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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word is process.

NDP MP for Nanaimo—Cowichan (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 48.90% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Aboriginal Affairs October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the final arguments in the first nations child welfare case continued today at the Human Rights Tribunal. First nations children receive 22% less funding from child welfare services than what other children in Canada receive. What steps are being taken by the government to ensure that we are not discriminating against children living on reserve and that we are funding child welfare services to the same standards as all other services in this country?

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am going to take this back to a local issue just for one moment. I live in Nanaimo—Cowichan, and I actually live in the Cowichan watershed. This summer we had a crisis in the Cowichan watershed. Our river was so low that not only was the health of our returning salmon going to be impacted but our local industry, a large pulp mill, was literally days from shutting down because it also draws water from the Cowichan River.

The reason I raise that in this context that it is an example of ending up with unintended consequences if we do not do a good job of looking at the whole watershed and looking at all the impacts on the watershed, whether they are mining, resource development, farming, or other industrial uses.

In the context of the South Nahanni, it is very important to look at the intact watershed and make decisions based on the health and well-being of that watershed.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of pieces around this, and I also want to go back to a quote that was provided. Stephen Kakfwi, former premier of the Northwest Territories, also indicated great disappointment in the way the boundaries were drawn. He said, in part, that what happened was that local people were put in a corner because it was either the smaller protected area that they desired or no protection at all, and this was in the Manitoba Wildlands news on October 24, 2012.

That is troubling when people are given such a stark choice, a take it or leave it choice. They take the smaller area or they get nothing. I want to reference the Tsilhqot'in decision, a very important decision that just came out of British Columbia. The Supreme Court made the decision, but it was a British Columbia matter with regard to land rights. In that Supreme Court decision, one of the things the justices said was that there is a responsibility to consider use for future generations.

Once again, when we are weighing the preservation of the ecological integrity and weighing economic benefits, one of the things that absolutely must be part of the equation and part of that discussion is the impact for future generations. What will they be left with, once we are all long gone? Those are all very important considerations when the boundaries are determined for this particular area.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am going to refer back once again to the report from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The commissioner specifically talked about ecological integrity and its importance. The commissioner's report said:

Ecological integrity is a characteristic of healthy ecosystems: those that have complete food webs; a full complement of native plants and animals that can maintain their populations; and functioning ecosystem processes such as nutrient, water, and natural fire cycles that ensure the survival of those species.

It goes on to talk about the importance of this ecological integrity.

If we recognize that a functioning ecosystem is very important, what we need to do is to ensure that when we are developing parks and park reserves, we have enough of a land base to protect the whole ecosystem and that we put the resources in place to ensure that the integrity remains intact.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as the member well knows, the process in the House is a negotiation between our two House leaders. Therefore, I would suggest that he speak to his House leader, I will speak to my House leader, and we will allow the two of them to sort that out procedurally, because that is the most appropriate place for that discussion to take place.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, as other members have done, I would like to convey condolences to the families of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo.

Today, I am rising to speak to Bill S-5, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act with regard to the Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve of Canada. In an earlier exchange with the member for Yukon, I indicated that New Democrats will be supporting this bill. It is very important to get the bill to committee to review after second reading.

I am going to quote some background information from the legislative summary to put this bill into context:

The bill amends the Canada National Parks Act to establish Nááts’ihch’oh...National Park Reserve of Canada in the Northwest Territories. The park reserve, which measures 4,895 km², is located in the northern one sixth of the South Nahanni River watershed in the Northwest Territories, adjacent to and to the northwest of the existing Nahanni National Park Reserve.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve is situated entirely in the Tulita District of the Sahtu Settlement Area. It is being established as a park reserve rather than as a park in accordance with the stipulation in the Canada National Parks Act that “[p]ark reserves are established … where an area or a portion of an area proposed for a park is subject to a claim in respect of aboriginal rights that has been accepted for negotiation by the Government of Canada.” It is not until “outstanding Aboriginal claims have been settled and all necessary agreements are reached that provide for the park’s establishment [that] the park reserve is given national park status.”

The South Nahanni River watershed is an important cultural, spiritual and natural area for the First Nations and Métis peoples of the Sahtu Settlement Area, Dehcho Region and eastern Yukon. It is home to several important species, including grizzly bears, woodland caribou, Dall’s sheep and Canada’s northernmost populations of mountain goat and hoary marmot. The Sahtu Dene and Métis peoples of the region have long recommended that the area that will form this park reserve be conserved.

