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NDP MP for Vancouver East (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 62.80% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House September 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the parliamentary secretary's comments and I know she participated in the special committee.

It is important to note that the premiers and pretty well every aboriginal organization in our country have now come to the conclusion that a public inquiry is needed. Therefore, it is ironic and questioning as to why the federal government would be so offside with what has become a very strong consensus.

Could the member imagine a situation where 1,200 nurses had gone missing and were murdered over a period of years? What would be the response of our society? Would it be that we would look at this case by case and ensure that the law would be applied, or would it be that something was terribly wrong with what was happening to nurses who were disappearing and being murdered?

Why are the Conservatives so opposed to the need and the evidence for a public inquiry when the consensus is so strong that it needs to be done?

Committees of the House September 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate the member on his election in Trinity—Spadina. He represents an urban riding very similar to my riding of Vancouver East. It is an important point, because the issue that we are debating today of the missing and murdered women is a huge issue in our cities. It is an issue in the urban environment as well as in remote communities. This covers all of the territory of Canada.

The member asks a very important question: what needs to be done? What are some of the things that we need to respond to?

I can tell him that our members on the special committee that was set up last year valiantly tried to include measures that need to be taken, not just these little projects that will take a couple of years or so. We tried to include big issues, such good housing, clean water, education, equality, and proper supports and resources for addiction issues. The list is long, but none of that is being done.

Committees of the House September 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the minister for being here, for being in this debate and for sharing with us a little bit of her own experience. That is very important. We honour and appreciate that.

I listened to what she had to say, and when she says that she is committed to change, that is good. However, we have to ask the question, and she needs to ask the question of her government, what is the change that the government has actually brought about? What I see, and what was announced in this action plan, is really just a list of projects that will take place over a few years. It does not address the systemic change that needs to take place. That is the point that we have got to make. That is the point that the minister, unfortunately, does not want to respond to.

We will keep pressing it until that inquiry happens, so that we can really get under the root causes of the systemic violence that is taking place, and the missing and murdered women. We will not let up until that is done.

Committees of the House September 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks by thanking my hon. colleague for his very powerful speech. To me, and I think to all of us, it is a reminder of why we are here. We bring our personal experience and the issues that we care about. It is not just a debating club or about procedure; it is about these incredibly important issues in our society that have been buried and washed over. That is why today New Democrats are united, as the official opposition, to make sure that this debate in the House is heard and that the commitment we have made will happen. Within 100 days of becoming government, we will hold a public inquiry.

It took more than 20 years for the Oppal inquiry in British Columbia to happen. When I was a city councillor in Vancouver, in 1987, and women began to go missing in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, we were told not to worry, that there would be a case-by-case criminal investigation. It was very similar to what we heard from the Minister of Status of Women yesterday.

Those disappearances were never followed up on, and it was the families and friends of the missing women, many of whom were aboriginal and sex workers, who finally got together and said there was something horrific going on. It was not about individual cases, but about our justice system, predators, and the failure of our justice system to see the missing women as citizens and vulnerable people.

For years, these disappearances were not dealt with, and it took more than 20 years until finally there was a public inquiry in Vancouver. It was not a perfect public inquiry, but it was important because it shed light and opened the door to examining some of the systemic issues that my colleague talked about.

We need to take the experience in British Columbia and understand that it is happening right across the country. It is not isolated to the Highway of Tears, in northern B.C., or to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. It is happening in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and in Atlantic Canada.

I listened to the Minister of Status of Women yesterday talk about her action plan, and I looked at that action plan, $2.5 million over five years, to create projects and raise awareness. Awareness is important, and we have to show the leadership here to create that awareness. However, we need to have a public inquiry to ensure we are not just looking at individual cases but at what happened and why society as a whole failed these women What is it that went wrong, and why? Only a public inquiry can do that.

I remember meeting with the Liberal minister of justice, in 1999, a couple of years after I had been elected, and explaining what had happened in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. I was shocked. Although he was sympathetic, he was not aware of what was going on. I realized then that there was a tremendous amount of work that had to be done. The story was focused in Vancouver. At that point, the story of what was happening had not yet fully come to light.

Mr. Speaker, that is how long it takes. An inquiry is important because the stories of the families need to be heard. We are talking about individual women who are missing and have been murdered. We are talking about the impact on families and communities.

What I find troubling about the government's response was said so well by Audrey Huntley, the co-founder of No More Silence. She said, in reaction to the government's announcement, “It feels to me like it’s really laying the blame on the aboriginal community and completely ignoring stranger violence”. She went on to say:

We need to engage Canadian society in why aboriginal women aren’t valued. That’s really what it comes down to. They’re not valued when it comes to the police investigating their cases, they’re not valued by that child welfare system and they’re not valued by their foster families, so really it’s a very deep systemic problem.

That is what Audrey Huntley had to say.

