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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

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives say they are on the side of the victim, and here they are blaming the victims instead. Shame on them.

What is wanted in this inquiry is with respect to prevention, with respect to justice, and with respect to moving forward to prevent a further missing or murdered indigenous woman.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, that was an interesting set of statistics that was just produced. I just checked. My recollection is that stranger homicide among the general population is 0.2 per 100,000, yet 30% of the women who are missing were killed by a stranger. If that does not tell us there is something wrong, I do not know what does.

The issue about which I wish to ask the member a question is this. We keep looking at this action plan, and it keeps focusing all the attention on the reserve, within the aboriginal community. We understand that all communities in this country have this challenge, but the issue is the 30% who are strangers.

The record in urban centres in this country show that it is not an issue of aboriginal violence. There is a sociological dimension to this issue, and I am curious as to what the rates in the community of the hon. member were and how she relates her comments to that observation.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to welcome that member to the chamber.

I cannot tell the House the exact number in my riding, but there have been families who have been impacted. During the vigil in Whitefish River First Nation, Marjorie Beaudry told her story about Mona Redbreast, a teenage girl with whom she had close ties, who died at the age of 13 while she was in CAS care.

Her comment was:

Last Sunday, Tina Fontaine, who was only 15, was also found dead (in the Red River, Winnipeg). These two aboriginal girls were stolen from us, both so young. There is no accountability for these children's deaths. Today I am going to declare these girls warriors because they both died fighting for their lives.

That does not sound like the statistics that the member for Sault Ste. Marie explained a while ago. These are girls. They are daughters. Some of them were aunts. Some of them were mothers.

I cannot get it out of my mind how shameful it is for a member of Parliament who represents first nations to get up in this House and make those statements.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to stand with my colleagues from the New Democratic Party tonight to talk about the need for this inquiry for the murdered and missing women. I thank my hon. colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou who has been such a passionate speaker on this.

I would point out that it took a procedural manoeuvre to get a discussion on the number of murdered and missing indigenous women in this country from a government that has done everything it can to stonewall this discussion.

It is September. It is a time when we talk about going back to school, and we think of our young people. I think of 16-year-old Maisy Odjick and 17-year-old Shannon Alexander, who, six years ago, walked out of their homes in Kitigan Zibi and were never seen again.

The Conservatives are talking about these people who are unemployed, who have criminal records and who live on the streets. These were top students. They were army cadets. They walked out of their homes. They were not runaways. They did not take their wallets with them, and they were never seen again. I ask members to imagine two young white students going missing in Oshawa; London, Ontario; Kamloops. Imagine the media. Imagine the articles. Imagine the mass outcry from the Canadian population that two young leaders could be stolen right from their street. That did not happen, did it?

In fact, I do not remember hearing a single story about Maisy and Shannon, and I did not learn about it until a year later, when I saw their family members putting posters up on streets in little towns in northern Ontario. I went up to that poster and said that this is what it is like to have justice as an indigenous young woman in this country. Their families have to go and put up posters to ask, “what happened to our daughters?”

What would an inquiry tell us? An inquiry would tell us how it is possible that two top young students were taken away, that there was no national plan to make the public aware, and that it was left to people putting up posters on the streets.

We have talked a bit about young Tina Fontaine, whose body was found in the Red River. However, what has not really been pointed out is that the police were not looking for Tina Fontaine. They found her accidentally, wrapped up in a garbage bag. Sgt. John O’Donovan of the Winnipeg police said what I think every parent in this country should feel. He said:

She’s a child.This is a child that’s been murdered. I think that society, we’d be horrified if we found a litter of kittens or pups in the river in this condition.

She was just a child. Again, we have to ask ourselves how it is that a police officer would have to point out that if it had been dogs or kittens who been subjected to such abuse, there would have been an outcry. This was a young indigenous woman.

Contrary to my friends in the Conservative Party who say that it is family members who do these things, it is people they know, and people with criminal records. Tina Fontaine was taken from her family because the federal government will not pay for support for children who have needs.

She was a happy, loving child. That is how they remember her. When her father died, she was taken away through Children's Aid. The reason that they took her away is why they take our children from communities across this country. It is because the federal government will not pay for the basic supports that any other child, any non-aboriginal child in this country takes for granted.

When we have a child who may be suicidal in our region, they are taken and apprehended because the federal government believes that providing suicide therapy for teenagers is not a justifiable expense of its money. It will leave a child to either die in the community or if the children's welfare groups become aware of it, often the only choice they have is apprehension. What we see with apprehension is that children are taken from their families and cultures, and all too often, they end up on the street.

