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NDP MP for Churchill (Manitoba)
Won her last election, in 2011, with 51.10% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Aboriginal Affairs December 5th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, aboriginal Canadians are asking for a national inquiry and they are asking for federal leadership to end violence against women.
Over half of Canadian women have experienced sexual or physical violence, but the Conservatives are refusing to call for a national action plan to end violence against women. When will the minister and her government work with the NDP so we can find solutions so Canadian women do not have to live their lives facing violence?
Aboriginal Affairs December 5th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, there is a growing number of people calling for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. Everyone agrees, including families, aboriginal organizations, the provinces and the territories. The only ones standing in the way of this inquiry are the Conservatives. Victims and their families deserve answers.
Why are the Conservatives continuing to block a national inquiry?
Northwest Territories Devolution Act December 5th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, my colleague is indeed a northerner. I am proud to be able to work with him in fighting for northern Canadians.
There is no question that consultation is about listening. However, incorporating and acting on what we have heard is absolutely essential.
I want to read into the record the words of MLA Bob Bromley from the Northwest Territories, who said:
The federal government’s proposal to collapse the regional land and water boards into one big board is disturbing, unnecessary and possibly unconstitutional.
...a single board does nothing to meet the real problem: failure of implementation.
There are other comments. There are people who have made constructive proposals for this bill. We hope the government will choose to do the right thing, listen to the people of the Northwest Territories and make this the best devolution agreement, a model devolution agreement, as northern people deserve it to be.
Northwest Territories Devolution Act December 5th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for sharing the experience of the people in his constituency. His voice and solidarity with the first nations people who he represents is something that I know inspires many people across the country.
I am proud of the work that we in the NDP have done as a party in making it clear that our priority is to work with first nations on a nation-to-nation relationship and to break down or crush this colonial history, to put it behind us. Unfortunately, it is a colonial history that continues through the child and family system, through the way in which education is being underfunded on first nations, through the way in which the government refuses to call a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, through the way in which so many pieces of first nations legislation are being rammed through this House, and currently through committee, in the way first nations are not consulted.
This is an opportunity for the government to show leadership, to break free from the shackles of history, shackles that unfortunately have only strengthened through its governance.
First nations people want and are striving for change. The federal government needs to either be with them or be left as a relic of history if it is not part of that change.
Northwest Territories Devolution Act December 5th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.
It is an honour to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-15, an act to replace the Northwest Territories Act, to implement certain provisions of the Northwest Territories Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement and to repeal or make amendments to the Territorial Lands Act, the Northwest Territories Waters Act, the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, other Acts and certain orders and regulations, at second reading. I say it is an honour because the goal of devolution has been one that so many people in the Northwest Territories have fought and worked for over many years.
Last year I had the opportunity to meet with the premier of the Northwest Territories, Premier Robert McLeod. He actually came to my home province of Manitoba for the Manitoahbee Festival, which is an indigenous music festival that profiles the amazing musical talent of the Northwest Territories. I had a chance to hear a bit from Mr. McLeod about the hard work that he and his team have done to get to this day.
I also want to acknowledge my colleague and friend, the member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories, who has worked tremendously hard on this initiative as well. He has been a solid representative and an extremely important spokesperson on the issues that matter to the people of the Northwest Territories.
I understand the issue, not only as a member of Parliament but also on a personal level. I understand the importance of the concept of devolution, autonomy and, not just self-respect, but the acknowledgement of the respect that is due to the people of the north. I say that because I myself am from the north. I represent the region known as Churchill, in northern Manitoba, but I am also from there. I was born in Thompson. I grew up in the north and I have a very acute understanding, an understanding that so many of us northerners share, of the way in which the north is often marginalized. It is marginalized overtly and covertly in so many ways.
I will give a few examples. Number one, we in the north are very much aware how important services are to us in northern Canada, like any Canadian; for example, health care. We also know that in the north it is oftentimes, unfortunately, more difficult to access the basic health care that is required, especially compared to that of our urban neighbours. What ends up happening is that we have fewer doctors. Sometimes when we have nurses, it is more difficult to have the same nurses come. We have many people who come in and out, who stay for a while and then leave, so it is impossible for us to build relationships with the people who care for us when we need them most. We also find that in terms of health care infrastructure it is a tremendous challenge. While in provincial jurisdiction communities in the north there is definitely an effort to invest in health care infrastructure in an equitable way, if one drives a few minutes down the road and spends some time on a first nation, which is federal jurisdiction, one understands how northern first nations in particular suffer as a result of their geographic location and the way systemic racism has come into play.
