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House of Commons Hansard #144 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.

Topics

Children's HealthPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I am rising in the House today to support the motion of the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans. Motion M-319 seeks to find solutions to a serious problem: childhood obesity. The NDP strongly supports this initiative. Obesity rates are skyrocketing and are having a serious impact on the health of Canadian families and on our health care system.

The hon. member has four main points. First, he suggests that the government continue its dialogue with the provinces, territories, health stakeholders, industry and Canadians to promote and maintain healthy weight for children and youth. In short, he is proposing that we continue to talk about childhood obesity.

Second, he recommends that the government encourage discussions to address the factors that lead to obesity, such as social and physical environments, physical activity, as well as the promotion of and access to nutritious food. Once again, he is suggesting that we talk some more.

Third, he recommends that the government encourage individuals and organizations to commit to participating in the promotion of a healthy weight, but he does not suggest any concrete ways of doing this.

Lastly, the motion urges the government to consider the framework for action entitled “Curbing Childhood Obesity” that resulted from the endorsement of the Declaration on Prevention and Promotion by the federal, provincial and territorial health ministers. It calls on all stakeholders to take action to address obesity, particularly in children, promote physical activity and make healthy food choices.

The motion would help increase awareness of this issue among Canadians and would create a dialogue with a view to addressing obesity rates in Canada. This objective is important, but the NDP thinks that we must go further than that.

Furthermore, the NDP has always called for regulations on trans fats in foods, in order to reduce the impact that poor food choices can have on childhood obesity.

In 2004, my colleague from Winnipeg Centre moved a private member's motion to regulate trans fat content in foods. The motion was adopted unanimously, but since then, the government has not followed up with any action. My colleague also introduced Bill C-303, which would limit trans fatty acids. The government has not taken any action since then.

It is critical that we take swift and early action to curb childhood obesity. An obese child is 20% more likely to struggle with weight problems in adulthood. Obese teens are an alarming 80% more likely, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. These numbers are extremely disturbing.

Healthy lifestyle habits must be acquired early on because they are not innate. The best example is enjoyment of physical activity. A child who has active parents and who is encouraged to participate in sports at school will be more likely to maintain those good habits throughout his lifetime.

With all of that in mind, I am worried about how little physical activity kids get in school.

Meaningful steps should be taken to make our environments more conducive to physical activity, to curtail marketing of foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt, and to increase the availability of nutritious foods at reasonable prices.

Childhood obesity affects physical health as well as a child's emotional health and social life. Children with poor self-esteem can be in for a lifelong struggle. We all know how some kids bully others who are different, which can have serious short- and long-term repercussions.

That is why I support my colleague's motion. However, we must go further by calling for meaningful action as soon as possible.

Several reports have made clear recommendations. In 2007, the Standing Committee on Health examined the issue of childhood obesity. I was surprised to see that the recommendations made by that committee were not included in Motion M-319. For instance, in its report entitled “Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids”, the committee recommends that the federal government establish clear targets to reduce the rate of childhood obesity, suggesting a 2% reduction by 2020.

The report also suggests that the government should present an annual report to Parliament on overall efforts to attain healthy weights for children and on the results achieved. These recommendations were based on evidence from experts in the field, but the member for Ottawa—Orléans chose not to follow their advice.

The provinces have shown that it is possible to take action and really reduce childhood obesity rates. In Alberta, for instance, a program called “Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It!” has really helped reduce children's body mass index and body fat percentages. It has also improved their eating habits, increased their physical activity and improved their confidence and self-esteem.

Nova Scotia has also taken measures to eliminate childhood obesity by establishing a food and nutrition policy for the province's public schools that teaches the students to make healthy food choices and only allows food service in schools that meet specific nutrition criteria.

In Quebec, the organization “Québec en Forme” is working to promote the adoption and maintenance of healthy eating habits and a physically active lifestyle for Quebec youth from birth to 17 as essential elements of their full development and educational success. To do this, Québec en Forme is present throughout Quebec, to support communities and organizations that promote projects that establish all the necessary conditions to make it fun and easy for young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to move more and eat better on a daily basis.

