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House of Commons Hansard #149 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was gasoline.

Topics

6:30 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for bringing up this issue. I understand these women are his constituents, so he has brought this issue to Parliament.

This government takes very seriously its responsibility for the safety and security of its citizens abroad. Whenever Canadians are victims of a tragedy outside Canada, there is understandably a great deal of public interest and concern. This government shares that concern.

When a Canadian is murdered abroad, consular officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs have an important role to assist the family of the victim. We have more than 270 points of service around the world to provide consular assistance to families dealing with these tragic situations. In the case of the Ianiero murders, our honorary consul in Cancun arrived on the scene within hours of the murder to provide consular support and assistance to the family.

As the hon. member knows, this government takes crimes against Canadians abroad very seriously. The role and the mandate of the Department of Foreign Affairs is to ensure that local police authorities actively investigate crimes against Canadian citizens.

As soon as we are advised that a Canadian citizen is the victim of a crime outside Canada, consular officials immediately contact local authorities to register our concern and to ensure that they are aware of the crime. Canada expects that all crimes against Canadians, wherever they occur, will be thoroughly investigated by local authorities and that due process will take place.

In the Ianiero case, consular officials were immediately in contact with Mexican authorities to insist on a thorough investigation and to emphasize our desire to see that the perpetrators of this terrible crime are brought to justice. However, it is the sole responsibility of the authorities in the foreign country to investigate the crime. Canadian officials have neither the mandate nor the jurisdiction to investigate this crime, or indeed any crime, perpetrated against Canadians outside Canada.

In some cases, we may receive a formal request from a foreign government for assistance with a particular criminal investigation. This initiative must be taken by the foreign government, not Canada. In the Ianiero case, the RCMP received a formal request for assistance from the Mexican authorities.

The RCMP and other Canadian law enforcement agencies continue to follow up on elements of the investigation here in Canada. However, the murder investigation remains the responsibility of the Mexican authorities.

I can assure the House that we will continue to follow developments on this case closely, as we do with all such cases where Canadian interests are concerned.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs met with Ms. Everall and Ms. Kim last December to hear their concerns. They raised the fact that their names had been mentioned several times by the Mexican attorney general responsible for the investigation. They asked for the minister's assistance to clear their names. The minister advised them that while it is possible under the Canadian system for investigative authorities to state publicly that certain individuals are no longer of interest as part of an investigation, he was unaware of a similar practice in Mexico. He also advised that it was likely that they would need to wait for charges to be laid before such a statement could be asked from the Mexicans.

Ms. Everall and Ms. Kim also expressed concerns that their names could be placed on a no-fly list by Mexican officials and that they could be sent to Mexico to face criminal proceedings. The minister stated, and I can confirm again today, that we are not aware of any criminal charges against either Ms. Everall or Ms. Kim.

We will continue to ensure that this case is brought to the highest level of the Mexican government. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs continuously bring this issue up with the Mexican authorities to ensure this investigation proceeds expeditiously. At the end of the day, we must recognize the fact that this investigation is conducted by the government of Mexico.

We will continue to talk to the Mexican authorities to ensure a thorough investigation by the police authorities in Mexico is undertaken.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, let us make it very clear. Today, there has been another casualty in Mexico. How many more will it take before a travel advisory is issued?

The parliamentary secretary mentioned that they were no longer prime suspects, yet only a few weeks ago, on prime time television, the W-FIVE program showed the Mexican authorities identifying Dr. Cheryl Everall and Kimberly Kim as the prime suspects.

He mentions the honorary consul, yet none of us have had contact with this gentleman, and neither have the people we are talking about. So, how many hours has he logged? Probably very few. Has he talked to them? I do not know.

If the government knows that they are innocent and if the Mexican authorities are truly stating that they have not been charged or are no longer suspects, why can we not get some formal documentation that would allow them to travel abroad even to the United States or Europe? That would be very simple.

If the government can clear their names, if the government can do that and show that it compassionately cares about innocent people, then I believe that Dr. Everall and Ms. Kim would also feel the same, as would all Canadian citizens.

So, I am asking very plainly. Let us not let this go all the way to the foreign affairs committee. It can be dealt with if the minister acts.

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, let me again say quite clearly that both Ms. Kim and Ms. Everall have not been charged as far as we are concerned and neither are they on any no-fly list. They have Canadian passports. They are free to travel wherever they want, however they want. Nothing is stopping them.

If and when, and how they are going to be charged, there are processes and procedures that are laid down very clearly where they would have the evidence presented. At this given time, it is a hypothetical situation to say that they have been charged. As far as we know, they have not been charged for anything.

As for the advisory, if people were to go to the website, it is always updated when events do take place. I would again tell the hon. member that we are investigating this new incident that has happened in Mexico. Our consular services are there, as is normal, to provide full support to the family.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, as a result of the government's meanspirited approach toward working with Canada's first nations, the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada were forced to file a human rights complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission on February 23 of this year.

On that day I rose in this House to demand real answers as to why the Conservative government has allowed the child welfare crisis to plunge to such deplorable levels leaving no other option.

Since the day that the government was sworn in, it has demonstrated paternalism and contempt toward first nations, Inuit and Métis nations in their attempts to work in a conciliatory fashion with the government.

There are particularly harsh realities facing first nations families and children across Canada which as we know is due to the culmination of years of colonialist policies and laws in this country, but I can assure members opposite that their lack of attention and respect for this issue in particular is causing conditions and issues to worsen by the day.