What would an inquiry tell us? An inquiry would start to unpack the horrific statistics of the young people who end up being trafficked and who are living on the streets because they were taken from their homes and because basic support for counselling, therapy and family at-home support is not available. However, it is available to any non-indigenous child in this country.

We have to ask ourselves how it is in a country like Canada we have a system of systemic discrimination. If a child is on reserve, he or she just makes do.

What would an inquiry tell us? It would unpack a whole manner of things, because these are very complex issues. We would begin to see that perhaps there were vulnerable women who were murdered on the trail of tears, and what made them vulnerable, and why it was possible that women were taken without police investigations finding out who the perpetrators were. We could unpack that part.

We could unpack the part about the children and young women who are taken from their homes because the federal government will not allow therapy and in-house support for their families, so they are put into foster care. Then, like Tina Fontaine, they end up on the street. We could start to get answers there.

If we look across every city in the country, we will see that the trail of tears runs through the downtown. There are marginalized women who are considered a disposable class of human beings.

I think of this past May, when the mothers of the Nishnawbe Aksi Nation came down on Mother's Day to beat the drums and ask why the Minister of Justice, Mr. Stand-up-for-the-Victims, refused to meet the mothers and the sisters and the daughters.

What would an inquiry tell us? An inquiry would send a message that these women were loved, that they are respected, and that our Canadian society is ashamed that so many people could be allowed to disappear or die.

We would not have to have a justice minister who hides in the House of Commons while the mothers and sisters and daughters stood out there on Mother's Day. They just asked to meet to tell their stories.

Part of the showing of respect is to allow the families of the victims to be heard. We do not write them off with statistics, saying that half of them must have been killed by their relatives and that some of the others might not have had jobs. That is what we hear from the Conservatives. They will get an action plan billboard to say they responded. They should put that action plan on the trail of tears and see what difference it makes.

An inquiry is about a societal commitment to make change. We know the Conservatives are ridiculing this. They have been trying to suppress it. However, I point to Ipperwash.

What did the Ipperwash inquiry do? At Ipperwash we saw how the Conservative government of Mike Harris told the OPP to go in and take those Indians out of the park. That is what he said. Young Dudley George died. Another life was ruined that day as well. It was the OPP officer who followed the instructions that were given to him by the government. He went in and did the shooting.

What the Ipperwash inquiry told us was that things had to change, and we can see it. I can testify from the many events I have been to in my region and across the country that police officers fundamentally changed their approach to dealing with peaceful confrontation because of the Ipperwash inquiry. Therefore, lessons can be learned.

It is about respect. It is about recognizing the fact that in 2014, in a country as rich as Canada, thinking simply on the basis of their race that it is okay to say to children that they do not have the right to safe schools, to proper homes, to the basic supports that any other child in the country takes for granted has to end.

Will an inquiry solve all these issues? No, but it will send a message that the healing needs to begin, that the path of reconciliation needs to begin. It will send a message that the country that broke the treaty from the beginning has to recognize that we are still in this relationship together and that it has to change, because it is the primary relationship on which the country has been built.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, Tina Fontaine was a young 15-year-old aboriginal girl found dead in Winnipeg. She joined hundreds of other aboriginal girls and women who have been murdered or gone missing over the past number of years.

In a response to the government's lack of interest in calling for a public inquiry or its desire to deal with the issue, a well-organized group of young ladies, members of our first nations and our aboriginal communities, decided to have a sit-in just outside the grounds of the Manitoba legislature.

For days they sat around the clock. They established tents. What they wanted to do was draw attention to an issue. They believe, as we believe, that there is a need for a public inquiry. For them, a public inquiry would answer many of the questions that need to be answered. As I saw when I participated on a few occasions and visited and talked with many women and youth, there is a great need.

Would the member concur, as I am sure he will, that if the government were to listen to what people are saying within our communities, it would recognize the need for a public inquiry today? Many would argue it should have been called long ago.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague comes from the city of Winnipeg, where people are trolling the river looking for bodies. I think of the situation now where we have a Prime Minister who has been bragging about finding the bones of old John Franklin, the English explorer, who not only almost starved to death once, but twice because he did not listen to the indigenous people of the north. What a great message it is for Canada when people are trolling the Red River in Winnipeg. That shows there is something fundamentally wrong.

I agree with my colleague that if the Prime Minister's cabinet members went into communities and met the people who have been affected, the mothers, the sisters and the daughters, they would not have that look on their faces tonight and we would not be having this debate. We would be moving forward as a nation. If the Conservatives are unwilling to do this, they have to be replaced.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Green

Bruce Hyer Green Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay and the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing have been passionate about this, have worked long and hard to fight for the rights of indigenous peoples, and I compliment them for that.

