House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-7.

Topics

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I had a Conservative government back then and I have one today. What is the difference?

The point of all of this is that just because the member for Eglinton—Lawrence agreed with everything the Conservatives said at committee does not make it right. There are valid amendments that were defeated because the Conservatives and Liberals worked together in favour of their business agenda as opposed to putting the public interest first.

That is what needs to be reconsidered. That is why the NDP demands that the government--

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for his tireless work on behalf of the safety of Canadians who use our air services and certainly the workers in the industry as well.

Too many times in this House we have seen legislation pass that we later had regrets about or legislation that had unintended consequences. Similar to Bill C-7, there is another piece of legislation that had some drastic unintended consequences and no government to date, either Conservative or Liberal, has seen fit to bring forward the changes that are required. I am talking specifically about Bill C-31 in 1985, a bill that attempted to recognize discrimination against first nations women in this country who married non-first nations men and lost their status and reinstate their status. That bill, in effect, has a second generation cutoff. This means that many first nations children, male and female, will lose their status. In fact, we are seeing grave inequities in families where some grandchildren have status and some do not.

There is a reserve in Canada where the last status first nation person has been born. That is a bill with unintended consequences. I cannot believe that in 1985 the legislators of the day actually developed a bill that ensured that first nations would lose their status after a couple of generations.

That is why it is extremely important for the House to consider all of the ramifications of Bill C-7. We are talking about a piece of legislation that will have far-reaching consequences. My understanding is that it will set the future of safety practices in this country, until another government sees fit to change the legislation.

Part of this bill specifically deals with the fact that we are, in effect, going to hand over safety oversight to the industry itself. That is similar to putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.

It is extremely important that the federal government maintain its responsibility to Canadians so that Canadians have confidence in the safety of this industry. The federal government has a responsibility in terms of federal oversight.

The member for Burnaby—New Westminster mentioned that a number of expert witnesses have raised this issue. I want to refer to some of the very good words that he stated earlier this week in the House.

He said that despite the fact that the NDP brought forward very clear objections in this House, the Conservatives decided to push the bill through. He went on to talk about the fact that at the committee stage, major concerns and worries were brought forward by people who know the business better than anyone else.

Justice Virgil Moshansky, who ran the Dryden crash inquiry, brought forward major concerns with this bill. The inspectors from the Canadian Federal Pilots Association attended. Who knows safety better than the inspectors themselves? They talked about the attrition and downgrading of the key inspectors' roles in Canadian aviation.

One thing we know that can affect an outcome, even though one may not be forthcoming about that outcome, is to starve the system. When one does not invest in the human resources component of a government department and one does not have recruitment, training and retention strategies, one ensures there is a shortage. One of the arguments has been that because there is attrition among the inspectors, we need to offload inspection to the industry itself. That is a very shortsighted policy.

We have seen policy with unintended consequences in other government departments and in other areas where the government has a responsibility. A number of years ago, in the early 1990s I believe, there was a report that talked about the number of physicians who were graduating from universities. Half of that report was implemented, which has had some link to the serious shortage of physicians in today's world in health care, but the other half of the report, which talked about some of the other practices that were in place, was not implemented.

With respect to the aviation industry, the government has been starving the department in terms of investing in its human resources. We see this in fisheries as well. In my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, this year we have had historically the lowest return of chinook salmon ever, some 600 chinook, in the Cowichan River. Part of this is because of lack of investment in on the ground resources, in scientific and technical resources. It is an example of another department where the government is shirking its responsibility around federal oversight. We are seeing very direct effects in our community.

Aviation safety is not something that should be taken lightly. It is a life and death situation. Surely with any legislation that came forward that could impact on the safety of Canadians who are flying or on the workers, we would want to ensure that the appropriate resources were put in place so that the federal government could perform its responsibility in terms of federal oversight.

We are talking about transportation and the rail industry is another example of the consequences where the federal government is not involved in the way it should be. In British Columbia we have seen a number of derailments. There was a derailment about two kilometres from Golden in Kicking Horse Canyon where five cars went off the rail and spilled hydrochloric acid. My understanding is that one of the others cars contained sodium hydroxide. It was such a serious situation that one of the nearby schools had to be closed as a precautionary measure.

