House of Commons Hansard #31 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was loans.


Motions in Amendment
Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member to clarify. I did not understand what he said the Liberals and the NDP did not agree with. I think he was talking about the amendment related to parties and associations being responsible for the debt of a candidate over whom they may have no control and had no idea they were incurring debts.

It seems patently un-Canadian, unfair and perhaps unconstitutional. I spoke strongly against that. I think that is what the member spoke against as well, and I want to make sure we are on the same side on opposing that concept in the legislation.

Motions in Amendment
Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, we believe that the recognized party—that is, the political party under whose name we sit here in this House—should not be held responsible for debts incurred by a candidate for nomination. That is the principle we would like to defend. I hope my hon. colleagues in the House will vote with me. I received the support of their representatives on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

An individual candidate for a nomination must be responsible for the debts he or she incurs with a bank, credit union or other financial institution. That has nothing to do with the party. In any case, it is, first and foremost, a financial contract entered into between an individual and a financial institution. Thus, it has nothing to do with the party.

Should we also start taking on the unpaid car loans and unpaid mortgages, because the person is a candidate for a party's nomination? That would be ridiculous. Similarly, political parties are not responsible for the debts incurred by a candidate for nomination.

I would remind the House that a candidate for nomination is not considered an official candidate until the nomination meeting is held. He or she is a candidate for nomination to become the official standard bearer of the party during a byelection or general election.

Motions in Amendment
Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I note, from the comments of my Bloc colleague, that there seems to be a consensus growing, among the opposition parties at least, that we do not accept this idea that the default position should be to the federal party if in fact candidates default or fail to pay back their loans in the accepted period of time.

We all come from the same premise that a loan that is not paid back is deemed a donation and this was a loophole that should have been plugged.

The point I want to make is that sometimes in a riding where candidates have very little opportunity, they may see in their mind that they have a possibility of winning and spend far too much money in that campaign. In a campaign that may have warranted a $10,000 token amount, some candidates may borrow the full $80,000 and run a full campaign even though they have no hope of winning and in fact fail.

I am wondering if a change could be made to the amendment proposed where if the federal parties were to have the right to veto situations like this, would it then be acceptable for the party to be the co-signer or the guarantor of the loan for candidates. Or, does the member's party feel that it is a complete non-starter as an issue?

Motions in Amendment
Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Winnipeg Centre raises a very interesting question. A distinction must be made between, on the one hand, the legislative rules that would be brought in under Bill C-29 and, on the other hand, the constitutions of each of our parties. The NDP constitution is different from ours; the Liberal constitution is different from that of the Conservatives. It is therefore very difficult, but it is absolutely necessary—

Motions in Amendment
Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Halton.

Motions in Amendment
Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Garth Turner Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill in the few minutes left in debate here today.

Mostly, I would like to talk about the law of unintended consequences. I think it is a law that somewhat bedevils the government. For example, when it brought in legislation to fix what it perceived was a problem with income trusts, we ended up actually making the situation a lot worse with Canadians, investors and the economy. I am kind of concerned that the law of unintended consequences might click in with Bill C-29.

The bill seeks to add clarity and transparency to the way that we politicians finance our political activities, mainly election campaigns. It would disallow us the ability to go and borrow money from friends, relatives, places of employment or supporters. It would disallow us the ability, as I understand it, to finance our own campaigns with money borrowed in our own name. In other words, money now has to be borrowed only from a financial institution.

On the surface of it, that does not sound so bad because it makes somewhat of a level playing field among all of us, but when the law of unintended consequences clicks in, all of a sudden we see this. People who are without the means to convince a commercial lending institution to actually give them money for something as dubious and uncertain as running for public office end up out of luck, and, because this is now their sole ability to get borrowed funds to run, we might end up having a lot of people, who would be very worthwhile to have in this place, who would never get here.

I am worried about the consequences, for example, of people with bad credit and people who are not wealthy and who cannot put up a lot of resources to guarantee a loan. Perhaps there are people who are from various groups, female candidates or aboriginal candidates, people who richly deserve to be in this House, who will never make it because of this legislation.

