House of Commons Hansard #55 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was prairie.


7:20 p.m.



Greg Rickford Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this debate, clearly, on behalf of the constituents of the great Kenora riding and more than 42 first nations communities in my riding where we have been making major inroads to education infrastructure, and we want to stay on that trajectory.

I am pleased, obviously, to rise to speak to the question put by the member for Edmonton—Strathcona about the education provided in band operated schools for first nations children living on reserve.

This government remains fully committed that first nations children achieve the same educational outcomes as other Canadians. This was a goal envisioned by Shannen Koostachin.

As part of our commitment to Shannen's dream, we are working to provide first nations children and youth with a safe and welcoming learning environment, so that they can reach their full potential and acquire the skills they need to enter the labour market and fully share in Canada's economic opportunities.

I am happy, also, to assure the hon. member that we have been extremely active in this regard. In March 2011 the Government of Canada, in collaboration with the Assembly of First Nations, confirmed the appointment of a national panel on first nations elementary and secondary schools. This engagement process would result in recommendations on how to enhance the elementary and secondary education systems and, importantly, the outcomes for first nations children living on reserve.

The panel has completed regional meetings throughout the country. Recently, the panel wrapped up its extensive hearings with its eighth and final round table on first nations education held here in Ottawa.

The panel will then present a report and recommendations to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and to the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations on possible avenues for improving education for First Nations students. We are anxious to get the report and the recommendations from the panel, and we should have them by January.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development invests about $1.7 billion a year in education for First Nations, including $1.4 billion for elementary and secondary education and over $300 million for post-secondary education.

Through targeted programs like the education partnerships program and the First Nation student success program, we are investing an additional $268 million over five years and $75 million in the following years to lay the foundation for long-term improvements to First Nations education.

I am pleased to report real progress on tripartite partnerships. Since 2008 we have signed five tripartite education agreements with the provinces of New Brunswick, Manitoba, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, and the Saskatoon Tribal Council. These join pre-existing tripartite partnership arrangements in British Columbia and Nova Scotia, with 40% of first nation children on reserve attending provincial schools. These partnerships are designed to help first nation students transfer between both school systems without academic penalty.

We also have a responsibility to treat taxpayers' money prudently, which is why Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada's approved annual growth rate for a bundle of basic services remains at 2%. However, the annual overall growth is larger, due to significant new investments made in priority areas through successive budgets since 2006.

Finally, this government continues to make long-term investments in priority areas to improve the quality of life and education for first nations.

7:25 p.m.


Linda Duncan Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for his reply. In response, I would like to share the words of a first nation student. It was included in a report called “Our Dreams Matter Too”, presented to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Wesley's message is this:

I'm writing this letter to you as a young native man with something to say about my education. I have attended kindergarten, elementary, and high school on reserve and I am aware of the differences between the education that I have received and the education that non-aboriginal off-reserve students have received. The lack of funding is a concern, the lack of resources is a concern, but the lack of cultural content in our school is the biggest concern for me.... I would like to see this change. I would like to see native aboriginal students treated and funded the same as any other non-aboriginal students because we are all students, we are all human, we are all equal and should be treated as such.

I ask the parliamentary secretary, when will we finally see equality for aboriginal children?

7:25 p.m.


Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly our government understands the importance of education and remains committed to ensuring that first nation students enjoy the same educational opportunities as other Canadians. First nation students are entitled to an education that not only encourages them to stay in school, but will also see them graduate with the skills they need to enter the labour market successfully and share fully in Canada's economic opportunities.

Budget 2011 reiterated this government's commitment to work in collaboration with the Assembly of First Nations on reform of first nations elementary and secondary education. We invest more than $1.4 billion annually for elementary and secondary education. This includes investments of $268 million over five years, and ongoing funding of $75 million in each subsequent year for the education partnerships program and the first nation students success program.

In addition, budget 2010 provided a further investment of $30 million in comparable education for first nations, starting in British Columbia where there is an advanced state of partnership between first nations and the province.

7:25 p.m.


François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, on September 27, I asked a question of the hon. Minister of Industry. I will read it now to refresh our memories.

