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

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

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad I heard the member talk about the funding increases that are needed, but he also indicated that the government will continue to review the recommendations. We need action and not reviews all the time. We have studies, national panels and reports, but no action. It is about time.

I would like my colleague to comment on the fact that when we look at the joint panel's recommendations on first nations education, the AFN estimates that the average annual increase required since 1996 was 6.3% and that the cumulative blending shortfall since that time has been almost $1.2 billion. Here I would point out that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states:

Indigenous individuals, particularly children, have the right to all levels and forms of education of the State without discrimination.

Principle 10 states:

The child shall be protected from practices which may foster racial, religious and any other form of discrimination.

My question to my colleague is this. Does he not think that the current funding shortfall is discriminatory to first nations children?

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

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, clearly the hon. member did not listen to the speech I just gave, in which I outlined efforts that have been undertaken by this government in successive budgets to address the challenges of first nations schools. Budget 2008 and budget 2010, and the budgets in-between, allocated significant amounts of funds to address the concerns that she just outlined. We have tripartite agreements that are seeing major changes in the way in which education is assured for first nations, in the same way it is guaranteed for all other students.

I am thankful that the member asked the question. Unfortunately, I am not certain that she heard the speech and I will therefore make every effort to have the speech delivered to her office.

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

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to this very important motion. I will be splitting my time.

I want to acknowledge the good work that has been done by the member for Manicouagan and the member for Edmonton—Strathcona. I particularly want to thank Shannen Koostachin's family for allowing their daughter's name to stand in this place and honour the work that Shannen did in her very short life.

There are a couple of other people I want to recognize specifically as well, because I will also speak about Jordan's principle. I want to acknowledge the family of Jordan River Anderson and the Norway House Cree Nation.

Back in 2007 I had the honour to stand in the House and move Motion No. M-296:

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

I must point out to the House, because many of the members here were not in the House in 2007, that the motion passed unanimously in this House of Commons. All parties supported that motion. What was said in that motion essentially was that we would put children first.

While I acknowledge the member for Manicouagan for moving the motion, here we today debating a motion that still talks about the fact that first nations children have substandard education in this country. I want to refer to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 14(2) reads:

Indigenous individuals, particularly children, have the right to all levels and forms of education of the State without discrimination.

Nonetheless, many here today have spoken very ably about the fact that first nations children in this country are often in facilities that are so substandard that we cannot even begin to list all of the deficiencies, whether doors that do not close; or children having to wear jackets, mitts and coats in the middle of the winter because there is insufficient heat; or children who do not have text books. The list is appalling.

What happens in some of these communities is a repetition of the residential schools all over again, because those children, in order to get an adequate education, must leave their communities and go somewhere else. The elders are saying that its feels like the residential schools, because once again their children are being removed from their communities, even if voluntarily, to get their education.

Surely in 2012, with all of the technology and resources we have available in this country, we should be able to provide those children with an equitable education that is culturally relevant, that respects their languages and traditions. Here we are in 2012, once again having to talk about this.

The member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing rightly pointed out the studies we have done. We could probably paper this chamber with the studies that have been done, and still we have children with substandard education in this country, first nations children, Inuit children. When will it change?

The government talks about productivity. It talks about skills shortages. From meeting with first nations leaders from coast to coast to coast, what they are saying to us is, “We have the children. Educate them. They could be part of that work force. We want to take our place in the economy of this country. Give us the tools to do that”.

It gets worse. Because we cannot get justice in this country, organizations are forced to go to UN bodies to talk about the state of education in this country. I want to refer to a briefing called “Our Dreams Matter too: First Nations children's rights, lives and education”, a self-described alternate report from the Shannen's dream campaign to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on the occasion of Canada's third and fourth periodic reviews. Of course, I do not have time to read the whole brief, but I want to touch on two recommendations. In the preamble it says:

Inspired by our friend Shannen Koostachin, we respectfully ask the Committee to hear our voices and stand with us as we demand that the Government of Canada (INAC) respects our rights and honours its obligations to First Nations children, youth and communities. We are growing up right now and we cannot wait for the Government to decide to do the right thing.

