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Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Kenora (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 21.90% of the vote.

Statements in the House

June 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, first, he has mentioned to me, in the discussions we have shared, that he plans on travelling to my riding. I would like to extend an invitation for him to ensure he has time to get to Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug. This is an opportunity that not many people have, to get onto the land and take a look at it. When he is there, the people will tell him of the challenges they have had to deal with in fighting this long, protracted legal battle. They will tell him of the challenges when the leadership was gone and how they survived.

However, I will go back to my original question. They want some involvement with the United Nations and a delegation to share some information. Could my hon. colleague look into this issue, get back to the leadership of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and help them with this opportunity?

As he mentioned, they are well aware of the challenges of the legal fees, the huge costs that this community undertook to protect its traditional land. I would ask my colleague to look into those two issues, specifically to find out about the delegation from the United Nations.

June 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to raise the question of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug in the House. Early in April, I had the opportunity to raise this question. It is quite unique that on the eve of the apology, I get another opportunity to bring this up.

What brought us to the point of taking the entire leadership of the community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, English name of Big Trout, and the short form name of KI, to jail: Chief Donnie Morris, Deputy Chief Jack McKay, head Councillor Cecilia Begg, Councillors Sam McKay and Darryl Sainnawap, and band member Bruce Sakakeep?

These people were all standing up for their communities. They are elected members of the communities and they have the confidence of the communities. They are leaders of long-standing. These individuals have done very well in the community and they are very respected. Another aspect of this is they are also leaders in northern Ontario. They are leaders in the area where there are large fly-in communities.

Chief Morris has been elected many times. He has given strong leadership. He has been the political chief for many organizations, including SLAAMB, Sioux Lookout Area Aboriginal Management Board.

Many residents in northern Ontario want answers and they want leadership. They do not want these things to be put off to the province.

Grand Chief Stan Beardy and all the Nishnawbe Aski Nation wanted to know what the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development would do to resolve this dispute. More than two months after the fact, we know what he did. He did nothing. Blaming other jurisdictions does not build confidence.

It has been more than two months, with no elected leadership in the community, no leadership from the minister and no leadership from the government, and no answers in the House. Regardless that this is a provincial issue, it is the federal government that signed the treaties. We look to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for support and resources.

How did Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug peoples do during this time? I am happy to say that, with the strength of the elders and community members, they did quite well. They are a very proud community, living in a very challenging environment. It is a fly-in community with no access by road and only ice roads which are temperamental at best. However, they looked after each other as they always do in the north.

Donnie Morris and the rest of the leadership are back home now. The judge was satisfied with time served, but first nations communities are not. They have questions. Will the federal government support their fight for treaty rights and traditional land uses? Will it show leadership by meeting with KI and the community? Will it support the community, which has fought a long legal battle and is really out of money? Will it support the community by informing everyone about the situation in KI?

The community has requested a delegation from the United Nations to visit their community and their traditional lands. We are told from the chief, as late as yesterday, that this permission has to come from the federal government. Some 80 delegates or politicians want the opportunity to visit KI. They want to help the world and the United Nations understand the challenges faced by Canada's aboriginal peoples. KI has been told by the bureaucracy that the government has to give permission.

When will the government give its permission? When will the government allow the world to come and visit northwestern Ontario and try to understand the challenges faced by the aboriginal people of Canada? There is a lot of opportunity to actually participate. There is a lot of opportunity for the minister to come to the community.

People in northern Ontario, people in Nishnawbe Aski Nation all want answers and they want to know they have the support of the government. Again, will the government allow permission for the United Nations to visit Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug in northern Ontario?

Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security Act June 10th, 2008

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-560, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits).

Mr. Speaker, this issue has been raised by constituents and some of the challenges that pensioners face as they move from a working life, being paid every second week, to a pension life that really allocates their pension once a month and after the fact.

I am pleased to bring this before the House. Hopefully, it will get some support and we will be able to help pensioners as they deal with the rising costs, and it will allow them to enjoy their new life.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Aboriginal Affairs June 6th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, aboriginal and survivor organizations are frustrated with the government's secrecy around the draft apology statement.

Given the significance of the apology, it is inconceivable the government would expect survivors and aboriginal people just to accept what it dishes out.

Will the minister tell the House why he has not involved Phil Fontaine and the AFN, will he commit to an open discussion about the text of the apology and will he allow survivors to be right here on the floor of the House of Commons with us so they can face the Prime Minister when he tries to deliver this apology?