That is just one example in a long line of problems with railway safety in Canada. Part of that problem is directly related to the bill before us, in that the railway system has been self-managed. So we have an example in the transportation sector where we have abandoned our federal responsibility to a large extent and we are seeing the impact of self-management.

There has been a cutback in the very important role the public sector plays in watching over the transportation sector, a role which Canadians expect their government to play. When they fly or when they travel on the railway or live in a community where a rail line passes through, they expect that they and their community will be safe.

The member for Burnaby—New Westminster said in a speech:

In 2005 we saw the highest number of railway accidents in nearly a decade, much higher than the 10 year rolling average that existed before.

We have seen an increase in railway accidents. We have seen, tragically, deaths in the Fraser Canyon this summer. We have seen environmental damage such as the Cheakamus Lake in the Squamish Estuary and Lake Wabamun in Alberta. We have seen consistently a greater number of railway accidents over the last few years. This is a matter of some concern.

The New Democratic Party pushed hard for the release of the CN safety audit. It is important that Canadians have access to those kinds of audits so that there is transparency and accountability, particularly when oversight has been offloaded to the industry.

Canadians value their railway system and their aviation system and they want to make sure that those systems are safe. They do not want to see the kinds of situations we have seen in British Columbia. There have been spills that have killed the fish in the rivers in British Columbia. Certainly from coast to coast we value the health of our rivers. I just talked about fish and those kinds of spills impact on a valuable natural resource.

Another thing we talked about was shipbuilding, where we are again seeing the erosion of another piece of the transportation sector in this country.

We just saw a mini-budget update that threw around tax cuts. When we talk about small and medium sized businesses, those tax cuts are valuable, but when we are talking about investment in infrastructure and about the health, safety and viability of our transportation sector, we are not seeing the kinds of investments that would ensure those transportation sectors remain safe and viable and continue to move toward meeting the needs of the 21st century and our economy.

On Vancouver Island, we have a very good example of a railway that the federal government is ignoring. We have tried, on a number of occasions, to get the transport minister to take a look at the E&N Railway and at how it can impact on our community, but to date we have had very little success. Once again, we in British Columbia, on Vancouver Island in particular, feel that we do not seem to count in this federation.

I again applaud the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for raising these important issues in the House. He has suggested an amendment that would ensure that the aviation management system will meet the needs of all Canadians. He has made some suggestions around amendments. He has done a tremendous amount of work in bringing amendments forward to the committee. I would suggest that if we do not want to have those unintended consequences, we should go forward with those amendments as suggested.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When Bill C-7 returns to the House, there will be eight minutes left for the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

October 31st, 2007 / 5:30 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately adopt a child first principle, based on Jordan's Principle, to resolve jurisdictional disputes involving the care of First Nations children.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House on Motion No. 296, which calls on the government to immediately adopt a child first principle based on Jordan's principle.

The motion is truly about ending discrimination against first nations children. I appreciate the fact that when we last had the debate in the House all parties spoke favourably about the motion. I am hopeful that when we have finished with the debate all parties will again speak in favour. Actually, because it is a private member's motion, I am hopeful that each member in the House will support the motion and that we can then call on the government to actually move forward to implement some meaningful action.

I want to acknowledge a number of people who have worked so hard on bringing Jordan's principle to the forefront for all Canadians. I specifically want to acknowledge Jordan and his family. Jordan's family has been unbelievably courageous in having Jordan's principle come forward and stand for all first nations children in the country.

I also want to acknowledge the good work done by Norway House Cree Nation and the Kinosao Sipi Minisowin Agency, which works specifically with first nations children with special needs.

I want to acknowledge the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. I also want to acknowledge Amnesty International.

There are many other organizations as well. I believe that well over 400 organizations have now signed on in support of Jordan's principle. There are many people who are working on behalf of Jordan's principle and on behalf of first nations children across the country.

I want to talk a little about Jordan's story because I think it is an important story and I think it also puts a face to the realities of what we are talking about.

