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House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was recovery.

Topics

First Nations Cadet ProgramPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all members of the House, I thank the member for bringing this private member's bill forward. I had the privilege, along with some of my colleagues, to see that program a few nights ago.

I shared that with my wife, who is from Spanish Town. Having taught in Spanish Town and the area myself many years ago, I was taken by the spirituality that was part of that visit from the Hobbema cadet group down to Jamaica and then when they came back to Alberta. It was a moving commentary on the capacity that exists within those young people, both from Jamaica and from Hobbema. It offers hope to all of us that those young people will make a difference.

The member has talked about a monitoring plan. Would it not be more important that resources be provided? Could he outline the kind of resources that we as a federal government, acting in concert with the community, could provide that will continue to make that real difference in those communities?

First Nations Cadet ProgramPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for those positive comments and his personal experiences as they relate to the exchange that just happened.

I chose the words in the motion very carefully. I know that the word “monitoring” may seem a little nebulous, but the member knows full well that when a private member's bill is brought forward that asks for money, it usually is something that needs to be taken into consideration

Of course, resources are always needed. Resources are needed for uniforms. Resources are needed to help with the administration and to ensure the website keeps operating. Resources are needed to hire people to come in and provide counselling and other forms of mentoring that are beyond the scope and grasp right now of the people who are able to keep this thing running on the wings of angels. It is absolutely incredible what these two RCMP officers and the few members of the community have done. They come out in small numbers but their dedication, commitment and love for the kids in Hobbema is inspiring.

There is such positive news coming out of this community that I had to share it with the House. The resources are there. We do not need a ton of resources but the right amount of resources coming into that community would provide an environment where that program could continue to blossom and succeed.

First Nations Cadet ProgramPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member. I find this motion to be very interesting and I think it should be adopted by this House quickly. I will come back to that in a moment.

However, even if a motion is adopted, in order for it to mean something in time, more is needed. I will come back in a few minutes with the notes I prepared for my speech.

I would like the hon. member to tell us about the age of the participants. Are they young people? What age group are they in? Is there an age limit? Is this open to men and women equally? How does a cadet corps work in everyday life in a community like Wetaskiwin, for instance, or in any community?

I would like to know whether the hon. member can elaborate on this.

First Nations Cadet ProgramPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very encouraged by my colleague's comments because it appears that there will be support, particularly from his side of the House, on this very important motion.

With regard to the current program that I am talking about in Hobbema, the ages are 5 to 18. One of the first people I met was a young lady who I mentioned in my speech, so it is open to males and females. Braylene Saddleback could not have been much taller than about three feet five inches and yet here she was in her uniform, all smiles about the opportunities that she had to participate in this program. Of course, she is still very active and involved and is on their drill team.

The program offers all kinds of opportunities for young people, and it is not restricted. As I mentioned in my notes, there are no specific program manuals or policies. It is a grassroots initiative. What the people in the community put into the program is what they get out of it.

What is needed are the resources, the funding, the initiative and the drive from public safety and the community to keep these things going. This program is so successful because it is a grassroots initiative. It is not a top-down approach but a bottom-up approach, which is what makes it successful.

First Nations Cadet ProgramPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Wetaskiwin for this particular motion.

I hope I got the name right. If I did not, I will apologize to the aboriginal people, first and foremost, in the community and also to the member.

I know from the hon. member's speech that the motion was inspired by the Hobbema Community Cadet Corps. I want to thank the member for doing something in this House that is rarely done; that is, he put faces and names to what the motion means. He made us feel something in this House about how important a motion can be, in this particular case, to many aboriginal youth and their families. I believe in that way, the motion can inspire other aboriginal youth across this country and can inspire other non-aboriginal youth across this country.

I was also struck, as were many of our colleagues, by the documentary that was shown on the CBC. Again, we do not all have the benefit of being in these communities and seeing things first-hand, but the CBC gave us an insight into what this program is about. Again, it showed us the faces, and it allowed us to hear their voices and the excitement, the hope, the inspiration that a program like this can mean for so many people. It inspires something in them to do something better. It inspires, I believe, Canadians generally when they watch a show like this. So many times when we talk about aboriginal communities, all we ever hear are the bad stories, the things that are going wrong, and that becomes in itself sort of a prophecy that repeats itself over and over again.

So, it was fantastic to see this documentary which talked about something that is good and something that raises up people instead of bringing them down.

The Hobbema Community Cadet Corps has attracted participants from several of the Cree first nations in north-central Alberta. Like other cadet programs, it is meant to build leadership and teamwork skills and boost self-esteem. It is meant to develop a sense of discipline and hone decision making and self-confidence.

Who cannot be captivated by Trent Young, the captain who was featured in this particular story, and the scene where he put his arms around one of the RCMP officers and said he was the closest person to a father he had ever had? Those types of images kind of make us well up a bit inside. I commend Trent Young and the other participants of this program.

There is also an important physical education component and a holistic approach to the Hobbema Community Cadet Corps. I offer my congratulations to the RCMP officers who have spearheaded the cadet movement in Hobbema. It is a great example of community policing and of the RCMP's commitment to community building. I believe that many of us who live in small, remote communities can often see how integral the RCMP are to our communities, how they go out in communities like Hopedale, an Inuit community on the north coast of Labrador, and help build an outdoor rink with the youth, to give them something positive to do in their lives.

