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House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was businesses.

Topics

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly why it is a sociological issue. All of us are the authors of this misfortune. It is not a single situation that requires a singular solution. It is not simply a criminal problem, as expressed by the Prime Minister.

We all have had a role to play in the past injustices, and they must be corrected. We now have to act in the present day so that tomorrow another group of parliamentarians is not back here saying that we did not solve the problem either.

When we look at the fact that there is not one new shelter created from what the government announced this month, we see the status quo. The status quo will only protect the past. It will not produce a better future.

I plead with the members opposite to act but to also consult and to also make sure their actions are new and dynamic, because the old status quo has put people in graves. It is time to get past worrying about being blamed and to start worrying about what the solution is. It is time to put real resources, new resources, effective resources in play. We cannot do that without being in consultation with first nations and aboriginal leadership right across this country, whether on reserve or off.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my new colleague for such moving comments. Clearly he understands this issue very well, as I believe most of us in the House do. I do not think this is about pointing fingers. This is about solutions. That is what we want to see.

I have stood outside on the steps here in Ottawa in the cold with many of these sisters, mothers, and family members on this very issue. I certainly pledge for my own party and personally that we cannot allow these 1,200 missing women to just disappear and then say, “Well, who knows where they are?” We need to do the work necessary. If that were 1,200 of my constituents or anyone else's constituents, I am sure by now something would have been done. It is a really sad thing to say, but that is the reality.

When it comes to the national action plan the government has put forward, why are there no resources to match it? We know we can do a lot of talking and a lot of studying, but if we do not have the resources to make real action, it will never happen.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, many members know that housing to me is not a problem in this country; it is a solution to so many of our problems.

One of the facts we have come across as we have started to look at this issue is that on reserves where aboriginal housing is now being built, there is a training program. The Minister of Industry may be interested in this. There is a skills shortage, for example, of skilled tradespeople right across this country, but in particular out west. I have asked how many aboriginal youth are being trained to produce housing that may also produce the safe spaces for women to escape to so that they can solve problems in their lives. There are 125 single individuals, hired by the government, in training programs to build housing on reserves in first nations communities across this country. We do not have a robust program on any front to deal with any of the challenges facing us.

When the government talks about action, we do not see that action matched by spending for programs. It is a situation that requires a deeper conversation with our partners on reserve and in aboriginal and first nation communities to make sure that we solve these problems and do not simply pay lip service to them and list prior spending engagements, which have not changed one iota with this month's announcement.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP is saying that enough is enough. Again just recently, on August 24, a 15-year-old girl, Tina Fontaine, was found dead. The government is proposing an action plan, but action plans are about tomorrow. There is nothing we can do for the 1,200 women who are already dead. We must move forward. We must hold this much talked about inquiry into missing and murdered girls and women in Canada.

Had it been a segment of the population other than aboriginal girls and women in Canada, would the government have done more? That is the question we must start asking. Something needs to be done and I am accusing the government of failing to act on this matter. I am accusing the Conservatives of being complacent and doing nothing. That is what I have to say.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think any of us believe that the members opposite want to do nothing. The problem is that they are doing nothing. They think they are accomplishing something with their programs, but clearly the situation, even when they asked the RCMP to report on it, gets bigger.

When they trot out a spending announcement, which effectively was made in 2010 and renewed again and again, it simply reinforces the status quo. Quite frankly, the status quo in this country is deadly. When person after person stands up and asks for more and the response from young aboriginal women themselves is “Am I next”, surely one sees that something different needs to be done. Instead, we get the same programs repeated over and over again. Repeating them over and over again is putting people in harm's way. It has to change.

The point that is made repeatedly about the contrast between a single missing child in the Amber Alert program, for example, or the other issue that was raised with respect to what would the response be if it were 1,200 nurses missing, tells us that the response is not scaled to the size of the dynamic and that we need to do more.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this important debate on the concurrence motion before the House today.

I will be splitting my time with the parliamentary secretary for aboriginal affairs.