Obviously, we need an inquiry. What is happening is grossly unacceptable and cannot go on any longer. We need to study it, think about it, debate it, raise the profile and solve it. On top of that, since the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay has studied this long and hard, what else could we and should we do to make this situation better?

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, we should never be at the point of having to wonder why people are being murdered. Many of these issues can be prevented. The issue of child welfare is fundamental. The government treats Cindy Blackstock as enemy number one. Why? Because she wants to end the systemic discrimination against children.

The government has legal obligations in each province to meet the provincial standards for child welfare and it refuses to meet them. It tells communities that children do not deserve and have no right to suicide counselling when hundreds and hundreds of young people have died. We know where that blood is. The responsibility for that is systemic. It stems from government policy.

We should provide that support and close the funding gap, rather than having the Indian affairs minister running around going on about his rogue chiefs. If he sat down and recognized that he has a legal, moral, and ethical responsibility to the children under his watch to have the same standards that exist in the provincial systems, our children would be growing up to be proud and moving forward, rather than quitting school in grades five and six because they have lost hope, which we have seen this on so many reserves.

These are fundamental systemic things that could happen now, not just to end the deaths but to create the potential in our country from the incredible untapped resources, the beautiful people who are being denied this through systemic discrimination.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Kildonan—St. Paul.

I am pleased to stand here to speak about this motion as I was a member of the special committee. I want to take a moment to sincerely thank the other members for their work.

The committee was formed out of the unanimous support of the House for a motion put forward by the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul. I think we can all agree that the levels of violence against aboriginal women and girls are of deep concern to all Canadians.

Indeed, I have rarely seen an issue that has attracted as much attention in the media or seen as much concern expressed throughout the public. I want to clearly add my voice in saying that the levels of violence are simply unacceptable and this situation must change now as a public priority.

Individuals who commit violent crimes against aboriginal women must be held accountable, and governments, stakeholders and communities must act together to prevent more violence and more untimely deaths. That is why when the government tabled its response to the report of the special committee on September 15, it chose to do so as the federal action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls.

In tabling a five-year action plan for change, this government responded to the final and arguably most important recommendation of the committee's report: to move toward action on the committee's recommendations in a coordinated action plan. The plan also includes details on how the commitment in economic action plan 2014 to a further $25 million over five years will be allocated, as well as an additional $158.7 million over five years for shelters and family violence prevention activities.

This government has repeatedly stated that urgent action is needed to address the high levels of violence, which in turn have inevitably resulted in the over-representation of aboriginal women and girls as missing persons and as a homicide victims.

With more than 40 studies and reports since the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1996, and close to 2,000 recommendations, there is already much known about what needs to change along with who needs to take action and on what.

The Government of Canada has made significant investments to address many of the conditions that underline the higher levels of violence, including economic development, labour market participation, education, health, housing, policing and other relevant areas. Yet statistics, such as those in the National Operational Review, which was prepared by the RCMP with the assistance of some 300 police forces across Canada and released last May, point to rising proportions of female homicide victims being aboriginal.

While the number of non-aboriginal women who are murdered has gone steadily downwards from 1984 to 2012, the same cannot be said for aboriginal women. In 1984, some 8% of women murdered in Canada were aboriginal. In 2012, that percentage rose to 23%.

I am proud that this government has now tabled a comprehensive victims bill of rights, ensuring for the first time ever in Canada that justice is not only for the accused but also for the victims. The victims bill of rights would make significant improvements for the families of victims of crime.

However, none of us here with mothers, daughters, sisters or friends could be other than deeply troubled by the testimony before the special committee, or not feel the need for urgent action to prevent more violence, more deaths and more devastation of families.

I am even more proud that this government has made a commitment for more action now. The five-year action plan addresses the 16 recommendations of the committee's report and builds on the five-year targeted initiatives announced by the government in October 2010.

That first set of targeted initiatives resulted in a number of important gains: a new National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains; a new national website www.canadasmissing.ca; improvements to the Canadian Police Information Centre database; support for aboriginal community safety plans; work with the provinces and territories and with aboriginal organizations to expand culturally appropriate services for aboriginal victims of crime and to create specific services for families of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, including family liaison positions with police; support for awareness activities aimed at breaking intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse in many aboriginal communities; and with the Aboriginal Research Institute, collecting promising practices that are making a difference in aboriginal communities into an online compendium of promising practices to reduce violence and improve community safety of aboriginal women in Canada to help aboriginal communities build on existing experience in future work.

