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  • Her favourite word is aboriginal.

NDP MP for Churchill (Manitoba)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 51.10% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Female Parliamentary Staff June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to express a heartfelt thanks to the women who work with us here in Parliament and in our constituencies.

I know every member of the House joins me in saying thanks to the women who work to support us.

It has not escaped my attention, as the critic for the status of women, that Parliament remains a male-dominated workplace and that the women who work with us, both in Ottawa and at home, often face a culture of sexism, just as female MPs continue to face it in the House.

Working for an MP is high stress and high stakes, often leaving women with many burdens at home and here.

It also bears mention that MPs' staff are not protected under the anti-harassment policy enjoyed by other federal employees, and while NDP staff are backed by their union, Liberal, Conservative, Bloc, and Green staff are not.

In spite of everything, the women we work with work fiercely, brilliantly, and tirelessly to keep us running, and they do so out of a passion for social justice.

As well, I rise today to thank the women who work behind the scenes: the female cooks and servers; custodial, messenger, printing, mailing, translation, security, maintenance, and cafeteria staff; and the pages. They are the backbone of this institution.

They are valued. They are appreciated. I wish them a great summer.

Respect for Communities Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there are many parallels across northern Canada when it comes to the cycle of addiction that people face and the lack of services and places to go where they can get help.

There is talk about a poverty agenda, but the government is increasing poverty and further marginalizing communities that need help. If the government really wanted to make a difference in helping Canadians, where are the investments that need to take place in housing? Where are the investments that need to take place in child care or in training or in education? We do not see those kinds of investments. All we hear is the kind of thing we are listening to here tonight, fabricated stories about how the government is somehow going to stop heroin from coming into our backyards.

It surprises me how little the government members think that Canadians care. Canadians do care, and they can see beyond this thinly veiled attempt to score political points. I look forward to talking to more and more Canadians in my communities about the government's agenda.

Respect for Communities Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member across has a lot to contribute, and I welcome him to take a whole speaking spot to explain to Canadians what he thinks the bill is about. I am sad to say that window dressing of that kind is not what the bill is about.

We know from the rhetoric we have heard from the government that the bill has everything to do with preventing the opening of InSite harm reduction centres and denying opportunities to Canadians who need help to combat their addiction from getting that help.

Canadians can see through this and are increasingly seeing through the government's agenda. They will continue to see through it, as they will on Bill C-2.

Respect for Communities Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House to speak on this important bill, Bill C-2, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

I will begin by commenting on the sad state of affairs of our democracy. I was here last night, when I spoke to a similarly empty House, following numerous speakers from the NDP on legislation that has everything to do with the well-being of Canadians, the best use of our tax dollars, and the creation of the best possible public policy. At one speaking opportunity after another, it was members of the NDP who stood up and represented Canadians on these critical issues. Once again, here we are tonight.

We heard the rhetoric from the government that it cares deeply about the legislation it is putting forward. We heard the rhetoric that it cares about public safety, Canadians, and all sorts of things, yet when there is the opportunity for the Conservatives to defend their own legislation, we hear nothing but silence. There may be some heckling from time to time and maybe the odd question, but at every single opportunity they have to speak up and defend their legislation, as we have seen today and yesterday, they have chosen to sit down.

I think this is problematic for any Canadian, and certainly for those tuned in to CPAC. They will see the New Democrats working hard and representing their constituents and Canadians, but they will wonder what the government members are doing at this time.

On an issue like this one, I think it matters even more that the Conservatives are saying nothing. The bill we are discussing here today has everything to do with the most vulnerable people in our country. These are people who have fallen through the cracks of society, who are ill and struggling with addiction. Many of these people live in abject poverty and are homeless. Some live with the trauma of abuse. Certainly in my part of the country, many are still suffering from the impact of residential schools and the horrific sexual and physical abuse they experienced, which has led them to a life of addiction, self-harm, and struggle.

When these people, their families, or their communities tune in to find out what their parliamentarians are doing to try to help them or to help people who so often want to help themselves, all they hear is silence on one more piece of indefensible legislation that is not founded on evidence, on science, or on public health policy that makes sense. It has everything to do with a narrow, ignorant, ideological agenda.

