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House of Commons Hansard #73 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was peoples.

Topics

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to the second report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts restoring the honour of the RCMP.

The Government of Canada has already implemented many of the recommendations and the efforts are under way to address the remaining recommendations in that particular report.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry Ontario

Conservative

Guy Lauzon ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to three petitions.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

April 7th, 2008 / 3:05 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, during question period, in response to one of my questions, the Minister of National Defence suggested that I was not here during the debate on Afghanistan. In fact, I took part in the debate.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, that is against the rules. I would ask the minister for an apology for his comments during question period.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member has raised a point of order. I agree that referring to the presence or absence of members is out of order in the House and I am sure that hon. members are aware of that.

I am certainly prepared to look at the words the minister used in this connection to see if in fact he overstepped the rules and, if necessary, I am sure the minister will of course retract, if it is necessary that he do so.

I see the minister is rising now. Perhaps he has something to say on this subject.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, what I said was there that 30 hours of debate took place in the House and maybe the member was not present for that. I know for a fact that he did take part in the debate. If there was any negative inference drawn from that I apologize to the member.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I think I may settle the matter, but perhaps hon. members could bear in mind my comment that absence of members is not a subject for discussion in the House. There seems to be some of it these days on other topics too but I will not get into that now.

Day of Reflection on the Prevention of GenocideRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today, the 14th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, to inform you that as a result of consultation among all parties, if you seek it I believe you would find unanimous consent to adopt the following motion:

Whereas during a three month period beginning April 7, 1994, 800,000 Rwandans were killed in an organized campaign of genocide that targeted ethnic Tutsis and political moderates, including Hutus;

Whereas this genocide was made possible by the indifference and inaction of the international community;

That the House of Commons solemnly commemorate the Rwandan genocide on the occasion of its 14th anniversary; reaffirms its commitment to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; and designates April 7 as a Day of Reflection on the Prevention of Genocide.

Day of Reflection on the Prevention of GenocideRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Mount Royal have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Day of Reflection on the Prevention of GenocideRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Day of Reflection on the Prevention of GenocideRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Day of Reflection on the Prevention of GenocideRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Day of Reflection on the Prevention of GenocideRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Day of Reflection on the Prevention of GenocideRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

During question period, all members of the House spoke about the tragic fire at the Quebec City armoury on the weekend. To have an even clearer idea of the government's response, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to adopt the following motion: "That, in the opinion of the House, the Government of Canada should be clear and immediately commit to funding the reconstruction of the Quebec City armoury."

Day of Reflection on the Prevention of GenocideRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Bourassa have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Day of Reflection on the Prevention of GenocideRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Day of Reflection on the Prevention of GenocideRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Bourassa on a point of order.

Day of Reflection on the Prevention of GenocideRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, when they say that they will explore every means and commit to looking into the options, I note that the government is not prepared to fund the Quebec City armoury.

Day of Reflection on the Prevention of GenocideRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

It is not a question of who said what. It is now a question of unanimous consent, and that has been denied.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Status of Women, presented on Tuesday, February 5, 2008, be concurred in.

The motion reads:

That the government endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 September 2007 and that Parliament and Government of Canada fully implement the standards contained therein.

After two decades of development, on September 13, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 143 to 4.

It is disgraceful that Canada was one of the four nations that voted against this declaration and the Government of Canada was actively lobbying other countries to vote against this historic declaration.

Canada's position in refusing to support the declaration is contrary to the wishes of aboriginal organizations, human rights organizations and even government officials. A ministerial briefing note obtained by Amnesty International stated that:

Indian and Northern Affairs and Foreign Affairs Canada initially advised...that they were recommending that Canada support the adoption of the draft Declaration.

Canada's decision to oppose the declaration flies in the face of a long history of championing UN standards to elevate and promote human rights globally.

The declaration recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples to the lands, territories and natural resources that are critical to their way of life, a way of life that honours the earth and her resources.

The declaration also provides guidance measures needed to ensure the dignity, survival and well-being of some of the world's most impoverished and marginalized peoples.

The president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, Beverley Jacobs, states:

While the adoption of the declaration brings me great joy, Canada’s unprincipled decision to vote against the declaration demonstrates a lack of commitment, not only to indigenous peoples but to human rights more generally. This is not over. We will be calling on Canada to join us to implement this declaration immediately.

It is a reality that indigenous women confront double or even triple discrimination because they are indigenous, they are poor and they are marginalized.

In Canada, 38% of aboriginal women live in low income situations. The median income of aboriginal women was $12,300, about $5,000 less than the figure for non-aboriginal women.

According to Statistics Canada, aboriginal women represent less than 2% of the general population. However, they experience violence at a rate 3.5 times higher than non-aboriginal women. Close to 35% of aboriginal women have been the target of violence.

