House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-7.


Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the House today about Jordan's principle. I would like to thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for bringing the motion before the House. It seems very important under the circumstances.

I will start by saying that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the motion of my NDP colleague in principle. So, I will rise to share my views. For those listening who do not understand what we are talking about, I will say that Jordan's principle is one of the greatest examples of discrimination against First Nations peoples on reserves.

I have been researching Jordan's principle in preparation for my speech in this House, because I knew this motion would be put forward. I consulted the Canadian Medical Association, which addressed the issue in its August 2007 editorial. This was not 100 years ago, but August 2007. The title of the article can be found on the web site of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, or CMAJ. There is a very interesting article, dated August 14, 2007, called “Jordan's Principle, governments' paralysis”.

I will not repeat what my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan said about the facts of this case, but the facts are that young Jordan of the Norway House Cree Nation lived on a reserve in northern Manitoba and was unable to get proper care because the provincial, municipal and other governments passed the buck back and forth.

This is what the editorial says. I will quote directly from that text to avoid any ambiguity.

Canada is a party to the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty that states: “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration”.

The treaty does not say, “may be a primary consideration” but “shall be a primary consideration”.

I will continue reading:

Jordan’s interests fell a distant second; intergovernmental squabbling over the duty to pay came first. Canada contravened this treaty. Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms forbids discrimination. Many of the services Jordan needed would be paid for without question for a white Manitoban, or off-reserve Aboriginal resident. It was Jordan’s living on-reserve that caused the bureaucracy to choke. That is discrimination pure and simple.

Canada’s constitution recognizes and affirms Aboriginal and treaty rights. The Supreme Court in 1984 declared “the Government has the responsibility to act in a fiduciary capacity with respect to aboriginal peoples,” in a relationship that “is trust-like, rather than adversarial”. One wonders how this obligation was met by the bureaucrats who allowed Jordan to live and then die in the Winnipeg hospital far from his loved ones, while the adversarial turf war raged.

We endorse putting the medical needs of First Nations’ children first. This seems rather evident to me, yet it also seems extremely complicated.

I have here in my hands a fine document produced by our fine government. It is a 2007 publication entitled “Are We Doing Enough?” It is a status report on Canadian public policy and child and youth health, published by the Canadian Pediatric Society. This is the 2007 report. Page 24 of this document—and I did not write it—talks about Jordan's principle. It repeats what I just said about how this child was left to die.

I read that none of the provinces and territories is doing enough and they all have a negative side, except Nova Scotia. Here is what is said about British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba—where Jordan's case originated, not all that long ago—Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. None of those provinces and territories has introduced a child-first policy to resolving jurisdictional disputes involving the care of First Nations children and youth.

Today, in 2007, another case similar to Jordan's could easily arise and we would be in the same situation as the one that left poor Jordan abandoned, when municipal, provincial and federal bureaucrats were too busy bickering amongst themselves.

The Bloc Québécois' position is this: we agree that we must take into account what is going on. Take, for example, Quebec's Youth Protection Act, which says that when dealing with children, authorities must take into account a number of factors and considerations, including the characteristics of aboriginal communities. This shows how important it is for governments to hold consultations with first nations. We must do everything in our power to ensure that this kind of thing never happens again.

In 1986, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Erasmus-Dussault Commission, submitted a report. Nothing has happened. Nobody has done anything. The issue is a simple one. Who should pay? It is always about money. Starting now, we should stop asking that question. Instead, we should be asking whether a child needs services. We can worry about the bill later. That is what we have to do. Bureaucrats have to take a totally different approach and start by admitting that there are no federal-provincial agreements. We have to make children in aboriginal communities our priority. We can fight over the bill later. The point is that this kind of thing should not be happening in 2007.

I would take things even farther than that. I would invite my colleagues in the House to see Richard Desjardins and Robert Monderie's latest film, Le peuple invisible. It is now 2007 and we still have serious problems. We could end up with another Jordan case if we do not take this initiative seriously. I think we should proceed with the motion introduced by my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan.

Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud tonight to rise with my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan to speak to the need for Parliament to adopt the Jordan principle.

Last year we had the great privilege to travel across the great territories of the Nishnawbe-Aski people to participate in the remembrance of Treaty 9. We took a boat up the Albany River about 100 kilometres to an isolated spot where 100 years before, the commissioners came to sign a treaty with the people of Ogoki Post.

At that meeting, like so many other meetings, we asked this question. What was there to celebrate in a treaty that brought so much misery to these people and where lie after lie was enacted?

During that celebration a man stepped forward. We were in a kind of little wooded area with a campfire. He said that he would like to speak to the dignitaries who were here. He spoke in his native language and a young student came forward to translate. He said, “I apologize. I never learned to speak English”.

He said that when the school commissioners came, they took his sister. His sister never came home and they never heard from her again. She went off to a residential school and nobody ever came back to tell the community what happened to that little girl. He said that when the school commissioners came the next year, his parents hid him in the bush and he never got an education.

I think of the child who is not remembered by anybody in Canada except by the people in her community. Yet there are so many children like her across Canada. They are the tragic stitches in the terrible quilt that was the residential school situation.

We stand up in Parliament and say that we remember. We will have truth and reconciliation and we will have a payout.

However, I hope I am wrong, but I predict that within my lifetime another Parliament will launch an investigation into the widespread negligent abuse of first nation children across the country. This is taking place right now, every day in every community across the country where first nations children live.

Jordan is not an unnamed child. He becomes a symbol of so many children who are lost in foster care, who are not given adequate medical services and who are not given the most basic education support.

In fact, in the Ontario Human Rights Code every child is guaranteed access to special needs programming if they need it. That is unless they are first nations because the federal government pays for that. We work on the principle, with our first nations schools, that in every province they have to meet provincial standards. Of course they should meet provincial standards, but here is the kicker. They get paid according to federal standards and the federal standards are abysmal.

Just two weeks ago we had two teachers in northwestern Ontario in the Nishnawbe-Aski territory on a hunger strike to try to raise attention over the need for special education dollars, but they did not get much attention with all the hullabaloo that goes on in Parliament. Nary a question has been raised about the fact that people are waging hunger strikes to get education dollars.

I would like to focus tonight on giving the people back home an example of how things are done or how things are not done in Indian country. I would like to give the example of Attawapiskat school, and I will describe the school. About 400 students are in that school and it sits on a badly contaminated toxic site of something like 30,000 litres. Year after year the children were getting sick. They finally asked INAC to do an investigation and they found out they were sitting on perhaps the most toxic site in northern Ontario. Did INAC pull the children? Of course not. We needed more studies. Therefore, we had to have study after study.

As a former school board trustee on the Northeast Catholic School Board, if we had any questions of health, the school would be shut down immediately and the students pulled out, but not in Attawapiskat, not until the parents took action and pulled the students out.

That was seven years ago. We have had three Indian Affairs ministers commit to that community that a school would be built, and no school has been built. The kicker again is this community is not asking for a handout.

The community does not want to go with the low standards that INAC has, the crappy standards for building schools that INAC insists on every first nation. It wants a school that meets the proper standards of the province of Ontario. It wants proper class sizes. It wants a school that is big enough to hold the expected 600 students. The community does not want to wait for the federal government. It went to the bank to get its own financing because it actually has an excellent financial track record.

Of course we brought this to Indian Affairs because we thought it was a no-brainer. We thought this was a win-win story. The Minister of Indian Affairs has said that a school is needed there. It is amazing that the community has to go to the bank for its own financing. The only hitch is it needs Indian affairs to sign off on the tuition agreements so that the bank deal can flow. The former Minister of Indian Affairs signed off on that, but nothing happened.

In November 2005 I sat with the Indian affairs minister and we hammered out an agreement with the head of the regional office for Ontario. I actually looked it up in the paper. Chief Mike Carpenter went to the school to tell the students and they were all yelling for joy because they had brought home an agreement to build that school.