Jordan was born in 1999 with a complex set of genetic disorders. Because of a lack of services on reserve, Jordan's family had to make the very difficult decision of surrendering Jordan to provincial care in order to get the medical care he needed.

Jordan spent the first two years of his life in hospital. Once he was stabilized, he could have gone into a specialized foster home. For the next two years, the federal and provincial governments argued over who should pay for Jordan's foster home costs. Sadly, at the end of those two years, Jordan passed away. This little boy, this very special little boy, spent his entire life in a hospital setting, never knowing what many of us, each and every one of us, take for granted at some point our lives: to live in a family home, to be cared for by parents, to have siblings and to do all the kinds of things that we think are just the normal course of events.

It is sad to say that this came down to arguments about who should pay. In case anybody thinks this is an isolated case, let me note that there are numerous cases across the country where first nations children are actively being discriminated against because neither the federal nor the provincial governments, and there is a variety of provincial governments, put children first

Before I talk about a couple of those cases, I want to point out the fact that Jordan has been nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize of 2007. He has been nominated because of the recognition of the fact that Jordan has become a symbol for those children who have no other voice.

In the nomination papers, Cindy Blackstock said that a “research report indicates that jurisdictional disputes involving the costs of caring for First Nations children are very prevalent” with 393 of these disputes occurring in 12 of the 105 first nations child and family service agencies sampled in the study during 2004-05 alone. The report states:

The vast majority of those disputes were between two federal government departments or between the federal government and the provincial-territorial government.

She goes on to say, which is very poignant, “Jordan could not talk and yet people around the world hear his message. Jordan could not breathe on his own and yet he has given the breath of life to other children. Jordan could not walk but he has taken steps that the government are just now learning to follow”. She says, “He is a child who really did change the world by ensuring the rights of children come before the conveniences of government; all this, and he was only five years old”.

I am hopeful that on December 16 we will hear that Jordan actually was the successful International Children's Peace Prize.

We have had a number of other cases, and I want to mention a couple of them.

Scott Fraser, the NDP MLA for Alberni—Qualicum, raised the issue of Alica-Anne from Ahousaht, who was born deaf and has a cochlea implant. She is expected to lose her sight within the next few years. She needed some particular intervention so she could learn to speak and hear before she went blind.

The provincial government indicated that it was prepared to fund this case but, in the larger issue, there is no question that it remains a challenge. It is an active part of our ongoing discussion with INAC. It would deal with this one case and yet we know there are cases after cases across this country where children are simply not put first.

A news release in June 2006, and I know the Parliamentary Secretary for Health is well aware of this case, was about a little boy named MacKenzie Olsen who needed some very expensive drugs and was part of a drug trial. When the drug trial ended, so did his medication. The Calgary Health Region had agreed in 2005 to cover 40% of the treatments. However, in June 2006 no one came forward to pick up the rest of the tab. In this case, the drug could only be administered in hospital. The company said, “It is our understanding that there is no distinction in the Canada Health Act between first nations and non-first nations patients that would impact the purchase by a hospital of a therapy to be administered in that hospital. Contrary to the recent media reports, the first nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada does not pay for hospital administered drugs. Hospitals pay for them directly”.

The sticking point in this piece is that because MacKenzie returned home in between hospital treatments to the reserve, the provincial government did not want to pay through the hospital system for this child's drugs. In 2006, a year after we had originally raised this issue with the then Liberal minister of health, this little boy still did not have his drugs.

In the newspapers this week, on October 29, we have another case where a grandmother in Manitoba is being asked to surrender her grandson to the care of Child and Family Services just simply so he can go to school. It is a jurisdictional dispute that is simply not putting first nations children first.

A number of other provinces have identified the fact that there are some discrepancies in how first nations children are funded.

We currently have a case where the Assembly of First Nations has filed a Canadian human rights complaint about the lack of funding for first nations children and welfare. The Assembly of First Nations statistics show that there are more than 27,000 first nations children in state care.