We are here to address the report of the House of Commons Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. I was honoured to chair the special committee and I would like to thank the other members of the committee from all parties for their dedicated work on this report, as well as the organizations and individuals who made submissions and appeared as witnesses. Most of all, I would like to thank the families who came to tell us their heart-wrenching stories. They have done a great service to Canadians by bringing even more attention to what is a serious issue and a complex problem.

Let me say at the outset that our government has made it very clear that these abhorrent acts of violence against aboriginal women and girls will not be tolerated in our society. These violence crimes must be strongly denounced by the communities in which they occur and by all Canadians. Canada is a country where those who break the law are punished, where penalties match the severity of crimes committed, and where the rights of victims are recognized.

What the committee heard from the families is that they want justice. The reality is that far too many aboriginal families have felt the effects of violent crime and have had to live with the consequences. This is unacceptable and that is why our government continues to take action to address this problem. This report is about solutions. It is about actions and that is why I am very proud to support the report and the action plan.

I want to talk about economic action plan 2014 investing an additional $25 million over five years to continue efforts to reduce violence against aboriginal women. On September 15, the Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women launched the Government of Canada's action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women. This action plan was developed in response to the 16 recommendations identified in the report of the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. It also builds on lessons learned from the government's previous investments, as well as the many studies and reports on this issue, including the RCMP's national operational overview, a thoughtful and thought-provoking report released earlier this year.

In developing the action plan, the Minister of Status of Women also met with leaders of several aboriginal organizations and communities, as well as a number of individual victims and families. The action plan sets out concrete actions in three areas: to prevent violence, to support victims, and to protect aboriginal women and girls from violence. It includes the new funding of $25 million over five years beginning in 2015-16, as well as renewed and ongoing support in a number of important areas. I would like to tell the House about some of those areas.

The $25 million specifically includes $8.6 million over five years for the development of more community safety plans off and on reserve across Canada, including in vulnerable communities with a high incidence of violent crime perpetrated against women as identified in the RCMP report that I mentioned earlier. It also includes $2.5 million over five years for projects to break intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse by raising awareness and building healthy relationships.

This is one example that I think resulted directly from evidence heard at the special committee, that the cycles of violence would continue if we did not stop them in their tracks. The committee heard over and over again from aboriginal organizations, aboriginal leaders and families that the cycle must stop, so this government is taking that seriously and that was worked into the action plan. The funding also includes $5 million over five years for projects to engage men and boys and empower women and girls in efforts to denounce and prevent violence.

This was another theme that came up over and over again, engaging men and boys off and on reserve to understand that the cycle had to stop and that these behaviours could no longer be tolerated or encouraged. There are programs in effect and we are committed to funding those programs to engage men and boys. There would also be $7.5 million directly for victims and their families for support as well as $1.4 million to share information and resources among community organizations and to report regularly on progress made.

I am particularly proud that part of the 2014 funding commitment, $1.3 million per year, would go to a DNA-based missing persons index. This is extremely important. We heard from many of the witnesses at committee that we needed a central database of missing persons. This would help law enforcement, the RCMP and police, to investigate the crimes and find the perpetrators more quickly and efficiently.

The member for Trinity—Spadina mentioned in his speech funding for shelters. I am particularly pleased that there is funding of $158 million over five years for shelters and family violence prevention activities. That is through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary will tell us a bit more about that in his comments.

One of the other issues that came up a couple of times was economic security for aboriginal women. I think one of the most obvious and relevant actions that this government has taken on this front is the passage of Bill S-2, matrimonial property rights on reserve.

When I tell women in my riding of Mississauga South that until the House passed this bill, women on reserve did not have the right upon dissolution of a common law relationship or marriage to own property, they cannot believe it. Frankly, it does not seem right that in a country as great as Canada that this would be the case. We identified this as a problem because when one does not have a home, one cannot have economic security. That has all changed, and now women on reserve have the same rights that every other Canadian woman has enjoyed for many decades.

Taken altogether, these measures outlined by the minister in the action plan represent a total investment of $196.8 million over five years, so it is no surprise that many stakeholders have endorsed this action plan. Chief Ron Evans of the Norway House Cree Nation said:

This comprehensive Action Plan responds to the needs and recommendations made by stakeholders across the country in developing a concrete and action-oriented plan with significant resources and funding for implementation.

