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Crucial Fact

  • 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

Petitions November 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of my constituents in Flin Flon and Thompson, as well as Canadians from Saskatchewan and Alberta.

The petitioners call on the federal government to change course, protect home delivery and protect our postal service, which is an integral service to all of our communities across this country.

Northern Development November 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, what is truly shameful is that people in my part of the country continue to go hungry because Nutrition North is not working for them, just as it is not working for northern people across our country.

As for the people of Rankin Inlet, they deserve more than intimidation and empty rhetoric from the current government.

We should be doing everything we can to ensure that no one in the north has to go to the dump to get food. We need to get to the bottom of the demand that the minister made to Rankin Inlet officials.

When did she ask her office to apologize to them? Was this a directive from the PMO? Do they truly believe that is how northern people deserve to be treated?

Northern Development November 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, nearly 100 people in the north are being forced to rummage through garbage for food to survive. Food prices are outrageous. Some fresh foods cost 10 times what they do in the south.

Instead of reaching out and moving heaven and earth to resolve the situation, all their MP is doing is making intimidating phone calls. That is unacceptable.

Can the government tell us when it learned that people in Rankin Inlet were going to the landfill to find food and what it has done to deal with this crisis?

Business of Supply November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley for turning part of the focus of this discussion to the role of the government in regulation. While we are working in good faith on this very issue, the reality is that the current government has an abysmal record when it comes to looking out for the safety of Canadians. We are not just seeing a dangerous path being taken when it comes to pharmaceuticals. As we have seen with our own eyes, communities in this country have paid a high price for deregulation when it comes to rail safety. We have seen it when it comes to environmental safety. We have seen it when it comes to our food supplies.

Regarding this spirit that has taken over and the desire of the government to right wrongs of the past, I hope that same sentiment and precautionary principle will be taken and applied, and that a result the Conservatives will increase regulation and support those who keep us safe, in whatever sector they might be, so that we do not end up here 50 or 60 years later having to find recourse for the deep, tragic mistakes that we have made.

Business of Supply November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for sharing his personal experience.

When I was a little younger, we learned in school about the progress that had been made, so that we would know that thalidomide was dangerous, for example. Now the entire House has an opportunity to change the course of history. As Canada's leaders, we have an opportunity to show some leadership.

I hope that the Minister of Health and her government will respect the spirit of this motion, namely the need for urgent, immediate action. We are losing more and more victims every year, and their families are also waiting for us to act as soon as possible. We must do so.

Business of Supply November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in this House to speak to our opposition day motion. It is truly a historic opposition day motion that serves to realize justice for the victims of the thalidomide scandal and for their families.

We know that in 1961 the Government of Canada approved the sale of thalidomide as a safe drug to treat nausea in pregnant women. The drug had tragic consequences for many families. The government has never apologized for the devastation it caused. After decades of discussing compensation, it provided an inadequate one-time payment to survivors. Our motion calls upon the government to right the wrong and commit to support thalidomide survivors.

What is critical for us is threefold. One, we need the government to right the wrong and support thalidomide survivors in our country. Two, we need to recognize that drug safety is a clear federal responsibility. The federal government approved this drug as safe for use by pregnant women and bears the responsibility for the suffering of innocent Canadian families. Three, victims of thalidomide have waited for over 50 years to get the support they deserve. Canada's thalidomide survivors are considerably worse off than their peers in other countries. They need support and compensation now.

We know that this is truly a global tragedy. Approximately 10,000 thalidomide survivors were born worldwide. We may never know how many Canadian families were ultimately affected by thalidomide, but today fewer than 100 survivors are still alive in Canada.

Decades of dealing with the consequences of thalidomide have left survivors dealing with very severe and debilitating pain. In many cases, their health care needs exceed what provincial health care systems are able to provide. Fifty years of attempting to work around their limitations has taken its toll on them. Many survivors are now suffering from nerve damage and painful wear and tear of their bodies. This has caused enormous challenges for them, including loss of ability to use their limbs to care for themselves; damage to their spines and joints, which severely limits their mobility; limited ability to maintain employment; and dependence upon others for basic tasks, such as using the toilet, dressing, and preparing meals. The deterioration of their health has placed them in a precarious financial situation in which they are dependent upon aging parents, unable to work, and further losing their self-sufficiency.

While the Government of Canada began discussing compensation for families affected in the 1960s, the only support provided to the families to deal with their urgent needs was a small lump sum payment made in 1992.

We recognize today that we were pleased to see the government's support for our opposition day motion; however, in that support, we also expect a true understanding of the concept of righting the wrong. It involves not just an apology but financial compensation.

As the status of women critic, I work with advocates for disabled women and disabled women themselves. I am constantly struck by how disabled women in Canada face some of the highest rates of poverty, some of the highest rates of violence, and some of the highest rates of marginalization.