It is time for the Conservative government to follow the provinces' example and show some leadership. With national standards, such as the Standing Committee on Health report called for, obesity rates could drop across Canada. The motion also calls for dialogue with the industry, but so far the government just bows to industry on matters of health, allowing unhealthy processed foods to go unregulated.

Therefore, I will be supporting the hon. member's initiative, and I hope that the government will follow up with real action soon. It is not enough to talk about the rising rate of childhood obesity; we must do something about it. The time has come. I call on the rest of the Conservative caucus to follow the example of the member for Ottawa—Orléans and address this important issue by introducing a bill that will turn words into action.

Children's HealthPrivate Members' Business

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP caucus has decided to vote in favour of Motion M-319, introduced by the member for Ottawa—Orléans, because obesity rates are skyrocketing and they will have a considerable impact on the health of Canadian families and on our health system.

It is important to raise Canadians' awareness of this issue and to create a dialogue that will attack obesity rates in Canada. This is a good initiative and I would like to thank the member for Ottawa—Orléans bringing it forward.

I support the principle of the motion. That being said, and although it is important to make people aware of the impact of childhood obesity, the Conservative government continues to avoid implementing concrete measures that will really attack the problem.

Even worse, some of its new policies, contained in the mammoth Bill C-38, are contrary to this motion. It seems that the government does not have a truly coherent policy to fight childhood obesity. I will come back to that.

As I indicated earlier, I support the principle of this bill because this is a worrisome problem. Obesity is defined as an abnormal or excessive accumulation of body fat, which can be harmful to health. Over 60% of adults age 18 and over—14.1 million Canadians—are overweight or obese. Overall, 26% of Canadian children between the ages of 2 and 17 are overweight or obese. So, it makes sense that this could result in significant costs.

Recent estimates of the economic burden of obesity in Canada range from $4.6 billion to $7.1 billion a year—and I did say “billion”.

The causes of obesity are complex. They can be social, cultural, environmental or behavioural, to name a few. However, two major risk factors for obesity are physical inactivity and poor nutrition. Obesity dramatically increases the risk of many chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, liver and gallbladder diseases, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cancer, sleep apnea, respiratory problems and more.

In light of these facts, the Conservatives are content to merely table a motion that invites the government to continue its dialogue with the provinces, territories and health stakeholders and encourage discussions to address the factors that lead to obesity. However, everyone knows what these factors are. Instead, the government needs to take active measures to combat obesity.

Instead of simply encouraging dialogue, the government must take real, concrete action, such as establishing obesity rate reduction targets, funding physical activity programs for everyone and regulating processed foods. The government is not taking an active role in fighting rising obesity rates. It simply produces documents entitled, “Declaration on Prevention and Promotion” and “Curbing Childhood Obesity: A Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights”. These documents have to do with health promotion strategies and focus especially on healthy living awareness campaigns.

In 2007, however, the Standing Committee on Health released a report entitled, “Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids”. Announced by many progressive—

Children's HealthPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Ryan Leef

I am sorry to interrupt, we now have to move to the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans for his five minute right of reply. My apologies for having to interrupt you at this point.

Children's HealthPrivate Members' Business

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise again today to speak to my motion, Motion No. 319 regarding childhood nutrition. This motion is important to me, and I realize it is important to members from all corners of the House.

I want to thank the members who have participated in this debate, including the hon. members for Mississauga South, Don Valley East, Okanagan—Shuswap, Beauharnois—Salaberry, Halifax West, Beaches—East York, Etobicoke North.

The member for Berthier—Maskinongé made a particularly eloquent speech. I also thank the members for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert and Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

The member for Vancouver Centre had a bit of an angry tinge in her speech and blamed the government for doing nothing. I thought that was pretty rich coming from a member who has been here for nearly 20 years. She had good statistics on the increase in childhood obesity. Unfortunately, she did not mention that the increase in childhood obesity happened mostly on her watch, especially as she is a physician.

Canada is facing this problem, which, over time, has become an epidemic. We can no longer turn a blind eye to it, but instead we must begin an open discussion on childhood obesity.

Over the past 25 years, rates of obesity and overweight have nearly tripled.

The reality is startling. Today, over one in four children in Canada is overweight or obese.