One of the recommendations refers to Jordan's principle:

Make sure Canada implements “Jordan’s Principle” across all Government services provided to First Nations children and youth. This would prevent us from receiving inequitable levels of service, experiencing excessive wait times and being denied urgent medical and other needed care simply because the provincial and federal governments can’t figure out who should pay for the service.

This is in the voices of the children in this country.

It is not just members of first nations who are talking about Jordan's principle. The Auditor General, in her May 2008 report, talked about how first nations child and family services reflected the inequities in this country in terms of adequate child welfare services on reserve. She pointed out that Jordan's principle put first nations children first. She said:

However, in our view, a dispute-resolution mechanism will not work in the presence of irreconcilable differences and without a change in funding authorities. Such difficulties need to be resolved if this proposal is to result in better and timelier services to First Nations children.

I want to refer to fighting the good fight, Jordan's principle. This outlines the background and talks about what has happened so far.

Many first nations children are caught in payment disputes within or between the federal and provincial governments. This can have a significant impact on their access to essential medical and health services.

As a little aside, not only is it between federal and provincial governments, but we also understand it is between federal government departments. Health Canada will say that it is not its responsibility. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada will say that it is not its responsibility. Those two departments of government point the finger at each other while children once again wait for care.

It is not just complex medical needs. That is why I am invoking Jordan's principle in the context of education. First nations children should not be treated differently in terms of access to quality education.

Back to fighting the good fight. Several organizations and individuals have fought the good fight to change this.

In December 2007, Jordan's principle was adopted in the House of Commons. This child-first principle says that when a dispute arises between the two government parties regarding payment for services for a status Indian child, the government of first contact must pay for services without delay or disruption.

This principle was named in honour of Jordan River Anderson, a child from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, who was born with complex medical needs. He spent over two years unnecessarily in hospital because the federal and provincial governments could not agree on who should pay for his care in a specialized foster home in his community.

Jordan passed away having spent his whole life in hospital. That is a crime in this country. It is even worse. Jordan River Anderson's family had to surrender him to provincial care because the federal government would not pay for his care in his community.

First of all, Jordan spent two years in hospital being stabilized, getting to the level where he could go into a specialized foster home. At that age, when he could have gone into a family home and received the love and support of a family environment, the federal and provincial governments said, “It is not my job to pay for this. It is somebody else's responsibility.” Jordan spent the next two years in hospital. Then he passed away. All it would have taken was one level of government to step up to the plate and say “We will pay for this child's care, and we will fight about the money later.” That did not happen.

Canadians across this country should be outraged that we allow children, first nations, Métis and Inuit children, to be subject to that kind of care in this country in this day and age.

Sadly, since 2007, there has not been the kind of action that one would presume would happen when a unanimous motion is passed in this House of Commons. One would expect members from all parties to say, “We agree, first nations children should be put first in this country. We will pony up the money and fight about who pays later.”

That has not happened. Five years later, that has not happened. I urge all members in this House to stand up and support Shannen's dream as a statement that we believe in equality for first nations children, Métis children and Inuit children across this country.

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

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her very passionate speech. Certainly she has displayed to the House that she has a lot of experience meeting with the individual groups. She certainly has more experience than I do. She points out, seemingly quite rightly, how many people, like Shannen, get lost in a myriad of jurisdictional conundrum. In this case it was a jurisdictional disaster because someone perished. The situation just keeps proliferating.

What should we bring to the table? The money needs to go to the right people. How do we get in there and tell the jurisdictions to get their act together? From all the meetings that she has been to, and the people she has spoken to, what is the common thread about how to fix a problem like this?

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

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, Jordan's principle outlines exactly what needs to happen. It is very simple. Whoever comes in contact with that child and that child's family first, be it provincial, federal, Health Canada, or Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, pays. While the child gets the service that he or she needs, whether it is education, adequate housing or health care, the arguments about that payment can be taken off the table. They can fight about who is going to pay later, behind the scenes, in their boardrooms. Children have to come first. They can fight about the money later. It is simple.

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

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her heartfelt presentation. I admire the work that she did formerly in the aboriginal affairs portfolio. I know she is an incredible representative of her communities.

