House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nations.

Topics

Selected Decisions of Speaker Gilbert Parent
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Selected Decisions of Speaker Gilbert Parent
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

A reception will be held in a few minutes in room 237-C to mark the publication of this volume. All members are invited to attend.

Order, please. We have a number of points of order. I will start with the hon. member for Don Valley East.

Comments by Member for Don Valley East
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Winnipeg South in relation to a question I asked the government concerning the investigation of the Conservative Party by Elections Canada for the Conservative Party's in and out scandal. I must say, in spite of being caught red-handed for deliberately breaking the rules during a federal campaign, the Conservatives have elected to play the victims in this affair in order to cover up the scandal.

Furthermore, we are beginning to witness a familiar pattern in this House, where junior members of the Conservative caucus, rather than members of the cabinet, are now responsible for providing answers during question period. This strategy was recently highlighted in the May 5 edition of the Hill Times newspaper, where Conservative Party insiders admitted that the plan is to use junior members of their caucus as sacrificial lambs in order to insulate members of the cabinet from public scrutiny.

In this case, the hon. member has misconstrued the term “junior” to somehow mean that I was referring to the age of a member rather than his standing in the House.

When will the Prime Minister allow his ministers to defend themselves rather than hide behind junior parliamentary secretaries?

Indeed, it is I who should ask the hon. member for an apology because of his deliberate attempt to obfuscate the truth that the Conservative Party has been caught cheating the Canadian electorate.

Comments by Member for Don Valley East
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I know that this point of order arose out of some inappropriate comments of an ageist nature which the hon. member made, implying that because someone was a younger member of Parliament, he or she could be persuaded to say or do anything. Those were her words.

I notice in her apology there was no apology. What is more, she attempted to defend and justify her remarks by indicating that they were remarks of others which she was merely repeating.

A member must take responsibility for his or her remarks in this House. I still have not heard any kind of an apology for her inappropriate comments. The same point of order I think is still outstanding.

Comments by Member for Don Valley East
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am not sure I need to hear more on this point. It sounds as though we are getting into a debate rather than points of order.

In the circumstances, I have indicated I would take the matter under advisement. I will consider the remarks of the hon. members and get back to the House in due course.

Comments by Member for Don Valley East
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I hope that you will find unanimous consent to adopt Motion No. 469 standing on the order of precedence in my name. It reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should officially apologize to the Indo-Canadian community and to the individuals impacted in the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which passengers were prevented from landing in Canada.

Comments by Member for Don Valley East
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent?

Comments by Member for Don Valley East
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for London—Fanshawe had the floor and there were 14 minutes remaining in the time allotted for her remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for London--Fanshawe.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I was speaking previously, I had made reference to the fact that many women on first nations reserves had talked about the lack of enforcement with regard to violence against women. Another woman involved in the consultations said:

Whatever occurred in that community we had to take care of it ourselves, there was no one to rescue us. I remember the frustrations I felt and had seeking help in when I was in a violent relationship and there was no one available… the police were an hour by flight, skidoo, boat, and there are no services in the community for women in crisis.

The report, “Reclaiming our Way of Being: Matrimonial Real Property Solutions” states:

Women who cannot remain in their homes because of violence need immediate help. Sometimes assistance may be available through their family and friends, but the provision of assistance through programs and service providers is essential to ensuring that women have access to the continuum of supports. Transition houses help women in two ways: they provide a temporary place to stay and the support workers can help women to make healthy choices about their next steps. Women who live in remote or isolated areas also need transition housing, but they told us that they are often unable to access these services because these services are not available in their communities; the cost of transportation to travel from their community to the service was too high; or because they were ineligible to use the services based on some eligibility criteria.

Women went on to say:

Certainly we need more services on reserve but for a woman who needs to make the choice for safety reasons; you know there needs to be services and supports elsewhere as well. So I don't think it should be an either/or. Options are great because you can meet your own particular need.