Children who are obese are at increased risk of being overweight or obese as adults.

Childhood obesity is now a challenge to the health of Canadians and the Canadian economy.

We know that childhood obesity increases the risk of chronic conditions, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer. We are seeing more and more of these chronic conditions in Canada and worldwide. Chronic disease has a devastating impact on individuals and families.

In addition, it is estimated that health care costs directly related to obesity are as high as $6 billion per year.

Reversing the trend is a complex challenge.

Several factors are at play and may be contributing to the increasing rate of overweight and obesity. For example, biological, behavioural, social, psychological, technical, environmental, economic and cultural factors may tip the balance toward obesity.

That is why many sectors of society have a role to play in promoting healthy weight.

As members can see, Motion No. 319 is about encouraging the promotion and maintenance of healthy weights for children and youth, building on Curbing Childhood Obesity, the federal-provincial-territorial framework for action to promote healthy weights. It encourages dialogue across sectors and also among individuals and organizations to address the factors that lead to obesity.

Engagement and collaboration are essential to mobilizing action to promote healthy weight, so they are fundamental to this motion.

It encourages the federal government to continue to promote healthy eating and active lifestyles as well as engagement and collaboration in the promotion of healthy weights. Our children need to live, learn and play in health-promoting and supportive environments where healthy choices are the easy choice. The federal government is on the right path. It has undertaken a number of significant initiatives in collaboration with others to promote and maintain healthy weights among children and youth.

I encourage all members to support this motion so that our children can live in a world where good health and good lifestyle habits are a priority.

I thank the hon. members on both sides of the House for supporting this motion.

Children's HealthPrivate Members' Business

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The time provided for debate has expired.

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

Children's HealthPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Children's HealthPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Children's HealthPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Children's HealthPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Children's HealthPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Children's HealthPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, a recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, September 19, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-27, An Act to enhance the financial accountability and transparency of First Nations, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that the question be now put.

First Nations Financial Transparency ActGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing has two and a half minutes left to conclude her remarks.

First Nations Financial Transparency ActGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, we are extremely concerned that this bill not only ignores a simple solution, but is overly punitive as well. The punishments spelled out in Bill C-27 are extreme and as bitter as the prescription itself. Consider that bands which do not comply with the demands could have their funding withheld or have a funding agreement terminated by the minister. How would that improve education, housing or the infrastructure challenges that many of these communities face? New Democrats do not see the need to divert more money to a new level of bureaucracy to reproduce much of what has already been done in a new format.

One of those demands is that information be made available online on a website. As someone who represents a northern rural constituency, I can tell members that this is not always possible. People in my riding know that it is enough of a challenge to get service to relatively accessible areas like Manitoulin Island and can see that website reporting could become a hurdle that some bands might not pass.

As we already know, non-compliance could see a funding agreement terminated or funds withheld. We see this as an overly harsh punishment that would do nothing to help those first nations who depend on these funding arrangements to provide safe water, keep their schools operating and pay social assistance for individuals who need it. When viewed that way, the punishment is far too extreme.

Again, New Democrats believe that there are already sufficient reporting processes in place and funding agreements could be modified to address the handful of worst-case scenarios the government seems to be intent on basing this heavy-handed, red-tape-filled legislation on. The government would do well to go back to the drawing board with Bill C-27, beginning with the full consultation of first nations, which is the biggest and most glaring omission in the entire process to date. The government should consult, reflect on the advice of the Auditor General and remember the more pressing needs of Canada's first nations communities.

We have heard over and over again on this side of the House that this is a piece of legislation that should not be implemented. There are already safeguards in place to address this issue and this is just duplication.

First Nations Financial Transparency ActGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in listening to the member's comments, one could easily jump to the conclusion that the NDP will be voting against this piece of legislation. Is that a fair assessment at this point?

First Nations Financial Transparency ActGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course we will be voting against this. This bill is actually a duplication of what is already there. It would put in a level of accountability never seen with other organizations. This was all because the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which is a friend of the Conservatives, said that, in its opinion, some first nations chiefs were making too much money. We should look at the average salary for chiefs. It is actually $60,000 and the average salary for councillors is about $31,000. Therefore, 50% of the chiefs earn less than $60,000 and only 5% earn more than $100,000.