In the recent Senate report it revealed that, according to the United Nations standard of living index, Canadian children ranked fourth in the world. Yet, using the same mechanism first nations children ranked 63rd.

It is shameful that this country has reached a point where international aid groups are travelling to Canada to assist first nations with the growing child welfare crisis, a country which the Prime Minister has called an energy superpower and it remains one of the world's wealthiest.

The Minister of Indian Affairs often provides this House with empty rhetoric of results from the government. In my riding we are facing a crisis in which first nations children are not being provided with appropriate measures for complex medical needs, for instance. They are often forced into care in order to access services. That is an international shame.

In Manitoba alone and in other jurisdictions across the country many of them have worked on similar issues and have had similar formulas and similar solutions put out such as Jordan's principle which states that funding formulas and jurisdictional arrangements must put the needs of children and family first.

In Manitoba, both the Manitoba first nations education resource centre and the first nations child welfare agencies have not been able to get the commitment of the government neither under Indian and Northern Affairs nor under First Nations and Inuit Health Branch.

To quote the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations: “There are more than 27,000 first nations children in state care. This is a national disgrace that requires the immediate and serious attention of all governments to resolve”.

The child welfare crisis is a fact, as the Department of Indian Affairs own website states. It requires fundamental change in the funding approach of first nations child and family service agencies. This is required in order to reverse the growth rate of children coming into care and in order for the agencies to meet their mandated responsibilities.

I find it particularly disconcerting that while the minister's own department has identified the dire need to address this crisis, he completely disregards the existing child welfare situation.

What will it take for the government to realize the first nations child welfare crisis is what it is, a horrendous atrocity, and when will it start acting to address this horrible international crisis?

6:40 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I find it remarkable, coming from the hon. member opposite, to hear her speak about the current government's ways and means for dealing with first nations people when really, truly, she knows that we inherited the shameful situation from the party that she represents.

I have to speak proudly of our record on aboriginal affairs. We are very much committed to moving forward where her party did not.

As recently as April 27, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development announced a new partnership approach involving the province of Alberta and Alberta first nations, with the implementation of the Alberta response model.

This approach will explore healthier alternatives such as enhanced prevention services to addressing child and family services in first nation communities in Alberta, children holding such tremendous potential for the future of first nations communities. It is essential that we continue to work together to ensure that children enjoy a safe, secure home environment.

On the national stage, we are working with first nations organizations, first nations child and family services agencies, and provincial and territorial leaders to design the first nations child and family services program.

Furthermore, last fall we provided an additional $6 million to the family violence protection program to help ensure that the network of shelters, primarily for women and children who are trying to escape family violence, are better equipped to serve women and children on reserve.

Among our various initiatives on childhood well-being, Canada's new government has committed $65 million to the aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy.

In the area of first nation education, we have made major progress. In December of last year, this House passed historic legislation, at the centre of which is the agreement signed in July 2006 by Canada, the province of British Columbia and the first nations education steering committee.

This agreement is truly groundbreaking, since it will not only create better learning opportunities for first nations students in British Columbia, but will also offer a model for improvements to first nation education in other provinces.

We know that education is the foundation for social and economic progress. It is in this area that first nations communities and new investments can truly make a real difference. We recently announced the investment of more than $50 million in school infrastructure projects in first nation communities across Canada.

There are some initiatives and systemic reforms that directly benefit first nations children, but this government recognizes that children are also affected in one way or another by the pressures that are facing their families and their communities.

It is for this reason Canada's new government recognizes that the need to act on wider issues can have a real impact on day to day life, so we have taken action to advance legislative solutions to two important issues: discrimination permitted under section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and on reserve matrimonial real property, or MRP.

Bill C-44, introduced last December, proposes to repeal section 67. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development intends to bring forward legislation to resolve the difficult question of matrimonial real property.

Where the Liberals delayed and dithered, making empty promise after empty promise, there can be no question that this government is acting vigorously and in partnership with first nations, Inuit and Métis to build a better today and a brighter tomorrow for aboriginal children in Canada.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am so glad that the parliamentary secretary mentioned the $65 million commitment that the past Liberal government made to aboriginal youth suicide. Indeed, on the issue of suicide, if we look at international studies, the single most key factor in terms of health and well-being for any people is self-determination.

Self-determination is the key. As the government moves forward, it has refused to work in a conciliatory fashion. This was reflected in the Kelowna accord, which it has absolutely dismissed, and also reflected in the past government's commitment to first nations in the first nations-federal Crown political accord. Recognition and implementation of first nations governance is the key.

In fact, when we speak about matrimonial real property, there is no consultation. First nations women have voiced emphatically that they are against this. Bill C-44 does not include consultation. We know there is a duty to consult.

Regarding the $6 million family violence strategy that he talks about, I would like to say that I have one shelter for first nation women in my riding which has not received one phone call, not one response regarding this money. It receives about 27% of the funding that the provincial program would receive, so--

6:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, clearly the member is very ashamed. For 13 years, her party had the opportunity to remedy so many of the issues about which she is talking. At the last moment of their dying regime, the Liberals brought forward their press release on Kelowna. Of course it was not something on which they could deliver. Of course it was something that they never intended to deliver. They made so many promises before that and they always broke them.

We are moving forward. We are making systemic changes, changes that will bring important new rights to aboriginal people. Specifically, I talk about Bill C-44. It would be nice if the member would perhaps bring her party to support human rights on reserve. Instead, she is exiting the House, afraid.

6:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I remind the hon. member it is not in order to refer to people coming or going in the House.

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:49 p.m.)