Evidence of meeting #89 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was system.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Darlene Shackelly  Executive Director, Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of British Columbia
Audra Andrews  Union of Safety and Justice Employees
Lowell Carroll  Manager of Calgary, Red Deer, and Siksika Legal Services Centre, Legal Aid Alberta, As an Individual
Claudie Paul  Services Director, Regroupement des centres d'amitié autochtones du Québec inc.
Jacinthe Poulin  Health and Social Services Advisor, Regroupement des centres d'amitié autochtones du Québec inc.
Marie-Claude Landry  Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission
Teresa Edwards  Member of the Board of Directors, Indigenous Bar Association in Canada
Fiona Keith  Senior Legal Counsel, Human Rights Protection Branch, Canadian Human Rights Commission
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Kenza Gamassi

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

I'm sorry, but just for the record, on that statement, I don't think we want to support the abuse that has happened. We want to support the victim after the abuse has happened.

5:20 p.m.

Member of the Board of Directors, Indigenous Bar Association in Canada

Teresa Edwards

No, I'm not saying.... I'm sorry. It's just because I'm trying to address the point. What I'm saying is to give supports—

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Yes.

5:20 p.m.

Member of the Board of Directors, Indigenous Bar Association in Canada

Teresa Edwards

—for the abuse they've experienced, such as having counselling available.

A perfect example is the child welfare situation. Families are losing children primarily because of poverty. They cannot support their child, or they can't have a house that has a bedroom for a girl and one for a boy; after they're five years old, they need to have two bedrooms. Child welfare comes in and says, “Sorry, you can't support your child adequately, so they're going to the state.” The child goes into state care, and then we give a family $2,000 a month to raise someone else's child, whereas if the state were providing supports.... That's what I'm referring to. If supports had been provided for that person beforehand, they wouldn't have lost custody of their child in the first place.

It's similar to other supports for indigenous women. They need to be receiving a holistic approach of counselling, well-being, getting financial literacy training, support and encouragement for education, and the means and opportunity for child care, which is huge. It's number one. Eighty per cent of indigenous women are single mothers, so you can have all the programs you want, but if you don't have child care, they can't make it there because they're taking care of their children.

Also, in our culture, we take care of our parents, so they are responsible for both, and they're doing it alone.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thank you very much.

We'll now move on to Irene for seven minutes.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you very much for coming here and again providing the information we need.

Teresa, you make it sound so simple. All we need to do is provide all of these supports. It makes absolute sense. It's humane. It addresses the human being. It respects the experience of that individual. Why aren't we doing it?

5:20 p.m.

Member of the Board of Directors, Indigenous Bar Association in Canada

Teresa Edwards

Well, it's a profitable business to put people in prison.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Is it as simple as that?

5:20 p.m.

Member of the Board of Directors, Indigenous Bar Association in Canada

Teresa Edwards

Well, if you measure the amount we're putting into law enforcement and into putting people in jail, in terms of what it costs to keep a person institutionalized, it's not to the economic benefit of Canadians to be doing that. What is the answer? Why are we not doing something different? It may look like it costs more in the immediate term, but even in a five-term plan you're going to be benefiting financially, socially, and every which way by investing in women and children in this area.

We've seen it in terms of the 30 years of studies and the millions of dollars that have gone into it. If that had been targeted to programs for indigenous women and child care, we would be looking at a different scenario.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

It's interesting when you talk about investing in women and children. This is something that we've known about developing countries for generations. If you empower the women and if you provide the support systems, they will look after their children and they will be a much healthier community, but we can't seem to translate that into our own experience. It's frustrating. It's very frustrating.

You talk about curricula. I was a teacher, and I believe very much in the power of education.

In terms of the curricula that you described in Ontario, Alberta, and the territories, is that in place now? When will it be in place? Have you seen it in action?

5:25 p.m.

Member of the Board of Directors, Indigenous Bar Association in Canada

Teresa Edwards

Yes, it's already in place in the territories. Legacy of Hope, where I work, has been around for 20 years, and the curricula in the Northwest Territories has been in schools for five to 10 years, I believe. In Alberta, we're just beginning. In Ontario, we're doing it in a piecemeal fashion, because we haven't signed with the Ontario government yet. We haven't announced with Alberta. It's under way, very concretely under way.

We hope to be announcing deliverables within the next one to two years about how this is making a change in society, because children are our future leaders. These are going to be our future doctors, teachers, lawyers, and judges, so we need to educate them on the reality that indigenous people aren't just from messed-up socio-economic backgrounds.

What I teach the women I work with and mentor is that on a scale of 15,000 years, for 14,850 years indigenous women were strong. We had thriving communities, very strong socio-economic trade and justice systems, and functioning people. It's only been in the last 150 years that we've known these issues, largely tied to residential schools. It's not in our DNA to be on welfare, addicted, or in prison, so we can change this. We can rewrite. We can create a new path for our people.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

You've seen positive results, then, in the territories, where this has been in place for some time?

5:25 p.m.

Member of the Board of Directors, Indigenous Bar Association in Canada

Teresa Edwards

Absolutely. In the territories, they have a high rate of indigenous people who are employed in government and who have to speak the language. It's a cultural revitalization. It's all leading to positive results.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

It's respect for the culture that you're serving.

5:25 p.m.

Member of the Board of Directors, Indigenous Bar Association in Canada

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Isn't that an interesting concept, though? Thank you.

If there's time, I want to talk to you, Marie-Claude.

You were talking about solitary confinement. Howard Sapers reported on this issue ages ago. As far as we know, the current government has decided that there will be no more solitary confinement. Is that in fact what's happening, or are people still being subjected to it?

5:25 p.m.

Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission

Marie-Claude Landry

Let's say first that there are many ways to do segregation or isolation. People need to understand that. In federal institutions, we can use a lot of words to define it, but it's all the same.

Let's take an example. When people are at risk of self-injury, what are the institutions going to do? What they do is put them in a cell with oversight, but those cells are in the segregation unit, which means they have no contact with human beings. It is as if they are in segregation, in fact, and that creates a lot of problems.

There is also what they call “administrative segregation”. That's when they believe the inmates are a risk to themselves or of putting the institution at risk. That's another way. What are they going to do? They are going to call it administrative segregation, but there is no oversight, or almost no oversight. They will put them in the segregation unit and they will not have any contact with human beings, or almost none.

There is also the disciplinary sanction. After they receive a sanction for, say, bad behaviour, an administrative person could decide that they will put them in segregation. That's going to be punitive segregation.

It still happens.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Irene, you have 15 seconds.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

CEDAW recommended that female prisoners have female guards: no more males because of the harassment and potential sexual harassment. Have you heard any complaints in that regard? Have you any experience of that?

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Give a very short answer, please.

5:30 p.m.

Senior Legal Counsel, Human Rights Protection Branch, Canadian Human Rights Commission

Fiona Keith

Yes, we have received complaints from female inmates about the use of male guards in their facilities.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thank you very much.

We're now going to Sean Fraser for one question.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

That's perfect. I thought I was done—

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

I thought you were too.

5:30 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!