This is not the first time we have seen a bill that has everything to do with ideology and nothing to do with evidence come to this House. Sadly, we see it every day, but I am deeply disturbed when it comes to this legislation. As my colleague alluded to, this piece of legislation is being used to divide Canadians. These people who need help, people whose lives we cannot play with, are being taken advantage of so that the government can score political points. It is unconscionable.

In my own political experience, sadly, I have numerous examples to point to as to how the Conservative government uses this kind of agenda in constituencies like mine.

One example is the way in which the government tries to score points at the expense of trans people and tries to foil the efforts of so many Canadians—including, I am very proud to say, our NDP—who are fighting for trans rights.

Why am I saying this? It is because I remember the calls we started getting in our campaign office a couple of days before the last election. People were concerned and distraught and upset that they were getting voice blasts telling them that their NDP candidate—me, in this case—was supportive of grown men going into girls' washrooms. One of the people who called us was the father of an eight-year-old girl who answered the phone and heard this message.

This message did not talk about what kind of policy this was about, or about parliamentary debate or legislation. It went to the lowest common denominator of electoral politics, something that the Conservative government has learned from its Republican cousins in the States. It knew exactly what it wanted to do. It wanted to drive a wedge into families, into communities, into where I come from, by saying basically that I was in support of human rights, including trans rights, and by saying how horrifying this was. The Conservatives did this by hiding the facts, by using cryptic language, and then by not fessing up until the last moment that it was actually connected to a very concerted Conservative campaign.

This is yet one more example of an ideological agenda being put forward by the government to score political points.

Another example is how the government targets first nations people. Instead of coming to the table and working in partnership with first nations people, whether it is on education, on health care, on ensuring that treaty rights are being implemented, or on economic development, sadly, the government has been too quick to put first nations down and to actually put obstacles in their way when they are trying to make a difference.

I remember that in one of the communities in my constituency, again leading into the previous election, an urban centre received mail-outs referring to the lack of accountability among first nations leaders. The mail-outs included rhetoric around corruption and associated corruption to first nations leaders and chiefs.

It is pretty rich when we hear that from a government that we know has done everything to suit its own friends, whether in the Senate or through various nefarious appointments or through various commitments it has made. We know that what was very much part of that agenda was the way in which it sought to divide Canadians, in this case non-aboriginal people versus aboriginal people, and build a kind of animosity toward people who are often on the margins of our society.

Bill C-2 is no exception. It falls exactly into that same pattern, and in this case, as I said, it plays with the lives of some of the most vulnerable people and communities across our country. It plays with the lives of people in our own families. In some cases it would be people who have gone through this House who have been touched by addiction, people who know what it means and how important help is.

The government has not listened to health care professionals or read the over 30 peer-reviewed studies that have been published in journals. It does not recognize the facts, such as the fact that the rate of overdose deaths in east Vancouver has dropped by 35% since InSite opened or the fact that the reduction of HIV and AIDS rates has been significant as a result of InSite in Vancouver. Instead of looking at these facts and applying evidence and the principle of care, the Conservative government is seeking to score political points.

We have heard from my colleagues about how this bill contravenes the Supreme Court decision and how it could certainly be challenged. We have heard about how the government does not have a leg to stand on with this legislation.

I want to finish by saying how proud I am to be part of the NDP. The NDP stands with Canadians who want to see us make a difference in our communities, who want to see care for the most vulnerable in our communities, who want to see a government take leadership. Canadians deserve far better than a government that is merely playing with the lives of people who need help and doing it all merely to score political points.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, what I would say to that is it is absolutely key for communities to be heard. At the beginning of the stages, communities directing the kinds of economic development they want to see is critical.

It is not enough to hear from the federal government that legislation and the emphasis on polluter pays needs to be there. That is a given. What we need is a federal government that partners with communities and with our provincial government to be able to make the best decisions. I want to say that on this front, I am very proud of the position that our provincial government is taking to oppose the proposal to ship crude oil through Churchill. I will also note that, sadly, we also have a legacy, left over from the previous Liberal government, that privatized the railway that we are now, with such great interest, trying to protect and support.

