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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
Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act November 4th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, this debate hits home with me. A lot of people in northern Manitoba right now are very concerned about a proposed shipment of crude oil on the bay line and through the Port of Churchill. Anybody who knows Canada's north knows that the terrain is extremely challenging. In fact, there were two derailments in the last two weeks. Thankfully, they were railcars that did not contain crude oil. People know that if something like this were to happen, it would be devastating if the derailments led to oil spills. People do not want to see that either on land or in Hudson Bay and into the Arctic Ocean.
One of the other reasons why people are very concerned about this is because we know that under the current government there has been a record loss of environmental regulations, so the checks and balances simply are not in place. Canadians want those checks and balances in place to protect their communities and coastlines. I would like to hear from my colleague what she thinks about that.
Ethics October 30th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister changes his story daily on the Senate.
First, only one person knew about the payoff between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy. Then “a few” did. The Prime Minister first said his chief of staff resigned. Then on Monday he claimed Wright was fired. First we heard about one cheque. Now we hear about two.
Why will the Prime Minister not apologize for misleading Canadians? When will Canadians hear the truth?
Violence Against Women October 30th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, a few days ago we heard the news that Canada ranked 20th in the world for gender equality. While some may have been shocked, too many Canadian women know this to be their reality.
One way women experience inequality is through violence perpetrated against them because they are women.
Today I had the honour of announcing our national tour to listen and consult Canadian women with my Motion No. 444, which calls on the federal government to enact a national action plan to address violence against women.
In speaking of gender-based violence, we must remember two things: one, ending violence against women is possible; and two, Canadian women have the absolute right to live in dignity without violence.
Today I had the honour of standing with some of the strongest advocates for women's rights in the country. We heard from Kate McInturff from the CCPA who said that the problem of violence in women's lives came at too great a cost of all Canadians to bear. Intimate partner violence costs us $7.4 billion a year and sexual assault, $546 million.
Indigenous women, racialized women, all women in Canada know that an end to violence against women is needed. We need an action plan to end violence against women.
Business of Supply October 22nd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I found my colleague’s presentation quite interesting.
First of all, I want to make it very clear that the NDP has always called for the abolition of the Senate. It is truly unfair for the government to wage a campaign of disinformation and fiction.
What does he think his constituents and fellow Canadians will have to say? They are completely shocked by the scandal involving the Conservative senators appointed by the honourable member's own Prime Minister. What are they saying about the Senate? Are they not frustrated that after his government repeatedly called for Senate reform, the only thing they are seeing is scandal and a glaring lack of responsibility toward Canadians?
First Nations Elections Act June 14th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the member across the way to read the submissions made by first nations leaders from across Canada, when this bill was before committee, and to consider the very serious concerns they brought forward with regard to the very issue the member raised.
We in the NDP believe that Bill S-6 does not, and must have, in any effort to work with first nations to make sure that their elections are more fair, provisions for internal appeal mechanisms. We are very concerned that first nations would be forced to go through the court system to be able to appeal any sort of irregularities or issues that may have come up in elections.
The Conservative government will know very well, as a result of many of its members' election woes, how long it takes to deal with election irregularities that have come up. In terms of expenses and practices, whether it is robocalls or election expenditures, the reality is we do not want first nations to have to go through those kinds of systems when inclusion for an internal appeal mechanism could be easily done.
First nations have raised this. The government, unfortunately, continues to ignore this very serious demand. We believe that the bill, which refuses to heed the concerns raised by first nations, will further marginalize and further oppress first nations people in Canada. We cannot stand for that.
First Nations Elections Act June 14th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I sincerely thank my colleague for her question.
I absolutely agree with her point, which was raised by the grand chief of the Manitoba first nations. This approach really reflects a colonialist attitude in that it seeks to silence first nations, rather than listen to them. First nations came before the Senate to express their objections and the reasons for their opposition. Their representations involved key points in the bill. Despite this, the government decided to go ahead without listening to these first nations or making any amendments.
This kind of attitude and this bill, if passed, would further marginalize first nations across Canada who want to make changes and turn their communities around. Unfortunately, these efforts are being blocked by the federal government.
First Nations Elections Act June 14th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the words from the member on behalf of the Treaty 8 First Nations and first nations from Alberta are critical to this debate.