When we look at that, it is quite evident that because there are perhaps special circumstances out there, the government feels it needs to change the whole thing instead of really addressing the critical issues that impact first nations, like housing, drinking water and education.

First Nations Financial Transparency ActGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is very simple.

Concerning first nations, it seems to me that there should be a nation-to-nation consultation process to clarify this situation and implement a process that works for both parties.

Can my colleague expand on that? From what I can tell, this is yet another interventionist measure by the Conservatives, relying more on punishment than on finding a mutually agreeable solution.

First Nations Financial Transparency ActGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. I indicated, as did my colleagues, that this is a punitive measure. The government should be addressing the critical issues that are really impacting first nations and it should have done proper consultations before tabling such a bill.

We should not forget that a similar bill was tabled in the previous Parliament and major concerns were raised on it. For a government that says that it was looking at building a better relationship with first nations, through its apology to the residential schools survivors and through the crowns first meeting, we are seeing again that they are just being thrown other aspects of what the government feels is not accountable.

At the end of the day, we have a government that is undemocratic, unaccountable and not transparent. Over and over we have seen it, whether it is with the F-35s, the hotels or expensive orange juice, the government has refused to provide proper information so parliamentarians can do their work. Instead it chooses to attack our first nations people who are some of the most accountable people in Canada.

First Nations Financial Transparency ActGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her excellent speech.

Does she not think it would have been better to focus directly on the Indian Act—as all groups, including the first nations, are calling for—instead of creating a bill like this that will only bog down the administrative system even more? That is not what the first nations need.

First Nations Financial Transparency ActGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question.

If we want to make changes, if we need to fix some problems with the first nations, we absolutely must hold consultations. The first nations are the ones that can tell us what will work best in their communities. Consultation is very important.

However, as I said about this government and transparency, it will just react to one or two situations instead of really looking at the overall picture of how to better help people in our communities.

First Nations Financial Transparency ActGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very excited to start my speech on the financial transparency of first nations.

From the various speeches I have been regularly putting online, my constituents will be aware that I tend towards lifting the veil of darkness surrounding a number of issues specific to the first nations of Canada. These issues must be made public. After 500 years of a shared existence, the entire Canadian population is ready and able to learn about these realities that are too often ignored and forgotten.

There is a growing anti-establishment movement around the world. I am talking about international politics, but this is also evident at the local level. Just look at Quebec, where the public has been mobilizing. Of course, it is an international movement, since we are also seeing an anti-establishment movement in Europe, where people are questioning their government's actions and measures. What I will try to show here is that, of course, this increased assertiveness is universal, and that aboriginal communities are also experiencing the same problems and the same type of public mobilization.

Over the past year, we have discussed many topics related to my riding. My riding even received media coverage, which has rarely happened in the past, other than once, about 10 years ago, when the community mobilized and became more assertive.

A few months ago, the newspapers covered a specific situation involving a protest and the presence of the riot squad in my community. A roadblock had been set up on Highway 138. The situation did not last long, but it required police intervention.

People were protesting a hydroelectric development project promoted by the provincial authorities and supported by the community's management organization, the band council. And so, the people took action. Their actions at that time showed that they were rejecting certain policies and decisions made at the local level. The members of a first nations community were making a new socio-economic and political statement and questioning the action taken by government and local authorities with regard to decisions made locally.

When we analyze the changes and the political turmoil happening in the communities we can infer that there is a socio-political awakening and a mobilization among aboriginal people. This wave of assertiveness is invariably accompanied by internal pressure on community administrative bodies and demands for accountability in the management of the community's shared heritage. When I talk about shared heritage for the Innu people, I am talking about the land and the fisheries and wildlife resources.

As I have said many times, my riding covers over 200,000 km2 and is the traditional territory of the Innu and Naskapi people. I make special mention of this because it is important to understand that the band councils, the community management organizations, are a creation of the Indian Act. Under this act, the authority and jurisdiction of aboriginal people extends only to reserve lands. For example, my reserve is perhaps only 2 km in diameter, which is not very big.