There must be options. The report states:

When there is no transition house located on the reserve, women who need these services have to decide whether to leave their community in order to access them. Some women told us that they could not leave the reserve, because this would disrupt their children's schooling, or because they would lose their access to other services if they moved off reserve.

Separation should be planned and not have to be emergency evacuation, and there is a need for protection of the right to leave or the right to stay. In order to secure a safe place for her children, one woman said that it was sometimes necessary for the male spouse to leave. It was important that she remain in her home.

The report further states:

Some participants suggested that transitional houses for men should also be developed. It would be less disruptive for the family if the woman and children can stay in the home, and the man can find temporary shelter elsewhere. Some elders spoke of traditional approaches that supported this idea.

Creating transitional houses for men would bring the added benefit of increasing their access to programs and support that usually are available at these sites which could help men to resolve the issues that led them to the transition house in the first place. This would benefit women and children by helping the matrimonial home to continue to be a place that was safe for them.

Respondents to the consultation were very clear. They said, “We know about the cycle of violence and all that. If we can help the children in this process, then I think that will help in the coming years, decades and generations”.

The housing shortage that exists on many reserves makes the issues associated with matrimonial real property even worse. There is not enough housing to accommodate marriage breakups. One respondent said, “I think the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs has fallen down in its responsibility”. The lack of housing can be one of the key reasons women stay in abusive and violent relationships. There is a need not just for more housing but also for subsidized and affordable housing for aboriginal women and children both on and off reserve. Another respondent said, “The issue is not enough housing in our community. It wasn't resolved in Bill C-31 and they need to address severe housing shortages in our communities”.

The report states:

Finally, women spoke about the need to develop tools that will help communities move their people along the healing path. Traditionally, First Nations people had a collective responsibility for the well being of the community. This responsibility included providing assistance to community members who require help to resolve conflicts, including those between partners.

One elder concluded:

We probably will go back to the way we used to do things, with Elders and community members rather than go to the court system.

…even though the legislative options are focused on matrimonial real property and the underlying issue is violence, there needs to be clear protection for women on reserve in terms of legislation, shelters, a community safety plan, which is broader than the legislation being proposed but this is important and because of the Indian Act and colonization there is disrespect for women, violence and women are being pushed out of their homes.

The report goes on to state:

Freedom from violence will allow Aboriginal communities to thrive, and will allow community members to reclaim their way....

The government had a golden opportunity to end generations of neglect and it failed. Enforcing legislation that ignored the specific wishes and advice of first nations communities, the message is clear: first nations' solutions are of no interest to the government.

The extensive and excellent work of Wendy Grant-John and the many first nations women and men who have lived in hope because of the proposed legislation was obviously for naught. Their needs and wishes have not been respected.

The report concludes by stating:

The connections of Aboriginal peoples to our lands and territories are sacred and historical. These are not just pieces of land, but our traditional territories. This issue of matrimonial property on reserve was not created by Aboriginal people. The issue of matrimonial real property on reserve is now a complex one to resolve; however, it should not be. There has been much discrimination in the past and it continues to this day. This discrimination has created detrimental impacts upon many generations of youth, women, men, families, and communities across this country.

When the Indian Act was amended in 1985 (Bill C-31), NWAC and the AFN made contributions prior to any amendments being made. There were many lessons learned from that process. One of them is that we do not want to be used as pawns to justify government processes. We will not get caught by divide and conquer tactics. NWAC believes that our communities need to resolve the impacts of colonization and to assist in building healthy communities. We know that our voices are critical to these efforts.

NWAC appreciated having at least a short time to consult with Aboriginal women and their children who felt the direct impacts of the MRP issue. This was considered the “bridging” point between the long fight for the recognition of Aboriginal women’s rights and issues arising out of the MRP cases. It was an opportunity for these participants to speak their truth and to have a voice.

However, there were very serious concerns raised by the participants regarding the short time frame for this consultation process. As noted in previous NWAC submissions, a full year would be needed to complete consultations. In this process, we were given three months. Many participants were skeptical of this process because they viewed it as government driven....

Fortunately, as I said, Wendy Grant-John did the impossible and produced a remarkable report in the voice of the men and women involved.