She is not the only one to understand the depth and the horror of what is taking place and that only a public inquiry can examine some of the systemic issues, whether it is the way that policing investigations are done, contributing factors of violence and poverty and racism, and the legacy of colonialism and residential schools, as has been so well articulated by my colleague today.

We were glad that a motion was passed a couple of years ago in the House to set up a special committee, but even that committee became a disappointment. Yet again, the government refused to act on the need for a national inquiry. I want to thank my colleagues, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, who was on that committee, and the member for Churchill, who has had this file and has done so much work on calling for a national inquiry. These are contributions that we make as individual members to keep this issue alive.

We are here today to say that we will not let this issue be swept under the carpet. We will ensure that those voices are heard. I do not believe it will take 20 years, like it did for the Oppal commission. I believe we will have a historic opportunity in about a year to change the government and to put in place a government that is progressive, an NDP government that actually listens to what people are saying and will make commitments to follow through on the suffering and historic injustices of aboriginal people in this country.

A public inquiry is a very key component of that, but it is not the only component. There are many things that need to be done: addressing poverty; ensuring clean water, education, and housing. These are all issues that our leader, the member for Outremont, has raised and articulated in this House. He has met with the aboriginal leadership and communities. This is a very deep commitment that we bring, not only to this debate, but to the work that we do from now and into the election.

I am glad we are having this debate today. It is a Friday afternoon, and I know members would probably like to be home today. We would all like to be home. However, this is our place. We are here for a reason. We are here in solidarity with the organizations that have called for the national inquiry. We are here in solidarity. We are here to ensure that those voices are heard. I am glad we are having this debate, and we will make that commitment to follow through.

I know the Conservatives do not like it. They want to have us contained to the little action plan that trots out just a few million dollars over five years. It is a pathetic response to a huge issue in this country. Let it be said that the Conservatives should listen to what those families are saying. They should understand that a public inquiry, which we have the power to bring about in a timely way—not that it is the be-all and the end-all; it is really just the beginning—is a powerful instrument to shed light on this issue and to bring justice for the missing and murdered women.

Health September 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, let us be serious. The government held up that bill for eight months. It was the government's agenda. The fact is that a U.S. investigation found that an Apotex facility in India was manufacturing unsafe drugs. The Americans banned it. Health Canada tried to follow suit, but Apotex just said no. This further demonstrates the Conservatives' failed record not only on drug safety but also on home care, wait times, drug coverage and aboriginal health.

How does this minister account for this dismal record on health care?

Health September 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister still has not explained her inaction.

Just think about it. For the past eight years, Canadians and the NDP have been calling for better drug safety measures, including in Bill C-17, yet today Health Canada is still unable to stop the sale of a dangerous drug in Canada.

What steps will the minister take to fix this situation? The health of Canadians is on the line. When is she going to take responsibility?

Health September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister is not answering the question. A 22% budget cut for the Public Health Agency and 500 employees laid off across the country is hardly good preparation for emergent health issues now before us.

The fact is that Canadians count on PHAC to protect them from serious pandemics. With EV-D68 now confirmed in Canada and concerns about Ebola in Africa, Canadians have the right to question the priorities of this minister.

Why is the minister decreasing the agency's capacity to deal with public health emergencies?

Health September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister said, “whenever there is a dangerous product identified, Health Canada inspectors act immediately”, but what she did not say is that we have to rely on the FDA to do Canada's work. The fact is that Health Canada has been keeping Canadians in the dark when it comes to drug safety. In fact, the minister admitted that Health Canada was unable to pull defective medication.

Could the minister tell Canadians specifically how many other unsafe drugs were left on the shelf because Health Canada cannot do its job?

Ebola Outbreak September 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is a very thoughtful question.

We can learn a lot from HIV/AIDS. We can learn about sustained support in communities that are affected; the empowerment of women; systems that can provide support to those communities in the long term, whether it is health care, social, or economic; and getting rid of stigma and discrimination. This is what had to happen when the HIV/AIDS epidemic first began, and it still has to happen today.

At the AIDS conference in Melbourne in July, the UNAIDS was predicting that it is possible that by the year 2030, we could have a generation free of AIDS. That is because of the systematic work that is being done. We have to do the same thing here. We have to take the same approach. It cannot be short-term; it has to be long-term.

Ebola Outbreak September 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, clearly we look at structural questions. We have to respond in an immediate way, but we have to approach this very serious question of the Ebola virus in a structural way and make sure that there is a sustained, progressive, and accessible approach that begins to change the social and economic conditions and ensure that people have access to health care.

I want to add one other point, and that is that right here in Ottawa, the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute itself has been doing a lot of research. When they wrote to the minister in the middle of August, they said:

We have constructed and commissioned a Virus-Manufacturing Suite that specializes in the production of pharmaceutical grade products very similar to the VSV-EBOV vaccine.

This is actually another initiative that could be taken up right here in Canada. I do not know where the government is on the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the incredible work it is doing. This is taking place right here in Canada, and the government needs to support it, because the development of a vaccine, of course, is very critical.