When I look at the RCMP officers who shaved their heads--and certainly if I were one, I would not need to do that--for cancer research and to find a cure for cancer. That is a real example of the RCMP getting involved in our communities. It is a real example of community policing.

In pursuing the aims of this motion, there are other examples of similar movements that we can look to. I think, for example, of the cadets program administered by the Department of National Defence.

When I use these examples, I want the House to know that I take nothing away from the uniqueness of that particular cadet program, because some of its uniqueness has to do with how it grew from the people themselves and those who participated in it and the way it came about; not, as the member opposite has said, from the top down, but from the bottom up.

We can use examples like the air, army and sea cadet programs for young people aged 12 to 18. They are programs that have long been successful. They are popular in my riding of Labrador and in many others around the country. Many of these youth proudly go about their duties. They are in our parades and in our Remembrance Day ceremonies, and many of our youth look up to them. Again, they set a positive example.

Another very successful and popular program similar in nature and intent to the cadets program is the Junior Canadian Rangers. The JCR program was launched in 1996 with local groups, led by members of the Canadian Rangers and the Canadian Forces.

There are over 100 communities across Canada that participate in the JCR program, which are organized into five Canadian Rangers patrol groups. There are 10 JCR patrols in my riding of Labrador alone, with participation by aboriginal and non-aboriginal youth alike. The program is very popular in rural, northern and aboriginal communities, offering recreational opportunities and life skills development that might otherwise not be available.

These patrols in Labrador have won repeated recognition at regional and national events. Again, recognition that people themselves gain is important, but sometimes reinforcement from the outside is also important.

The Junior Canadian Rangers also participate in many community events including local festivals and Remembrance Day celebrations. I saw the Hobbema cadets participate in many community events. They had, for instance, a pow-wow and they had their brothers up from Jamaica. We saw the cultural exchange. They were inspiring people not only within their own community but also from other countries. The reach, the breadth and the depth this program has had are remarkable.

I have seen a big difference in the self-esteem and leadership skills of many youth in Labrador communities who participate in programs like the cadets and the Junior Canadian Rangers. After watching CBC reports on the program in Hobbema, I recognize the same transformation. On behalf of the Liberal caucus, I congratulate the cadets and their leaders for what they have achieved and join in the recognition that they have received in Canada and abroad.

One key difference between the Hobbema program and others I have mentioned today is that the cadets and the Junior Canadian Rangers programs are formal programs with official support from the Canadian Forces and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. At the same time, they enjoy grassroots and community support.

However, the Hobbema program is truly being built from the grassroots up. Without interfering in that process, as I said earlier, I challenge the government to look at offering formal support to the community cadet corps in Hobbema or other communities and others who would emulate such an undertaking.

The experiences of the army, sea and air cadets and the Junior Canadian Rangers show the value of such programs to young people and their communities. The motion calls for monitoring and promotion. Given the very real benefit of youth programs of this type, perhaps the government should be willing to go further.

I think of the value with regard to crime reduction, combating gang and other crimes and violence. There may be lessons here and opportunities for first nations or urban aboriginal communities that are facing similar challenges. There is a health promotion component for all three aspects of health: physical, mental and social.

There are benefits as well that come from preventing alcohol and drug abuse. Though perhaps hard to quantify, the health benefits alone to aboriginal communities probably justify the modest cost of building cadet or other youth programs. Programs like these are instrumental in forming the next generation of leaders. We have already seen the benefits from the cadets and the JCR programs and now from the Hobbema program itself.

I would encourage youth in the Hobbema program to continue sharing their stories and experiences with other Canadians, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, as they may inspire similar efforts elsewhere in the country.

Again, I congratulate Hobbema and the path that so many of its youth have chosen for themselves, and I encourage them to lead others in Hobbema elsewhere along the same journey. I look forward to supporting this motion.

First Nations Cadet ProgramPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is rare that we see such a thing in this House. In fact, it is not even a debate, given that a motion like the one moved by my colleague from Wetaskiwin is extremely important, when it comes to things that really affect first nations people today, particularly, the lack of leadership, lack of academic success, poverty, alcohol, drugs and violence in the communities. I strongly suggested—and I think my suggestion will be adopted—that the Bloc Québécois support our colleague's motion. I am more or less convinced that the motion will be adopted by the entire House. I think the motion will be unanimously adopted, since it is so very important.

If I may humbly say so in this House, I would really like to see this motion, if it is adopted—which I do not doubt for a second—proceed through all the stages and its progress monitored in the years to come. We can adopt all the motions we like in this House, but if the government does not follow through on them, they are of no use. We must ensure that this motion, which will be adopted, is referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, so we can ensure that it is followed up on and that the necessary measures are established so that the example set by the Hobbema cadets can be followed.

There are all kinds of examples. I listened carefully to my colleague from Labrador, who gave a remarkable speech. I think that is precisely the situation. My colleague who moved this motion also gave an excellent description of the situation. I would like to talk briefly about Quebec, since I know it well, and there are examples of things that are working in various communities.