I do not think that is what the government intended. I doubt it is even what the Minister for Democratic Reform intended when this legislation was brought forward. I think it was intended more to catch people, such as the member for Mississauga—Streetsville who crossed from the Liberals to the Conservatives not long ago and now sits as an Independent. I believe it was put into place to catch situations such as that, but the laws of unintended consequences here are very serious.

Effectively, because the only source of borrowed money for a political campaign would now be from a financial institution, which has the power to grant or not to grant that, financial institutions would be given the power of life and death over a political campaign. If they do not finance the campaign, the candidate does not get a campaign. I do not think that is the role of our banks in this country to do that.

I am very concerned that the bill would do nothing to encourage accountability. The system has a lot of accountability now. If people borrow money for a political campaign, they must divulge that. Our guarantor must be public. The terms of the loan must be public. Right now there is every reason to believe that we have adequate accountability in the system.

The Conservatives suggest that the law, as it now stands, somehow leads to secret financing of political campaigns. That is absolutely false. If this legislation does go forward, this place might remain the purview of guys like me: old, white, wealthy, middle class individuals, and, God knows, looking around this chamber right now, I think we have enough of them.

This legislation is actually anti-democratic and I am not about to surrender the ability of good people to run this place to the presidents of banks, and particularly the loan officers of those institutions.

Therefore, I must say that I do not agree with this legislation at all. I think it is draconian and I would call upon the Minister for Democratic Reform to withdraw it.

Motions in Amendment
Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 5:30, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When we next return to the study of Bill C-29, there will be five minutes left for the hon. member for Halton.

The House resumed from October 31 consideration of the motion.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Steven Blaney Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity this afternoon to speak to the motion presented by the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. I had the pleasure of sitting with her on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. I would also like to congratulate her for bringing this important issue, Jordan's principle, to the attention of the House.

As we saw during the previous debate, the government must immediately adopt a child first principle for resolving jurisdictional disputes involving the care of first nations children. This approach, known as Jordan's principle, forces those involved to set aside any disagreements between two governments, two departments or organizations with respect to payment for services provided to first nations children.

In other words, when a problem arises in a community regarding a child, we must ensure that the necessary services are provided and only afterwards should we worry about who will foot the bill. Thus, the first government or department to receive a bill for services is responsible for paying, without disruption or delay. That government or department can then submit the matter for review to an independent organization, once the appropriate care has been given, in order to have the bill paid.

I support this motion, as does the government. I am pleased to report that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and officials in his department are working diligently with their partners in other federal departments, provincial and territorial governments, and first nations organizations on child and family services initiatives that will transform the commitment we make here today into a fact of daily life for first nations parents and their children.

That is not all. In addition to implementing immediate, concrete measures to apply Jordan's principle in aboriginal communities, I would like to inform the House and my colleague that the government is also implementing other measures to improve the well-being of first nations children.

I would like to discuss some of our government's significant achievements in three areas that affect the lives and future of first nations children: poverty, family violence and education. At the end of my presentation, I will invite my colleague to support our government's initiative to promote the rights and freedoms of aboriginal people.

I would like to assure the House that the government is determined to eliminate poverty, particularly among first nations children. For too long now, governments of all stripes have wrongly believed that the best way—perhaps the only way—to eliminate poverty was to give people public funds. That is a seductive approach, but it is the wrong one because it exacerbates poverty in communities.

Our government has chosen another way. We know that the best and only way to eliminate poverty is to increase opportunities for education and to foster prosperous and stable communities. Studies have shown, conclusively, that education improves the standard of living.

To achieve this goal, the government is working on a number of fronts. We are collaborating with provincial and territorial governments and a variety of first nations organizations to boost economic development in and around first nations communities. We are working with our partners to support first nations business people and entrepreneurs, and we are helping foster conditions that will create good jobs at good wages for those who live in first nations communities.

I am convinced that this approach is the most practical and enduring way to reduce and eventually eliminate poverty among first nations children.

We are also concerned about family violence. Several recent reports indicate that there is still a lot of family violence against first nations women and children—more than ever before, in fact.

