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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word is violence.

NDP MP for Churchill (Manitoba)

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

Statements in the House

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?

Poverty November 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, access to affordable, quality child care is part of ending child poverty in our country. Food Banks Canada agrees that access to affordable child care enables parents to enter and remain in the workforce. When mothers are better off, so are their children.

The Conservatives' promise of creating 125,000 child care spaces has been at a standstill for eight years. Why has the government failed to create even one out of the 125,000 child care spots it promised?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 November 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order, during the 80th time the government has brought in time allocation, to bring forward a motion addressing the fact that we are not having the time or due process to look at this bill carefully, the way it ought to be looked at.

I would like to seek unanimous consent to move the following motion.

I move that notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, that Bill C-43, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, be amended by removing the following clauses: a) clauses 102 to 142 related to the Industrial Design and Patent Acts; b) clauses 145 to 170 related to the proposed Canadian high Arctic research station act; c) clauses 172 and 173 related to changes to the provision of social assistance for refugees; d) clauses 186 to 190, related to the Investment Canada Act; e) clauses 191 to 210 related to the Telecommunications Act and Broadcasting Act and the charging of pay-to-pay fees; f) clauses 225 and 226 related to the employment insurance small business job credit; g) clauses 306 to 314 related to temporary foreign workers and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; h) clauses 376 and 377 related to the proposed extractive sector transparency measures act;

that the clauses mentioned in section a) of this motion do form Bill C-45; that Bill C-45 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology;

that the clauses mentioned in section b) of this motion do form Bill C-46; that Bill C-46 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology;

that the clauses mentioned in section c) of this motion do form Bill C-47; that Bill C-47 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities;

that the clauses mentioned in section d) of this motion do compose Bill C-48; that Bill C-48 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology;

that the clauses mentioned in section e) of this motion do compose Bill C-49; that Bill C-49 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology; that the clauses mentioned in section f) of this motion do compose Bill C-50;

that Bill C-50 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities;

that the clauses mentioned in section g) of this motion do compose Bill C-51; that Bill C-51 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration;

that the clauses mentioned in section h) of this motion do compose Bill C-52; that Bill C-52 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology;

that Bill C-43 retain the status on the order paper that it had prior to the adoption of this order; that Bill C-43 be reprinted as amended; and that the law clerk and parliamentary counsel be authorized to make any technical changes or corrections as may be necessary to give effect to this motion.

That is why we are proposing this motion calling for real debate and a real examination of these issues that matter so much to Canadians.

Agriculture and Agri-Food October 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, after months of dragging their feet and making excuses, Conservatives reluctantly agreed to stand up to the rail companies. Despite Conservative promises though, the rail companies have not hit their targets for three weeks and no fines have been issued, not a single one.

Why is it so complicated? The rail companies clearly have not delivered. Why has the government not followed through on its commitment?

Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to express our opposition to the motion on behalf of the official opposition.

Violence against immigrant and refugee women in Canada is a real problem with systemic roots. Immigrant and refugee women are at higher risk, and the Conservative government is empowered to make critical changes. Sadly, this motion is not one.

Sponsorship laws must be changed so that women who experience domestic violence can safely leave their marriages without fear of deportation. Humanitarian and compassionate grounds for staying refugee deportations must include the threat of violence against women. Foreign embassies and consular officials must be trained to deal with instances of domestic violence and forced marriage. Legal aid must be increased to support divorce and custody cases that are brought forth by immigrant women. Culturally sensitive shelters, medical aid, police services, and counselling services must be increased, funded, and sustained. All this I have heard directly from women and service providers across the country as I have consulted for Motion No. 444, a motion to create a national action plan to end violence against women. As well, the issue of forced marriage has been raised in these consultations by those who are experts on the subject.

The motion before us is particularly insidious, because it seeks to exploit the reality of forced marriage, which is violence against women, to mask something that, according to all experts, has nothing to do with it. The premise of the motion is entirely speculative, and no credible data exists to substantiate it. The language of violence against women is once again being used carelessly for political gain.

In my years on Parliament Hill, I have rarely come across a motion that is so misleading on the nature of a problem and that relates to such a serious issue as violence against women. That is why New Democrats will be voting against the motion, and I urge the government member to withdraw it and truly deal with the root issue, which is the violence and inequality women face.

My colleague, the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard, explained to me that while the study of immigrant and refugee women was taking place in the standing committee, Conservative members of Parliament were inexplicably insisting that proxy marriage was a problem, while expert witnesses were testifying that in fact it was not. In fact, what we see in this motion is a veiled attempt to further hinder family reunification in Canada.

Proxy marriage is a legal marriage that takes place long distance over the telephone or even by Skype. Forced marriage is a form of domestic violence and a global human rights issue. It takes place without consent, has nothing to do with immigration, and is already classified as a crime in Canada and in most countries around the world.

The fact is, forced marriage is the subject of several myths, and the rhetoric I have heard to justify this motion only exacerbates those myths.

The South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, SALCO, has been working since 2005 to create empirical data and research on the subject of forced marriage, and in its report published in 2013, it was able to dispel those myths.

Number one is that forced marriage is not an immigration issue. The report said that forced marriage “impacts Canadian citizens. It is not restricted to a particular geographic area or culture”.

Number two is that forced marriage is not a thing of the past. It “is very much an issue that continues to affect Canadians today”.

Number three is that forced marriage happens only in certain cultures. “The survey results reveal that forced marriage takes place across cultures and religions”.

Deepa Mattoo from SALCO said that this motion confirms that the current government lacks the tools for the proper identification and understanding of forced marriages. There has been no indication from the research done by the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario and the Department of Justice that forced marriage victims face victims face proxy marriages. She said that the proposed motion suggests once again that our lawmakers and government are focusing on potential fraud elements in spousal sponsorship situations but that the issue of forced marriages continues to be ignored and sidetracked.

Inventing a link between spousal sponsorship, immigration policy, and an egregious form of violence against women is not only irresponsible and fallacious, but it is also dangerous, as it fans the flames of the exact xenophobia and racism that makes the lives of immigrant women so vulnerable. I am gravely concerned that South Asian communities are targeted and persecuted by these myths in particular. Arranged marriages exist in South Asian communities as they do in many cultures, but these marriages are often consensual and loving and must not be confused with forced marriage or immigration fraud.

The immigration and refugee protection regulations already investigate sponsorship marriages for genuineness, and we have heard from lawyers, as well as community leaders, that South Asian marriages are targeted unduly for these investigations. This motion would only heighten those unjustified suspicions and create unnecessary delays in reuniting family members across borders.

We must diligently respect the rights of the South Asian community, as with all minority communities in our multicultural landscape. Chantal Desloges, another experienced immigration lawyer who strongly disagrees with this motion, said that marriage sponsorships for Pakistani couples now take close to three years for processing. As a result of this, due to cultural reasons, many couples choose to do an inexpensive and fast proxy marriage in order to get the sponsorship filed, then do a big public wedding once the couple is able to move to Canada together.

Chantal also speaks to the needs of another highly targeted community when she asks what is to be done about the situation of refugees—for example, Afghans or Syrians—where it is physically impossible for the intended spouses to marry in person.

In my role as critic for the status of women and as an elected representative, I am consistently in contact with women who are the victims of violence. I have dedicated a large part of my mandate to the eradication of this violence, and I am taken aback by how callously this motion pretends to help the victims of violence while, in fact, it is only an attempt to further close down our immigration regulations and will be used to further stigmatize members of ethnic groups that are already unduly scrutinized.

We must strive to create and implement an agenda that seeks to eradicate violence against women and, very importantly, seeks to achieve the equality all women deserve.