I would like to take a minute or two, if I may, to explain what is happening in Nunavik. There is a hockey player in Nunavik named Joé Juneau. Joé Juneau is an excellent hockey player who played in the NHL. He has met with the mayors of the Inuit communities in northern Quebec and, with them, has set up a program to encourage young people to go to school and complete their education. He has also developed a hockey program. Members may say that I am off topic, but there is a connection with the cadet corps, because in order to train tomorrow's leaders, aboriginal communities have to take ownership of the process. The initiatives have to come from these communities, because anything that is parachuted in from above will not succeed. I have sat on the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee for three years, and every time a great program is implemented in aboriginal communities, it does not succeed if the communities do not support or take part in it or if they have not developed it. This happens all the time.

I do not know whether the cadet program, which this motion concerns, would be adaptable across Canada. I do not agree with the idea of taking something that works well in one community and applying it everywhere, because it will not necessarily work. However, the Hobbema cadet program might be an extremely interesting model. I think we could at least find a way to extend these concepts to aboriginal communities so that they can adapt them and develop programs such as a cadet corps, patrols or an organization that reflects what is proposed in the motion.

I am wondering about something, as is the Bloc Québécois. It is obvious to me that this is a successful model but we cannot impose it throughout Canada. It is a good model, but it has to be adapted.

We must find a way to encourage communities to adopt or adapt this model for the youth in their communities. To this end, I strongly suggest, once the motion has been adopted, that the leaders of the Hobbema cadet corps visit the communities that would like to start up this type of cadet corps.

For example, I was talking about hockey and our youth. Similar situations can be found throughout Canada. However, in Quebec, hockey has been used to engage aboriginal youth and develop their skills. If you want to play hockey for a long time, you have to get to sleep early, not drink too much and avoid violence. That is a way of breaking up gangs. I can give examples in aboriginal communities in Abitibi—Témiscamingue where a number of hockey teams have been established with the same principle as the cadets mentioned by my colleague in this House.

Look at what happened in Nunavik in 2006 when the Kativik school board, the Kativik regional government and the Makivik Corporation launched the Nunavik youth hockey development program. The idea came from Joé Juneau, a former NHL player, and the goal was to put education first and use hockey to encourage aboriginal youth to stay in school.

The program had an extremely positive impact on reducing crime and improving academic performance. Young people stayed in school and did not drop out. The program was designed to support community development. We could spend a lot of time talking about this special program for Inuit youth.

The Maliotenam website provides information about the Kupaniesh program in Maliotenam. This is a great program that trains Innu youth to be in and respect nature. However, to take part, students must stay in school and stay away from drugs, alcohol and gangs.

I know that I have almost run out of time, but I want to say that we will support our Conservative Party colleague's motion, and I urge all members to support it.

I hope—we hope—that this motion will be more than just words on paper once the House amends and passes it. I hope that communities will use this motion to create their own cadet corps.

We will find the words, but it is very important for communities to take the idea and adapt it to meet their needs, because God knows that we have to reduce crime and encourage young people to stay in school. I am sure that this program will train the leaders of tomorrow. This motion is commendable, and I hope that the House will pass it.

First Nations Cadet ProgramPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of New Democrats and indicate that we support Motion No. 271 put forward by the member for Wetaskiwin.

For people who are listening, the motion we are debating today states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should examine First Nations cadet programs and develop a plan to facilitate, promote and help monitor First Nations community cadet programs across Canada.

I know other members of the House have talked about how we put motions forward and then sometimes they languish. From what the members have said today, it seems that all parties will support this motion.

My motion in 2007 on Jordan's Principle was unanimously supported in the House of Commons. Although, the speed of implementation has been somewhat glacial, it is being implemented. We have two provinces, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, that have reached some agreement with the federal government around the jurisdictional disputes for aboriginal children. Although it is not implementing the full intent of Jordan's Principle, there is at lease some movement. When we know other provinces, like the province of British Columbia, have indicated support in principle.

Therefore, for the member for Wetaskiwin, I know support in the House can signal some move. With the support of all members of the House, we could see some difference made in the lives of youth in their communities.

I want to touch briefly on a couple of points. In my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan in the community of Cowichan, the community justice coordinator, Calvin Swustus, has been in touch with my office about the need for support for these types of cadet programs. He has indicated to me that he sees Hobbema as a very good example of being proactive in dealing with some of the potential problems that are occurring with youth.

He has said that these proactive measures will lead to the avoidance of major problems, potential violence in communities, that youth will be healthier and have skills, knowledge and new tools to use, that they will also have a better idea of what they want in the future and will have healthier friendships. He sees the cadet program as an opportunity to help provide some support structure for healthier communities.

For people who do not know about Cowichan, the first nations in Cowichan are the largest on reserve first nations band in British Colombia and there is a significant number of youth. As a part of the legacy of residential schools, with poverty, a lack of access to education, a lack of access to adequate housing, we see problems with some of the young people.

The Cowichan people have not been sitting on their hands on this matter. They have been working proactively within their community to look for programs and services that will help youth make better choices with their lives.

One of the programs in place is called “Tribal Journeys”. Anyone who was fortunate enough to be present for the North American Indigenous Games saw Tribal Journeys like we have never seen in decades. We saw hundreds of canoes coming into the harbour at Cowichan Bay, paddled by the young people and the elders in their communities. Part of the Tribal Journeys teachings are that the elders provide the teachings as these young people paddle. During the Tribal Journey, young people make a commitment to be free of drug and alcohol.