This government claims to want to create jobs by supporting the asbestos industry. In reality, it is exporting disease and death to countries that have inadequate labour health and safety standards. This position does not help the communities that are relying on a dying industry. The workers have suffered enough.

What is this government waiting for to show real respect for these people and to develop with them a transition plan to stimulate the economy in that region?

I asked that question in the House, and two months later, the Lac d'amiante mine in Thetford Mines and the Jeffrey mine in Asbestos are now closed. There is no more mining going on in the asbestos region.

My question from two months ago ended on this point: what is this government waiting for to show real respect for these people who are now out of work and to develop a transition plan with and for them?

Something else rather significant has happened recently. More and more elected officials no longer support exporting asbestos. That includes some Conservatives who, anonymously of course, have gone as far as admitting that they wanted to vote in favour of the motion the NDP moved in this House less than a month ago. That motion called for an end to mining and exporting the substance, and for an immediate transition plan to help all workers in the asbestos regions.

Other factors have been added to the mix in the past two months. A growing portion of Quebec civil society has changed its position on asbestos. For instance, the Coalition Pour que le Québec ait meilleure MINE and the Centrale des syndicats du Québec are calling on governments to compensate asbestos workers and their communities immediately—with the money that is supposedly being invested to help that industry recover—so that healthy, sustainable industries can be developed instead.

The Confédération des syndicats nationaux, or CSN, has committed to talks with other unions in order to propose a retraining schedule for people working in the asbestos industry, all with a view to initiating the necessary debates with both levels of government on banning asbestos.

Given the present circumstances, we have a historic opportunity to stop a commercial activity that exports disease and is very harmful to Canada's reputation. The government therefore needs to finance a transition plan, stop mining asbestos and agree to include the substance on the Rotterdam Convention. That is all.

Will the minister take advantage of this historic opportunity? If not, how can he justify a decision that will not create any jobs in the asbestos region? My question is not about asbestos handling policies, but about the future of the people in the asbestos region.

7:30 p.m.



Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, as we have discussed many times in the House, the health and safety of Canadians are priorities for the Government of Canada. We want to ensure that workers across the country are protected, regardless of what sector they work in. Chrysotile is a naturally occurring mineral that has long supported a major mining sector in Quebec.

The Government of Canada has supported the controlled use of chrysotile in the country and abroad for over 30 years.

All those involved in the chrysotile industry, and more specifically in mining chrysotile, recognize that this substance can be dangerous.

That is why there are controlled conditions for mining chrysotile, and this is achieved through the enforcement of appropriate safety regulations.

The government has been clear, and its safety message has been widely shared throughout the world.

In Canada, exposure to chrysotile is controlled by regulations; workplace programs and practices; federal, provincial and territorial limits; and restrictions on certain categories of consumer products and products in the workplace under Canada's Hazardous Products Act.

Chrysotile is not present in consumer products that can break down and release dangerous fibres or dust.

When chrysotile is used industrially, its use is controlled by workplace health and safety regulations.

Our policies on chrysotile have the right goal: safe and responsible use.

In 1984, the governments of Canada and Quebec, working with the industry and unions, founded the Chrysotile Institute.

Since then, this non-profit organization has actively promoted the responsible, controlled use of chrysotile in Canada and abroad.

7:30 p.m.


François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to have an answer to just one very specific question. Can the hon. member confirm that the position he just described, which we have heard 30, 100, 150 times in the House and which the hon. member expanded on a bit this evening—will this position on a hypothetical way of using asbestos create a single job tomorrow morning in the Asbestos region? I would just like to get a clear and frank answer to this very simple question.

7:30 p.m.


Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, chrysotile is the only asbestos fibre produced and exported by Canada.

Canada has long supported the approach of a controlled use of chrysotile.

Over the past 30 years, the federal government has promoted the controlled use of chrysotile nationally and internationally, and we will continue to do so.

We strongly believe that the health risks associated with mining chrysotile and with the manufactured products containing chrysotile, can be managed under regulated and controlled conditions.

Thanks to the Chrysotile Institute, Canada has worked with countries that produce and use chrysotile on effectively implementing regulations on controlled use.

I want to assure the House that, in terms of using chrysotile, our government approach's is a responsible one.

7:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:36 p.m.)