The conclusion here is that federal governments have an incredible role to play in every part of this country. They must do that role in conjunction with communities on the ground with Canadians directing the future of their region.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's sharing his incredulity that in fact we are so diverse. I extend a personal invitation to him to come and see our ocean first-hand.

I appreciate the member pointing out the cutting-edge research that is taking place in my province when it comes to its bodies of water.

There are concerns, both economic and environmental, and they are very much connected. Environmental pollution affects everything. It affects our economy, our tourism industry, hunting and trapping, small-scale agriculture. Whatever it may be in a region like ours, if the environment is polluted, it affects everything. It affects our livelihoods.

It is incredible that the federal government has turned a blind eye to its responsibility to provide leadership when it comes to environmental protection. Canada has gone from being obstinate in taking action on climate change to being obstructionist. The federal government seems to be encouraging others not to take action nor to play a leadership role on this front, and it maligns those who do.

This brings little comfort to people in my neck of the woods who are proud of their natural environment. They know their livelihood depends on a sustainable approach to our environment. They see that the federal government is nowhere to be found when it comes to environmental protection.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House and speak to Bill C-3, an act to enact the aviation industry indemnity act, to amend the Aeronautics Act, the Canada Marine Act, the Marine Liability Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I stand here with my colleagues, many of whom have spoken before me, who have made clear our position as New Democrats on this bill. It is a position where we recognize the modest improvements that have been made in terms of marine security, but we have also expressed concern about the amendments we proposed that have not been passed by the government.

We have been very clear in our concern that despite these acts, Canadians know that the current situation is one in which regulations, of the few that do exist on paper, are not able to be enforced the way they ought to because of the cuts that we are seeing in terms of scientists, the coast guard and inspectors that need to be in place to make sure that legislation and regulations are being followed.

When I was first asked to speak to the bill, I understood the connections with respect to the proposed Enbridge pipeline and the immense opposition that so many people in B.C. and across the country have to the pipeline, in part because they know the great risk to the environment, the environmental damage it poses. The fact is the government and provincial governments can do nothing to deal with potential oil spills to make them go away. I share that concern.

Obviously I am proud to be part of a party that is opposed to the Enbridge pipeline, that stands with Canadians and British Columbia and the rest of the country in opposition to this plan. I also want to share the voices of my own constituents who stand to lose as a result of the government's approach on the failure to enforce regulation and legislation when it comes to keeping our waterways and our rail lines safe.

I speak particularly about the proposal to ship oil through Churchill. For those who have not been to Churchill, it is well known as a real gem not just for my province of Manitoba, but also for our country. It is a small community on the coast of Hudson Bay about 1,200 kilometres north of Winnipeg. It is known around the world as the easiest place in the world for humans to be able to see polar bears. It includes a nesting ground for polar bears which is part of Wapusk National Park. It is a real treasure for Canadians.

We know that the community of Churchill in northern Manitoba benefits from the tourism industry, as people come to our region because of the polar bears. We also know that Churchill's economy depends on environmental research that takes place in the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. where researchers and scientists from around the world come to engage in climate change research and the impacts of climate change on wildlife, such as polar bears. We also know that Churchill depends on rail traffic and trade of which a good chunk is international trade.

Churchill has been going through a difficult time and will continue to go through a difficult time, because of the fact that the government got rid of its number one best customer, the Canadian Wheat Board. In getting rid of the Canadian Wheat Board, Churchill lost an important trade partner that had an ongoing and very positive relationship with Churchill.

The government then decided, because it wiped out an organization that was run by farmers and managed in the best interests of farmers, and despite its rhetoric that somehow the market was going to correct everything, to offer a major taxpayer-funded subsidy to some of the biggest grain companies around the world to do one thing that had already happened under the Canadian Wheat Board, which was to ship grain through Churchill. Sadly, this has not resulted in the figures that used to be under the Canadian Wheat Board. The people of Churchill and northern Manitoba are concerned about the future of the port, the future of trade through the port, and what it means in terms of bringing in revenue and investment into the port and the rail line that exists.

In the midst of a difficult and stressful situation, the company that owns the rail line and the port expressed interest out of the blue just under a year ago to ship crude oil from the Bakken oil fields, through the Bay line, up to Churchill and onto ships in the Arctic Ocean.