The recent 2006-07 annual report of the Alberta auditor general notes:

However, funding provided by INAC may not be sufficient to allow Agencies to provide comparable services to those available to other Alberta children.

Aboriginal children make up 55% of Alberta’s children in protection, yet make up only about 15% of all Alberta’s children. First Nations are eager to attain sufficient resources to provide equal and comparable services as those available to other Alberta children.

In that case, we have a provincial government saying that the federal government clearly is not stepping up to the plate in terms of its responsibilities for first nations children.

In case we also think that there is only isolated support and that it is coming only from first nations communities or the people who are primarily involved in caring for these children, we have a quote from the Canadian Paediatric Society. They have been advocating for more than a year:

--for the federal and provincial/ territorial governments to adopt Jordan's Principle, a child-first principle to resolving jurisdictional disputes involving the care of First Nations children....

The Canadian Medical Association Journal states in an article:

--if the provincial, territorial and federal governments ignore Jordan's Principle and entangle themselves in financial or jurisdictional battles first, then governments deserve to be sued, in the most winnable test case that First Nations' advocates can manage.

The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada states:

The provincial and federal governments' jurisdictional debate could be characterized as a shirking of responsibilities that amounts to inequitable treatment of First Nations and is therefore in violation of section 15 of the Charter.

As well, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has passed a resolution. I will not read the whole resolution. It states:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That the AMC...support AFN/FNCCS Human Rights complaint through a lobbying and negotiation strategy to address the chronic underfunding causing discriminatory treatment of First Nation children by the federal government.

I think it is fairly clear that what we have is a case where first nations children simply do not have the rights that other children living off reserve have. I think each and every one of us would fully expect that children who require particular care, who have special needs and who need access to education would have access to the things that children off reserve simply take for granted.

Unfortunately, we have also been cited on the international scene. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child said that overall Canada is at number six, but when we look at aboriginal children in Canada and their socio-economic status we actually drop to number 78. We rank between Lebanon and Kazakhstan.

That is a shame. That, I would say, is verging on criminal. It is verging on criminal that we have children in this country who are living in such dire straits that a United Nations convention cites Canada's very poor track record. I think that if most Canadians were aware of this they would be urging the federal government to put children first.

I think the words of the Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine say it far better than any of us could say it. He said:

The motion asks a simpl[e] question: Do Canadians accept the fact that their health system treats certain children differently because of the race or community they belong to? And further, do Canadians accept that this double standard can result in death or disability?

This practice should not be allowed to exist or be accepted as a normal business practice. We must stand together to protect and nurture the health and well-being of all children across Canada.

In conclusion, with respect to Jordan and his family and all of the organizations and the people who are working so tirelessly on behalf of Jordan's principle, I would ask members of the House to unanimously support the motion.

If the motion should pass, I would call upon the Conservative government to use its huge surplus to put children first, to put first nations children on reserve first, so that in a year's time we can stand up in the House, celebrate the successes and talk about the fact that Canada has a proud record of saying that children come first.

I urge members to support Jordan's principle.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Parliamentary Secretary for Health

Mr. Speaker, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan raised the issue of human rights. Certainly everyone in the government feels that human rights should be extended to all first nations people, yet the other parties in the House are preventing the government from bringing forward Bill C-44, which would include first nations people in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Currently, and I think most Canadians find this shocking, first nations peoples on reserve are excluded from human rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Bill C-44 would include all Canadians, first nations and others, within the charter.

It seems hypocritical that on one side the member brought forward the motion but opposes including first nations people under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The government believes that human rights come first, yet the NDP member and her party oppose doing the right thing and bringing human rights to everyone.

Could the member address that issue?

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The member might like to note that there are only three minutes left and other people want to ask questions.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In regard to the parliamentary secretary's question, it is always interesting when we start to talk about hypocrisy in the House. I also want to make a small correction. The repeal of section 67 applies only to the Indian Act. First nations, both on and off reserve, already have the right to appeal outside of the Indian Act under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

It is really interesting that the Conservatives are talking about hypocrisy when they are also members of the party that has asked for leave to appeal in the Sharon McIvor case in British Columbia, in which a first nations woman who was being discriminated against won her case. The Conservatives said, “Wait a minute, we are going to make this woman wait even longer around her status and we are going to ask for leave to appeal”. If we are going to talk about hypocrisy in the House, we should be consistent.