What happens with these young people, and the elders in Cowichan will often speak about this, is we have to deal with the whole person. We have to deal with the mental, the physical, the emotional and the spiritual. As part of the Tribal Journeys, that is exactly what happens.

I was fortunate enough to paddle one day on the Tribal Journeys this year with some young people. I had nothing but admiration for those who were brave enough to get into this canoe and paddle great distances. These young people are paddling for 10 or 15 days depending on where they come from. One of the elders told me that one of the advantages of being together like this was that the young people were almost a captive audience in this canoe. The elder gets to talk about some of the spiritual significance of the paddle, of the journey. The elder said that they also had an opportunity to talk about the culture, about the language and how important it was for those young people to understand their roots.

That is certainly part of the cadet program in Hobbema. There are elders involved. The young people are exposed to their language, their culture and that grounds them in their sense of who they are and where they come from. It gives them a pride in their history and their ancestors.

I want to refer briefly to the mission statement from Hobbema, because it is important. The mission statement for the Hobbema Community Cadet program is:

PREPARING TODAY'S YOUTH TO BE TOMORROW'S LEADERS BY PROVIDING POSITIVE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, LEADERSHIP AND COMMUNICATIONS SKILLS AND A DISCIPLINED AND RESPECTED ABORIGINAL COMMUNITY CADET PROGRAM BY CULTURALLY SENSITIVE MEMBERS OF THE HOBBEMA COMMUNITY.

The aboriginal affairs critic for the Bloc referenced the fact that programs did not work if they were imposed from outside. This program has been developed by the community, in conjunction with the RCMP, recognizing the important cultural aspects of that community.

Some other members have talked about from where the Hobbema program came. I want to reiterate from the Hobbema website that this program was initiated by the RCMP as a comprehensive crime reduction initiative to disrupt gang activity, drug abuse and associated violence in the Cree First Nations communities of Hobbema, Alberta. This positive crime reduction approach involved a number of enforcement and preventive strategies intended to engage, empower and mobilize the community members against the gang and drug activity.

It goes on to talk about the fact that the increasing gang and drug activities and expected phenomenon when culture, language and a sense of pride in the family, school and community begin to erode. I referenced residential school experiences earlier. We have seen that many young people no longer have their language or their teachings. Their parents, their grandparents and their great grandparents ended up in residential schools where they were punished for speaking their language. They were punished for trying to follow cultural traditions. In my province of British Columbia the potlatch was outlawed. People were put in jail for carrying on the traditions that their ancestors had carried on for thousands of years.

Again, from the website, it says:

One alternative the Hobbema RCMP implemented is the development of the First Nations Community Cadet Corps Program....The cadet activities are specifically tailored to the needs and concerns of the native reserve youth with a strong emphasis on native culture, language, education, sports and a healthy lifestyle. The goals and objectives of the Program are to prepare the youth for future leadership positions and challenges by mentoring the youth through positive attitudes and social development skills provided by culturally sensitive role models.

One of the comments that came up earlier in the House was that it would be great to have support in principle for cadet programs in first nations, and Inuit I would assume, communities from coast to coast to coast, but what is missing is the question of resources. Even in this program there needs to be money found for uniforms, for example, and for other program activities. It is always the fundamental question when we start to talk about programs and services that are to be delivered.

The other aspect is the importance of being proactive. New Democrats have always called for a multi-pronged strategy when we talk about crime reduction. This cadet program is touted as being a tool to look at, encouraging youth into a healthier lifestyle and away from gang activity. Prevention is an absolutely essential part of any approach when we talk about crime reduction.

The cadet program is a valuable asset, but I want to touch upon one other aspect. I think 77 members of the House have friendship centres in their communities. The friendship centres have youth components. There is an urban, multipurpose aboriginal youth centre initiative under the friendship centres. We have found that the program has been delayed in terms of calls for proposals. I urge all members of the House to look for ways to support the cadet programs and to support the youth aspect of the friendship centres. They are vital links in many of the communities.

If we go ahead and pass this important motion from the member for Wetaskiwin, we should also urge the government to provide adequate funding, long-term sustained funding, to ensure these communities have the resources to put this very good program in place.

First Nations Cadet ProgramPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this debate on the motion before us today.

Effective crime prevention initiatives have been a priority for our government since we were first elected in 2006. It is a pleasure to have this opportunity to speak about some of the ways we have been helping young people at risk avoid becoming involved in criminal activities and also talk about funding cadet programs in first nations communities.

Young people present our hope for the future. This is especially true in the case of aboriginal youth, the fastest growing segment of our population and a rapidly expanding pool of in-demand talent.

The first nations population is growing three times faster than the national average, with half of all aboriginal people being under the age of 25. Equipped with the right skills and education these young people can seize new economic development opportunities being created in first nations communities. They can also help to fill the thousands of jobs that are opening up as more and more Canadians reach retirement age.

Unfortunately, too many aboriginal youth currently fall short of their potential. They are more likely than their non-aboriginal peers to be both victims of crime and to be arrested and incarcerated for crime. In fact, they are almost eight times more likely to be in custody than their non-aboriginal counterparts.