I do not think it comes as any surprise to anyone that people were taken aback by this proposal. The number one concern that was raised was safety. This occurred mere weeks after the tragedy that happened in Lac-Mégantic. We know that very similar crude oil was being transported in the railcars that blew up and killed so many people in that community.

People saw those images and what it could mean to our region. In recognizing that concern, people looked around to see whom they could work with to make sure they are protected. Sadly, when they looked at the federal government, what they saw is a government that has targeted regulation, particularly environmental regulation, that has cut back inspections in a whole host of areas, and has removed itself from taking leadership when it comes to safety.

In terms of rail safety, I want to recognize that in recent months, some measures have been brought in that are important to Canadians, particularly my constituents. However, we are particularly concerned about the potential of an oil spill if this shipment possibly went through into Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. That would be a devastating prospect.

We do not have the technology or the know-how to deal with oil spills in the Arctic. This has been raised in the context of drilling in the Arctic, but we do not even have to go that far. Simply transporting crude oil in the Arctic at the kind of volumes we are hearing about from this company is not something we know how to deal with.

In terms of the terrain, we know that if there were to be an oil spill into Hudson Bay, with it being a bay, it would remain there for a considerable amount of time. It would pollute the tributary rivers that come from Hudson Bay. It would actually move counterclockwise, the direction in which the water moves, into James Bay, and would pollute James Bay. It would then move straight up into the Arctic Ocean and pollute the various coastlines of Nunavut. It would have a devastating impact on the wildlife, including beluga whales. The beluga whale population of Hudson Bay is unique in that it has managed to withstand a fair bit of adversity and has shown signs of resilience that we do not see in other beluga whale populations. This is all to say that the reality of an oil spill is something which we cannot comprehend.

As the member of Parliament for Churchill and someone who is proud to come from the north, and proud of the way that first nations people, Métis people and northern people have been stewards of the environment, certainly where I come from, it troubles me that the federal government is not a partner at the table the way it ought to be when it comes to protecting our waterways, protecting our oceans, and protecting Canadians.

I am proud to stand here to raise our real concerns about this bill and to continue the fight for greater protection and fundamental leadership from the federal government, because Canadians deserve better.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that under this government, in terms of our foreign affairs policy and international development, the disconnect between what it is doing and how Canadians perceive our role on the international stage, or what our role should be, is incredibly vast.

I think of all the Canadians, my constituents and others across the country, who work hard day in and day out, who are raising families and contributing to their communities and our country. They want to know that what they are sending to the government in tax dollars and revenue is actually being spent properly. That includes the work we are doing overseas. Sadly, example after example coming from the government on its foreign affairs agenda proves the opposite.

Canadians would be horrified, the way we are in the NDP, that the government is willing to drive an agenda without proper debate, except for heckling, that not only stands by but that actually allows for a clause whereby Canadians would be complicit in the use of cluster munitions by others. That is unacceptable to us and unacceptable to Canadians. All Canadians deserve better than this government.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I realize that the minister across may have been quite busy in recent weeks denying the fact that he hung up on one of the most listened to radio programs in our country, recreating numbers that simply do not reflect reality when it comes to how many government sponsored refugees we have accepted from Syria, and coming up with excuses to reject yet more refugee claimants' health care applications.

However, just to inform the minister, he may want to familiarize himself with clause 11, which permits Canadian soldiers to use, acquire, possess, or transport cluster munitions whenever they are acting in conjunction with another country that is not a member of the convention and to request the use of cluster munitions by another country. This is clause 11 in Bill C-6, which is a bill that was put forward by his government. I would turn his passion right back at him and ask him how he, in good conscience, could stand as a minister of the crown and support a piece of legislation that flies in the face of the reputation Canadians demand from our country.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014

In fact, Mr. Speaker, I am being heckled right now by speakers who reject this notion, but we know very clearly that tonight it is New Democrat member after New Democrat member who has had the courage to stand in the House and call the bill what it is. It is a bill in which we see the government trying to hide an ugly agenda. A gaping loophole exists that would allow Canadian soldiers and Canada to sit by or work with countries that kill civilians through the use of cluster munitions.