It is important to support women and give them the tools they need to interrupt this cycle. That is why our government is taking concrete steps to protect women and children against family and sexual violence. We have allocated additional funds to pay for 35 emergency shelters and to ensure that the trained staff providing support services in these shelters have access to the resources they need.

Together with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the CMHC, and other key stakeholders, we are working to create five new shelters under the CMHC's shelter enhancement program. We have also renewed our support for the family violence prevention program for first nations. The goal of this indispensable initiative is to support the operation of shelters that provide women and children with culturally appropriate services and to ensure the provision of basic programs. The program serves 2,500 women and 2,700 children in 265 communities every year. We are eliminating poverty and we are also working to eliminate family violence so that we can improve the quality of life of first nations women and children.

It is also important to emphasize education, the best means of ensuring a bright future for these people, particularly through high-quality schools that respect cultural values. In this regard, our government, particularly in Quebec, supported the first nations pavilion initiative in Abitibi at the aboriginal forum in Masteuiash.

Our government has made several key investments to ensure that a greater number of first nations children and youth attend safe schools that provide high-quality education with standards comparable to those elsewhere in the country.

On April 5, we announced that we were earmarking more than $50 million for school infrastructure projects in aboriginal communities throughout Canada to help improve the learning environment for students.

In addition to making these vital investments in the future of first nations youth, the federal government has forged an agreement with the Government of British Columbia and with first nations in the province to provide greater first nations control over on reserve education. What is more, the government sponsored and Parliament approved legislation to give this agreement the force of law.

Our government has made every effort to support first nations education because we recognize its practical intrinsic value: it enables first nations youth to gain the knowledge and develop the skills necessary to take advantage of exciting new employment opportunities.

The programs and investments I have briefly described demonstrate the importance of the government's commitment to eliminating poverty, helping youth, reducing violence within aboriginal communities and also emphasizing education.

The motion of my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan is worth supporting and that is what I intend to do.

I would also like to take the opportunity to urge my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan and all opposition members to abandon partisan rhetoric and to support wholeheartedly this government's efforts to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. That way, we can ensure that the first nations will be protected by Canadian Human Rights Act, like all other Canadians.

By supporting motion M-296, I am acting in accordance with my conscience and I urge my opposition colleagues to do the same and to support the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak about Jordan's principle.

For members of the public who are watching, the motion we are debating is as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately adopt a child first principle, based on Jordan's Principle, to resolve jurisdictional disputes involving the care of First Nations children.

I congratulate the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan and the member for Churchill for all the work they have done on this motion that is very important to aboriginal children.

I also pay tribute to Jordan Anderson, a Canadian child, and his family for what they had to go through. As a legislator I feel a sense of responsibility and almost shame that a situation of governance could cause such a human tragedy and harm. Although this is about Jordan's principle, there are many such cases ongoing in Canada.

I would also like to commend Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, the Norway House Cree Nation and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. They made the important points that simply by cleaning this up first nations children would have access to the same programs and services as other children have.

I would like to make it clear for the people watching what the issue is. Unfortunately in our complicated system of government in Canada, certain programs and services often related to the health and social services fields for aboriginal people are handled differently than they are for other people. Sometimes the federal government is responsible for delivery of the services and sometimes it is the provincial or territorial governments. In fact, even within the federal government certain services fall under INAC, whereas other services fall under Health Canada. Unfortunately this has created for a number of children a very tragic situation of not being able to get the services that other children can get.

An individual bureaucrat may think he is doing the right thing by following the laws and provisions that we have set up, and we may think we have done the right thing in that it would save money or be more efficient, but if a child is forced into a foster home or to stay in a hospital just to have access to services, it is a human tragedy. That by far is the worst element of it, but it is even far more costly.

Jordan Anderson is a member of the Norway House Cree Nation. He was nominated by KidsRights for the International Children's Peace Prize in 2007. I want people at home to know some of the background on this. I will refer to some of the elements from his nomination on how the situation developed:

Jordan was a First Nations child born with complex medical needs. As his family did not have access to the supports needed to care for him at their home on a First Nations reserve they made a difficult decision to place Jordan in child welfare care shortly after birth.