Research tells us the most persistent young offenders have a history of abuse or neglect, problems in school, early substance abuse, anti-social behaviour, delinquent peers and inadequate adult supervision. Research also provides solid evidence that crime prevention works with these at-risk youth.

Effective prevention programs have proven to be able to reduce arrests of youth by up to 70%. This is one key reason our Conservative government has taken some very decisive action to strengthen and refocus the national crime prevention strategy.

We have made sure that our programs are targeted, effective and long term. We have also taken steps to ensure that funding for the crime prevention strategy is permanent rather than subject to the sunset provisions which the previous government had put in place.

Under the previous national crime prevention strategy, funding went largely to initiatives focusing on raising awareness among young people in general, and other projects such as those designed to help community organizations study the extent of delinquency in their area.

This translated into funding that lacked focus and often went to well intentioned but hardly specific enough initiatives. Under the previous crime prevention strategies, permissible funding was often too small and for too short a period of time, thereby limiting the potential for community-based projects to achieve real measurable results.

Today, the national crime prevention strategy has a renewed mission and core activities that provide a sharper focus on crime prevention. Funding is targeted to address high-risk and high-priority crimes, populations and places. Longer term and more intensive projects are now being funded with a view to reducing the likelihood that at-risk persons will offend. Projects to implement direct interventions with vulnerable children, youth and their families are being supported rather than more general awareness campaigns or social activities.

The idea is to help young people at risk to address circumstances or personal characteristics, such as drug, alcohol or other substance abuse, aggressiveness or violence and dysfunction in families, any of which might lead them down the wrong path and into a life of crime.

Our goal is to make sure that we achieve concrete results by supporting evidence-based projects that will help those most at risk achieve their full potential and make smart choices.

Hon. members will know that as part of our effort to strengthen and refocus the strategy, our government set up the northern and aboriginal crime prevention fund where crime rates unfortunately are often three times higher than elsewhere in the country.

The fund supports innovative and culturally sensitive crime prevention practices that reduce offending among at-risk children and youth. It helps to develop tools and resources tailored to aboriginal and northern populations, and to disseminate this knowledge across communities.

Especially important is that it helps to build capacity at the community level to develop or implement culturally sensitive crime prevention practices among aboriginal and northern populations.

How has the government been doing with the new strategy so far?

Between January and September of this year alone, our government has invested nearly $74.4 million in 46 crime prevention projects across Canada, many of them targeted to helping aboriginal youth. I will talk about just a few.

Our government is investing in a project in Vancouver that provides aboriginal youth between the ages of 12 and 23 with positive alternatives to gang involvement. This initiative is a collaboration between the Vancouver police department and a number of aboriginal organizations.

Our government is also investing in Winnipeg's Circle of Courage project which helps reduce gang violence and criminal activity by enabling aboriginal participants to learn practical life skills and strengthen their connection to their culture to help protect them from gang influences.

Also, the Seeds of Change Youth Inclusion program in Halifax is helping 14 to 18 year olds at risk of criminal involvement to develop new skills, to help with their education and focus on drug prevention and conflict resolution so young people can increase their social skills and sense of belonging.

The Aboriginal Women's Association of P.E.I.'s program Gathering Together is working to reduce in first nation communities incidents of violent crime and property crime associated with substance abuse. This program involves communities, families, service providers and youth in culturally sensitive activities that develop the skills needed to support effective crime prevention and reduction.

The Government of Canada has already done a lot to keep kids at risk out of trouble, and we are going to do a lot more.

The motion before us today asks the government to examine cadet programs in this regard. I would like to give hon. members a brief background into the Hobbema cadet corps which is active in Alberta, in the constituency of my colleague, the member for Wetaskiwin. This cadet corps is a shining example of such programs at work.

In 2005 the RCMP developed and implemented a cadet corps program for the community of Hobbema. It was conceived as a comprehensive crime reduction measure to educate first nations youth on the dangers of gang activity, drug abuse and the associated violence. The program has been a remarkable success.

The cadet corps program recruits young aboriginal people and advises them on positive choices and alternate ways to overcome the challenges and obstacles that prevent them from moving on in their education, or which serve to frustrate their career goals and opportunities.

In partnership with youth, the community and local police, the program provides culturally sensitive, tailored guidance while instilling discipline and providing experience, all while showing trust and respect to everyone involved. Cadets in this program become role models for their peers and the younger generations in their communities.

I will outline some of the success that this program has already seen.

School attendance has risen and crime has been significantly reduced in the community as a result of this cadet corps program. The program has received national and international interest from aboriginal, academic and policing communities for its focus on youth empowerment and its corresponding reduction in crime.

The bottom line is that Canadians want us to invest in what works and make sure we get the biggest bang for our buck. That is what our focus will be.

I want to thank and congratulate my colleague from Wetaskiwin for bringing forward the motion which highlights the potential of cadet programs. It clearly dovetails with our government's plans to strengthen crime prevention among youth.

In fact, I am already seeing how such a program could be beneficial in my own riding of Wild Rose, which is home to the Stoney Nakoda reserve.

I am encouraged by the fact that the three bands in Wild Rose have indicated the priorities for their reserves are education and economic development.

This summer our Minister of Indian Affairs announced that a new school will be built in the community of Morley. Our Conservative government is already showing our commitment to assisting first nations in Wild Rose to meet their objectives. But there is still more work that needs to be done.