The legislative summary goes on to discuss the path to creating the Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve of Canada:

The Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve will complete the protection offered by the national parks system to the Greater Nahanni ecosystem. Nahanni National Park Reserve, which is situated in the Dehcho Region, was created in 1972, in large part to prevent the construction of a hydroelectric project at Virginia Falls. Initially the Nahanni park reserve covered about one seventh of the Greater Nahanni ecosystem. At the time, research indicated that, in this area with many competing land uses and with most of the water in the park reserve coming from outside its boundaries, a larger park would better protect the ecological integrity of the ecosystem. In 2009, Nahanni National Park Reserve’s size was increased six-fold within the Dehcho Region.

To expand protection of the greater Nahanni ecosystem into the adjacent Sahtu Settlement Area, in 2007, Parks Canada approached the Sahtu Dene and Métis peoples of the Tulita District. The negotiation process and requirements for creating a new park or park reserve within the Sahtu Settlement Area are defined in chapter 16 of the Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement (1993). The purpose of such parks is:

to preserve and protect for future generations representative natural areas of national significance, including the wildlife resources of such areas, and to encourage public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of such areas, while providing for the rights of the participants under this agreement to use such areas for the harvesting of wildlife and plants.

In addition to affirming various traditional rights and uses, the agreement states, “Exploration for and development of minerals shall not be permitted within a national park, except as may be required for construction purposes within the park.”

As part of the process of creating a park reserve under the agreement, an impact benefit plan was required to lay out “the relationship between the Sahtu Dene and Metis and Parks Canada for managing a national park reserve.” A memorandum of understanding for negotiating the impact benefit plan was signed in April 2008.

While a number of competing uses for the land, including outfitting and sport hunting, were proposed for the park reserve, the most contentious issue was mining and mineral exploration.

I will come back to this point in a moment.

I want to comment for a moment on the process, and for this I am referring to Wikipedia, because it had a very succinct description of the process. It says:

Following the announcement, three plans for the park boundaries were proposed. The region is known for its mineral potential, and mining companies were concerned that the park would limit their access to these minerals. The first scenario would have made the park 6,450 square kilometres, protected 94 per cent of the upper watershed of the South Nahanni River, 95 percent of the grizzly bear habitat and 81 percent of the woodland caribou summer habitat, leaving 20 per cent of the overall mineral potential outside of the park's boundaries and potentially available for development. The Government of Canada chose the third option for the final park boundary that leaves 70 per cent of the overall mineral potential outside the park while retaining 70 percent of the grizzly bear habitat and 44 percent of the summer calving grounds of the woodland caribou herd within the park boundary." During negotiations, concerns were raised about the impact that mining the region would have on the South Nahanni watershed. ...

In reviewing these three options, I want to refer to Parks Canada's own consultation process. This was the final consultation report from August 30, 2010.

In that report, one of the things that happened was that participants were asked to indicate what their preference was of the options that had been proposed. Although only three options were presented for choosing a preference, there was actually a fourth option, but only three options were indicated as preferences.

Option number one, which is not the preference that was chosen by the government, had 92.3% of participants indicate that this was the option that they would prefer. Option number two had 4.6%, and option number three had only 3.1%. We can see that participants in the consultation overwhelmingly favoured that first option.

From that final report, I want to refer to some of the findings from the consultations with aboriginal peoples in the Sahtu region.

The report states:

A frequently expressed comment in the Sahtu region consultations was that it does not make sense to have a national park reserve if you also allow mining to exist in the watershed. Participants stated their distrust of the mining industry and the environmental assessments to protect the natural environment concerned, that the impacts of mining would be harmful to the watershed downstream. It was suggested by participants that protecting the water should be a higher priority than obtaining the employment and financial benefits of mining (seen as small benefits). While some participants saw a balance of economic and conservation values as beneficial (e.g. Option 1 was seen to accommodate miners to keep their leases and Sahtu to protect the watershed and animals), many others felt that mining should not be allowed at all in the watershed. It was suggested that the key concern in deciding on the boundary should be the conservation of wildlife and water.

The beauty and importance of the Naats'ihch'oh area was highlighted by many consultation participants in the Sahtu. They stated that the area was very important to peoples of the Sahtu, Dehcho and Kaska (Ross River Dena Council and Liard First Nation, Yukon). One Tulita Elder described the mountain itself (Naats'ihch'oh) as sacred to these peoples; it has been used to teach and to heal. “This area has power...powerful medicine. The area is so powerful that it will heal you...used in the past to heal people before white medicine. For these reasons we don't want to lose this area to development and it should become a park.”