I expect the next five-year action plan to produce even more results and I look forward to hearing about them in future regular progress reports.

The action plan speaks about what the Government of Canada will do, but it is important to also emphasize what the Government of Canada cannot do or at least cannot do by itself.

That is why the action plan also reiterates the commitment of the government to work in collaboration with all partners, provincial and territorial governments with their complementary mandates, aboriginal organizations and governments with their direct connections with communities, other relevant non-government organizations and also with aboriginal communities themselves.

Addressing levels of violence against aboriginal women is a priority at a number of federal, provincial, territorial tables, including justice and public safety. This is a significant item on the agenda for our upcoming meeting in October. We will be focusing on specific actions already taken and concrete next steps to guide collaborative action to coordinate law enforcement and justice system responses to violent crime against aboriginal women and girls.

I began by thanking the committee for its important work. It is only fitting that I end by taking a moment to thank all those individuals who took the time to appear before the committee in person or by videoconference or those who submitted their stories in writing for their help in the committee's study and for their recommendations for change.

As I mentioned, many of the witnesses spoke of their own personal experiences with violence and of the experiences of their family and friends and communities with violence and its all too heavy cost. The recommendations of the committee were guided by their words and their stories. The government's action plan will put into action these recommendations.

The change that has begun in communities and in new and emerging services and programs will amount to effective change on the ground for individuals, for today's children and for tomorrow's children and for their families and their communities.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments, but again, as we have indicated before, even the provinces are asking for a national inquiry.

What do the Conservatives have to hide that they do not want to go forward with the inquiry? It cannot be about money because they have spent millions of dollars, if not billions, by now. We know one department has spent over $100 million in one year fighting aboriginal rights. What do they have to hide? Why do they not want an inquiry when it is so crucial for families? Even the provinces are asking for this.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to read into the record the very last paragraph of a 2005 study that was done in British Columbia called “Researched to Death: B.C. Aboriginal Women and Violence”:

Aboriginal women’s vision of safety, community change and development are all contained in this report. It is important to note the amount of time and the countless years of advocating, supporting and reporting have all lead to similar findings, directions and approaches. These approaches and directions as listed in this report and need to be acted upon rather than becoming just another report on Aboriginal women and violence. This report outlined workable solutions for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people that is based in equality, respect and honesty. The only outstanding element is action.

We are taking action.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member speaks of action. I would like to know what specific action is being taken in the greater Toronto area to address this issue. What new spending is going to be present in that part of the country to address one of the largest populations of indigenous women anywhere in this country?

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, during my speech, I outlined the monies that are going into ensuring that this plan works.

I would just like to repeat for my hon. colleague, and I do welcome him to the House, the three main priorities this plan is going to address: preventing violence by supporting community level solutions, supporting aboriginal victims with appropriate services, and protecting aboriginal women and girls by investing in shelters and continuing to improve Canada's law enforcement and justice systems.

All of the money that is going to be spent is going to be worked through these three priorities, and that will be spent across the country.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, when my hon. friend was speaking, I was hoping she might mention one of the positive measures that has been taken recently, which is the creation of a DNA databank. It is under the term “Lindsey's Law”, in honour of Lindsey, who went missing. She was the daughter of Judy Peterson. Although the law has been brought forward to create a DNA databank, we do not have the law yet. We do not have an actual statute, but we do have a commitment to spend $8 million in the 2014 budget, but it has been profiled for spending not until 2017.

A DNA databank that will allow the RCMP to compare DNA from crime scenes with the DNA of missing persons will go a long way, in the missing and murdered aboriginal women's issue, in tracking down killers and answering questions.

I wonder if my hon. friend has any notion of whether it would be possible to speed up the implementation of the DNA databank and to bring Lindsey's Law into effect sooner than 2017.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me just read from the executive summary of the plan, where it says:

In addition to the $25 million investment in 2015 to 2020, the Government of Canada is taking action to protect Aboriginal women and girls by....

First of all, it talks about funding shelters and family violence prevention. The second bullet point there is:

Supporting the creation of a DNA-based Missing Persons Index to help bring closure to families of missing persons, with an investment of $8.1 million over five years and $1.3 million in ongoing funding

We are addressing these issues. We want to start action on this, because the time for action is now.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to this very important issue because, as members know, in the world of human trafficking there are a lot of missing and murdered aboriginal women and other women who have fallen prey to predators out to make lots of money off them and to take away their self-identity, their dignity, everything.