We have a recurrent theme here. There are first nations from across the country that are opposing bills that the government is putting forward by raising specific concerns, and still the government is unwilling to listen to first nations. If the government wanted to make a difference, it would listen to first nations when it comes to the need to invest in capacity-building. It would respect first nations who see the customary band election system as appropriate for them, and it would respect the fundamental notion that first nations know best what they need for their own people.
The current government's approach has been to do what first nations have come to expect from federal governments. Unfortunately, in the last few months we have seen a great zeal from the government for imposing legislation on first nations, to silence their voices, to stop debate from happening so their voices could not be heard. We risk having legislation that would further marginalize first nations, further disempower them, and that would break down the kind of enthusiasm and interest that first nations have to make a difference for their communities, for their regions, and fundamentally for our country.
First Nations Elections Act June 14th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I certainly want to thank my colleague for his compliments on the beauty of my constituency and northern Manitoba. It is indeed true.
However, I will respectfully disagree with the rest of his comments. I find that the status quo, if that is what we are talking about, is a colonial paternalistic approach that the government has taken on bill after bill. I had the chance to speak, along with first nations, against Bill S-2 on matrimonial property rights. We are hearing some of same themes here. First nations are not being heard and their concerns are not being taken into consideration, and the government continues to impose this bill. That is the status quo that first nations have seen from the Conservative government and the Liberal government before that, for far too long.
If anything, there is a chance now for the government to listen to first nations, to step up. There is a chance to take the leadership that is required to work with first nations and make real changes when it comes to repealing the oppressive nature of the Indian Act. They can truly work with first nations who want to make a difference for their communities and want to build a better future. That is what New Democrats are calling for.
First Nations Elections Act June 14th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in opposition to Bill S-6, yet another bill that the Conservative government is putting forward about which first nations have a great deal of concern. Certainly he NDP believes it is a serious matter and that first nations voices, like on any issue that pertains to them directly or indirectly, must be heard.
I rise to speak to the bill on a very important week, a very important anniversary for first nations in Canada. Five years ago, the Prime Minister rose in the House of Commons and apologized to residential school survivors, their families and their communities and he committed to a new relationship. He committed to a new beginning in the Crown-first nations relationship. Fast forward five years later, and not only have we not seen a new relationship, we have seen the government continue to impose legislation after legislation that flies in the face of that commitment.
Bill S-6, like bills that have gone forward, misses out on the critical piece, and that is first nations consultation. What first nations raise in terms of concerns must be reflected in the bill.
We have a case now with Bill S-6 where the government is applying rhetoric regarding empowerment, the importance of fair elections and stability in first nations, concepts which are very worthwhile and sound great. However, when we scratch the surface and start looking at what was said in the Senate when the bill was being discussed and when we start hearing directly from first nations and first nations leadership, we realize the bill is not about empowerment and it does not provide the kind of stability that first nations need when they come to their electoral system.
The NDP believes strongly that as a result, the bill cannot be supported. The government must go back to the table with first nations and listen to the very concrete concerns they have raised directly with members of the government. As we know, this has been debated in the Senate and changes must be reflected in a bill that purports to deal with making first nations elections fairer to allow greater stability in the community.
The bill establishes rules for elections, apart from the Indian Act. These include an election cycle longer than two years, the ability to have a common election date, elements that have been raised by first nations and need to be addressed. We agree with the need to address these issues, but we share the serious concern that first nations have brought forward, and that is Bill S-6 gives the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development the power to order a first nation with community designed elections to adhere to the new regime.
We want to see first nations' elections improve, but this is basically tinkering around the edges of the Indian Act and does not address the extensive powers of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development over the right of bands to determine their own future.
In making that statement, it is very much founded on a critical concept. We have a federal government that has committed to the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights, yet putting forward Bill S-6 very much disrespects that commitment. I quote from article 18 in the UN declaration which states:
Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.
Unfortunately, when we turn to the legislative summary of this bill, it indicates that:
First Nations may choose to opt in to the new elections regime proposed under the legislation, or they may be brought under the new elections regime by ministerial order in some circumstances.