I think that is a fancy way of saying that the committee listened. The committee heard from the witnesses and made recommendations that were then implemented into the action plan. We are finding those solutions and taking the necessary action to help women and to solve this very tragic situation in Canada.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite for her presentation.

She started her speech by talking about what was said in committee. I myself sat on that special committee. One of the things I heard from the witnesses who talked about a national public inquiry being held was that they supported that idea. Why has she not taken that into consideration? Right now, I do not understand that, but I feel that those who testified about the need for such an inquiry have been ignored.

My question is very simple. The member is praising the Conservative action plan. One of Canada's fundamental principles when it comes to aboriginal people is that we must always work in partnership with them. That is the promise made in section 35 of the Constitution.

I would like to know whether this plan was designed in partnership with the aboriginal peoples and particularly aboriginal women. If so, who specifically was a partner, and if not, why not?

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this government believes in taking action, and we do not believe that we need yet another report. There have been at least 40 reports on this subject, including an RCMP report that outlines what needs to be done.

We understand, and all sides of the House understand, the root causes of this problem, and we need to begin acting on it. We have begun and we continue to do that. We have support from the aboriginal community. We have consulted, and the minister continues to consult.

There are supporters and stakeholders like Bernadette Smith, for example, whose sister Claudette Osborne has been missing since July 2008. She welcomes this government's action plan. She said that this action plan is what our families have been waiting for. She thanked the government for its commitment to addressing this issue. She specifically said, “We've have had numerous studies on this issue and the time for action is now.”

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, Claudette Osborne went missing July 24, 2008, from Mountain and McPhillips, in the heart of Winnipeg North. Let me throw out some other names: Angelica Godin, Cynthia Albena Audy, Amanda Bartlett, Elaine Moar, Cheryl Duck, Felicia Solomon, Fonessa Bruyere, Tiffany Johnston, Simone Sanderson, Evelyn Stewart, Joanne Hoeppner, Nicolle Hands, Therena Marsland, Tatia Ulm, and Evelyn Kebalo.

These were former constituents of Winnipeg North who have either gone missing or have been murdered.

There is a high need for a public inquiry. The constituents I represent want a public inquiry.

My question for the member is quite simple. Why deny the opportunity to get a better understanding of the magnitude of the issue before us today? Will the member recognize today that we need to have a public inquiry?

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this tragedy has been going on for many years. That is exactly why we need to act now and why an inquiry is not the solution at all.

I understand the concerns of the member for Winnipeg North. Everyone in the House shares these concerns. This is completely unacceptable.

That is why we are willing to work with other community organizations, aboriginal groups, and the provinces and territories. It is because we understand that as a government we cannot tackle this problem alone. We need to make sure that we are all on the same page. This action plan gathers all of the solutions together. It puts the actions in a comprehensive plan. That is why the minister is working on this action plan and that is why we should help her implement it.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I rise to comment on the report prepared by the special committee on violence against indigenous women.

I would like to thank all of the committee members from all sides of the House for their study and analysis of these heinous crimes against aboriginal women and girls in this country.

Family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls continues to be a serious problem in Canada. Much work remains to be done to respond to and prevent this violence in the future.

Our government believes, without question, that aboriginal women deserve respect, dignity, and the right to feel safe and protected from harm. We recognize that Canadians expect us to act decisively in addressing this very serious issue. That is why, for many years, we have taken action to prevent these deplorable crimes.

I would like to assure my colleagues, and indeed all Canadians, that our government will continue to take strong and decisive action to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.

While this government response, as well as the action plan to address family violence and violent crime against aboriginal women and girls, is a very important initiative, I would like to take a few minutes to speak about what our government has already accomplished on this front.

I remind the House that in 2007, the government announced an investment of $55.6 million over five years to support and expand Canada's network of on-reserve shelters.

Budget 2010 committed $25 million over five years to improve community safety and to ensure that the justice system and law enforcement agencies could better respond to cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

RCMP reports now show that cases involving violence against aboriginal women and girls have solve rates that are nearly identical to the national average.