This weekend I will be doing a ride-along with the Cochrane RCMP's rural section on the Stoney reserve. Unfortunately, the officers of this section report that the level of crime on the reserve is significantly higher than the rest of the area that they cover.

The benefits that are proven to flow from the establishment of a cadet corps would be welcome in this community. I would dearly love to see them realized for my young constituents in Morley and on the Stoney Nakoda reserve. Most important, they are benefits that would be generated by the first nations community itself, and on its terms.

Based on the early promise of projects such as those in Hobbema, I am optimistic that we will find lasting solutions to youth crime problems, and in the process, continue to build safer communities for Canadians.

I encourage all hon. members to support this initiative.

First Nations Cadet ProgramPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 30, my Liberal colleague, the member for Guelph, and I asked the Minister of Finance whether or not the promised Canadian secured credit facility would be open on May 1 as the Conservative government had promised.

It had made the announcement in December 2008. At that point, it said that it would be up and running for business by May 1, 2009. Five months later, on April 30, we asked whether or not it was going to be on schedule for May 1. The minister refused to respond. Instead, he tried to poke fun at the Liberals, et cetera.

On May 9, one week after the deadline that the government had set for itself, the minister welcomed the rollout of the credit facility. Being one week late may not be a major concern, but the government did not even have the moral courage to state on April 30 that the facility would be rolled out, but not until May 9, 2009, one week late.

When the government rolled it out on May 9, the minister announced that the government would purchase up to $12 billion in asset-backed securities backed by loans on vehicles and equipment. This is important to Liberals and to many Canadians because our car dealers need credit to sell their vehicles and consumers need credit to purchase or lease vehicles.

I would simply like to ask the parliamentary secretary how much of the $12 billion that the government said it would purchase in asset-backed securities backed by loans on vehicles and equipment has actually been spent.

6:45 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, what a disappointing speech that was by the Liberal member. Nowhere in her lengthy speech did she apologize to the auto workers and their families. Nowhere did she say “sorry” to the unemployed men and women across this country, nor did she admit that the Liberals were wrong. She did not admit this to the entrepreneurs, whether small or large, who are the backbone of our economy.

What is even more sad is that the Liberal member does not even know what she and her leader have done wrong. She does not believe that threatening to throw Canada into an unnecessary election only to quench the Liberals' thirst for power is bad and deplorable as well.

She ignores small businesses, as voiced by Canadian Federation of Independent Business president and CEO Catherine Swift, who in a television interview last week pleaded for the Liberal madness to end. She remarked, “All we need is a stupid election to put things right back in the tank. Elections do not produce certainty. I think with the economy turning right now, though, this is a bad time to have an election”.

While the member demands an election and an end to Parliament, she has the audacity to claim to be interested in the Canadian secured credit facility, or as we refer to it, the CSCF. I will give the House an update, not for her but for those Canadians and members who are actually interested in making Parliament work.

The CSCF is an initiative included in Canada's economic action plan designed to support the financing of vehicles and equipment to stimulate private lending. Indications to date are that this objective is being achieved. The cost and availability of funding for vehicle and equipment sales has improved since the CSCF has been made available.

For example, in June, Ford Credit Canada was able to issue $600 million in ABS in the public markets in Canada without using the secured credit facility, the first such asset-backed security issue since 2007. It is reported that Ford also raised more than $3 billion in private placements over the summer months.

On September 16, 2009, GMAC announced that it was expanding its availability of leasing options to include Chrysler vehicles. The revised pricing and enhanced flexibility of the CSCF announced recently will further improve access to financing for the sale of vehicles and equipment, supporting key manufacturers and stimulating Canada's economic recovery.

We continue to monitor access to financing for groups whose financing needs may not be met through the Canadian secured credit facility. We continue to monitor it to get it right. As the Canadian Finance & Leasing Association noted:

This is an evolving process and you want to make sure that taxpayer dollars are protected. This will make the difference between having a strong [securitization] sector in Canada or seeing that sector shrink back dramatically. But we have to get it right and have it work in a way that we will all be pleased.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member has just shown how the Conservatives do not answer questions that have been put very simply. I was not partisan. I simply stated the facts and I simply asked if the government could provide an update and provide actual figures.

Rather than respond to that, the member attacked me. I am not even going to respond to those attacks because they are ridiculous; they are not true. I will come back to my question. Has the government purchased, through the Canadian secured credit facility, any asset-backed securities? It is simple, has it? Yes or no?

On May 8 the minister said the government could purchase, through the CSCF, up to $12 billion. Has any money actually been used by the facility to purchase asset-backed securities, yes or no?

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would remind you and all hon. members that I do speak the truth when I speak in the House and I take offence to anyone suggesting that I do not.

We need to recognize that this government has put forward this initiative. It has been voted for by the Liberals and now we understand that they are not even supporting our government, which put this initiative forward, so I would ask the hon. member to go back to her constituents and suggest to them how she can justify not supporting this.

Our Prime Minister has offered an olive branch to work with the opposition, to ensure that Parliament works. The Liberals stand and oppose that, not on principle but they just stand and oppose everything that this Conservative government is putting forward.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, last May I asked the Minister of Veterans Affairs why Canada was abandoning its former soldiers, leaving them to languish on the streets, even after they have given so much to all of us and to our country.