As the member is well aware, the trials and tribulations of children just trying to get access to decent education has actually led to suicides. Calls for greater action by the federal government to invest in education are now coming from coroners. In the community of Pikangikum, the coroner's report actually recommended specifically that there be greater attention to basic services, including quality education facilities for children. We are seeing that in reports out of Nunavut. We are seeing delays in the delivery of obligations under its land claims and treaties.

Could the member address this issue of the implications of not investing in aboriginal children?

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

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Edmonton--Strathcona for her very good work as the aboriginal affairs critic for the NDP. As she and I have said, it is a very complex file. Part of our challenge as a country is to recognize nation-to-nation status, with first nations and the Government of Canada.

The member asked the question about the profound implications of not providing education. I have told the story many times. My very first official duty as a member of Parliament in 2004, on July 1, was to attend a funeral for a first nations youth who took his own life.

I am blessed to live on the Cowichan people's traditional territories. Many of the elders and other community members work hard to provide education to their young people, so they can take their rightful place in society. However, what we see time after time is a first nations school on reserve, a very good school where they are teaching the Hul’q’umi’num language. The elders are participating in the classroom and they are instilling the cultural values and values of family in their young children. However, they simply do not have the level of funding of the other schools, right next door.

How can that happen? This is not in a rural area, this is on southern Vancouver Island. There are children half a kilometre away, who do not have the same access to funding. How does that happen in this country? I think that is a question we have to ask ourselves.

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

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the value of a good education is immeasurable. A poor or inadequate education, on the other hand, can have serious repercussions on the rest of one's life and for future generations.

Unfortunately, first nations communities are all too familiar with the difference between a good education and a bad one. As a society, we must recognize that education is more than simply acquiring knowledge and academic skills. Education plays a major role in socialization. The teacher is a role model for students, inspiring and supporting them. Receiving positive socialization tools early on in life allows people to enjoy not only economic prosperity, but also physical, psychological and social health.

However, even after the Prime Minister's official apology regarding residential schools, first nations education remains insubstantial and inadequate. This is due to the lack of funding and coordination between the various federal, provincial, territorial and other partners. The direct result of this is that education is too often harmful for young aboriginals, their parents and future generations.

Despite the government's commitments, which may seem plentiful, the political will to take concrete action is simply missing.

Recommendations like those in Shannen's dream deserve immediate action by this government. Aboriginal people are fed up with studies conducted by a government that does not walk the walk. The Standing Committee on the Status of Women has witnessed just how fed up aboriginal women are with this government's inaction.

I have seen the same discontent in my riding, among the Mohawks of Kanesatake. There are too many delays, too many broken promises. The government knows what the problems are in relation to first nations education. The government knows exactly why 59% of aboriginal people aged 15 and over who live on reserves have not finished high school.

As stated by the report of the national panel on first nation elementary and secondary education for students on reserve:

First Nation students are not failing. Rather, we are failing students through the impact of legislative provisions that are more than one hundred years old and linked to a period that we now accept as deeply harmful and destructive—the residential school era.

I see my time is about to expire. I will therefore continue after question period.

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

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The time provided for government orders has expired. The hon. member will have seven minutes when the House resumes debate on this issue.

CBC's Live Right Now
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, inspiring our communities to make healthy lifestyle choices is something we should all strive for. This is why we launched a healthy community challenge in Brampton—Springdale last month. My personal goal was to lose 15 pounds. As members may be able to see, it was a huge success. The support and involvement of the community was incredibly motivating.

As part of CBC's Live Right Now campaign, we joined the Champions for Change group in Brampton, led by four very inspirational individuals. Margaret Wallis-Duffy, Jennifer Thomas, Pamela Moore and Dr. Ed Cambridge were the forces behind our city's continued success in this national challenge.

I congratulate all Bramptonians for being awarded 500 spirit points by CBC's Live Right Now program for their passion and determination to be crowned the Live Right Now capital of Canada which will be announced on April 13.

I want to congratulate all Bramptonians on their participation.