In October 2010, our government announced seven concrete steps to address the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women and to make our communities safer. These were over and above other important programs, such as the half-million-dollar investment in the Native Women's Association of Canada from the From Evidence to Action program and the government's aboriginal justice strategy, which serves approximately 400 communities.

Last June, the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act received royal assent. The legislation ensures basic rights and protections to individuals on reserves regarding the family home and other matrimonial interests or rights during a relationship, in the event of a relationship breakdown, and on the death of a spouse or common-law partner.

This important piece of legislation finally eliminated a long-standing legislative gap that discriminated against a specific group of Canadians and that led to the suffering of many women, men, and families who live on reserve.

Since the Indian Act was silent on the issue of matrimonial rights and real property and there were no comparable federal laws, the result was a legislative gap. While laws are in place to protect Canadians who live off reserve, there was no equivalent for most Canadians who live on reserves in this country.

Women and children living on first nations lands were already among the most vulnerable of Canadians. They had been affected the most by this legislative gap, and their suffering might have continued even further if not for this legislative change.

It should be noted that this is not the only legislative gap that we have filled. By repeating section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, we closed a 30-year legislative gap by ensuring that for the first time, hundreds of thousands of first nations people living on reserves get the same human rights protections as other Canadians by including them under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

We did not stop there. Economic action plan 2013 committed $24 million over two years for the family violence prevention program, ensuring that total annual funding remained at $30.4 million for each of the following two years.

Another component of our government's efforts to address violence against aboriginal women and girls is the family violence protection program.

There are two core elements of the program. The first is operational funding for a network of 41 shelters in the provinces and in Yukon. Shelters are vital to the safety and well-being of women and children in crisis situations.

Some 330 first nations communities, or 55%, are served by this initiative. Since 2006, our government has invested $205.8 million in family violence prevention on reserve. These investments have provided important, and in some cases life-saving, shelter services for over 19,600 children and 22,600 women.

The second aspect of the program involves proposal-based prevention activities. Prevention projects can include public outreach and awareness, education campaigns, conferences, seminars, workshops, counselling, support groups, and community needs assessments. Since 2006, the program has financed over 2,100 family violence prevention and awareness activities in first nation communities across Canada.

It is clear that our government understands—and we talked about this at committee—that a large part of solving this issue involves raising awareness among aboriginal men, boys, women, and children. The truth is that this government's investments are producing results. We are enhancing the safety and security of on-reserve residents, particularly, women and children. There are success stories from across the country.

Take the example of the Wapikoni Mobile initiative, which started in Quebec. Mentor filmmakers travel to aboriginal communities to provide workshops for first nation youth, with the goal of creating short films and musical creations on themes such as abuse and violence.

Look at the Six Nations' annual community walk against community violence. This is a significant event, involving community members raising awareness of family violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse, bullying, and lateral violence, as well as ending violence against missing and murdered aboriginal women. Our funding supported the recording of the event to promote awareness and educate the communities on these serious issues.

In addition to these encouraging initiatives, the family violence prevention program also allocates funding to the National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence. Its mandate is to support and contribute to the success of women's shelters and transition houses that provide services to aboriginal women and children across Canada. The circle initiates, designs, and delivers culturally appropriate programs and services to address family violence and to support shelters and family violence prevention centres. It organizes national annual training forums for front-line workers. As well, it produces publications free of charge, including “Ending Violence: Best Practices” and “Policies and Procedures: Guidelines for Shelters”.

This is another example of our government's actions to prevent violence against aboriginal women and girls, and of our desire to collaborate with willing partners to work toward shared objectives on reserve.

Some of the initiatives I have highlighted form the foundation of our government's action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls. The action plan responds to all 16 recommendations from the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. It builds on the knowledge gathered through the government's investments, which I have noted, as well as the RCMP's recent national operational overview. The new plan includes concrete measures under three pillars: preventing violence; supporting aboriginal victims and families; and protecting aboriginal women and girls.

An important part of today's discussion, the action plan on family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls invests an additional $1.34 million in AANDC's family violence prevention program per year. This brings the total annual funding for this important initiative to $31.74 million.