Imagine any of us having to do that with our child.

Jordan remained in hospital for the first two years of his life to stabilize his medical condition. During this time the Kinosao Sipi Minisowin Agency...Norway House Cree Nation and Jordan's family worked together to locate a medically trained foster home and to raise money to refit a van for Jordan's safe transportation to medical appointments and family visits. Shortly after Jordan's second birthday, doctors said he could go to a family home. This decision should have been a time of celebration but for federal and provincial governments it was a time to begin arguing over which level of government should pay for Jordan's at home care....he jurisdictional dispute would last over two years during which time Jordan remained unnecessarily in hospital.

Imagine a child not being able to go home from the hospital because of a jurisdictional dispute between the federal and provincial governments, or between departments within one government. We have to remember that there is only one taxpayer and therefore, it does not really matter in the end who ultimately pays, certainly not at the sacrifice of a child.

Jordan's history continues:

Hospital social workers warned the government bureaucrats that Jordan's well being was suffering because he was growing up in an institution instead of a family home but even these warnings did not compel the governments to resolve the dispute and pay for Jordan's at home care....

Norway House Cree Nation and Kinosao Sipi Minosowin Agency initially tried to mediate a solution between the governments but when this failed they turned to legal action. Shortly after Jordan's fourth birthday in hospital, the jurisdictional dispute was settled but not in time for Jordan who slipped into a coma and sadly passed away before he could ever live in a family home.

One might think this is an isolated instance, but it is not.

A recent research report indicates that jurisdictional disputes involving the costs of caring for First Nations children are very prevalent with 393 of these disputes occurring in 12 of the 105 First Nations child and family service agencies sampled in the study during 2004/2005 alone. The vast majority of these disputes were between two federal government departments or between the federal government and the provincial/territorial government....

People can find some information on this at a website, if they want more details,

The story continues:

Jordan's family and community wanted to ensure that the governments put the needs of children first and that no other child is denied or delayed receipt of government services because they are an Aboriginal child. With their support, a child first principle to resolving jurisdictional disputes was created and named Jordan's Principle in honour of the child who inspired it....

Jordan's principle is consistent with the spirit and intent of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which prohibits discrimination. It is also consistent with what we, as moral people of the world, know to be the right thing to do.

Jordan's Principle has received broad based support in Canada and around the world.... of the first supporters of Jordan's Principle was the National Youth in Care Network.... ...many other groups of children, youth and child advocates have voiced their support for Jordan's Principle including the Assembly of First Nations...the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the Canadian Paediatric Society and UNICEF Canada.

Jordan's story has resonated around the world and has been supported by groups in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. His story has been included in over 70 newspapers across Canada and featured in print articles and numerous radio and television programs in Canada, the USA, and New Zealand.

Jordan could not talk and yet people around the world hear his message. Jordan could not breathe on his own and yet he has given the breath of life to other children.

In conclusion, we in Parliament must unanimously support this so that first nations children have access to the same life-saving, life-enhancing and life-building programs and services as other children. Let us not ever again have a situation where a child lives his life and dies in a hospital because of bureaucratic squabbles between governments or departments.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of my party, the Bloc Québécois, about motion No. 296 from the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately adopt a child first principle, based on Jordan's Principle, to resolve jurisdictional disputes involving the care of First Nations children.

The Bloc Québécois supports the motion in principle. However, it is important to remember that Quebec and some provinces have already put in place legislation and assistance procedures. The federal government must therefore do its part by helping to fund services for first nations children. We must understand that the principle of this motion is based on shared jurisdiction between the provinces and the federal government.

Jordan's principle is the name given to the child first principle, which puts the interest of the child before constitutional conflicts when it comes to access to services. The Canadian Constitution does not specify which level of government is responsible for providing services to first nations children.

There are multiple jurisdictional disputes involving child protection. Who has the constitutional, fiscal and moral responsibility for first nations children? The answer to that question has repercussions on the availability of programs and services for aboriginal families and children.