The reason people are protesting more and joining forces has to do with land and resource management. Band councils, community management organizations, are also concerned about traditional territory and they are acting as interlocutors with both federal and provincial governments with respect to resource development initiatives. What we are seeing now is that the people, as individuals, as aboriginals, as Innu and Naskapi, are taking a stand and making their point.

The problem is that Aboriginal Affairs has imposed a cookie-cutter approach that requires every community across Canada to have a band council with a chief and councillors.

The same model exists in the United States and other colonies. This blanket approach has been applied across Canada. My ancestors were a fundamentally nomadic people who migrated across the land for several months of the year—as many as six months a year—in small family groups of about 10 individuals. Five or six hundred years ago, my community's culture made for minimal contact with other groups.

Within those groups, there were elders, and decisions were made within each separate group. There were no chiefs or counsellors per se other than the fact that, come summer, the Innu regularly met at the river's edge to take advantage of the wind that chased away mosquitoes. It is likely that consensus decisions were made then, when many Innu got together, but most of the time, people lived in isolated groups.

That is why we have this problem now and why people are no longer supporting some of the decisions made by band councils made up of chiefs and councillors. This model is not necessarily applicable to all communities.

Based on that observation, it is possible to consider that the circumstances favouring a healthy questioning of the ruling power, combined with the current political zeitgeist in the communities in my riding and across the province, can only be a sign of innovative ideas laying the foundation for a new social contract to benefit the masses, rather than just special interest groups.

And now I will get to the heart of the matter.

Although the stated purpose of Bill C-27 is to enhance the transparency of first nations people, it is up to the people, as individuals, to take the necessary action to ensure transparency and accountability at all levels of governance in their respective nations.

What I am trying to emphasize here is that this is a contentious issue that must be addressed internally, from within these communities, concerning the management of both financial and natural resources. These decisions must be made within the communities themselves. In the past, Innu communities had a process we call “émulatoire”; it was a consensus process. When a problem arose within the clan, you simply confronted your adversary, the person with whom you had a conflict, and told that person the simple truth.

This is how things are still resolved today, and that is why the people of my community—and I will speak for all communities in Manicouagan, including Uashat, Unamen Shipu and Kawawachikamach—are able to confront their leaders and ultimately discover the truth about how resources are managed within the community.

The Conservatives are hardly in any position to demand accountability right now, since they have a very hard time sharing financial information themselves, concerning the management of this country.

I submit this respectfully.

First Nations Financial Transparency ActGovernment Orders

8:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lise St-Denis Liberal Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, could the hon. member tell us, in his view, how aboriginals on the reserves in his riding might react to such a bill?

First Nations Financial Transparency ActGovernment Orders

8:05 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her question.

I can already guarantee that this bill will not be received warmly since Canada's aboriginal communities are rather inclined to rise up against any interventionist initiative that interferes with their governance.

We are in a period of assertion and self-determination, and that is our ultimate goal. The communities are putting these strategies forward. This measure is paternalistic, which is nothing new really, but this time the government has gone too far. Believe me, the communities are not going to look very kindly on this.

First Nations Financial Transparency ActGovernment Orders

8:05 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments.

The government says that the bill has to be referred to committee, where the necessary changes will be made for the passage of this bill. I do not know whether my colleague agrees with me or not, but in the case of the Trojan Horse budget bill that was introduced, we tried to make improvements that would have softened the blow for some people and minimized the most serious repercussions.

What does he think? Does he truly believe that the Conservatives will adopt amendments in committee and be open to the opposition parties' amendments?

First Nations Financial Transparency ActGovernment Orders

8:10 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. After spending one year in this place, I humbly believe that measures concerning aboriginal affairs put forward by the Conservatives are just window dressing, as was somewhat the case for the meeting they organized, which was supposed to be historic and inclusive. It was just a photo op, an opportunity to get good press and look good.

When we take a closer look and even look back at what has actually been done, it is easy to see that it was window dressing and that the measures were proposed simply to score political points.

I highly doubt that the Conservatives will show any particular interest in the recommendations that may ultimately be made by the communities with respect to this bill which, by the way, is quite problematic.