Clearly, our government, and indeed the House is deeply disturbed about the high incidence of violence against aboriginal women and girls. However, as I have outlined, we are taking action. While others call for more studies, we call for more action. That is why I urge all parliamentarians to join our efforts in realizing this worthy goal.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I just spoke with Tanya Kappo. Tanya Kappo is a first nation mother and lawyer who is working on residential school settlements. Her observation that she had wanted to share today in the House—and it is a very good one because she has been working with women trying to get action on missing and murdered aboriginal women for quite some time—is that she is concerned that the government remains far too focused upon domestic violence within first nation communities. She shared with me that, yes, domestic abuse occurs in first nation communities, like all Canadian communities, but in her view and those of her colleagues, the root causes go far beyond family domestic violence.

She has two questions that she would like me to put to the government today. First, why either an inquiry or action? Why can they not occur simultaneously?

Second, what are the actual indicators or measurements that the government is using in evaluating whether or not its action plan is going to reduce the incidents of missing and murdered aboriginal women and the detection of those lost women?

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, the opposition members keep asking why we cannot study more and why we cannot take action. However, they always vote against the action. Every time they are presented with an opportunity to improve the lives of first nations on reserve, they vote against it. Whether it is protecting aboriginal women on reserve through the family matrimonial property rights, they vote against that, or all of our investments in infrastructure; they vote against that.

We are taking action, and they want more studies and more talk. Why will they not support the action part of the action plan instead of voting against it all the time?

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have read the list of recommendations: it is to continue, it is to maintain, it is to continue, it is to continue, it is to encourage, it is to examine, it is to continue, it is to support.

The reason we are so troubled is that there is no action beyond the patting of themselves on the back. The only place where there is some concrete action comes from a ministry that perhaps would be better called “crime and punishment”.

Imagine if a member of one's family disappears and the member of Parliament says, “Don't worry; if we find the body, we have a really good arrest rate”. Why can the current government and this member not recognize that simply reinvesting pre-announcements is not action; it is simply words?

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome the hon. member here, and certainly he has a way with words. We saw that today. However, we want to have a way with actions and that is what we are taking.

I come from British Columbia where there was an inquiry held into missing murdered women in the Downtown Eastside. On all sides, from the victims' families, to the governments, to the service agencies, all were disappointed. No one got what he or she wanted out of that Oppal inquiry. Indeed, Mr. Justice Oppal now says that another inquiry is not the way to go, that taking action is what is necessary.

I appreciate where the hon. member is coming from. However, we have seen in the past when this has been done that the results have not been there and victims' families are not satisfied. Indeed, if he looks at the report to which we appended the victims' families' testimony, he will see that only one family member, as a tack onto her testimony, mentioned a national inquiry. The rest demanded action, and that is what this government will do.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

London North Centre Ontario

Conservative

Susan Truppe ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his important speech on this issue.

I am very proud of this action plan and, together with other federal support for shelters, family violence prevention, and increasing economic leadership opportunities, it will result in an investment of the Government of Canada of $200 million over five years.

However, not everyone wants a national action plan. The Minister of Status of Women met with organizations and family members across the country. In my riding of London North Centre, At^lohsa Native Family Healing Services wrapped up a week of activities to honour sisters, daughters, and nieces who were taken too soon. Meg Cywink, a sister of Sonya Cywink, who was slain 20 years ago, said to forget a national inquiry; it would only create more paperwork. That is just one example.

The previous member, a Liberal member, asked something to the effect that, if a woman could not find a safe place, where would she go. If the Liberals had voted for Bill S-2, they would have a safe place; it is called a home.

My colleague and I were both on the committee together when we heard from the family members. Only one asked for a national inquiry at the end of her speech. Would my colleague not agree that the other family members wanted us to hear their stories and know their pain, and wanted Canadians to know who their—

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. We are out of time. I will let the parliamentary secretary respond as briefly as he can.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I can sum up the response with a Globe and Mail article from Jeffrey Simpson who said this:

What a public inquiry could add to that [RCMP] inquiry is hard to fathom, except to provide a platform for those with political agendas. Plenty of more suitable platforms already exist for the expression of these agendas.

He went on to say:

Canada’s premiers and the leaders of the two federal opposition parties...who demand a public inquiry, are playing to the gallery, without any clear idea of what such an inquiry could uncover.