Aboriginal women live in remote communities and often have no access to women's shelters at all. These women are making the impossible choice between losing their home and living in fear with an abusive partner.

Young aboriginal women are five times more likely to die from violence than other women in Canada.

Aboriginal women continue to face barriers in attaining post-secondary education. Of aboriginal women aged 25 to 44 living off reserve who had started but had not completed a post-secondary education program, 34% reported family responsibilities as the reason they had not finished their post-secondary education, 21% reported financial reasons, 12% lost interest and motivation, and 8% found a job or had to work.

Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George, British Columbia has been renamed the Highway of Tears because of the more than 30 aboriginal women who have gone missing or have been found murdered along this stretch of highway.

Last spring, at Losha Native Family Healing Centre, a first nations agency in London, marked June 21 with a march and traditional ceremony of remembrance for the loss of our sisters across Canada. It was moving and gentle but it pointed out the despair of those left behind to mourn, those who will never know what happened to the women they loved.

Why are the Highway of Tears' victims mostly young aboriginal women? The answer is poverty.

In 2006 a symposium was held on the Highway of Tears. It produced numerous recommendations to prevent the unnecessary deaths and disappearances of young aboriginal women. I hope that the federal government will do everything possible to implement these recommendations. I hope it will finally listen, because aboriginal women and their children are more likely to experience violence and abuse in their lives than other Canadian women. Eight out of ten aboriginal women are abused.

Racism, the legacy of residential schools, and the lack of housing and educational opportunities work together to make aboriginal women more vulnerable. As a community we have an obligation to make sure violence against aboriginal women, against all women, ends.

The UN declaration is among the first international human rights instruments to explicitly provide for the adoption of measures to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy protection and guarantees against all forms of violence. According to Foreign Policy in Focus, indigenous peoples have fought for centuries against genocide, displacement, colonization and forced assimilation. This violence has left indigenous communities among the poorest and most marginalized in the world, alienated from state policies and disenfranchised by national governments.

In the Americas, indigenous peoples have a life expectancy 10 to 20 years less than the general population. The same general pattern holds internationally. Because of gender discrimination, the pattern is most entrenched for indigenous women.

Today the human rights and very survival of indigenous peoples are increasingly threatened as states and corporations battle for control of the earth's dwindling supply of natural resources, many of which are located on first nations territories.

One key concern of indigenous women is gender based violence. For indigenous women violence does not only stem from gender discrimination and women's subordination within their families and communities, it also arises from attitudes and policies that violate collective indigenous rights. As Dr. Myrna Cunningham, an internationally recognized indigenous leader, said:

For Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous women, exercising our rights--both as Indigenous Peoples and as women--depends on securing legal recognition of our collective ancestral territories, which are the basis of our identities, our cultures, our economies, and our traditions.

That understanding of collective rights has enabled first nations women to create anti-violent strategies that address connections between issues as diverse as women's human rights, economic justice and climate change. These connections are reflected in indigenous women's organizations around the world, for instance, in a Kenyan village run by indigenous women, and in a community development organization on Nicaragua's North Atlantic coast.

Experts believe that crowded housing conditions aggravate the problem of physical and sexual abuse. No woman should have to make the impossible choice between losing her home and living with an abusive partner.

Housing conditions are a major contributing factor to a person's physical and mental health. Aboriginal people face serious housing shortages, as well as substandard quality in their housing.

In Canada 52% of aboriginal households fall below core housing needs. According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation:

[This situation] is primarily the result of low incomes that stem from inequities experienced in the labour force and elsewhere by women and Aboriginal people in general. These inequities are amplified by low levels of schooling, and the inability of many to enter the labour force because of child-rearing responsibilities.

First nations housing and infrastructure is in crisis. When a comparison is made to the non-first nation demographic, first nations communities are at an extreme disadvantage. Adequate housing is considered a fundamental human right, one that is critical to the day to day well-being of first nations people. It is a key link to education, health, economic opportunities and employment outcomes.

Aboriginal women also experience poor health, have shorter life spans and are more likely to be disabled. According to the Saskatchewan Provincial Health Council, “health differences are reduced when economic and status differences between people, based on such things as culture, race, age, gender and disability are reduced”.

The poor health status of aboriginal women is linked to factors such as poverty, unemployment, lower social status, instability and violence in their families and communities, and inadequate housing and living conditions. Crowded housing conditions and lack of safe, clean water for drinking and washing aggravate the already poor health of aboriginal women.

The UN declaration is a fundamental international human rights instrument which outlines the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous peoples. Articles 21 and 22 explicitly mention indigenous women and the interconnectedness of our well-being, our children and our elders to be free from violence and discrimination.

