policy, and an egregious form of violence against women is not only irresponsible and fallacious, but it is also dangerous, as it fans the flames of the exact xenophobia and racism that makes the lives of immigrant women so vulnerable. I am gravely concerned that South Asian communities are targeted and persecuted by these myths in particular. Arranged marriages exist in South Asian communities as they do in many cultures, but these marriages are often consensual and loving and must not be confused with forced marriage or immigration fraud.

    The immigration and refugee protection regulations already investigate sponsorship marriages for genuineness, and we have heard from lawyers, as well as community leaders, that South Asian marriages are targeted unduly for these investigations. This motion would only heighten those unjustified suspicions and create unnecessary delays in reuniting family members across borders.

    We must diligently respect the rights of the South Asian community, as with all minority communities in our multicultural landscape. Chantal Desloges, another experienced immigration lawyer who strongly disagrees with this motion, said that marriage sponsorships for Pakistani couples now take close to three years for processing. As a result of this, due to cultural reasons, many couples choose to do an inexpensive and fast proxy marriage in order to get the sponsorship filed, then do a big public wedding once the couple is able to move to Canada together.

    Chantal also speaks to the needs of another highly targeted community when she asks what is to be done about the situation of refugees—for example, Afghans or Syrians—where it is physically impossible for the intended spouses to marry in person.

    In my role as critic for the status of women and as an elected representative, I am consistently in contact with women who are the victims of violence. I have dedicated a large part of my mandate to the eradication of this violence, and I am taken aback by how callously this motion pretends to help the victims of violence while, in fact, it is only an attempt to further close down our immigration regulations and will be used to further stigmatize members of ethnic groups that are already unduly scrutinized.

    We must strive to create and implement an agenda that seeks to eradicate violence against women and, very importantly, seeks to achieve the equality all women deserve.

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    Oct 23, 2014 3:20 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I am wondering how the member could address the concerns that civil society has raised that, in fact, this piece of legislation, while it claims to deal with forced marriage, actually creates obstacles to a legitimate couple's ability to achieve family reunification through the immigration system.

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    Oct 23, 2014 1:10 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that important question.

    I also want to commend our colleague, the member for Parkdale—High Park, who introduced a bill on animal cruelty. This is proof of our initiative and our leadership on this issue. My colleague has been involved in this for years.

    We support the idea behind this bill, but we have some serious concerns about some flaws in the bill that have nothing to do with its objective.

    We hope that Conservative members in committee will have the goodwill to make improvements, in order to protect animals and to avoid undermining our judges and our judicial system.

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    Oct 23, 2014 12:55 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to follow my esteemed colleague from Sudbury. In his speech, he relayed our party's position on Bill C-35, which, as we know, is an act to amend the Criminal Code referring to law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals.

    New Democrats have made it clear that we support the bill at second reading and believe that it should be studied at committee. We want to study the bill more closely in committee so we can hear from experts on two problematic clauses, the introduction of minimum sentences and the introduction of consecutive sentences. We know that, concretely, the bill would amend section 445 of the Criminal Code and create a new offence for killing or injuring a service animal, law enforcement animal or military animal while the animal is on duty. It would also set a minimum sentence of six months if a law enforcement animal is killed while the offence is being perpetrated. Finally, it would provide for the sentences imposed on a person to be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person for an offence arising out of the same event or series of events.

    As we have pointed out, there is no disagreement about the need to support the work of our security personnel and to ensure the safety and humane treatment of the dogs that they depend on. In fact, the tragic events of yesterday reminded us how important it is to have every tool at one's disposal to ensure safety. This morning I noticed one of the service dogs with an officer, making sure that we in Parliament are safe.

    I, like my colleagues, share the sentiment that we are very appreciative of the brave women and men of the police forces, the Canadian Forces, and the House of Commons security who did everything they could to keep us safe yesterday and are doing so today, and often, as we saw yesterday, at great risk to themselves.

    Getting back to the bill, New Democrats are concerned that, once again, the devil is in the details. This is a laudable bill that has been tainted by the introduction of minimum sentencing, which clearly reflects the continued repressive agenda that the government has been bringing forward. The government is also showing its desire to deprive the courts of their discretion in sentencing. We believe that the Conservatives should be more aware of the consequences of minimum and consecutive sentencing for the criminal justice system and that it is important the bill go to committee because we need to hear from experts about the consequences of minimum and consecutive sentencing.