In response to my question, the minister said that “the problem is, by its nature, very difficult to identify because many of these men and women suffer from alcoholism and drug dependency”.

Sadly, it was easier for the minister to find reasons to blame soldiers and veterans for their lot than it was for him to actually name real measures that his government has put in place to prepare for and to help this new generation of war veterans.

A few weeks after I asked the question, David Bruser, a reporter with the Toronto Star, penned a series of investigative articles for the Toronto Star dealing with the emotional aftermath being felt by Canada's Afghanistan war veterans. It was a heart-breaking story that I know was felt by all of us who sit on the veterans affairs committee, and I would expect by the minister himself, because it was quite an eye-opening story.

These articles tell of tragic stories, stories about the serious hardships and mental strains caused by many things, one of them of course being post-traumatic stress disorder. When viewed from a veteran's perspective, his or her home may be the new Afghan war-front.

In one of these articles, Mr. Bruser talked about a young infantryman who was charged with assault after returning from combat in Afghanistan. These were real stories. These were not fictional stories. The story touched upon issues such as mental illness and violence, but more to the point, it explained how a 26-year-old man was emotionally devastated because he enlisted to help his country.

As if that were not bad enough, it would seem that the military threw this young private to the wolves by ignoring the fact that he was facing trial for actions that may well have been caused in part by PTSD.

Even the judge in the case was stunned and confounded by the absence of a military representative in the courtroom. While he was trying to establish the conditions of the private's house arrest, Judge William McCarroll said:

There should be somebody here from the military, right? To take responsibility. And I don't understand why there isn't. I mean, he went to Afghanistan. He did his part. He's back here now. So what is he, cut loose?

I wonder if this private has indeed been cut loose. Have his fellow veterans been cut loose too? Has his government abandoned our war veterans, even after they have given so much to us?

Mr. Bruser's articles talked about several officers and the suffering that they were feeling, how domestic violence was occurring in their families as soldiers were waking up in the night thinking that they were still on the battle fronts in Afghanistan, and beating up their wives at a time when they were suffering from PTSD. The wives were bearing the brunt of that response.

These are very difficult times. I would hope that the government would take a more proactive role in meeting the needs of many of our veterans out there and establish a strategic plan to do so.

6:55 p.m.

West Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Greg Kerr ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for bringing this important matter forward.

As the Minister of Veterans Affairs has said, we only serve in this chamber because our veterans have served our great country. It is because of them that we live in a free and peaceful democratic nation. They have been willing to sacrifice everything for our way of life and we must be there for them in the same way, 100% of the time, without hesitation.

Let me be clear. Even one homeless veteran is one too many. That is why our government, through Veterans Affairs Canada, has a wide range of services and benefits to help these brave individuals make a successful transition to civilian life. We do not want a single veteran left behind and so we work with Canadian Forces members early in their release process to help identify those who may be at risk of homelessness.

If our veterans have physical or psychological injuries, we have a variety of programs to help them restore their health, as well as their ability to function in their home, community and, where possible, the workplace. No two veterans have the same experience or the same approach to wellness. Medical and psychological care, vocational rehabilitation, financial support and health benefits are just a few of the tools at our disposal to help Canada's veterans.

We continue to work with veterans groups and community organizations to reach out to any veteran who is homeless. During the last number of months we have contacted more than 109 homeless shelters and agencies that help the homeless. Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming so can be hard to locate and that is why we have partnered with local groups to set up a six-month pilot storefront operation in Vancouver to reach out to these individuals.

We also encourage organizations and others to refer potential clients to Veterans Affairs by calling our toll free numbers. Those numbers are: 1-866-522-2122 in English and 1-866-522-2022 in French.

When we become aware of a homeless veteran, we help the veteran find support from the kinds of programs I mentioned earlier or through other available community resources. We are committed to helping our veterans and current soldiers overcome psychological injuries like post-traumatic stress disorder, addictions and anxiety disorders.

We have nine specialized clinics across the country where veterans who suffer from operational stress injuries, or OSIs, can be treated in a supportive environment. We also have a residential clinic at Ste. Anne's Hospital, a place where veterans can live for up to eight weeks to concentrate full-time on their treatment.

There is also a peer program called operational stress injury social support, which enlists the help of counsellors who have recovered from operational stress. Having been there themselves, these counsellors offer vital support to those who need it. They reach out to help veterans and their families deal with the serious problems they have. The success of this program is a result of Veterans Affairs Canada and the defence department working together.

The government has made a commitment to meet the needs of Canada's veterans today and, therefore, the creation of the Veterans Ombudsman and the Veterans Bill of Rights are proof of this. We will continue to do our very best for our country's truest heroes.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his response, but clearly it is not enough. David Bruser's column outlined young soldiers all across Canada who were clearly suffering from PTSD and other repercussions, marriages falling apart and so on.

I acknowledge the programs that are currently in existence and the veterans charter that the former minister introduced. A lot of work was done for veterans under the previous Liberal administration, but clearly not enough is being done when soldiers are sleeping on the street, suffering from domestic violence, and all the things that are happening to them.