It is important to mention that the average Canadian gets almost two and a half times more services from federal, provincial and municipal governments than first nations citizens, according to the review by the McDonald-Ladd commission in 2000.

According to a number of stakeholders, the best way to manage jurisdictional conflicts is to prevent them. Jordan's principle is more of a provisional measure, while waiting for the federal and provincial governments to reach an agreement on jurisdictions. If Quebec were a country, this problem would have been resolved a long time ago.

As far as jurisdictions are concerned and who is responsible, I will try to provide a brief overview of the jurisdiction problem that Motion M-296 addresses. The motion seeks not to resolve the problem, but to place first nations children and families on an equal footing with Canadian children and families when it comes to receiving social and health services.

As stated in the report of the Joint National Policy Review on First Nations Child and Family Services, the different levels of government are passing the buck with respect to jurisdiction.

The federal government has said that the provinces are responsible for providing child services to first nations, in accordance with section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867. Participation by the federal government in the provision of programs and services, in its view, is quite simply discretionary.

I will read section 92:

92. In each Province the Legislature may exclusively make Laws in relation to Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say,

13. Property and Civil Rights in the Province.

16. Generally all Matters of a merely local or private Nature in the Province.

As for the provinces, they believe that the federal government is responsible for native people and reserves, pursuant to section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867:

91. —the exclusive Legislative Authority of the Parliament of Canada extends to all Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say,

24. Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians.

That is the text the Government of Canada used.

The provincial and territorial governments are worried that the federal government is offloading its responsibilities with respect to aboriginal peoples onto them and they argue that “the federal government has the constitutional, historical, and fiduciary responsibility arising from the treaties with aboriginals who live on and off reserves”.

According to a report published in 2005 by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, the first nations have adopted the same position as the provinces.The first nations therefore support what the provinces and territories are saying.

The first nations are the only peoples to suffer from the lack of responsibility and accountability of the federal government and are asking that it maintain “its tutelage and its fiduciary duties towards the first nations, including its children, families and community services”. Moreover:

The federal government funds first nations child and family support agencies pursuant to Directive 20-1—hence a matter of administration—and not, in its view, because of its fiduciary responsibility. The federal government refuses to change its position and has stated that the delivery of programs and services to first nations is discretionary.

That is always the big problem: the federal government does not want to recognize that it has responsibility for the services provided for first nations.

I would like to give some background on Directive 20-1. The current funding formula was developed in 1989 in an effort to standardize funding levels for first nations child and family service agencies in Canada. The directive was issued and requires that agencies operate under provincial legislation when it comes to child protection, but does not include any funding to help agencies adjust. It includes a guiding principle whereby services must be comparable to those provided for children living in similar circumstances off-reserve, but it does not contain any mechanism to ensure that this can happen. Once again, the federal government issued the directive, but did not provide any money to go along with it.

In Quebec, the Youth Protection Act contains provisions that apply specifically to aboriginal youth. In fact, Quebec has always been in the forefront in this area. The fifth paragraph of section 2.4 stipulates that the socio-cultural characteristics of the community in which the young person lives must be taken into consideration:

5) of opting for measures, in respect of the child and the child's parents, which allow action to be taken diligently to ensure the child's protection, considering that a child's perception of time differs from that of adults, and which take into consideration the following factors:

a) the proximity of the chosen resource;

b) the characteristics of cultural communities;

c) the characteristics of native communities.

Quebec's Youth Protection Act therefore ensures protection for aboriginal communities. Furthermore, agreements between the Government of Quebec and aboriginal communities can be reached in order to promote the protection of young people in those communities, by adapting the legislation to their reality.

Of course, we feel it is important to consult first nations. The Bloc Québécois believes that the future does not lie in pointless opposition, but rather in constructive partnerships that respect the legitimate interests of all parties. On the federal scene, the Bloc Québécois makes aboriginal issues one of its priorities. With regard to future relations between the government and aboriginal peoples, we recommend a more comprehensive approach, one that recognizes the aspirations of aboriginal peoples and favours negotiating agreements nation to nation. The Bloc Québécois believes that Quebec is a nation, and that we must negotiate, nation to nation, with aboriginal peoples.