In fact, we know that as many as 75% of disabled women in Canada are unemployed. The average employment income for women with severe or very severe disabilities was only $17,459 per year in 2006. Obviously thalidomide survivors could relate to that experience. We know that disabled women in particular, but also people with disabilities more broadly, often face extreme housing insecurity. They are either unable to access affordable housing or the affordable housing that may exist is not accessible to people living with disabilities.

I have also come to know through my work that advocating for women, particularly women with disabilities, is particularly challenging, because organizations that represent the disabled are cash-strapped and often have to deal with major restrictions when it comes to applying for funds and grants to be able to continue their advocacy, if it is even allowed, which in many cases it is not, as we have seen under the current government.

There is no doubt that thalidomide survivors have fallen into the category of the severely disabled, but in order to understand what they went through, we need to recognize that their story has everything to do with the federal government having shirked its responsibility decades ago.

We know from other countries, including the U.S., that rigorous work was done to ensure the safety of thalidomide, and it became clear that it was not safe at all. However, in Canada, the same was not done. The same due diligence was not exercised by the federal government at the time.

Many women, who I am sure were very happy to know that they were pregnant, were told by their doctors, people they trusted, who in turn trusted others, that thalidomide would be okay, and they took it to deal with difficult symptoms during pregnancy. However, it is particularly disturbing that this chain of command went through the federal government.

The federal government had, and continues to have, a responsibility to ensure the safety of the pharmaceuticals that Canadians use. However, the government at the time shirked that responsibility. It is a simple, clear pinning of responsibility on the government, which failed to do the due diligence that was required at the time. Sadly, it led to devastating impacts.

This is very much connected to the issue of maternal health, which is an issue I have been very involved with as the Status of Women critic for the NDP. We are pleased to see that the government is supporting this motion, but at the same time on the broader issue of maternal health, we have seen the Conservative government failing many times to take a leadership role.

I will speak for a moment about the importance of supporting pregnant mothers, and mothers after they have had children, making sure that they and their children, whether babies, toddlers or grown children, are healthy.

The reality is that we do not see that kind of leadership and support from the current federal government. In fact, in Manitoba there is a cutting-edge program known as “Strengthening Families”, which focuses on the health of indigenous women, children, and families in 16 first nations in the province. Even though it has received accolades from experts in the field of maternal health and has made a marked difference for first nations in Manitoba, it is devastating to know that the government is willing to cut the program by the end of this fiscal year. Therefore, success, when it comes to maternal health, is clearly not recognized by the Conservative government and not valued, because if it were, the program would be extended.

Maternal health is an integral part of the discussion around thalidomide. It an integral part of the discussion on how we can move our country forward and ensure that women, children, and families are better off across Canada.

As we deal with these broader issues, I am honoured to stand here today with my colleagues. In particular, I want to recognize the leadership of my colleague from Vancouver East, who has stood up for these 95 Canadians and the so many more who, sadly, are not alive to tell their story. They need justice, and ultimately their families need justice, and Canada needs to see that justice as well.

Labour November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the issue of domestic violence requires federal leadership, and that is what we are here calling for.

We cannot continue to sweep the issue of domestic violence under the rug. The numbers speak for themselves. One-third of workers have faced domestic violence, and 35% said that they know at least one colleague who has been a victim of violence.

Will the minister show some leadership and convene a round table to find effective solutions to the problem of domestic violence?

Labour November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, a new survey has found that 33.6% of workers have faced domestic violence and that this violence follows workers to their jobs every day. It can continue throughout the day through abusive texts, e-mails, or phone calls, and it has a devastating impact.

Will the Minister of Labour convene a round table meeting that includes labour, employers, and government officials as a first step in dealing with this widespread problem?

Committees of the House November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the chair of our committee for presenting the report. On behalf of the NDP official opposition members, I would also like to thank every single witness who came forward, particularly survivors of eating disorders, who came with such courage and told us what we need to do.

Sadly, we find that this report is wanting. Our recommendations in our part of the report indicate that there needs to be strong leadership from the government, that we are at a crisis point in the way women and men who are living with eating disorders are not being supported. This is across the board in every region across the country. There is a deep need for federal leadership when it comes to data collection, supporting health care, and finding solutions for families who are trying to support their loved ones. We hope that the recommendations we have put forward will be duly implemented as soon as possible.

Aboriginal Affairs November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, just over a week ago, Rinelle Harper, a young indigenous woman from northern Manitoba, was brutally attacked and left to die by the river in Winnipeg. Because of her incredible strength and the support of her family and her friends, she is getting better. However, until Canadians as a whole address violence against indigenous women, the violence will not stop.

The question is this. When will the current government take leadership to put an end to violence against women, come up with an action plan, and support the families, so that what Rinelle went through and what thousands of indigenous women go through will never happen again?