We understand that in health care, for example, we in the north have certain struggles, and we struggle more than people in southern Canada in some respects. However, what we also know in the other sense is that it is difficult to find health care services. It is also difficult to see the kind of infrastructure funding we need. If one lives in northern Canada—and anyone who has visited northern Canada knows—it takes a while to get to places. Communities are far away from each other and populations are spread out.
However, that does not mean that people do not need to leave. People need to leave on a regular basis for health care. People need to leave for education. In fact, young people in many of the communities I represent have to leave after grade 9 or grade 10 to finish their high school in an urban centre. People need to leave to go for post-secondary education or training. People need to leave to visit their families. People also need to leave to buy basic necessities, such as food and goods they cannot access in their communities or are too expensive in their communities. That means infrastructure that links them is extremely important.
I would argue that perhaps the greatest gap in terms of the reality that northerners face is the way in which infrastructure across the Canadian north is often subpar compared to that in the south. We can talk about gravel roads and roads that need to be fixed up, but we can also talk about the fact that many communities across the north do not even have roads to speak of. Unfortunately, the common thread throughout the story is federal inaction and, frankly, neglect when it comes to partnering with the province and partnering on first nations.
The irony is that a tremendous amount of wealth comes out of northern Canada. It comes out of the communities I represent and the territories—Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. It comes out of northern Canada as a whole. That wealth comes through mining, hydroelectric development, forestry and development. That creates a tremendous amount of wealth in terms of revenue for government and corporate wealth. It does create jobs in our communities but often not in a sustainable way or in a way where training is part of the deal so that people are able to have long-term, stable employment, can learn from their work and go on to better themselves and work in other workplaces. Unfortunately, that wealth is often not shared with the communities that help to produce that wealth.
I can certainly share countless examples in my neighbourhood in the north where that is very obviously the case. Perhaps the most stark is the way in which so many first nations still live in third world conditions and yet are surrounded by some of the richest deposits of minerals or oil. Companies make great profits off these deposits, and yet there is no understanding that first nations, on whose territory these people are working, ought to be part of the deal, both in terms of revenue and long-term benefits.
This brings me to the point that northerners best understand their experience. They understand that this relationship, which has been supported by the federal government, where the decisions are made in Ottawa, where the wealth often goes back to Ottawa and is not returned to northern communities, must be fixed. We have an opportunity to do that, but unfortunately the work is not done. We are debating this bill at second reading, and New Democrats support this bill at second reading, but we have said very clearly that we need to look at the gaps and particularly at the way in which the federal government, unfortunately, continues to play a big brother role in this relationship, a relationship that some people use the word “colonialism” to describe, a sentiment that has been very much felt throughout recent years.
New Democrats want to make sure that this approach to devolution, something that so many people in the territories want, is free of that top-down approach, the approach that insinuates that the federal government does not trust the people of the Northwest Territories to govern themselves or make the right decisions for themselves. We believe that the federal government, which has done serious work on this file, needs to take this to the final stage, where a devolution agreement can be the best it can be and the best possible deal for the people of the Northwest Territories, an arrangement that agrees that the people, the first nations and the Government of the Northwest Territories must be the ones to make the decisions for the betterment of themselves and all of us.
Violence Against Women December 4th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on day 12 of the 14 days of action to address violence against women. We count 14 days to commemorate the lives of the 14 young women who were massacred on December 6, 1989. They were killed because they were women. Every year we call for action because explicit misogyny, insidious discrimination and gender-based violence continue to provoke fear in the lives of women in Canada and the lives of our sisters across the globe.
As a young woman standing to address the House of Commons today, I am reminded that it is not always laws that hold women back, but fear too. A man walked into the École Polytechnique who hoped to scare women away from their dreams. Therefore, for the girls who want to be engineers, scientists, artists, lawyers, doctors and leaders, we call for action today. For women who want to be treated equally, who want to be respected and not racialized, impoverished, marginalized, and for all women who want to actualize all their choices, whatever they may be, in peace and security without fear of violence or degradation, we call for action today.
Today and every day women must have what they need to live without fear, without violence and with choice.