The other issue around this is that when we are talking about Bill C-44, if we are going to respect first nations' inherent right to self-government and self-determination surely what we should do is institute an appropriate consultation process, which the government has failed to do on Bill C-44.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue with this line of questioning as well. It is, as the member said, a human rights issue. I was a little confused by the Conservative question because it seems to me that the Conservatives are saying that if we do not agree with Bill C-44, then they will not agree to provide health services for first nations children on reserve.

I want to know how the hon. member understood that question.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question from the member for Churchill, because as well in regard to the Conservatives, Canada has a shameful record. We are one out of four countries in the world that failed to sign on to the United Nations declaration of indigenous rights.

If we want to talk about hypocrisy, the government has at its disposal right at this very moment the wherewithal to actually put money into first nations children on reserve.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue for a brief question.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question will be brief since I will have a chance to speak to the same issue a little later. I want to express the issue to the hon. member through a specific question.

How can we apply Jordan's principle when the provinces are unable to agree with the federal government, or vice versa, since quite often the federal government is unable to agree with the provinces? What can we do to reach a tripartite agreement on this?

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, this principle talks about putting children first and sorting out the jurisdictional issues later. When a child needs care, the federal government should step up and pay for it and sort out the jurisdictional issues after the fact.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Parliamentary Secretary for Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I fully support the intent of the motion introduced by the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

Let me say first, though, that in response to my previous question about consultation, I do not understand why consultation is needed to provide people with human rights. It is a self-evident truth. I hope the other parties that disagree will reconsider their position so that we can move forward with the repeal of section 67.

To talk specifically to Jordan's principle, let me say that it appears to offer a straightforward solution to the provision of health services to first nations and Inuit children, but it is a complex problem. At present, a maze of administrative and funding procedures across governments compounds how these services are provided. Although the procedures may be rooted in good intentions, in practice they subordinate the interests of the child.

Jordan's principle calls on all government agencies to provide the services first and resolve the paperwork later. This government supports Jordan's principle and is committed to making improvements in the lives of first nations and Inuit children, women and families. I call upon my colleagues across governments to work together.

The need among first nations and Inuit children is both obvious and acute, particularly given that the level of disability among first nations and Inuit children is high and access to care is impeded by geographic location and limited services in rural and remote areas and isolated communities.

This government will continue to take action in an effort to improve the health of first nations and Inuit people of all ages. The programs and investments now in place aim to address the particular health problems of first nations and Inuit.

I believe that a basic understanding of programs and investments aimed at first nations and Inuit children and families will help my hon. colleagues appreciate why this government supports Jordan's principle.

As we all recognize, there is considerable truth to the old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. The saying rings particularly true when it comes to the health of toddlers, infants and newborns.

The links between a mother's health during pregnancy and the health of her baby are well established. For example, mothers who eat nutritious diets, abstain from tobacco and alcohol, and exercise regularly are far more likely to give birth to healthy babies. Similarly, toddlers exposed to stable, nurturing and stimulating environments are far more likely to succeed at school and remain healthy.

To ensure that first nations and Inuit children can realize the benefits of these linkages, this government funds a series of prevention-based programs and initiatives.

The Canada prenatal nutrition program, CPNP, is a community-based program with the goal of improving maternal and infant nutritional health, with a particular focus on those at high risk. CPNP supports activities related to maternal nourishment, including food vouchers and community kitchens, screening, education and counselling, and breastfeeding promotion and support.

Through CPNP an estimated 9,000 first nations and Inuit women participate in the program at approximately 450 project sites, which serve more than 600 communities. The release of a new food guide that has been tailored to reflect the unique values, traditions and food choices of aboriginal populations in Canada will be a valuable tool for CPNP and in assisting aboriginal families to make informed, healthy choices while respecting their traditional way of life.