    We know that Bill C-35, also referred to as Quanto's law, is in memory of an Edmonton police service dog that was stabbed to death trying to stop a fleeing suspect in October 2013. While we believe it is important that penalties exist for those who attack law enforcement animals, we are concerned that this is a back door attempt by the government to once again bring in minimum sentencing, which we have seen over and over again in various pieces of legislation.

    Sadly, we see today in this bill and have seen in other bills, such as the Internet privacy bill, which hinge on a particular traumatic event, whether it is the suicide of young women who were bullied or in this case an enforcement animal that was killed on the job, that it is a way to get to that issue, but to do so in the most regressive way by emphasizing the importance of mandatory minimum sentencing and once again depriving the courts of their ability to apply discretion.

    I am particularly concerned that with such traumatic events, the government tries to portray that it is the only one that cares about it and anyone who expresses concern, has questions or critiques the bill is automatically on the wrong side of the debate. I share that concern when it comes to the way we are going to deal with yesterday's tragedy.

    I am very proud that today in the House we all rose to show solidarity with each other and with Canadians, but I am concerned about the potential for division based on legitimate disagreements around principles—legitimate disagreements that are integral to our democracy—and the possible vilification of those who do not agree with the government's agenda.

    In this case I, along with my colleagues, firmly believe it is important to bring Bill C-35 to committee to have a vibrant debate on it, to hear from experts, and to look at how we can eliminate the most regressive elements of this bill, elements that have little to do with preventing the senseless deaths of law enforcement animals and more to do with padding the Conservative crime and punishment agenda.

    I would be remiss if I did not express an additional concern.

    There is much interest in seeing this bill go forward, and we have also indicated our support for it, but it is interesting to me that so many members on the government side are so passionate about this issue. Granted, it is a serious issue, and I hear the references to animal cruelty, a very serious and tragic practice that still exists in our country and something that we must eradicate, but it strikes me that sometimes we do not hear that same kind of gusto or drive from the government side to deal with other aspects of disrespectful and even, I would say, neglectful treatment of humans in our own country.

    I am reminded of that this week as the human rights tribunal hears from indigenous community members and indigenous leaders about the cruel conditions in which first nations youth live. These conditions unfortunately point to neglect by the federal government and point to the way in which the federal government has let go of its fiduciary obligation to the well-being, health, education, and overall wellness of first nations youth. Instead it continues with an agenda and rhetoric that amount to status quo. The government says it is doing everything it can, that it has done more than other governments have, but that is not a good enough excuse.

    As an MP who represents a part of this country where we have high rates of poverty, particularly child poverty and poverty among first nations youth, I am used to visiting communities where I see kids who are not dressed for cold weather, who go to school hungry, who live in mould-infested homes with 12 or 15 other relatives. I am always struck by the fact that it is unacceptable in Canada, in the year 2014, that children of any background have to live like that. It is not of their own volition or of their own choice that these children live in some cruel conditions, but as a result of a very dark history of systemic policies.

    While we sit here and talk about the importance of respect and protection for law enforcement animals, I would also like to see that same kind of commitment and interest, both in messaging and in action, for humans, particularly for children in our society, our most vulnerable citizens.

    I believe that is why we are here. We are here to make the right decisions. Whether in terms of our security forces or our communities, Canadians expect that kind of leadership from all of us.

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    Oct 10, 2014 10:05 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House to speak to this very important bill. I want to thank my colleagues who, both in committee and in the House of Commons, have defended our New Democrat position in opposition to the bill, and have spoken of what we expected from our proposal to ensure that the bill is about putting a stop to cyberbullying, as it says it is.

    Unfortunately, what we have, once again, is the Conservative government using language—and in this case, I would also argue, using people who are in vulnerable situations—to put forward a regressive agenda that has everything to do with attacking people's privacy. It leaves tremendous loopholes in terms of powerful actors gaining access to private information, and that would do very little to put a stop to cyberbullying, which is a very serious and sometimes tragic problem in our society.

    We have heard from my colleagues as to why we do not support the bill. We put forward, I believe, 37 amendments at committee to improve the bill. We indicated that whether it is the private member's bill put forward by my colleague, the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, for an anti-bullying strategy, or the bill put forward by my colleague, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, to deal with sexual images and exploitation online, there are ways we can try to put a stop to cyberbullying and to the way in which too many people are exploiting privacy, private images, and taking advantage of people, in many cases young women, online.

    What I find most disturbing about the debate and discussion around Bill C-13 is the way in which the tragic stories of young women who took their own lives as a result of cyberbullying are being used by the current government to push its agenda.