Well, there is no school. We have had two other Indian affairs ministers. Another one signed off on the agreement. The latest we understand is that it is now at the preliminary project approval stage. That means they are nowhere in getting this school built because Indian affairs continues the pattern of systemic negligence toward the most vulnerable, our young. We simply need someone to sign off on this agreement. The banks and the community will do the rest.

Attawapiskat is sitting on what is now one of the richest diamond deposits in the western world. It took four years to get that mine up and running. There was hurdle after hurdle. There was no problem for the federal government and the province to get that diamond mine up and running in the most isolated region in the province of Ontario. We could get the permits. That is good, because in northern Ontario we support mineral development and we hope that this mine will employ first nations people. It can be a positive story.

It is amazing when we juxtapose the phenomenal riches of the Victor diamond mine with the abysmal poverty that is in Attawapiskat.

We have to ask why is it that they could discover diamonds in a place as isolated as the Mushkegowuk Cree territory. Infrastructure was put in place and cost was no object. The federal government and the province was ready to sign whatever had to be signed to get that mine up and running. Meanwhile, the greatest single resource that we have in northern Ontario, our young people, were left sitting on top of a toxic contaminated site. Nobody so far has come forward from the regional office of INAC to sign that agreement, even though we have a commitment from the minister and a commitment from the director general of Ontario.

What we are seeing in Attawapiskat is what we see every single day across first nation territories in Canada. It is a disgrace. Let us just call it for what it is. We need some accountability. We need to set some standards. We need to start making some things happen so that the next generation will not ask how this could have been allowed to happen, how could people have sat back and said, “Who cares”.

Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:30 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, tonight's adjournment debate relates to a question I raised on October 23. The question related to the fact that respect for the law is a core fundamental Canadian principle, and the Prime Minister violated that principle when last July the government was found guilty by the Federal Court of attempting to illegally take farmers' marketing rights through the Canadian Wheat Board away.

I referred in my question to the contemptuous response of the Prime Minister to the ruling of the Federal Court of Canada, which found in its ruling that the government had attempted to illegally undermine the Canadian Wheat Board through the use of regulations. Instead of the Prime Minister stating that the Government of Canada would abide by the decision, he stated, “We should make it clear that does not change the determination of the Government of Canada to see a dual market for Canadian farmers”. This veiled threat, coupled with the statement that change will occur “one way or another”, demonstrates absolute contempt for the courts.

We have a Prime Minister who talks about law and order, but only laws that suit his personal purposes. The bottom line is that the Prime Minister has shown contempt for the courts and he has shown contempt for the decisions of Parliament, which, by motions in this House, requested the government to ask an honest question, but, of course, the government overrode Parliament and asked a fraudulent question.

On October 16 in the Speech from the Throne the government went further and stated that it “will recognize the views of farmers, as expressed in the recent plebiscite on barley, by enacting marketing choice”.

There are two facts. Fact number one is that the plebiscite was fraudulent with three questions asked and then the government added two together to promote its discredited position. In fact, the government only managed 13.8% support to destroy the board. Fact number two is if the government attempts to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act, it will have to conduct a binding, legitimate and honest plebiscite. The act is reasonably specific and the minister has failed to meet those obligations.

As well, the former Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food acknowledged on not one but two occasions last year that the plebiscite that he had devised was “not binding or legally binding on the government”. Worse yet, the Government of Canada failed to do any analysis in terms of the economic impact that its decision would have on farmers themselves.

Before the Federal Court, the director general of marketing policy for Agriculture Canada when questioned if any economic analysis had been done, said no. Asked by the lawyers if anybody was retained to analyze the recent past, he said no.

The government failed to do an analysis and put forward a fraudulent question. Will the government admit that it failed to do due diligence in this case in terms of the financial returns of farmers? Will the government commit to a proper plebiscite if it attempts to introduce legislation to further undermine the board?

6:30 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan


David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Here we are again, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite is riding his one trick pony, as the minister pointed out the other day, and we are again dealing with his unhealthy obsession with curtailing the freedoms of western Canadian farmers. It seems the member would like to take western Canadian farmers back 50 years.