Another relevant initiative is the maternal child health program, which began two years ago. This program will improve health outcomes for first nations women, children and families by delivering programs that aim to improve their parenting skills, manage post-partum depression, and create safe, enriching environments for their children.

There are two aspects to this program: in-home visits and case management services. The program connects mothers and families with the service and support they need to raise healthy and happy children. Currently, there are 63 maternal children health projects.

The first few years of a child's life are critical to his or her development. To ensure that first nations families have access to stimulating and culturally relevant child care and preschool programs, this program funds the aboriginal head start on reserve, or AHSOR, program. This year, 9,400 children will attend some 332 AHSOR programs across Canada. The programs are designed, delivered and administered by local first nations communities.

Although the programs vary by region, they are focused on six components: education, nutrition, culture and language, social support, health promotion and parental involvement. In addition, the aboriginal head start on reserve community based programs support children with special needs by assisting their parents in identifying the resources available within their communities. The number of children with special needs participating in AHSOR programs continues to increase. Some 6.4% of the total number of children participating in the 2004-05 years had an identified special need.

The benefits of the aboriginal head start programs are well documented. Children who attend AHSOR programs learn to socialize within their peers and are better prepared to succeed at school. They also learn the importance of a nutritious diet and regular physical activity. Given these benefits, this government was proud to invest more than $57 million in AHSOR programs last year.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is also a complex issue with little epidemiological information in Canada. Health Canada's programs strive to build awareness of the dangers of drinking during pregnancy and to provide targeting interventions for women at risk of having a child with FASD. It also trains teachers and health professionals to identify children with FASD and provide appropriate assistance to children and families, such as early diagnosis and intervention.

The programs I have mentioned are just a few of the many concrete examples of how this government is working to improve the health of first nations and Inuit children and families. This government continues to meet its responsibilities to fund the delivery of health services to first nations and Inuit.

In 2006-07, the Government of Canada spent approximately $850 million on the non-insured health benefits program alone. This program provides registered Indians and recognized Inuit with a wide range of medically necessary goods and services which supplement the benefits provided through other private, provincial or territorial programs.

The benefits funded under the non-insured health benefits program include: prescription drugs, dental and vision care, medical supplies and equipment, crisis mental health counselling, and medical transportation to access medically necessary services.

In order to address the rapid cost increases facing first nations and Inuit health services, we are increasing the budget for first nations and Inuit health by 6.4% over last year. This represents an increase in funding for first nations and Inuit health services of approximately $126 million, for a total of $2.1 billion this year. This is very comparable to the provincial increases in transfers.

Included in the budget is $15 million to work with first nations and Inuit, as well as to help other levels of government throughout Canada provide innovation and strengthen tripartite relationships. This government has demonstrated that it is taking action and that first nations people, young and old, will be better served by a Conservative government.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to once again speak to this private member's motion put forward by the NDP member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. I would like to thank her as well on behalf of Norway House Cree Nation and Jordan's family for bringing this to the House.

I had the special opportunity this past summer to share with the family and community as they acknowledged the member for her efforts. It is an understatement to say that it is deeply appreciated.

To stand here in the House of Commons is a privilege. It is also a privilege to speak to the legacy of a boy whose life was far too short and of the pain that he endured during his life as well as the pain and the hardship his family had to endure while seeking to care for their child who required access to health services on reserve. If this child, who was living on a first nation reserve, had been living anywhere else in Canada he would have been able to access these services.

Jordan was born with a rare syndrome. What happened subsequently, when his family sought services, is typical of the cases for children with special needs on reserve. The family sought the services for their child through the federal health care provider, the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, which delivers primary health care. This service did not fall within the spectrum of services provided.

The only means available to the family for the child's health service requirement was to take the child to the children's special services and give up the child to the child and family services agency, funded by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. To clarify, the child with complex medical needs or a disability living on a first nation reserve is not entitled to essential services unless his or her family gives up guardianship to a child welfare agency.