The report continues:

The participants in this process stated that they want their rightful place in society. ...women are re-establishing their feelings of pride and self-worth by speaking out about themselves and their communities. The voices of these women must be heeded.

The women who provided these solutions are daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers and granddaughters. They want the intergenerational cycle of abuse and marginalization to end. They want this to be a collective effort to bring the required change in their communities. The men we heard from are our sons, brothers, fathers, grandfathers and grandsons. They too wanted to see change that respects our ways of being and the women of their communities. Through the creation of a responsive and comprehensive MRP process, they want to heal and come together to reclaim their way of being now more than ever.

Those aspirations have not been achieved with Bill C-47. In the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, we heard the fear expressed by Bev Jacobs of the Native Women's Association of Canada and the women's committee of the AFN that the legislation governing matrimonial real property was already written long before the consultation, that it would be a situation where the responsibility would be sloughed off to the provinces.

The minister responsible insisted that it was not true and he was very clear about that. Unfortunately, the fears of the women of NWAC and the AFN were quite accurate. Ultimately, Bill C-47 was not written in consultation with first nations, despite all the promises. Their hopes were frustrated and their wishes were ignored.

We keep travelling down the same old paths, the same road that led to the school incidents where children were abused and to the situation in Parliament where the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be ignored and set aside. We have travelled this road for far too long and we need to do better. The government has an obligation to do better. We all have an obligation to listen to the voices, to respect the needs of the communities and to act in accordance with an honourable kind of resolution.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member made some very eloquent points.

She talked about a number of elements in terms of Canadian policy that have had a detrimental impact on first nations, women, children and the lives of families and how they have been very vocal through the dialogue sessions with the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations Women's Council. They have insisted that there needs to be a new direction and a new process in which they could participate in terms of determining and being part of the process to create legislation that would impact their lives.

One of the statements they made in one of the publications in response to this was that Europeans have a different view of the role of women. They do not respect women or their contributions to society in the way that aboriginal cultures did. Canadian society came from Europe and it was very patriarchal and this has had a damaging impact on the families because of Canadian policies coming from that view.

Could the member articulate a bit more about how she thinks we can do better?

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is quite right. The kind of system that has been imposed on first nations people is alien. It is patriarchal and European.

In my interactions with first nations women, I know about the traditional role of women as leaders, as the advisors to the community and that women were always consulted and their wisdom and input was always respected.

It is very clear that in this process there has been a going back to the old ways that does not work between governments and first nations people.

The harms that I and other members in the House have talked about are very real. They continue and the things that we have done in the past haunt us, haunt the members of first nations in the present and, unless we change, they will haunt us in the future.

Wendy Grant-John did a remarkable job. She managed to consult and hear from many isolated communities. She went to places that very rarely are visited or considered by government. She did the impossible, as I said. However, at the end of the day, despite all of the promises of the minister responsible, the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Women's Council of the AFN were not consulted when it came to the writing of Bill C-47.

Quite simply, the government, I suppose one could say, threw in the towel. It would have been a challenge to ensure it followed through on its promises and I do not disregard the fact that it would have created challenges for the government, but it did not do its duty. It simply walked away and went back to the old way of doing things that did not work in the past, do not work now and will not work in the future.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member and her party for their continuing support for our aboriginal agenda. Her party assisted us in ratifying the Indian residential schools settlement. Her party also assisted us in passing Bill C-30, the Nunavut land claims agreement, allowing our government and this Parliament to bring forward a number of important pieces of legislation and initiatives for aboriginal people. It also sounds like they will be supporting us again on this, which is appreciated.

She said that our government had walked away on this bill, had walked away from our obligations. Should we walk away when a person on reserve, a first nations mother, is being removed from her home because she has no access to matrimonial real property? Should we walk away and not do anything?

If we were to follow what she is suggesting, we would simply not let anything come forward and languish while we know that these situations are occurring throughout the country. What is she suggesting? Should we simply let these situations continue to go on for years to come?