The other day we were clear in the throne speech that we were--

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

6:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. parliamentary secretary. I would like to get the attention of the House. Both hon. members are speaking clearly, yet I am having some problems hearing what they are saying because there is too much noise.

My rule of thumb is this. If I cannot understand what the speaker is saying, then there is too much noise. I have recognized the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and the Canadian Wheat Board and he is the one I want to hear.

6:35 p.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, we know that farmers across western Canada want to hear this as well and so it is good to be here. I know that my colleagues are enthused about this because they want to represent their constituents.

The member opposite wanted to talk about the plebiscite so we can talk about that for a couple of minutes.

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food made a decision that we were going to consult with western Canadian farmers on the issue of marketing choice with regard to barley. The minister set forward a plebiscite with three clear questions. The other side wanted to try to make up the situation where it could argue that the questions were not clear, but I told people who said to me that they did not understand the questions, “Take them to your eight year old son, have him read them to you and he will help you to understand them”. Those questions were very clear.

The member opposite understands that. He knows that this was a clear question. He knows that farmers expressed themselves. Thirty thousand farmers voted on this issue. I do not think they were all confused. Sixty-two per cent of them said that they wanted some change in the marketing system in western Canada with regard to barley.

This government chose to listen to farmers, unlike the previous government. We were prepared on August 1 to bring barley freedom day to western Canadian farmers.

In the week prior to August 1, a group came forward called the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board. The group was not called the friends of the farmers for some obvious reasons. It announced that it and a couple of provincial governments were going to step forward and try to turn back our amendments, and the barley price actually began to drop. The barley price dropped through that whole week, after the judge's ruling on August 1, to the tune of where farmers were losing $1 a bushel on their barley. At that time $1 a bushel was a lot of money.

Prices have rebounded since then because of the world market, in spite of the board and not because of it. Farmers are accessing the market at higher prices, but again they are still bound in many ways by the Canadian Wheat Board system, from which we would like to free them.

We are moving in various areas to try to address the issue of marketing freedom for western Canadian farmers.

Today is Halloween. It really is a trick or treat day. Farmers are really sick of Liberal tricks. They are sick of brown bags. They are sick of cash payments. Most of all they are sick of the fact that the Liberals, led by the member for Wascana, actually locked western Canadian farmers in jail because they wanted to market their grain. It is a shameful thing to hear that.

Rather than Liberal tricks, farmers would sooner have Conservative treats. We know that they look forward to freedom. They look forward to democracy. They look forward to choice in marketing their grain. We look forward to bringing it forward for them.

6:35 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that what the government is trying to do is to take the choice of collective marketing away, the choice of collective marketing through the Canadian Wheat Board. Study after study has shown that farmers maximize collectively more through the Canadian Wheat Board than they do through the open market.

The government has done no studies to see what the impact would be because it does not want to know the answer. It knows it would cost farmers over the long term.

The parliamentary secretary tried in his remarks to leave the impression, as the Prime Minister did the other day, that barley prices fell after the Wheat Board was confirmed as the single desk seller. That is a dishonest position. They did not fall. In fact the chair of the Canadian Wheat Board confirmed that prices under the open market were at around $4.75 and after the Wheat Board was confirmed, they went up to $5.06--

6:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The parliamentary secretary has the floor.

6:35 p.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, all people need to do is go to the Western Barley Growers website. They can see what happened with the prices. They do not need fiction from the member opposite to try to convince them about what happened with barley prices.

Unlike our predecessors, this government listens and respects the will of farmers. Western Canadian farmers expressed their views in a plebiscite that was held in February and March of this year. Nearly 30,000 western barley farmers voted in a fair process. The majority, 62%, indicated they wanted more choice to decide how to market their own product.

Therefore, the appeal of the July 31 Federal Court decision that denies the legislative authority to make amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board regulations is the right thing to do for western Canadian farmers and for their families.

6:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted.

Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:40 p.m.)