This situation gets worse. The child welfare agency is also forced to seek the service on a case by case basis, and depending upon the nature of the service, a dispute may ensue between the two federal departments: Health Canada, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

In Jordan's case it was between the federal and provincial jurisdictions. Jordan was forced into care and also required hospitalization for his medical services. When he was two years old, his family received the good news that Jordan could go home from the hospital. He would require some essential services back home at Norway House Cree Nation. Neither government would agree to pay for these services.

If he were to reside off reserve, the provincial government would have funded the services. Under federal jurisdiction, the status Indian children residing on reserve are not entitled through any of their programs to the services Jordan required.

This interdepartmental and jurisdictional battle waged on for more than two years until, sadly and tragically, Jordan passed away in the hospital. He was never able to return home in his short life. It is unbelievable that this could happen in our country. It is intolerable and incomprehensible that Jordan's story is not unique or rare.

In my riding of Churchill, the first nations child welfare agencies of Awasis agency, Cree Nation child and family caring agency, Opaskwayak Cree Nation child and family services, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation family and community services, and the Kinisao Sipi Minisowin agency have worked with families and children over the past two decades.

There are hundreds of children in my riding who are in this situation. It has been through the efforts of these child and family service agencies, these families, and these groups and organizations, like Norway House Cree Nation, the first nations child and family caring society, and our political first nations organizations that these issues have been raised over and over again through different forums.

We need to act in a non-partisan, non-judgmental way to ensure that Jordan's principle is implemented in Canada. The Jordan principle is simply about putting the child first. It is the child-first principle.

Canada is a signatory to the United Nations convention on the rights of the child. This convention has been recognized by the Supreme Court of the Canada as one of the most universally accepted human rights instruments. Yet the lack of coordination between and within the federal, provincial and territorial governments has meant that this principle of the safety and well-being of the child being paramount has most often been superceded by jurisdictional and departmental disputes.

It was recommended in the Wen:de report of the first nations child and family caring society that a “child first” principle be adopted whereby the government who receives a request for payment of services for a first nations child will pay without disruption or delay when these services are otherwise available to children residing off reserve in similar circumstances.

It was recognized by the Standing Committee on Human Rights and Disabled Persons in 1993 that all levels of government had forgotten the needs of aboriginal people which was demonstrated through the fragmentation of services, lack of strong program structures and inconsistent standards.

It was resolved by the Assembly of First Nations in a resolution in December 2005 that the federal and provincial governments adopt a child first principle for resolving these jurisdictional disputes regarding payment for services for status Indian children. This resolution stated:

WHEREAS Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees every resident of Canada equal benefit and protection of law without discrimination;

I would like to reiterate that there is no funding mechanism to deliver services for children residing on first nation reserves. The federal departments responsible for services and programs on first nation reserves, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and the first nations and Inuit health branch, volley the issue back and forth claiming either that it is a social cost or it is a health cost, and the provinces will not provide services on reserve. They claim simply that it is not in their jurisdiction.

I had the opportunity to rise last week to commemorate the family and their courage when they honoured the life of their child, Jordan. They honoured his life in their home community when they were able to put up a headstone for Jordan. It has been a very challenging and very tragic situation for the family.

I commend them for their courage for letting their story be told, for allowing Jordan's life to inspire all of us to work in a non-partisan way, so that first nations children who have complex medical needs or live with disabilities are one day, and we hope that it happens in a timely manner, able to access services that all other Canadian children can access.

I would like to add that the inference by the Conservatives that the opposition parties do not support human rights for first nations is an abomination. It is a misuse of the House because we are talking about the lives of children. First nations children are living without services that other Canadian children have access to.

In my home community, we have almost 40 children. The inference that smoking or alcohol consumption is the cause of these disabilities by the previous member was also just abhorrent. We have been struggling with a hydro development and there are all sorts of toxins now. There is a mercury issue as well. When a community which has only thousands of people and there are rare syndromes occurring in that community, to target and blame the community is just unbelievable. We are talking about a critical issue that affects the lives of children on first nation reserves.

I call upon this House to drop these judgments, to drop these false accusations, and to remember that it is the life and well-being of children we are talking about. Canada signed the United Nations convention on the rights of children and that applies to all Canadian children.