We in the NDP stand with first nations in expressing our complete and utter opposition to this very point, a point that challenges the commitment that the government and our country made to the UN declaration of indigenous rights. It flies in the face of the promise the Prime Minister made of a new beginning and a new relationship.
According to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, 240 first nations hold elections pursuant to the Indian Act, 341 first nations conduct custom or community-based elections rather than elections under the Indian Act, and 36 first nations select their leaders according to their self-government agreements.
We have heard real concern expressed from many first nations about the short term of office for first nations leadership positions, and I certainly know this from the first nations that I represent. We agree with first nations in saying that the two-year term of office imposed on first nations by the Indian Act is too short to provide political and economic stability, often creating deep divisions in communities.
I have had the chance to get to know many chiefs and councillors across northern Manitoba who have struggled when that has been the case in their communities. They have brought forward ideas, a visionary approach to governing their community that perhaps differs from the approach of leaders who have come before them, but two years is not enough time to make changes and get the community on the path that they would like it go down based on the support of their community members. We agree with first nations in saying that the two-year timeline must be removed.
I would like to note that we also agree with the substantive concerns with the Indian Act elections that relate to the degree of ministerial intervention, the lack of an adequate and autonomous appeals process and the absence of flexibility to set the terms of office and determine the size of councils.
We believe it is extremely problematic and, frankly, reeks of colonialism that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development would be able to interfere through ministerial order, as is clearly stated in this bill, in elections on first nations.
I would like to refer back to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and some of the recommendations they made back in 1996. The Senate committee on aboriginal peoples said:
With respect to elections, a key proposal was to develop community leadership selection systems and remove the application of the Indian Act as a preliminary measure to re-establishing traditional forms of leadership. To accomplish this, the following steps were suggested: community level development of custom codes; community development of local dispute resolution procedures; regional first nations capacity and advisory bodies.
Again, some of the elements that were recommended back in 1996 are not present or appropriately resourced under the current legislation.
We have referenced a sticking point under subclause 3(1), which states that “The Minister may, by order, add the name of a First Nation to the schedule...” of first nations participating in the new election system.
The other problem with this legislation is the regulations in clause 41. The clause provides for the Governor in Council to have broad and general powers to make regulations with respect to elections.
We have had the chance to hear from many leaders and people involved in aboriginal governance who have expressed their opposition to the current iteration of Bill S-6, and I would like to read into the record their voices.
Before I do that, I want to also acknowledge that we have seen a very problematic pattern by the government in bringing in closure on debate regarding first nations bills. We saw it with Bill S-2 and we saw it with bills that came forward prior to Bill S-2.
For us in the NDP, it is absolutely fundamental that first nations voices be heard in committee in order to best shape legislation or to give us the opportunity to challenge legislation on their behalf.
Unfortunately, my experience has been that the Conservative government has done everything in its power to muzzle the voices of first nations and to silence them when it comes to speaking out on bills that have everything to do with their communities. That is unacceptable, and it once again reflects the colonial approach that we have seen from the current government time and time again.
Having said that, I would like to read into the record some of the messages we have heard from first nations people when the bill was at the Senate committee.
I would like to start with a quote from the Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Derek Nepinak. He said:
This proposal does not fulfill the recommendations put forth by the AMC. It appears to be an attempt by the Minister to expand governmental jurisdiction and control the First Nations electoral processes that are created pursuant to the Indian Act or custom code. I am hopeful that Canada will engage in meaningful consultation with First Nations in Manitoba in order to fix some of the problems, instead of unilaterally imposing a statutory framework that will greatly affect the rights of First Nations.
There are a number of key messages here, including the reference to the need for meaningful consultation. He acknowledges that there are problems, and that one of those problems is the unilateral imposition of this framework that would greatly affect first nations.
I would also like to quote Jody Wilson-Raybould, the B.C. Regional Chief from the Assembly of First Nations. She spoke to the problems with clause 3. She said:
These provisions essentially give the minister the ability to impose core governance rules on a First Nation, which, if ever used, would be resented by that First Nation, would not be seen as legitimate in the eyes of that nation, and would probably add fuel to an already burning fire.
Ultimately, each nation must, and will, take responsibility for its own governance, including elections.