Respect for Communities Act November 21st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, it really is mystifying. It is the year 2013, and science, medicine, and specialists have made it clear that, based on the evidence, InSite, harm reduction techniques, and safe injection sites make a difference. They make a difference because they save lives. They support communities. They support families that have family members and loved ones struggling with addiction.
I would challenge any member in this House who knows anyone who has struggled or is struggling with addiction to see how important it is for them to have services to access so that they can get help. What the government is doing, unfortunately, is standing in the way of people who need this help the most. It is standing in the way of services, knowledge, and a practice that we know is proven. Instead, the Conservatives are using the same old techniques of fearmongering. They are talking about heroin in the backyards of Canadians to change the facts, to change the conversation, rather than actually working with Canadian communities to make a difference, which is what we in the NDP would like the government to do.
Respect for Communities Act November 21st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I would correct my colleague. I never referenced philosophical issues. I referenced science, evidence, and facts. It may be difficult for the other side to understand, as I understand that there is a difficulty grasping these concepts on that side of the House.
I think I, along with my colleagues, have been pretty clear in indicating that the issue here is the barriers that would be set up. InSite, and other communities that would like to start a similar program, would face a process that is so onerous it would be challenging for them to put it together.
They clearly already do a lot of work to get all the permits and follow all the rules. There is no question about that. However, Bill C-2 is attempting to make this such a difficult task that organizations like InSite would not have the capacity to do what needs to be done.
If the Conservative government truly cared about making a difference when it comes to harm reduction and getting heroin out of our neighbourhoods, as they put it, or crack cocaine—although some people they know seem to be quite connected to that substance—maybe they would talk to the medical practitioners about what needs to be done.
Supporting InSite, supporting harm reduction programs, is where it is at. Let us listen to the professionals and the people living in the communities who want this to happen. Let us support them instead of standing in their way.
Respect for Communities Act November 21st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour to stand in the House and follow my colleagues in speaking on such an important issue and one that relates to the piece of legislation that we have before us, Bill C-2, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
First of all, I would like to indicate, as my colleagues have done, that we in the NDP oppose the bill. Essentially Bill C-2 is a thinly veiled effort to stop supervised injection sites from operating, a direct defiance of a Supreme Court ruling on these sites. The legislation sets out a lengthy and arduous list of criteria that supervised injection sites would need to meet before the minister would grant them an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. These criteria would make it much harder for organizations to open safe injection sites in Canada.
I am proud to be part of a party that has long advocated for safe injection sites and a party that has indicated that we need to find ways to be able to support people who have fallen through the cracks, who suffer with addiction, who are keen to get out of the trap that so many face and who need help to do so.
The NDP believes that decisions about programs that may benefit public health must be based on facts and not ideology. In 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that InSite provided life-saving services and should remain open with a section 56 exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
The court ruled that it was within InSite users' charter rights to access the service and that similar services should also be allowed to operate with an exemption. Over 30 peer-reviewed studies published in journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, the British Medical Journal and others have described the beneficial impact of InSite.
Furthermore, studies on over 70 safe injection sites in Europe and Australia have shown similar benefits. InSite is one of the greatest public health achievements in our country. We in the NDP believe that it and similarly beneficial sites should be allowed to operate under proper supervision.
That is why we are so concerned to see Bill C-2 in front of us here today. This is a bill that is fundamentally based on ideology and is not based on evidence. It is certainly not based on what we are hearing from people in the medical profession who are saying that InSite and other operations like it are extremely important in being able to lead to harm reduction, to save lives, to get people on the right path to heal from their addictions, and to integrate back into their communities and into a life of dignity.
Bill C-2 is a deeply flawed bill based on an anti-drug ideology and false fears for public safety. This is another attempt to rally the Conservative base, as evidenced by the fundraising drive entitled “keep heroin out of our backyards” that started hours after Bill C-2 was introduced in Parliament. However, the bill, which would make it almost impossible to open safe injection sites, will actually put heroin back into our neighbourhoods.
Another reason we find the bill extremely problematic is that Bill C-2 directly defies the 2011 Supreme Court ruling, which called on the minister to consider exemptions for safe injection sites based on a balance between public health and safety. It called on the minister to consider all the evidence on the benefits of safe injection sites rather than setting out a lengthy list of principles by which to apply judgments.