The RCMP report gives a full and fair account of what has been going on. It contains no surprises whatsoever. A public inquiry would add hardly anything, and would therefore be an exercise in politics and posturing.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we resume debate, I noted at the time we started this round of debate that there were some looks of concern or dismay as to what the sequence would have been there.

I would just explain to hon. members that in a debate on a concurrence motion, as we currently have before the House, the first round of debate, the opening round, in this case, begins with the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou; he commenced the first round of debate. However, once that first round is complete, in the normal course, this type of debate starts the next round in the normal course with the government followed by the official opposition, followed by the third party, and so on. This is the way it normally proceeds, and we are following in the normal sequence that precedent has established.

Now we will resume debate with the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the remarkable, extremely talented, passionate, and hard-working member of Parliament for Timmins—James Bay.

While I am happy to rise and join in the debate today, I am quite disheartened that this debate even has to take place. I am certain I am not alone in that opinion. I am trying to be mindful of that as a I choose my words today.

This is an issue that has been left to percolate on the back burner of Canadian politics for far too long and in a way that many Canadians are not proud of. The sad story of Tina Fontaine has brought it to the boiling point, and it is clear that the time has come to treat the pattern of missing and murdered indigenous women as something more than a string of crimes, which the government bull-headedly insists is all we are dealing with.

As Canadians, we are coming to terms with what happened to Tina Fontaine. The family and community of Sonya Cywink were holding a vigil in her memory in her hometown, which is Whitefish River First Nation on Birch Island. On that same day they also held a vigil in London.

As MP, I was invited to attend and honoured to participate in that emotionally charged event in Whitefish River First Nation. We heard how on August 30, 1994, Sonya, who was living in London at the time, was found murdered at a historical aboriginal site in Elgin County and how nearly 20 years later Sonya's family, friends, and community still have no answers. As people began to share their stories, others spoke of their experiences with missing friends and relatives, and it became clear that, sadly, Sonya's case is not unique. We know there are close to 1,200 indigenous families across this country who share this experience, who have daughters, mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, or friends who are missing or have been murdered.

If we want to contrast the government's inaction with that of the people who are living through this nightmare, we should consider how just last week the residents of Winnipeg have taken to dragging the Red River themselves. The government's response was a big fat zero. It blamed it on crime and left it at that. How can it claim to be taking any real action to address violence against women in this country when it refuses to conduct an inquiry into the close to 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada? The refusal amounts to acceptance, and when we consider that along with the Conservatives' record on equity rights for women, the pattern borders on ideological. In fact, since its election in 2006, the Conservative government has made it more difficult for women in this country. One of its first courses of action was to remove the word “equality” from the funding mandate of Status of Women Canada's women's program. While the word “equality” was eventually restored, its essence was lost.

Additionally, the funding structure was changed, making it impossible for Status of Women Canada to fund the work of organizations when it relates to advocacy, lobbying, or general research on women's rights. At the time, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women expressed concern about the impact of these changes, particularly on access to services by aboriginal and rural women.

We know that the government will claim it is doing something about this, but as others have mentioned today, it is all smoke and mirrors with the current government. While it has some funding for the initial research on missing and murdered indigenous women, it has turned around and cut funding to the second phase of the project, the one dedicated toward action. Organizations are still waiting to hear if projects dedicated toward violence prevention will be funded. How is that for a mixed message?

Today, in 2014, indigenous women in this country are five to seven times more likely to die from violence than any other women. What is wrong with this story? Why is there not any action from the Conservative government?

Why is the government not listening to the families who have lost their daughters, mothers, sisters and friends? Why is it not listening to aboriginal groups, such as the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations, or aboriginal leaders such as the chiefs, the grand chiefs and even the national chief? Why is it not listening to the public or organizations such as Human Rights Watch?

Why is the Conservative government not willing to listen to all those voices and why is it refusing to call for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women? It does not matter where these women came from—British Columbia, Winnipeg or northern Ontario—they were taken from our homes and our streets. They disappeared, and justice has not been served, for them or for their families.

