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NDP MP for Nanaimo—Cowichan (B.C.)
Won her last election, in 2011, with 48.90% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Orange Shirt Day September 30th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, today is Orange Shirt Day, in recognition of the harm the residential school system did to children's sense of self-esteem and well-being.
It is also intended as an affirmation of our commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters, particularly children.
Phyllis Webstad went to St. Joseph Mission residential school for one year in 1973 when she was only six years old. Her loving grandmother bought her a new outfit, including a shiny orange shirt that Phyllis picked out for her first day of school.
When Phyllis arrived at the residential school, she was stripped of her clothing and never saw that shirt again. In Phyllis' own words:
I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The colour orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.
Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity to talk about the effect of residential schools, about bullying and racism. However, it is not intended just as a look back. Survivors want us all to look forward and use this day as an opportunity to create bridges to reconciliation.
It is a small action to put on a shirt. The bigger one is to consider how we as a country full of diverse peoples can come together to create a better tomorrow for all children.
Petitions September 30th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present. They are all with regard to the right to save seeds. Petitioners are calling upon Parliament to refrain from making any changes to the Seeds Act or to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act through Bill C-18, an act to amend certain acts relating to agriculture and agri-food, that would restrict farmers' rights or add to farmers' costs.
Further, they call upon Parliament to enshrine in legislation the inalienable right of farmers and other Canadians to save, reuse, select, exchange and sell seeds.
Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act September 25th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, in an earlier question, the member opposite mentioned that he wondered why the NDP member was raising the issue around the Canada-China FIPA in the context of this piece of legislation. My understanding is that the member was drawing a parallel between the fact that in the Canada-China FIPA there is no ability to renegotiate the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism for 31 years, whereas in this agreement it can actually be renegotiated in six months.
The member certainly raised some concerns about the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism as outlined in this particular agreement. I wonder if he could highlight for the House specifically some of the concerns with regard to this investor-state dispute settlement mechanism.
Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act September 25th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the tone coming from the opposite side of the House is deeply disturbing. MPs are raising legitimate issues with regard to the time allocation on Bill C-36. The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands posed a question to the minister, but the minister failed to respond directly to the request from the MP for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
The minister continues to cite that the Department of Justice has reviewed the current legislation and continues to assure the House that it is constitutional. Once again I ask the minister if he will table the opinion of the Department of Justice on the constitutionality of this bill, given the number of people who have raised very serious concerns that this bill may well face another court challenge?
Committees of the House September 23rd, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the government has been referencing the fact that there have been a number of reports written. Yet we continue to see tragedies like Tina Fontaine and many other young women, mothers, aunties, and grandmothers who have gone missing or have been murdered.
One of the tasks an inquiry could take on would be to actually look at these reports that have been written. It could look at the recommendations that have been made and look at the gaps and why these recommendations have not been implemented. Why do we continue to see this epidemic of violence against indigenous women and girls across this country? We have all these reports, and yet they have not been implemented.
I think this is an opportunity for us to come together across the House. This is an opportunity for us to say that we hear what they are telling us and that we are actually willing to work with these communities to develop the terms of reference for a national inquiry and the terms of reference for a national action plan and to implement those two measures.
We have women with signs saying, “Am I next?” If we are truly listening to the grassroots movement across this country, we need to actually move forward and do the things the communities are asking us to do.
Committees of the House September 23rd, 2014
Mr. Speaker, for the limited time that there is, I will be splitting my time with the member for London—Fanshawe.
I will begin this debate by acknowledging the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for leading off the debate on Friday.
I think from listening to the debate in the House, members will understand that this is a very emotional and heart-wrenching issue. We are talking about the lives of indigenous women and girls in this country and their families.
There was a special committee that was looking into murdered and missing indigenous women that issued a report. Sadly, what we found in the committee's work was the fact that although we heard a lot of testimony that called for some specific actions, when the majority report came out it disregarded some of those very specific calls for action. As a result, the New Democrats wrote a dissenting report, and I will quote from a couple of items in the report.
At the beginning of the report we referenced the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That is a good place to centre what we are talking about. We started by saying, under articles 18 and 22(2):
Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions....