We in the NDP believe that any further legislation on supervised injection sites should respect the spirit of the Supreme Court's decision, which is not the case with this bill. The NDP believes that harm reduction programs, including safe injection sites, should be granted exemptions based on evidence of their ability to improve a community's health and preserve human life, not ideology.
There is currently only one operational supervised injection site in Canada, InSite, which is located in Vancouver. Since it opened, Vancouver has seen a 35% decrease in overdose deaths. Furthermore, InSite has been shown to decrease crime, communicable disease infection rates, and relapse rates for drug users.
InSite, as many people will know, opened as part of a public health plan by the Vancouver Coastal Health authority and its community partners following a twelvefold increase in overdose deaths in Vancouver between 1987 and 1993. At the time, the Vancouver area was also seeing drastic increases in communicable diseases among injection drug users, including hepatitis A, B, and C and HIV/AIDS.
InSite was originally granted an exemption in 2003 to operate under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for medical and scientific purposes, to both provide services and to research the effectiveness of supervised injection facilities. Section 56 of the current Controlled Drugs and Substances Act grants the minister authority to approve operations utilizing drugs for medical, scientific, or law enforcement purposes. In 2007, the OnSite detox centre was added to the site.
The InSite organization and the work that happens on the Vancouver east side is something that leads to better lives, not only for people who suffer from addiction but also for the broader community. I want to read into the record what people who support InSite and harm reduction measures based on medical evidence have said.
The bill is an irresponsible initiative that ignores both the extensive evidence that such health services are needed and effective, and the human rights of Canadians with addictions....
It is unethical, unconstitutional and damaging to both public health and the public purse to block access to supervised consumption services...
The Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Nurses Association have both criticized the government for bringing forward Bill C-2. The Canadian Medical Association said:
Supervised injection programs are an important harm reduction strategy. Harm reduction is a central pillar in a comprehensive public health approach to disease prevention and health promotion.
Let us move on to other practitioners in the health care field. The Canadian Nurses Association said:
Evidence demonstrates that supervised injection sites and other harm reduction programs bring critical health and social services to vulnerable populations—especially those experiencing poverty, mental illness and homelessness. A government truly committed to public health and safety would work to enhance access to prevention and treatment services—instead of building more barriers.
Based on the validation of these positions we have heard from people who are involved in the medical field, based on people who work and live in Vancouver's east side, and based on the figures that overdoses have decreased by 35%, the evidence is clear. There is a great deal indicating that the government is going down the wrong path.
What is especially disconcerting is that the government is willing to ignore and disrespect a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that has ruled on this very issue. I wish I could say that this was shocking, but the government has shown great disregard for the work of the Supreme Court, certainly when it comes to areas that, ideologically, the government does not see eye to eye on. It is deeply disconcerting and problematic for a lot of people who are tuning in, whether to this debate or to Parliament, frankly, every day to see a government that was elected to represent the best interests of Canadians make decisions that are not based on evidence, science, or respect for the Supreme Court, the highest court of our country. It bases them on ideology and fearmongering.
I think of the people in my constituency who suffer from addiction, who are in a cycle of poverty, unemployment, and living in third world conditions, in many cases. They are unable to access help, because the same federal government has cut funding for important healing programs, including the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and other initiatives that helped people in my part of the country. I think of the many people across Canada who are increasingly struggling as the cost of living goes up, as employment leaves their regions, as they struggle to make do with what little they have. Often they are vulnerable to some of these same cycles of addiction and violence. I think of the fact that the government has a chance to act by retracting Bill C-2 and standing with us on the opposition side for harm reduction and healthier, better lives for people and communities across this country.
Leader of the Liberal Party November 7th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, while Conservatives spent last weekend trying to limit a woman's right to choose, the leader of the Liberal Party is headed to Toronto for ladies' night, charging women $250 each to “really” get to know him, to talk about women's issues and to share their “favourite virtue”.
It is 2013 and all issues are women's issues: health care, the economy, Keystone XL.
It seems the Liberals think being condescending and patronizing is a virtue, and the Liberal candidate in Toronto Centre is doing ladies' night with the Liberal leader instead of debating the real issues with NDP candidate Linda McQuaig.
Instead of heading to ladies' night, I think women in Toronto should head out to the doorsteps and elect a woman from a party that defends women instead of patronizing them.