Of course, there were many other pieces of input with regard to the consultation, but that very succinctly sums up what the Sahtu peoples were talking about in terms of preservation of the area.

Further on in the public consultation report, there was an analysis of the proposed options. It states:

...Option 1 was seen as the best way to facilitate maximum protection of the watershed and habitat of the important species, while also accommodating resource potential in the park. A number of the participants who preferred Option 1 qualified this choice by indicating that Option 1 represented the next best approach to protection of the entire South Nahanni River watershed and preferred that mining leases be bought out. They also indicated that if mining activities are allowed in the vicinity of the park reserve in the upper watershed of the South Nahanni River, the most stringent environmental controls and management should be applied.

We can see clearly that the participants in the study preferred option number one. They talked about what needed to be in place in order to preserve this very important area, an area that is important economically, spiritually, and culturally. Part of the concern that the member for Northwest Territories raised when he gave his speech here in the House was that despite the consultations and the preference from people in the region, this was not the option that was selected.

In addition, the member raised some concerns with regard to the funding and resources needed to support the development of this park and to protect its integrity in the longer run, and in this connection I want to refer to the report from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development that was tabled in this House in the fall of 2013. This report was on ecological integrity in national parks.

In the introduction of this report, one of the things that the commissioner did was outline the benefits that national parks provide, and these include the following:

...serve as storehouses of biological diversity, including species at risk...; provide vital functions in the ecosystem, such as carbon sequestration, stormwater surge protection, freshwater filtration, and pollination; provide benchmarks for researchers to compare undisturbed ecosystems within national parks against lands outside of national parks that have been subject to human activities; and protect areas so that the present and future generations will have opportunities to connect with nature, appreciate natural heritage, and support its conservation.

In the report from the commissioner, she raised a number of concerns. I am going to focus on the resources for maintaining ecological integrity because that is one of the concerns that has been raised, whether those resources would be available. The commissioner, in paragraph 7.68, found that overall spending on heritage resources conservation decreased by 15% in the 2012-13 fiscal year, compared with the average of the preceding six years, with further reductions planned as part of decisions flowing from the 2012 federal budget. The planned staffing numbers in heritage resources conservation were reduced by 23% in the 2013-14 fiscal year, compared with the average of the previous seven years. More specifically, staffing in the science work stream was reduced by 33% during this period, as 60 of 179 positions were eliminated.

The report also found that the number of positions that are seasonal increased from 37% to almost 60% in 2013-14 fiscal year. This exacerbates the impact of the reduction in the number of positions because seasonal staff work for only part of the year. Further on in that same report where the concerns were being raised, we find that the spending on heritage Canada resources conservation of Parks Canada has recently decreased by 15%, and it goes on to cite some of the same numbers.

However, it states that Parks Canada has not clarified how and by when, with significantly fewer resources, the agency will address the backlog of unfinished work, the emerging threats to ecological integrity, and the decline in the condition of 34% of park ecosystems that it has identified. As a consequence, “there is a significant risk that the Agency could fall further behind in its efforts to maintain or restore ecological integrity in Canada's national parks” system.

Earlier, when I posed a question to the member for Yukon, with regard to whether the government would commit sufficient resources in order to ensure that the ecological integrity of the proposed park reserve would be maintained, the member referenced the budget announcement, and I just want to put some facts on the table.

First, Parks Canada identified aging infrastructure and inadequate levels of funding in maintenance as a key risk for the department in its November 2013 departmental performance report. The departmental performance report also showed that over $17 million in approved funding for heritage resources conservation and $22 million in townsite and throughway infrastructure funding was allowed to lapse in the 2012-13 period.

When we were talking about the budget, the member was correct when he indicated that the budget announced $391 million over five years to deal with crumbling buildings, roads, and dams. However, what he did not indicate was that, first, the amount would not cover the backlog, but more importantly, because the money is being phased in over five years, in 2014 only $1 million would be spent, in 2015 $4 million would be spent, and the bulk of the money, $386 million, would be spent after the next federal election.

We have been seeing these kinds of smoke-and-mirrors budget announcements in any number of areas. I am the aboriginal affairs critic for the New Democrats. We saw an education announcement that indicated that most of the money would flow after the next federal election.

Therefore, this is another one of those cases of “Trust me; the cheque is in the mail”. It is important to note that money is not a slam dunk. If the government really does want to support the development of this park reserve, if it really does want to support the peoples of the region, it needs to indicate, very clearly, its intention to ensure that money will flow.