States shall take measures, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.
In the New Democratic dissenting report, we said:
A call to action should imply some urgency; instead this report's recommendations suggest that the status quo remain and no extraordinary measures are necessary to deal with the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The report does not convey that there is a public safety emergency unfolding in every corner of the country and that a co-ordinated response is needed to address the high rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Further on in the report, we reference the fact that:
Nearly every witness agreed that a national public inquiry into the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls should be a priority of the Canadian government. Such an inquiry need not be limited simply to the circumstances of each disappearance or murder; it should also look into systemic problems with Canada's justice system and provincial child welfare systems as well as the effects of the Indian Act in perpetuating and institutionalizing racism and sexism against Indigenous women and girls.
As I have listened to the government talk about the call for a national inquiry and the fact that there are many reports that have already been done, it seems to imply that it is an either/or, either we have a national inquiry or we have a national action plan. That is simply a false statement and false premise. In fact, the member for Churchill has Motion No. 444 before the House, which specifically calls for a national action plan. That national action plan would be developed and implemented in conjunction with indigenous women and girls and their communities so that it would be driven by the communities and family members who would be most impacted. I think it is important to set the record straight that we can have an action plan as well as an inquiry.
I want to reference a recent court decision where I again hear the members opposite imply that it is just the New Democrats who are calling for some inquiry into the ongoing systemic causes for why indigenous women and girls continue to go murdered and missing in this country. Despite the actions that have been taken, we are still seeing the violence perpetrated from coast to coast to coast.
In the Oral Reasons for Sentence by Justice W.G. Parrett in British Columbia, in a trial where there were a number of women who had been murdered, he pointed out the following. He stated:
I cannot end this trial without adding something more. I am aware of comments being made to the effect that there is no need to embark on any formal inquiry into missing and murdered women, that policing is the solution to this problem.
He goes on further to state:
Perhaps an even more delicate area I want to say to those First Nations people who have so religiously attended this trial, I know in some small measure the pain and loss you feel, but this is not just a First Nations issue.
I know that First Nations people are far too much as a percentage of the missing and murdered women. They are disproportionately represented in this roll call of misery.
But as the facts of this trial so vividly demonstrate this is not just a First Nations issue. It is a sociological issue, one that arises from, among other things, a high risk lifestyle. It is something which must be dealt with.
He concludes by saying:
It is a mistake, in my view, to limit the seriousness of this issue and to pretend, as some do, that policing is an answer when the circumstances of this case raise questions about the effectiveness of that process.... We simply must do better, especially where the commitment to policing is reflected in an 84 per cent cut to the budget of the Highway of Tears task force.
New Democrats all agree on this side of the House that we absolutely must invest in policing. We must invest when a crime has been committed. We must protect the rights of victims when a crime has been committed, but we also say that we must absolutely invest in prevention. We must stop women from being murdered and going missing.
In adding their voices and asking some very good questions, APTN has been running stories. There is a recent story that says there has been a war against indigenous women since colonization. This was written by the former Native Women's Association of Canada president Beverley Jacobs. In her article, she proposed some very good points. She states:
Families of Sisters in Spirit and many of the advocates and activists who are assisting families of [missing and murdered indigenous women] across the country want answers now too. Many Indigenous women in various communities across the country are taking action with little resources that they do have. Finally, in the last couple of months the national media has been bringing attention to the issue. And we do know that action is needed…NOW…IMMEDIATELY.
She goes on to pose some questions that I think it would serve each one of us in the House well to examine. Beverley Jacobs asks:
So what is stopping all of us, as human beings, to act? What is stopping each one of us to take responsibility and address it now? Does each one of us know how to do that? Are we taking action?
She calls for the action, but in this article for APTN she also calls on us to conduct a national inquiry. We have a well-respected indigenous woman adding her voice to the call for both an inquiry and for a national action plan.
We have also heard in the House that money is being invested in shelters. One of the concerns that New Democrats have raised is that this so-called action plan to end violence against indigenous women and girls is going to result in some concrete measures, yet one of the questions we have raised is that there is a lack of transparency with exactly what these measures are, how they will be implemented, how community members will access them, and what the end results will be.