    I do not know how many more ways we can say that this is wrong, that this is beyond disrespectful. It is disturbing, frankly.

    I have had the opportunity to meet with the mother of Amanda Todd, and I have met with other youth, including those involved in Jer's Vision, who have done a great deal to try to fight bullying and cyberbullying in our communities. These are people with ideas. Sometimes these are ideas that come from places of immense pain, of having lost a loved one or having themselves experienced suicidal thoughts to get away from bullying. Despite that, they are proposing ideas. They are finding ways in their communities, and they are calling upon leaders at all levels of government, particularly at the national level, to take steps that would have an impact on ending bullying.

    I am particularly encouraged by those who are applying a gender lens to this kind of bullying because we know it has a gender lens. There were the high-profile cases of young people who took their own lives as a result of cyberbullying, and they were women. In many of the cases, unfortunately, particularly in the mainstream media, women's experiences when it comes to the use of bullying was missed. Sexual objectification is very different and can lead to some very devastating situations.

    I also want to acknowledge the way in which LGBT youth, lesbian, gay, and trans youth, are often the targets of cyberbullying, which has a gendered lens as well. Yet nowhere in Bill C-13 is there any plan to act on, not just bullying, but the cyber-misogyny that we see running rampant online and in our society.

    I would like to turn the attention of the House and of those who are listening to the phenomenal work being done across the country to draw attention to cyber-misogyny and the way in which we can take legal action, but more importantly, employ policies and invest socially in order to put an end to cyber-misogyny.

    I want to draw attention to the recent report by West Coast Leaf called “#CyberMisogyny” that is entirely about what all of us at the federal, provincial and municipal levels, in our schools and even in our homes can do to begin putting an end to cyber-misogyny. It is not a quick fix and it certainly is not Bill C-13. What it requires is real leadership and tackling the very serious issues of inequality, violence against women, sexual harassment, and the marginalization of girls and women in our society.

    It also means taking bold action when it comes to putting an end to the discrimination of trans people and the particular discrimination that trans women face, and recognizing that we have a role to play. Sadly, all I hear in the House is the way in which the Conservative government is using the stories of young women who experience cyber-misogyny to put forward its own agenda, which has nothing to do with that. The hypocrisy, and frankly, the disregard for these women's memories is, like I said, disturbing.

    In taking the next steps, I would encourage the government to not only see the value of dropping this badly thought out bill, which stands to benefit some of the government's agenda with regard to pulling people's private information and having access to people's private lives in a way that it sees as helpful, I guess. However, there are other steps it ought to be taking.

    For one, it could support the motion that I put forward, a national action plan to end violence against women. It could work with this side of the House to try to find a way to build a comprehensive anti-bullying strategy, including working with community organizations and young leaders who are on the front lines and understand what it means to be a victim of cyberbullying.

    It could also look at specific measures, as I have indicated, including Bill C-540 that was introduced in the House last June, which would make it an offence to produce or distribute intimate images of an individual without his or her consent. The list goes on, and many of my colleagues have been pointing to the actual steps that the government could be taking to put an end to cyberbullying.

    I would like to end with a demand that so many people have, that the memories of those young women such as Amanda Todd and others not be used as a front for what is, once more, a piece in the regressive agenda put forward by the federal government. It can do better.

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    Oct 10, 2014 7:45 am | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for expressing our opposition to the bill. As someone who also deals with issues surrounding cyber-misogyny in particular and the attack on women of all ages online, which is especially vitriolic, could she speak to the way in which the bill would do nothing to deal with that kind of cyberbullying?

    The government's agenda, when it comes to women and discrimination against them, is left wanting. The Conservatives use examples of cyber-misogyny and tragic examples to drive this egregious agenda. Could my colleague speak to that?

  • retweet
    Oct 09, 2014 1:55 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague's detailed speech made a strong case for our position as a party.

    As someone who represents a part of the country where we both rely on natural resources and have a very rich ecosystem, including wildlife like beluga whales, we know it is important to strike a balance to ensure that our exploitation of natural resources and that our livelihoods do not hurt what is so near and dear to us, like the beluga whale or the polar bear, or fragile ecosystems in our north.

    In fact, many of us fought back against a proposal to ship crude oil through the Bay line, through the port of Churchill into the Arctic for that very reason, because we need to ensure that balance is struck.

    I would like to ask my colleague, in terms of our party's strong position in support of value-added jobs and ensuring that our development of economic resources benefit our communities, to comment on that and the importance of balancing that with protecting fragile ecosystems and increasingly fragile wildlife.

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Niki Ashton

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