More needs to be done. I appreciate the answer, but it is still insufficient. I would like to ask that the parliamentary secretary take a message to the minister that we would like to see more done, especially at the committee level, on this issue.

7 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I have shared time in committee together and realize that what we are going to be facing next year as colleagues, both at the committee stage and certainly here in the House, is that more and more veterans are returning who need this care.

There is a long ways to go on this very important journey and we are very open to receiving advice and input that tells us how to do this better. It is never going to be perfect but veterans deserve every bit of care.

I want to say on that point that we look forward to the continued co-operation to find the right answers and to do the very best we can for these veterans that served our country so well.

7 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 30, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages assured this House that the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games would be entirely respectful of Canada's official languages when it comes to the cultural Olympiad, the opening and closing ceremonies and the torch relay. That same day, the minister even invited me to go to Vancouver myself to see the progress that had already been made by VANOC, the Olympic organizing committee.

I went there, and I am not convinced that the Olympic Games in Vancouver will be bilingual. And I am not the only one. The Commissioner of Official Languages just released a new follow-up report in September 2009, in which he shared his concerns and made recommendations. I rise in this House today to say that the majority of the promises the minister made in April are not in place today, six months later, and the Games are only a few months away.

For example, on April 30, 2009, the minister assured the House that translation services would be put in place to ensure that the Games are completely bilingual.

Six months later, the commissioner not only reports that there is a delay in translation, but expresses concern that the stated objectives for translation have been lowered. He states, and I quote:

...VANOC indicates that “in exceptional circumstances, unanticipated communications will be consecutively broadcasted within a twelve-hour period in the second language, and urgent communications, within a six-hour period.” This clause is not in keeping with the multiparty agreement.

I could go on all evening about the lack of volunteers, the fact that French-language services are not available on the sites of various federal institutions that are to be providing services during the games, and so on.

What I see, what the commissioner saw and what the whole world will unfortunately see during the Olympic Games next February is that French does not have equal status with English in the conduct of the event and that the official languages objectives that were set have not been met.

As a Canadian, I am worried that, once again, Canada will not honour its commitments.

As the critic for la Francophonie, I wonder how the event's organizers, including the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, are going to justify all these organizational shortcomings to the thousands of French-speaking athletes who will be visiting a member of the francophonie and a country with French as one of its official languages, yet who will not be able to get an answer in French at most sites, will not see their biographies presented in French for the media and will not have access to the translation and signage services they have a right to expect.

7 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, ever since Vancouver made its bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, promoting both our official languages has been part of our commitment in support of that bid, pursuant to the Official Languages Act.

Efforts have also been made by the federal government to ensure that French takes its rightful place not only during the games, but also before and during the torch relay. It is a $24.5 million investment by our government. Thanks to that investment, the torch relay will allow thousands of anglophone and francophone communities to participate.

The Government of Canada is committed to having these games reflect the country's linguistic duality. We have taken steps to help VANOC respect the multiparty agreement. We have also encouraged the participation and representation in the games by official language minority communities.

To guarantee that all the cultural activities surrounding the games are bilingual, we have made the multiparty agreement official language requirements part of the contribution agreements for the torch relay, celebration sites, the cultural Olympiad and the opening ceremony.

On September 15, we announced $7.7 million in additional funding for translation and interpretation, signage and the medal ceremonies.

We will sign a memorandum of understanding with Public Works and Government Services Canada in order that the Translation Bureau can provide its expert services in translation and interpretation during the games.

This funding is consistent with a number of the recommendations by the Commissioner of Official Languages. What is more, in his follow-up report, the commissioner took note of the progress made by VANOC and by Canadian Heritage.

It is important to note that official languages before, during and after the games are VANOC's responsibility. It is VANOC's responsibility to serve francophones from across the country who will be participating in these games.

We are working together with the federal institutions responsible for essential federal services. We are working with the Treasury Board Secretariat in order to support the institutions that will provide services in both official languages to visitors from Canada and from the rest of the world.

Our overall objective is to ensure the bilingual character of the games and we in the federal government are taking that responsibility seriously.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, of course I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for her reply, and I am very pleased to see that progress has been made. I thank the parliamentary secretary, and through her, the minister responsible.

However, she did talk about it as being part of their commitments. Commitments have been made; everyone agrees on that. What we on this side of the House find disappointing is the fact that, when it comes to honouring those commitments, they are not doing a very good job.

I said I had other examples. Here is another one. On April 30, 2009, the minister said: “Every Olympic Games site, including the Richmond Oval, will have bilingual signage”.

However, in his September 2009 report, the commissioner said there were some shortcomings in the organization of that event. Recommendations 3 and 4 state: “The Commissioner recommends that VANOC ensure that all signage respect the equality of both official languages”. I could go on, but clearly, not enough work has been done in that regard.

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to be very clear about this: the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver will be bilingual. We will respect both of Canada's official languages and we expect VANOC to do its job. VANOC is in charge. To help out, our government has just provided another $7.7 million to provide VANOC with the translation services that my colleague just spoke about. That includes signage for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

She also mentioned the Richmond Oval. Our government has invested more than $30.5 million to ensure the success of the Richmond Oval and other Olympic venues.

The Olympic Games will respect both official languages and VANOC will do its job. We will make sure of that.

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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

(The House adjourned at 7:10 p.m.)