It is no surprise that the Conservatives often have real issues digesting factual information. Just to be clear, and I know that this fact has been repeated on numerous occasions tonight, 98% of all recorded cluster munition casualties have been civilians. We know that the bomblets coming out of cluster munitions are small, often the size of a battery or a tennis ball, and have a failure rate of up to 30%. Unexploded bomblets, as they are called, become de facto landmines. One cluster bomb contains hundreds of these submunitions and typically scatters them across an area the size of two to four football fields.

Up to 37 countries and territories may be affected by cluster munitions from use in armed conflicts. Nineteen countries have used cluster munitions in combat, and 34 countries have at one point produced the weapons, though half of these have since ended production, some as a result of the convention. We know that in 2006, 22 Canadian Forces members were killed and 112 were wounded in Afghanistan as a result of landmines, cluster bombs, and other explosive devices.

In this House we have been able to bring forward the voices of internationally respected figures who oppose Canada's position. I would like to quote the former Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser. Testifying before the parliamentary committee, he said:

If you want to kill women and children, cluster bombs would be the weapon of choice.

He urged Canada not to enable Canadian soldiers to use cluster bombs in joint operations with the U.S. military. As a result of clause 11 in this bill, we know that this is exactly the loophole that exists. Canada would now embark, as a result of this bill, on a journey that would see us collaborating with countries that use cluster bombs that would cause incredible civilian casualties and take away the lives of innocent people in countries around the world. All of this would be for what?

There are many days in the House when one wonders what the Conservative government's foreign affairs agenda actually is. We know that there have been deep cuts to our international development commitments. We know that every step along the way, the government has sought to prioritize its corporate agenda, assigning top advisory positions to corporate figures in the mining industry and the resource extractive industry, which have incredible sway over our international aid and international development dollars.

We know that Canada now houses about 75% of the mining companies around the world. Sadly, some of these mining companies do not even have production here in Canada, and many of them are complicit in human rights abuses around the world.

Many of them benefit from the services of Canadian embassies. Some benefit from actual investment through Export Development Canada, and many carry the reputation that as Canadian mining companies, somehow they are working to make the world a better place. In fact, we know that in country after country, particularly in Latin America and Africa, all that is happening is that Canada is getting a bad name.

This bill is no different. This bill serves to sully the reputation of Canada, a country that for years had built a strong reputation when it came to banning land mines, when it made commitments to peacekeeping, and when it came to commitments, under its foreign affairs agenda, explicitly to human security. These were not the ideas of just one person, although we certainly think of former Prime Minister Lester Pearson and others who were responsible for the vision of peacekeeping. These touchstones emerged as a result of Canadian values and the push Canadians made day in and day out. They were activists who fought for nuclear disarmament, peace, and solidarity to make sure that Canada was actually contributing to the well-being of people around the world.

Canadians are horrified and will be horrified to hear about the bill the government is ramming through Parliament, a bill that throws out the kind of reputation Canadians value, and a bill that would ensure that Canada collaborates with countries that know that the technology and arms they are using kill civilians.

It is surprising that the members of Parliament who sit across the aisle seem not to be concerned about any of this. We can see that from the fact that none of them are actually rising tonight to make a speech on this issue. They seem to think that their best contribution is through heckling in the House. What kind of defence could they possibly have to share with their constituents who wonder why their members of Parliament on the government side are complicit in ensuring that a bill that will see civilians die is rammed through Parliament without their contribution in debate, but obviously with their full support, as they vote for debate to be hurried and for this bill to become legislation?

I share the feeling of shame, frankly, that Canada would now be a country, as a result of this bill that includes clause 11, that would be complicit in these kinds of horrors. I would say to let history document that members of the Conservative government actively pursued an agenda that does not improve the lives of people around the world and that actively obstructs those, including former allies, who have worked with Canada in disarmament and on the ban of land mines. It is a government that is trying with great gusto to reconfigure the representation of a country that no Canadian will buy.

I look forward to talking about the government's agenda in the lead-up to the 2015 election. I am sure that their arguments, certainly in this area, when it comes to their foreign affairs agenda, will not pass muster with Canadians.