Indigenous women at the international level have fought hard for these provisions. These provisions are not abstract. They reflect the collective realities that first nations face in our communities and how deeply we feel the actions or inactions by the state. We need the Government of Canada to commit to the declaration and the principles, rights and values it upholds.

The International Indigenous Women's Forum stated that the declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples will serve as a comprehensive international human rights instrument for all indigenous women, men and youth around the world. The adoption of the declaration will allow indigenous women and their families to infuse local human rights struggles with the power of international law, and their governments would be accountable to the international human rights standards.

Since 1923, first nations leaders have made attempts to represent their people at the international level. It is time for the Government of Canada to sign the UN declaration. This nation we are building has always championed human rights around the world. It is time to champion those same human rights at home.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to ask my colleague a question on such an important matter.

The United Nations has been looking at this matter for 20 years. It has been under development through a lot of negotiations. During that time, a lot of countries have had to wrestle with many different problems, from land treaties, to the elements of aboriginal people's treatment, in terms of programs and services, dislocation from original land, and a whole series of settlements. There has been so much progress to this point. This is not seen as the ultimate solution to everything, but it is an important significant step for Canada to be part thereof to put the pressure on all countries, including ourselves, to deal with this matter.

I would like to ask my colleague about the two decades of work that Canada was intimately involved with that could literally go up in smoke. That seems to be a departure from the traditions of a country that is starting to wrestle with old problems and bring restitution to things that we have done as a nation that have a healing effect to move forward.

What might the rest of the world think of Canada being in the position of 20 years of working on this and then pulling out at the last minute? What will others think of us and of our country's leadership?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, interestingly enough, the work that has gone into this agreement goes back to 1923. As my colleague pointed out, in the last 20 years Canada has played a very active part in that. In fact, Canada seemed to be one of the nations driving the agenda at the UN because of the recognition that first nations people had suffered because of a lack of opportunity. They had been marginalized and were most definitely suffering the effects of colonization.

Exactly why Canada would pull out at the last minute and lobby other nations to ignore this declaration is a mystery in some ways.

However, in response to the member's question about our reputation, I think it is a blight on our reputation. If we look at the last two years, in fact if we look at the last decade, we have moved backward constantly. We saw the cancellation of a national housing policy in 1996. There is the lack of a child care agreement. There have been all kinds of promises, all kinds of surpluses, but absolutely nothing in terms of legislating a national child care program. First nations people are among those who have suffered as a consequence of that.

In the Status of Women Canada department, there have actually been cuts and changes to the mandate and program. As a result, Canada's reputation as a partner in the world community, as a champion of human rights, has deteriorated. The nations of the world are looking with despair at what we are becoming.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, as the member alluded to in her comments, Canada was one of four countries that voted against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The government has now adopted the position that because it voted against the declaration, it is not party to it, or it does not fall within the parameters of the declaration.

Could my colleague opposite comment on the fact that the government believes that since it did not support the declaration, it does not fall under its guidelines?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Once again, Mr. Speaker, it is a very strange reality when one considers that Canada was one of the countries driving this agenda, that we have not lived up to our obligations to the first peoples of this country, the people who are so important to our sense of nationhood.

I find it quite interesting that the current government would say that Canada cannot be party to the declaration. We certainly were a party to the many treaties that we made with first nations. We were certainly there when we traded for all of the territories and pushed first nations onto reserves. We were certainly there when the residential schools were created, which were intended to assimilate and ultimately destroy first nations communities. We were party to all of that and it would seem to me that it is time to be party to something positive. The UN declaration would most certainly be that.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is most frustrating for us and for Canadians in general is that they are concerned about the role Canada is playing on the world stage when it comes to their participation on issues like the one in front of us.

What does my colleague think is stopping the government from embracing what are really important tenets and values at the United Nations, in this case on the indigenous peoples file? Why will it not recognize what is really a world consensus? Why are we falling behind the rest of the world?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a very important question to consider and one for which I feel a certain level of embarrassment. I believe that we have decided we cannot live up to the obligations of the declaration because it means making an investment in the many outstanding land claims. It means making an investment in communities.

First nations communities are among the worst in the world in terms of sanitation, services, accessibility to education and health care. Many have described the reserves in northern Canada as being third world conditions. We know that many of these communities continue to suffer.

The community of Kasechewan, for example, is constantly in danger of flooding. The water is unfit to drink and the children are often sick. The community of Attawapiskat does not have a decent school. Despite the fact that the government has $14.5 billion to give away in tax cuts to wealthy corporations, it just cannot find $30 million to build a decent school for the first nations children in Attawapiskat.

I would say that it has to do with dollars and very little sense. The investment in housing, education, sanitation, the things we as a community know are essential are missing. I think that the government simply does not intend to make those investments.