In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples submitted a comprehensive report that proposed far-reaching changes over a period of 20 years leading to self-government for aboriginal peoples by respecting their customs, cultures, languages and ancestral institutions.

Our party, the Bloc Québécois, believes that in order to develop harmonious relations with Quebec's aboriginal peoples, we must first listen to them and understand them by taking an interest in their reality, their differences and the challenges they face. The Bloc Québécois maintains an ongoing dialogue with the first nations. Our party is suggesting that the government should follow our lead when considering future bills. It has not done so with Kelowna, Bill C-44 and all the others.

In closing, the main issue in this debate is determining who will assume the cost of protecting children. Quebec's Youth Protection Act already contains provisions whereby first nations communities can play an active role in youth protection. Motion No. 296 allows for the protection of children, based on the child first principle, while waiting for the federal and provincial governments to reach an official agreement on various terms and conditions for services, and the payment of services, provided to children in first nations communities.

We support the principle behind the motion. However, we must remember that Quebec and some provinces already have legislation and assistance procedures in place; the federal government must assume its share of the responsibility by providing some of the funding for services provided to first nations children.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to speak to this motion presented by the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

It is also a time for all of us to hang our heads in shame. A child among us was prevented from having the care he needed because he was caught up in a jurisdictional dispute between governments.

We have heard a lot of talk throughout this debate. I implore members today to think about putting some action behind their words, as my colleague from Nanaimo--Cowichan has done.

It is one thing to stand up here and talk about the shame of a child who fell through the cracks because two levels of government were fighting over who should pay for his care, but it is another thing to decide to act on that atrocious, appalling chapter in our history.

It has been at least three years, maybe more, since Jordan died. It has been three or four years since we all recognized the fact that Jordan should have received the care he needed instead of becoming a football between different levels of government.

Why has no government chosen to act before this moment? Why did the Liberals, who were in government up until two years ago, refuse to act? And why now are we getting nothing but rhetoric from the Conservatives?

Where is the specific plan? Where is the plan of action to ensure that this situation will never be repeated? Why did my colleague, the NDP critic for aboriginal affairs, have to bring this motion to the House when this matter could have been resolved with a little care, compassion and concern from the government of the day?

I commend my colleague for having the courage to bring this issue forward and for pursuing it every step of the way. As she has told us in the debate, no issue has touched her more than the case of Jordan, who died without having the care he needed and deserved.

Jordan was a young lad who was born with a very serious disability. He was born in Norway House, Manitoba, which is part of the Cree nation. Because his family could not care for him on reserve, he was sent off reserve for care, and there began this horrifying chapter in Canadian history, a chapter of disgrace and shame on all of us, on all political parties and on all levels of government.

I want to single out and commend not only my colleague who has persevered on this matter, but also Jordan's family, who had the courage to speak out, and all those groups, organizations and individuals who have chosen to stand up for what is right and for a principle that has to be respected or we have nothing and we are not a civil society.

That principle is that a child is a child is a child, whether that child is an aboriginal person on reserve, or a child like my own who was born with a rare brain disorder but has been lucky enough to have had all the care he needs and to be treated as a productive member of our society. Why should someone in my son's situation be treated differently just because he was born on a reserve and had to seek treatment off reserve? Why did Jordan have to spend two years in a hospital setting when he could have been placed in a foster home had he not been tossed about between levels of government in bickering and haggling over who should pay?

How is that possible in this day and age, in the year 2007, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world? How is it possible for us to reduce human life to a dollar figure? Have we learned nothing from his death? Are we not now prepared to do something about it?

There are more Jordans out there. We just have to look at the number of aboriginal people with disabilities and the number of children with disabilities who are not getting the care they need because the government has refused to take seriously the need for care for children on reserve and off reserve. The government has refused to work with our first nations communities to put in place the best possible range of services for children with disabilities.

