House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Business of Supply
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of Supply
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of Supply
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

Asbestos
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

February 16th, 2012 / 10:10 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition signed by literally thousands of Canadians.

The petitions call upon Parliament to take note that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer the world has ever known. They point out that more Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial or occupational causes combined, yet Canada remains one of the largest producers and exporters of asbestos in the world. They also point out that Canada spends millions of dollars subsidizing the asbestos industry and blocking international efforts to curb its use.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to ban asbestos in all of its forms and institute a just transition program for asbestos workers and the communities they live in, to end all government subsidies of asbestos both in Canada and abroad, and to stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam convention.

The Environment
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by Canadians from all across the country who are concerned about the proposed megaquarry in Melancthon Township in Dufferin County, Ontario, which would be the largest open pit quarry in Canada at over 2,300 acres. They are concerned with a number of issues, one of which is that the proposed megaquarry would threaten the Grand and Nottawasaga river watersheds, including various freshwater fish species.

The petitioners are asking the Government of Canada to conduct an environmental assessment under the authority of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act on the proposed Highland Companies' mega-quarry development.

Telecommunications Industry
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Public Safety said this week that people who are against the government's online spying bill stand with pedophiles.

My constituents in the riding of Davenport in the great metropolis of Toronto beg to differ. Along with 80,000 others, they have signed OpenMedia.ca's online petition to stop the government's online spying bill. They wish to add their voice of opposition to the measures contained in the lawful access legislation that would compel telecommunications companies to collect and store personal information and turn it over to law enforcement without a warrant.

This petition speaks to that and I am honoured to present it today.

Citizenship and Immigration
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition in regard to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration's policy decision to freeze the ability of an individual to sponsor his or her parents to come to Canada. The petitioners wish to make a strong statement that what is being done by the minister is met with great opposition in many different communities throughout Canada.

The petitioners ask that the government immediately lift the freeze so that people can sponsor their parents and grandparents in an effort to reunite them with their families here in Canada.

Nuclear Disarmament
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions today. The first is a call for Canada to host a conference on nuclear disarmament.

The petitioners wish to quote the International Red Cross:

Nuclear weapons are unique in their destructive power, in the unspeakable human suffering they cause, in the impossibility of controlling their effects in space and time, in the risks of escalation they create, and in the threat they pose to the environment, to future generations, and indeed to the survival of humanity.

For that reason and many others, the petitioners ask that the House of Commons issue an invitation to all states to gather in Canada to begin discussions needed for a global legal ban on nuclear weapons.

The petitioners are from Nova Scotia. I look forward to the minister's answer.

The Environment
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the second petition I am presenting is on the Canadian interfaith call for leadership and action on climate change.

The petitioners point out that global warming is a reality and that while all governments have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Canadian levels have been increasing. They say that we cannot wait for others to act but must lead by example.

The petitioners call for a number of measures, such as implementing a binding international agreement, or committing to national carbon emission targets.

I am pleased to present this petition and look forward to the minister's response.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Education for First Nation children
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should adopt Shannen's Dream by: (a) declaring that all First Nation children have an equal right to high-quality, culturally-relevant education; (b) committing to provide the necessary financial and policy supports for First Nations education systems; (c) providing funding that will put reserve schools on par with non-reserve provincial schools; (d) developing transparent methodologies for school construction, operation, maintenance and replacement; (e) working collaboratively with First Nation leaders to establish equitable norms and formulas for determining class sizes and for the funding of educational resources, staff salaries, special education services and indigenous language instruction; and (f) implementing policies to make the First Nation education system, at a minimum, of equal quality to provincial school systems.

Madam Speaker, first of all, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona. I sincerely hope that my speech here today gets as much media attention as other events that have happened recently.

The presentation of this motion will go along the same lines as the approach I used in my previous speeches. Madam Speaker, I have made a number of speeches in this House since I arrived here on May 2, 2011. My detractors and those who might be interested can look at my record at www.openparliament.org. There are nearly seven pages on my speeches.

It should be noted that analysis of the material on the living conditions in aboriginal communities in the country lends itself well to empirical considerations and highlighting cultural subtleties. As with my previous speeches, I will talk about the basics and address the realities as experienced in the communities and on the streets of my home reserve. This ties in with the oral tradition I come from.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the press conference held by the national panel on first nation elementary and secondary education. To my great surprise, the spokespeople for the organization addressed a number of points that demonstrate culturally relevant progress, thanks to which it is possible to identify the obstacles to educating youth on first nations reserves. Sometimes in my speeches, I talk about cultural relevance and a culturally integrated approach, and those are the aspects I am going to focus on today, since government efforts in the communities to promote school enrolment and completion of education among youth have to be measures that take into account the sometimes difficult realities experienced by young people in the communities. This has to be a grassroots approach.