Each missing or murdered indigenous woman is a tragedy that could have been avoided. This is an issue that must be addressed, and the fact that the number of indigenous women who go missing or are murdered continues to rise is proof that the partial measures taken to date are not sufficient to address a tragedy of this scope or complexity.

This past spring, the RCMP reported that between 1980 and 2012, there have been 1,181 homicides and unresolved missing persons cases involving indigenous women. To put that into perspective, if we were to stand in the House each day and read out the name of a different missing or murdered indigenous woman, we would not get through the entire list until November 2017.

While my NDP colleague from Vancouver East began work on this issue almost a decade ago, since 2010 the federal NDP along with many other civil society groups have stated that a national inquiry is the crucial next step, and we have been pushing the Conservative government to agree. A national public commission is the necessary next step in addressing this tragedy.

I stand here today with my colleagues, committing that an NDP government would take immediate action. We commit that, on our first day in office, the NDP would begin consulting first nations, women's groups, and other stakeholders on terms of reference for a national inquiry and that, within 100 days in office, an NDP government would establish a public inquiry under Part I of the Inquiries Act.

While indigenous women make up only 4.3% of Canada's female population, 16% of all women killed in Canada are indigenous. Further to that, while murder rates are falling for non-indigenous women across the country, they have remained virtually unchanged for indigenous women. Only a full public inquiry that is properly resourced and involves indigenous peoples at every step will lead to real solutions.

We need to understand what happened and determine what we need to do as a country to end violence against indigenous women and address the systemic issues that have made indigenous women more susceptible to violence. Yet instead of taking responsibility and being part of the solution, the Conservative government continues to make excuses and evasions. Provinces, territories, first nations, indigenous women's groups, communities, and experts from all backgrounds agree an inquiry is needed.

We have Canadian consensus, but the Conservatives are just too stubborn to listen. We need comprehensive solutions that go beyond the government and police. We need to hear from families, communities, provinces, and territories along with other experts. We need a comprehensive and inclusive national inquiry into the hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. That is how we finally end this intergenerational tragedy.

Enough is enough. The time to act is now. For far too many, this is an issue of life and death. It is up to us to take leadership and to commit to bringing justice to these families, to these women, to these communities, and to this country. We will not give up until a national inquiry is called and no indigenous woman lives in fear in Canada.

We are very passionate about this because our colleagues are very passionate about this on all sides of the House, except that on the other side Conservatives choose not to act. Earlier tonight we had one member of Parliament, the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, who said we do not want to line lawyers' pockets with dollars. They feel that what they are doing is enough, but we look at the hundreds of millions of dollars just this past year that they have used to fight on first nations' issues, on their treaty rights, on the issue with respect to Cindy Blackstock, who is fighting for children, on St. Anne's, and on refusing to provide information. The Conservatives are wasting money. Instead, they could better be investing in a national inquiry for missing and murdered indigenous women.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Conservative Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I noticed my hon. colleague mentioned the 35-year span of approximately 1,200 murdered and missing aboriginal women, but what was not mentioned is that according to the RCMP reports, 88% of these murders have been solved.

We know from the report that 30% were murdered by their husbands, 23% by another family member and 30% by an acquaintance. Fully 88% of these cases have been solved.

We also know through the report that 44% of the murderers were under the influence, 74% of the murderers were unemployed, 71% already had a criminal record, 62% had a history of violence, and 62% had a history of violence with the specific murder victim herself.

I wonder if the hon. member can tell us what further questions would be answered by a public inquiry that our action plan will not address. What further questions would be answered by a public inquiry?

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is despicable, and I hope that the first nations in his community are listening tonight.

As I said before, indigenous women make up 4.3% of the Canadian female population, but 16% of all women killed in Canada are indigenous.

The member opposite is trying to make a point that because some of these people may have had issues with being unemployed, it is okay for them to have lost their lives. That is shameful.

I cannot believe that they could stoop that—

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

That is not what he said at all.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Conservative Sault Ste. Marie, ON

The RCMP report—

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. The hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing has the floor, and I am sure that other hon. members may wish to hear her response. Then we will carry on with other questions and comments. However, it is difficult to hear when other hon. members are commenting outside of the time they are actually recognized to do so.

The hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.