Aboriginal Affairs May 29th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, most schoolchildren take for granted having decent elementary and high schools. For many first nations, this is not the case.

The minister pretends education is a priority, but he has not delivered. The government cancelled the $1.8 billion for education in the Kelowna accord, slashed capital funding, and has definitely delayed the repair and construction of schools, including schools in my riding.

The National Day of Action is sending a message that what is needed is bricks and mortars for schools. When is the government going to deliver?

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act May 14th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has talked a lot about how we know what legislation is before us now, but he has used the word “consultation” many times. He did touch on the Kelowna accord. One of the largest efforts in consultation put forward by any government was to bring the Kelowna accord to fruition. We have heard the false claims there never was such an agreement and that there is no signed document.

The fact is that people from across Canada worked on the Kelowna proposal. We had collaboration from all walks of life in Canada. It was going to be a hallmark piece of legislation, an agreement that was going to move the first nations forward. As my colleague said, it was the first step in really bringing them forward.

I am going to give the member the opportunity to make any other comments on what Kelowna would have done for the first nations of Canada and what it would have done for Canadian society to realize that we are going to walk together as we move forward.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act May 14th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, my colleague serves the largest riding in Canada and serves with distinction. Anywhere in her riding is a long way from Ottawa.

Some of the points that she just made have a direct impact on my riding. In her riding, she must fly everywhere. I represent 21 first nations in northern Ontario and I must fly to them all the time. Roughly one-quarter of all the fly-ins in Canada I serve in the Kenora riding.

One of the things she talked about just recently was the capacity. Even the most sophisticated urban reserves that have communities on them have resources or have access to resources. When we get to the remote sites that she serves and that I serve in northern Ontario, those challenges can be escalated. They do not have any resources and they have no information. They know nothing or very little of what is going to happen. We can feel the apprehension in these communities when we travel to them.

I would suggest that the hardest areas to serve are the remote sites, the fly-in sites, because the resources are not there. Unless they are specifically identified, these people will not have the opportunity to participate or to have the information and they will not be able to move this issue forward in any way. I think they will be afraid of this legislation.

I would like to hear her thoughts on those comments on the remote sites.

Aboriginal Affairs May 13th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General's scathing report on the welfare of first nations children is alarming and requires immediate action from the government. The $5 billion the Liberal government committed under the Kelowna accord would have addressed this issue. However, the government cancelled it.

Last week the minister dismissed the Auditor General's report, claiming funding was not the issue. Will the minister guarantee the new prevention model he talks about will not come at the expense of other programs such as housing, health care and education?

Specific Claims Tribunal Act May 12th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's answer has shed some light on some of the misinformation the government tends to get out there.

Last week I had the opportunity to be up in my riding, which is very similar to the Labrador riding that my colleague represents. I had meetings with the chiefs of a number of communities, about nine altogether, including Chief Pierre Morriseau from North Caribou Lake and Chief Titus Tait from Sachigo Lake. Their concerns are all about how difficult it is to be heard in the environment of this government that does not care.

The member represents a riding that has many remote sites. Many areas are very difficult to get to. There are many areas where the communities have a challenge to be represented and to be heard when they deal with a government that is this difficult.

I would like to ask the member about his travels to the remote sites in his riding. He has mentioned distrust, which is rife in those communities. They have not had a voice. They have not had someone in the government who will listen to them. As he visits these remote sites, what does he hear about the distrust, the level of involvement the government is allowing, and how they are going to be heard in these remote sites?

Aboriginal Affairs April 30th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, in the coming weeks, first nations communities in my riding will be celebrating their Treaty Days. These days are to commemorate the signing of the treaties between the first nations people and the Government of Canada.

These treaties outline the federal government's commitments to first nations people, both practically and in spirit, but this year there is little to celebrate. The federal government has forgotten or has chosen to abandon these treaty agreements, as demonstrated by the lack of attention given to the deplorable living conditions of first nations people in Canada.

Let us take Cat Lake as an example, where the school burned down in 2006. With the community in desperate need of a new school, the government assured Cat Lake that construction would begin this year. However, like so many other communities, Cat Lake recently was told that this project would be put off for years.

Cat Lake needs a new school. First nations people deserve to have their needs made a priority by the Conservatives, who should stop the delays, stop the cancellations and start living up to their commitments to first nations peoples.