The panel is to be applauded for the mere fact that, in preparing its report, it focused on the true causes of absenteeism and dropout rates in the communities. During the press conference, the panel members also highlighted one of the greatest strengths of youth living in adverse conditions: resilience. In fact, as I stand before you this morning, I am an excellent example of that resilience. Despite the fact that industry-sponsored media have tried to take me down, I am still here. I want everyone to know that I ate out of garbage cans as a child. This is nothing new to me, and it takes more than that to bring me down.

In my remarks today, I will focus on adversity and resilience because first nations youth encounter obstacles to learning every day. One of the primary obstacles is the cyclical way of life that has gradually become the norm on reserves in Canada. By “cyclical way of life”, I am referring to, in my language, mitsham shuniau, or social assistance benefits. Life in reserve communities today follows the rhythm of social assistance payments.

Teachers in reserve communities can attest to that. Absenteeism is significantly higher on the 1st and 15th of each month because that is when people get their cheques. As I will show, a large proportion of families that depend on federal transfers do not function well on the days the cheques come in. Children in such families suffer the consequences of their parents' dysfunction and do not go to school because they cannot find food in the morning or get themselves ready. I am talking about young kids, high school kids and elementary school kids.

This factor must be taken into account when implementing education programs adapted to the realities of Canada's aboriginal communities. Teachers and other stakeholders called upon to work on remote reserves that are truly struggling do not have an easy task. Therefore, it is important that we focus on giving educational institutions the tools they need to meet the needs of these students on their individual journeys. When I talk about their journey, I not necessarily referring to their academic journey, but rather their life journey. This is not the case in all communities, but from my personal experience in the communities of Uashat-Maliotenam and the Lower North Shore, from a very young age, children are regularly exposed to deviant, negative influences and behaviour that would be considered unacceptable by today's standards, but that is trivialized in those communities because it is so pervasive.

These young people have been brought up in a world that is quite different from that of other young Canadians. Any teachers who answer the call to go to these communities to work—for they are often from outside the community—will have to learn about and be prepared for this reality, as demonstrated by the youths' behaviour and psyche.

The dysfunctional nature of many aboriginal communities in Canada is partially linked to idleness and dependence on agencies that are part of the band management. For instance, in my community, over half of all individuals who are of working age, that is, 16 and over, depend on Mitsham Shuniau, or money to eat. Basically, that is our word for social assistance. In some cases, band leaders are forced to divert funding to other priorities established by the band council.

There is a case in a community in my riding, a community whose name I will not mention because it is rather infamous. It announced that, due to fiscal restraints, it had to cut the school days at the secondary school to four days a week in order to mitigate the cash shortage. It is the young people who are ultimately going to suffer the consequences. That is a concrete example.

All efforts to implement policies regarding the first nations education system must ensure that the funding allocated to education is used only for the purposes of the specific educational programs.

I will certainly not limit my remarks to students attending on-reserve primary and secondary schools. My arguments also apply to post-secondary students who often have to leave their home communities to pursue their academic endeavours. Those students, like the ones living on the reserves, are entitled to high-quality education that takes into account the added burden on aboriginal youth who want to pursue higher education.

I want to talk about my own experience. I left my home community in early 2000 to pursue my post-secondary education. I then enrolled in the faculty of law at Université Laval. I spent six years in all in Quebec City. Things did not go smoothly at first. I had a hard time adjusting to urban life. I carried the reality I grew up in with me during those years. Young aboriginals who have to study abroad or away from home are dependent on transfers from the band council education authorities. They are on an allowance. Imagine how hard it is to rent an apartment when your only source of income is an allowance from a band council. You can imagine how many doors were slammed in my face. I ended up living in residence. That is just one of the obstacles facing students wanting to pursue higher education, not to mention breaking from their traditional lifestyle and the distance between them and their home community.

I want to clarify that just because my head was leaning over towards my BlackBerry, that does not necessarily mean I was asleep in my seat.

Opposition Motion—Education for First Nation children
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Kenora
Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, I appreciated the speech given by the member opposite. I would like to ask him a question and make some comments. On June 9, the minister and the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, announced a Canada-first nations joint action plan designed to improve the quality of life of first nations people. Education was identified as one of the major priorities. On January 24, 2012, a historic crown-first nations gathering took place. Once again, education was identified as a priority by the first nations and the Government of Canada.

My question for the hon. member is a simple yes or no question. Is this the first and most important step in making sure that we have established a relationship and that both parties intend to work together to build an education system in every province that will benefit every first nation in Canada? Is it important to start with that?

Opposition Motion—Education for First Nation children
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question.

Yes, it is of the utmost importance. In passing, I would also like to compliment my colleague on his French. This is the first time I have ever heard him speak in French.

We must now ensure that the government's willingness is transformed into action. We have been hearing lip service for the past 50 years. Clearly, big things are happening now, meaning there is a great interest in aboriginal issues, and I am a prime example of that, this morning. However, this willingness must truly be transformed into concrete efforts and inclusive measures to help first nations.