Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, who will be taking the second half of the speech on Bill S-2.
I was deeply disturbed last night by the aggressive, attacking tone of the government on the bill. What we heard last night from speakers, and we are hearing a bit of that today, are very aggressive attacks from the government.
I certainly understand that the government feels it is in a weak position. The Conservatives brought forward Bill S-2 for consultation. They actually tried yesterday to say that they consulted with groups like the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada. They talked about the consultation process as something meaningful. None of them, not a single Conservative member of Parliament who spoke on this issue last night, and we have not heard any this morning, acknowledged that those organizations opposed the bill. In the consultation process that supposedly took place, the government was met with opposition from aboriginal women's groups from across the country.
There is something profoundly disturbing about government members who would stand in the House and say that they have done some kind of consultation when the organizations that they consulted with have said that the bill would not get the job done and, in many respects, the bill would actually be harmful.
The aggressive tone of government members has done nothing to allay the many concerns that we are hearing from first nations, aboriginal women's groups and aboriginal groups across the country. The reality is, the aggressive tone belies what the government's agenda has been when it comes to first nations. We have seen it cut back on funding for the aboriginal police forces that should be ensuring that women are protected on reserve across the country. It slashed and closed the First Nations Statistical Institute that gave us important information about what was happening right across the country. It closed down the National Centre for First Nations Governance.
The Conservative government has a lamentably poor record when it comes to adequately funding of first nations organizations. It is making first nations and aboriginal peoples in Canada pay the price of the Conservative agenda of bestowing billions of dollars on its pet projects, whether it is the F-35 or many others that we have spoken of over the last few days. It is aboriginal Canadians who are paying the price for the government's mean-spirited attitude toward first nations across the country and indeed toward all Canadians.
The government stands in the House and says it has slashed funding and would not provide any funding for Bill S-2. Yet any aboriginal women's organizations that raise concerns, any opposition members of Parliament who raise concerns, are treated with an aggressive and attacking tone. We simply beg to disagree. This is a fundamentally wrong approach.
There is a duty to consult by the government and it did not consult in any meaningful way. Aboriginal organizations across the country are opposing Bill S-2.
Aboriginal organizations and aboriginal women's organizations are on one side saying the bill should be opposed. The government says it knows better, it will try to ram it through with closure and takes a very aggressive attacking tone with anyone who raises any of the very valid concerns that aboriginal organizations, aboriginal women's organizations and first nations have raised across the country.
The question then is, who has credibility? It is worth reading into the record what the Conservative government's record is. It has closed a wide variety of first nations organizations doing important work. It actually shut down the statistical institute that allowed all Canadians to understand the current situation of first nations. After seven years in power, here are the results: a quarter of first nations' children live in poverty. That is double the national average.
Suicide rates among first nations youth are five to seven times higher than rates among young non-aboriginal Canadians. Life expectancy of first nations citizens is five to seven years shorter than that of non-aboriginal Canadians. Infant mortality rates are 1.5 times higher among first nations. Tuberculosis rates among first nations citizens living on reserve are 31 times the national average.
A first nations youth is more likely to end up in jail than to graduate from high school. First nations children, on average, receive 22% less funding for child welfare services than other Canadian children. There are almost 600 unresolved cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
The Conservative government's record is appalling. It has not taken action on any of these issues. Last year, we saw our former leader, the member for Hull—Aylmer, go with the member for Timmins—James Bay to Attawapiskat, where they saw appalling housing conditions.
In the same way that the government is attacking members of the opposition, it told aboriginal women's groups and aboriginal groups in first nations across the country on Bill S-2 that if they dared to disagree, it would attack them. It would insult them and degrade them. In the same way that the government did that, we can remember the attacks on Attawapiskat. The attacks were on the first nations there, which were simply looking to ensure a better future for their children.
The Conservative government's attitude is that anyone standing in the way of its agenda is somebody to be attacked, insulted and degraded. The first nations of this country deserve much better than a government that will insult and deride them when they disagree fundamentally on a bill's direction.
The government introduced the bill, first in the Senate and then here in the House. The government introduced the bill and it has not got it right. The government cannot stand and say that it has done the consultation when the groups that it consulted with oppose the bill. There is an illogical disconnect between government members standing up and saying they have done the consultation and not mentioning that the groups they consulted with oppose the bill. It simply does not make any logical sense.
What it does, of course, is lessen the integrity of the individuals from the government side who are standing up and making these comments. Maybe they do not know. Maybe they are reading prepared talking points from the Prime Minister's Office, so maybe they really do not know that the organizations that they are trumpeting about having consulted with are opposing the legislation. I do not know.
On this side of the House, when we carefully read our comments on any bill that is coming forward, we make sure that we get it right. We make sure that we are making comments that are factually true. However, here we have Conservative members who, perhaps in a mean-spirited way or perhaps unknown to them, are mentioning organizations like the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada and saying that they have consulted with them, when those organizations oppose the bill and disagree with the government, very vehemently in some cases.
Where do we go from here? We have an appalling state of first nations after seven years of a Conservative government. We have slashing and cutting of a wide variety of important first nations organizations, including the First Nations Statistical Institute. It did not cost a lot of money, but given the horrendous situations in health and unemployment and the lack of opportunities for children and youth on reserve, one would expect that a government would want to know what was going on. The Conservative government wanted to be blind and wanted to shut off that source of information.
With that approach from the government, we can only say this. Yes, we will continue to stand up and speak against this bill, as so many aboriginal women's organizations, aboriginal organizations and first nations have. The New Democratic Party members of Parliament will be the voice of first nations, the voice of aboriginal women and the voice of aboriginal Canadians here in the House of Commons. We will continue to say, very clearly, that this bill needs to be strongly redrafted.
The duty to consult still exists for the government. The government has the obligation to consult with first nations and heed what they say.