Tammy Cook-Searson, Chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, noted:
My main objection to this bill is the lack of positive change from the old Indian Act. Neither the Indian Act nor Bill S-6 incorporate the constitutional principles of the inherent right to self-determination and governance. The authority in this bill remains with the cabinet and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada instead of moving towards a greater responsibility with First Nations for our governance.
Aimée E. Craft, chair of the national aboriginal law section of the Canadian Bar Association, came to the Senate committee on February 29 and presented, saying:
[D]ealing with the level of ministerial discretion to include First Nations in the schedule of participating First Nations, this changes the opt-in nature of the legislation. It continues minister discretion to exercise control over First Nations governance and it would result in some First Nations being subjects of the act rather than participants. In addition, the bill lacks clarity as to the standard that the minister will apply in making determinations about what constitutes a protracted leadership dispute that has significantly compromised the governance of a First Nation.
These are first nations leaders, and Aimée Craft is a specialist when it comes to the legal aspect of the bill. They all express serious concern about a number of points in Bill S-6.
It was also noted that:
Ultimately, how attractive this legislation will be to any First Nation will depend greatly on what is, or what is not included or provided for within the Regulations. However, it should be kept in mind that Regulations are designed and intended to be amended easily and quickly. Therefore, while a First Nation may opt into the First Nations Elections Act on the basis of what it considers to be attractive Regulations, there is no guarantee that the Governor in Council will not change those Regulations to something that a First Nation may find less appealing.
There are a number of concerns. What I find extremely problematic here is the Conservative government's continued approach in imposing legislation and refraining to hear from first nations on very serious matters that have everything to do with their capacity to be self-determining for their own people, yet the Conservatives turn around and use broad-sounding language that may sound great to a lot of Canadians but that certainly hides the true facts.
I think of the first nations that I have the honour of representing and the kinds of challenges that I have heard from people when it comes to their election systems and the barriers they face when it comes to the Indian Act.
I know that the Conservative government has also jumped on the bandwagon of critiquing the Indian Act, yet it is ironic that so many first nations point to the Indian Act as being a colonial tool that oppresses first nations further.
Is imposing legislation on first nations not a sign of further oppression? Is that not a sign of that spirit of the Indian Act that sets out to impose systems and attitudes from the outside upon first nations?
The imposition of legislation without proper consultation, without heeding the calls for changes to this legislation, speaks to the attitude that the federal government somehow knows better than first nations, that somehow it can intervene and fix what is happening.
If there is anything that we have learned from history, it is that such an attitude will not get us anywhere, that it will further marginalize and disempower first nations. That is something I hope would cause some real concern among government members and would cause them to think twice about what they are doing on bill after bill.
Many government members, as was evident in the debate around Bill S-2, represent first nations. What are they hearing from their members? There are repeated messages of repealing the Indian Act and putting an end to the kind of oppression that has been imposed by a history of federal governments, by the Crown, but this is not the answer.
First nations must be at the centre of the future that they carve out for their communities. First nations must be at the forefront. The issues of governance and elections are fundamental to first nations' capacity to determine their own future. Instead of imposing legislation, the Conservative government ought to sit down with first nations and make changes that reflect their needs and their voices.
Unfortunately, we have not seen that kind of attitude from the federal government. Instead we see a continued attack against first nations in bill after bill. These bills fly in the face of respecting first nations' treaty and aboriginal rights and they fly in the face of the UN declaration on indigenous peoples. They disregard the serious concerns that first nations are bringing forward as they demand that the federal government step up and take leadership.
On the issue of elections, I have heard a lot of concern from first nations that they simply do not have the capacity to put forward the kind of governance plan that they would like. That lack of capacity is fundamentally tied to the lack of funding and the cutbacks that we have seen by the federal government, building on cuts by previous Liberal governments when they froze funding to first nations at 2%. Now we are seeing cuts to advocacy organizations that also are involved with service delivery in education, training, housing and health.
First nations have always extended a hand out. They want to work with the government. They want to make change in their communities. We in the NDP are proud to stand with them in opposition to Bill S-6. We call on the government to change course and truly begin a new relationship with first nations people in this country.
Petitions June 14th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the second petition is signed by the electors and citizens of Elmwood—Transcona. They are drawing the attention of the government to the need to support the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan, underscoring the importance of secure pensions for people in Winnipeg and across the country.