InnuRassemble Project
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to acknowledge the exceptional work that the Polyvalente des Baies high school in Baie-Comeau is doing in our community. This high school won the Essor provincial grand prize for its InnuRassemble project at the Essor recognition gala held on Saturday night in Rimouski. The InnuRassemble project, which brings young people from both cultures together through the arts, was carried out in partnership with the Estuaire school board, the Uashkaikan secondary school in Pessamit and the Baie-Comeau centre for the arts.

This project is unique to Quebec and got off the ground in 2010 with the Théâtre Le Clou, which won the Baie-Comeau centre for the arts the Rideau award. The project was centred on creating a song. It allowed 600 young people from Baie-Comeau and Pessamit, which are 50 km apart, to attend workshops together and see shows by Chloé Sainte-Marie and the singer Samian, who performed a song called Parle-moi that was written by young people from the two communities.

This type of initiative illustrates the true willingness of the Innu and Quebec communities to come together, as we have seen in the riding of Manicouagan.

Government Contracts
Statements By Members

February 16th, 2012 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend the government for the transparent and competitive process by which the recent defence contracts have been awarded. It gives taxpayers value for their money by selecting the best company for the job. This month, the contract to refit the HMCS Athabaskan was given to Seaway Marine & Industrial in St. Catharines.

This contract, through a fair and competitive process, has proven that shipyards in Ontario are among the best in Canada. This contract ensures 226 skilled workers are recalled at the Port Weller dry docks and it will create 117 new jobs. This contract shows Ontario has the skills and expertise to build on our proud history of providing equipment to support the men and women of the Royal Canadian Navy.

Finally, this contract is proof that the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway will always be part of our country's shipping industry.

St. Catharines and Niagara are ready to compete, to participate and to ensure that the Canadian economy grows, one new worker at a time.

Status of Women
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, 45 years ago today, the Liberal prime minister, Lester Pearson, officially established the Royal Commission on the Status of Women based on the notion of equal opportunity. Florence Bird served as the chair of the commission and Monique Bégin as the executive secretary.

Over the next 10 months, the royal commission heard from Canadians from across the country and stimulated public consciousness of the real barriers to equality. It also gave a platform for women's voices to be heard and its groundbreaking recommendations on child care, pay equity and prohibiting gender and marital status as grounds for discrimination continue to be relevant today.

As we reflect on this historic anniversary, we should remember that much work remains to be done to achieve full equality of opportunity.

Under the Conservative government, the right to equal pay for work of equal value has been eroded, access to affordable child care remains elusive, the gender gap has grown and the long gun registry, which reduced cases of violence against women, has been abolished.

Even here in Parliament the advancement of women's rights has been challenged by the shameful efforts of Conservative members to force the status of women committee to work in secret. Since June, 38% of the committee's meetings have been behind closed doors. The late Doris Anderson would have been appalled.

Curling
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House with the pleasure of congratulating Team Jacobs from the Soo Curlers Association in Sault Ste. Marie.

Soo Curlers hosted the Dominion 2012 Northern Ontario Men's Curling Championship from February 4-11.

On February 10 in my riding, Team Jacobs scored a very rare eight-ender in the sixth end of the semi-final against Team Phillips. Jacobs had been leading 6-3 at the time and had the hammer, with the eight rocks in the ring forcing an early handshake.

The final game against Team Jakubo ended in a 9-2 score and gave Team Jacobs the Northern Ontario Championship title for the third year in a row.

Brad Jacobs and his teammates, E.J. Harnden, Ryan Harnden and Scott Seabrook, now prepare for the Brier that is set to take place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan from March 3-11. I boldly predict that Team Jacobs will win this year's Brier.

Hurry hard, Team Jacobs.

Firearms Registry
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will not deny that the debate on the firearms registry was very emotional for me. For that reason, I would like to remind members of the names of the victims of the Polytechnique massacre: Geneviève Bergeron, Nathalie Croteau, Anne-Marie Edward, Maryse Laganière, Anne-Marie Lemay, Michèle Richard, Annie Turcotte, Hélène Colgan, Barbara Daigneault, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Leclair, Sonia Pelletier, Annie St-Arneault and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.

It is unfortunate that I was unable to convince the other members of the House not to abolish the firearms registry, but I challenge each and every one of them to find a hunter or a farmer who has suffered greater harm because of firearms than these young women.