I want to go over some of the information that government members should be aware of. I will go back to the year 2004 and a document produced by the Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy, which is part of the University of Regina. It states:

Aboriginal people with disabilities are caught in a public policy vacuum with little hope for amelioration. Aboriginal persons are individuals who identify themselves as having Indigenous or North American Indian ancestry and may or may not have status under the federal Indian Act.

The article goes on to say that in this whole area, aboriginal people, first nations citizens on or off reserve, who are living with disabilities or who have children with disabilities, are at the bottom of our hierarchy in Canada today. They are at the bottom of our society. They are neglected and forgotten because this government and governments before it have chosen to ignore the problem, to walk away, to turn a blind eye, to not heed the cries of Jordan and Jordan's family.

This is what Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, asked back in the spring of 2007, “Two years after Jordan's death, why isn't the Canadian government implementing Jordan's Principle to make sure” this never happens to another child in Canada?

She said:

With all our hearts and minds we do not understand.

All we can see is that Jordan's principle is about providing First Nations children with the same government services already enjoyed by other children in Canada.

And what we know is that the federal government could save money by providing First Nations children with the equal services they need to live safely at home instead of paying higher costs to put them in foster care or hospitals.

All we can see is that Jordan died waiting for governments to do the right thing.

Do members of the government see it today? Are they prepared to act? Do they understand what this means?

I want to tell them from a personal point of view what it means to have a child with a disability and to want the very best for that child, and what it means to be able to live in a society like I do in Manitoba, where governments are responsive and where the full range of services is available, whether it was respite care services when my son, Nick, was at home with us, or whether it was finding the best home possible for him where he could live for the rest of his life.

I was lucky. My son was lucky. But it was not just luck. It was government planning and government compassion and a society that cared and cares about everyone among us.

Today we are talking about the most vulnerable people in our society. Our responsibility is to be the lookout for those individuals and to do the very best we can. This means ensuring that we not only support this motion, Jordan's principle, but that we act on it immediately.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging my colleagues from all four corners of the House who have spoken in support of this very important motion. I want to thank them for their spoken commitment in the House to Jordan and his family and to all the other children who are in Jordan's situation across the country from coast to coast to coast.

I want to acknowledge Jordan and his family. They have demonstrated incredible courage by allowing us to bring Jordan's story to the House of Commons. The words put forward in the application for the nominee for the International Children's Peace Prize speak about the legacy that Jordan's family hopes to leave. They are as follows:

Jordan could not talk and yet people around the world hear his message. Jordan could not breathe on his own and yet he has given the breath of life to other children. Jordan could not walk but he has taken steps that governments are now just learning to follow. He is an honoured ancestor of First Nations peoples in Canada and an inspiration to all the peoples of the world on how one toddler can change the world....

He is a child who really did change the world by ensuring the rights of children come before the conveniences of governments--all this and he was only five years old.

There will be shame on each and every one of us in this House who stood, supported and spoke in favour of this motion, and eventually will vote on this motion, if we do not actually put some substance behind the words we have spoken here.

One of the things that I know has made a number of us in the New Democratic Party nervous is the fact that in 1989 Ed Broadbent was instrumental in bringing forward a motion before this House on ending child and family poverty in this country, but here we are in 2007 continuing to talk about the number of children and their families who live in poverty. All these years later and still we have not had the meaningful kind of action that is required to end child poverty in this country.

I am urging each and every member of the House, in their support of this very important motion, to move beyond the talk and put into place meaningful plans and substantial actions which would see that never again does a child like Jordan end up not getting the care he or she needs simply because he or she is a first nations child in this country.

We have enough wealth and enough knowledge to say that there should be no jurisdictional disputes that end up with children dying in hospital simply because governments could not agree on the kind of care that was needed.

One would hope that there is a legacy left from the courage of Jordan and his family in bringing this story forward. One would hope there is a legacy left which says that children truly will come first in this country. In 2007, with all of our wealth, we should be prepared to put children first.

I call on each and every member of this House to not only support this motion but to go back and work within their respective caucuses to ensure that the action that is required to take this motion from principle into reality will happen.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The time provided for debate on Motion No. 296 has expired. Accordingly, the question is on the motion.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members