Again, New Democrats are wholeheartedly behind the creation of this park reserve. We are wholeheartedly in support of the bill moving forward and making sure it happens expeditiously. Members will know that this has been a long time in the making and it is well past the time that we do this preservation.

However, a number of other organizations have also raised concerns and I will refer to the CPAWS Northwest Territories analysis. In its analysis, it indicated:

Protecting the South Nahanni watershed is broadly supported locally, across Canada, and internationally. In 2006, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee recommended that Canada protect the entire South Nahanni watershed in recognition of the area’s globally significant values. Scientists have also recommended that the entire watershed be protected in order to secure its ecological integrity, including adequate habitat for woodland caribou, Dall’s sheep and grizzly bears....

The original study area for Nááts’ihch’oh NPR included important habitat for grizzly bears and key calving and breeding grounds for the Nahanni and Redstone herds of mountain woodland caribou. Both of these species are listed under the federal Species at Risk Act, and need large intact areas to survive. The area is also home to the northernmost populations of mountain goats in Canada, and is home to Dall’s sheep which are part of the genetically unique Nahanni population that was isolated during the last ice age....

The boundary announced by [the Prime Minster] in 2012 falls far short of what is needed to protect the ecological integrity of the world-renowned South Nahanni watershed, leaving critical wildlife habitat, including caribou calving and breeding grounds, and source waters of the Nahanni River outside the park boundary. This boundary disregarded public input in the park establishment process, as well as scientific evidence of what’s needed to fully protect the ecological integrity of the area and the habitat of these sensitive species. The boundary takes full advantage of potential industrial development in the area, protecting less area than any option presented during the public consultations....

Though relatively pristine, resource exploration, mine development and road access have encroached upon the headwaters of the South Nahanni River. There is a real risk that the ecological integrity of the entire watershed will be compromised if Nááts´ihch´oh NPR is not expanded to fully protect the remaining part of the watershed. Its role in completing protection of the Greater Nahanni Ecosystem, as well as its ecological and cultural significance, make it a critical area to fully protect.

As I indicated earlier, New Democrats are fully in support of the bill being sent to committee. At committee, I am sure there will be an opportunity for a very fulsome review of the bill and of the final consultation report that Parks Canada conducted, and an opportunity to hear from witnesses from the first nations and Métis peoples of the region, environmental organizations and industry on their perspectives on the particular option that was proposed.

One thing I think many people will be looking forward to hearing about is how the ecological integrity of the park reserve will be preserved in the context of other kinds of activities that can be allowed. As well, it will be very important for the government to clarify exactly what resources will be available, both in terms of financial and human resources, in order to ensure that Parks Canada will be able to do its job in promoting and supporting the ecological integrity of the park reserve.

In conclusion, New Democrats are supporting the bill at second reading and I look forward to the discussion that will happen at committee.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be speaking later to indicate NDP support for this bill, but I do have a question for the member. He is probably aware that in 2013, in the report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development on the ecological integrity of national parks, the commissioner raised some concerns about the state of repair of many national parks.

I wonder if the member could comment on whether the government is prepared to commit the resources and staffing required to make sure that this park can be the best possible park.

Aboriginal Affairs October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the failure of the government to protect the basic rights of first nations children on reserve is an absolute shame. We have more first nations children removed from their homes and put in foster care than at the height of the residential school era. This is unacceptable in a country as rich as Canada. When will the government stop discriminating against first nations children and start funding child welfare at the same standards and quality as all other services in the country?

Aboriginal Affairs October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister promised reconciliation with the 2008 residential schools apology, yet the Conservative government is facing an unprecedented human rights tribunal for systematically discriminating against first nations children on reserve, providing them with 22% less funding for child welfare services than what other children receive.

Its own experts have confirmed this shortfall. How can the Prime Minister justify treating children on reserve as second-class citizens?

Petitions October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions, all dealing with the right to save seeds.

In this petition, the citizens of Canada recognize the inherent rights of farmers, derived from thousands of years of custom and tradition, to save, reuse, select, exchange, and sell seeds. Current and newly proposed restrictions on farmers' traditional practices, resulting from commercial contracts, identity preservation systems, and/or legislation, criminalize these ancient practices and harm farmers, citizens, and society in general.

The petitioners 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, and they are also calling for actions that would not further restrict farmers' rights or add to farmers' costs.