Again, I want to talk about APTN. It ran an article titled “Status of Women's 'Action Plan' inflated Aboriginal Affairs' violence prevention project spending by $24.5 million”. It says:
When it released its “Action Plan” to fight violence against Indigenous women, the...government inflated by $24.5 million the amount of money Aboriginal Affairs planned to spend on reserve-based family violence prevention projects. Status of Women’s “Action Plan,” released Sept. 15 claimed Aboriginal Affairs planned to spend $66.2 million over five years beginning in 2015 on “violence prevention activities” under its Family Violence Prevention Program.... Aboriginal Affairs, however, said over the weekend it was spending $41.7 million over five years on violence prevention projects.... The difference between the Action Plan figures and Aboriginal Affairs’ numbers is $24.5 million.
We have a government that says it has an action plan, but it cannot even get straight how much money it is spending. Right now there are 40, plus or minus, transition houses or shelters on 634 reserves in Canada, and the government cannot tell us exactly how many shelters will be built on reserve, how they will be funded, or whether they will get funding comparable to shelters off reserve, which currently they do not get. Communities deserve answers to these very relevant questions.
I heard the member for Kildonan—St. Paul talk about the fact that this should be a non-partisan issue and that we should work together. New Democrats would welcome the opportunity to work together. We have concrete suggestions and solutions. We have proposals. We have committed, in the first 100 days from when we form government in 2015, to institute a national inquiry.
However, the member for Churchill also has a concrete motion before this House on a national action plan. If that member and the Conservatives believe that they can work across the aisle, why do they not support the member for Churchill's motion on a national action plan?
Petitions September 23rd, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions, which all deal with the same matter. They are calling on Parliament to refrain from making any changes to the Seeds Act or to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act through Bill C-18. It is the petitioners' belief that the bill would restrict farmers' rights or add to farmers' costs.
The petitioners are also calling upon Parliament to enshrine in legislation the inalienable right of farmers and other Canadians to save, reuse, select, exchange, and sell seeds.
Aboriginal Affairs June 19th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, talking about facts, the fact is that, a year after the flood, more than 100 people are still living in hotels. The temporary neighbourhoods that were supposed to be in place 60 days after the flood are still not ready. That simply is not good enough.
The government would never tolerate these kinds of delays in neighbouring communities, so why are families in Siksika still waiting for homes? It is the minister's responsibility. Why does he not get the job done?
Aboriginal Affairs June 19th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today on behalf of all New Democrats across the country to recognize National Aboriginal Day on June 21.
Over the past year, the Métis Nation won recognition as Indians under the Constitution; the Inuit fought for a Nunavut food security strategy and action plan, and first nations won specific land claims.
However, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples wrote a scathing report on how successive federal governments have not lived up to our obligations.
It has been a year where legislation was rammed through Parliament and ignored the rights of first nations. Resource projects are stalled across the country because of a lack of a coherent plan for consultation. There is a better way.
Consultation is not a roadblock to economic development. The government must sit down and negotiate a protocol that puts consultation at the beginning of resource development projects, not at the end.
Industry is creating successful partnerships with aboriginal peoples who want resource development on their territories, and they want their own citizens to reap the benefits through jobs and business opportunities.
Government needs to drop its colonial attitude and join the 21st century.
Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I respect the member opposite. I know he served for a number of years with the armed forces. I will self-declare that I grew up in the military. My father was a career soldier, so I am very familiar with the challenges that our armed forces personnel face. They risk life and limb for us all and I recognize the challenges in that.
However, I also recognize the fact that Canada has a role to play here. In the past we proudly were often the one that people looked to as a nation that would broker agreements and move initiatives forward. I still believe Canada has a role to play in working with its allies to have them cease and desist using these kinds of munitions.
All members of the House agree that the use of cluster munitions is a humanitarian problem and that it affects civilians disproportionately. I believe there is not one member of the House who supports the use of cluster munitions and wants to see that kind of damage occur in countries. We need to take that goodwill and that sentiment and do everything in our power to ensure our allies are not using those munitions as well.