I really noticed one thing in this action plan that I really appreciate so much and fully support because there have been so many studies. There are the 40 studies that were referred to tonight, and there have been other studies as well. There has been a report by the RCMP. My own son is in the RCMP, and I have to say that the national operational overview is something that is extremely important to the aboriginal community. When we talk about an aboriginal community in Canada, we are all part of that aboriginal community. In my family, my son married an Ojibway girl whom I love very dearly and who works very hard with aboriginal youth.

When we look at the RCMP's Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview, we can see the caring. To better understand the nature and extent of police-reported cases involving missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada, that RCMP institution conducted an analysis of files from police organizations from all across the country, an analysis of the historical female missing persons files. They looked at homicide cases between 1980 and 2012, and they saw a consistency there. The police recorded 1,017 incidents of aboriginal female homicides between 1980 and 2012, and 164 aboriginal female investigations dating back to 1952.

Everyone talks about what the solve rates are in finding these missing and murdered women. The solve rates for homicides involving aboriginal women, at 88%, are consistent with homicides involving non-aboriginal women, which is 89%. There are currently 225 unsolved cases, as we know: 120 unsolved murders of aboriginal women and 105 missing aboriginal women.

When we look at the action plan, all I can say is that, in working on reserves with the aboriginal people all across this country and having the privilege of 37 chiefs in Manitoba presenting me with a red shawl, I have seen something that is very unique in this particular report. Listening to the conversation back and forth, I would say that we need to collaboratively get together on all sides of the House. This is not a partisan issue. It is not one-upmanship. It is time to take all the research; it is time to take all the knowledge we have; and it is time to take action.

One thing in working in aboriginal communities, which is part of my family's community, is that we have to respect the elders. We have to respect the organizations within the aboriginal community. We have to respect the aboriginal communities themselves. The role women play is a very important role in aboriginal communities, and also the role the elders play and the chiefs play. Each part of an aboriginal community is grounded in the history that we have right here in our country.

With the opening of our Canadian Museum For Human Rights in Winnipeg this past weekend, I was very moved by the stories that were told about murdered and missing women, about residential schools, about the history that Canada is a part of, the good and the bad. Here in 2014, we as parliamentarians can be an integral part of the good of making things better for the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women. My heart goes out. There are terrible crimes against these innocent people, and our thoughts and prayers every day are with the victims and with the families, because when one loses a child or one loses a family member, one never gets over that.

I know a case in point where this one boy was missing. He was abducted. It is not just women. In this case, it was a young youth. I can tell members that after his perpetrator died, a lot of youths went on reserve and burned the perpetrator's house down because the hurt was so profound and nothing was done.

What is so good about this report is that the action plan provides tools such as preventing violence by supporting community-level solutions. That is a very wise move. Part of the community-level solutions is working with all the players within the aboriginal community—the elders, the grandmothers, the mothers, the chiefs, and others—and supporting aboriginal victims with appropriate services.

That young man I was telling members about did not have victim services and he was not a survivor. He later took his own life, and that is a sad story. However, it could have been prevented had an action plan like this been put in place, where there were solutions, where there was some place to go.

The idea of investing in shelters and improving Canada's law enforcement and justice systems on these fronts is extremely important. It is not a matter of which party can shout loud enough to say, “You're all wrong and we're all right”. What it should be now, in 2014, is this non-partisan collaborative approach.

The committee did some astounding good work. I was watching it as the witnesses were going through all the things they had to say and the thing that I felt was of paramount importance was their ability to tell their stories. I know the Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women has said that she wants to be sitting at the table when a round table comes up, that she needs to be a part of that, and that everybody needs to be a part of it. I think we need to be sitting at the table right now and we need to look at the umbrella causes.

We talk about the root cause. The root cause is really avoiding the issue. It is easy to study and study and have committee after committee. The biggest complaint I hear on the reserves with the people I work with is that everyone studies it to death and they make a fancy speech, but there is nothing on the ground.

In this particular report, there is a lot on the ground. When these three priorities were set out, it started by saying that supporting community-level solutions is the answer. Whether it be shelters, whether it be schools, whether it be education about how to keep away from creditors, economic development, all of those things are part of building communities in any community. It is the same on reserves. It is the same for aboriginal people who come to our large urban centres. Opportunities, we live in a country of “The True North strong and free”. We live in a country where parliamentarians have the ability to change the channel and reset what is happening.

I feel right now, in the year 2014, with this action plan, I like the word “action” and there is a plan. There is significant money put behind that plan and we are moving forward.

I am thankful for this opportunity and I would like to welcome any questions that parliamentarians might have. I cannot guarantee I can answer them, but I think I would like to hear the questions that are coming forward.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague opposite for her speech, which could well have moved me. In fact, her call for collaboration among the different parties' representatives could have touched me to the core if it were not for the reality we face every day in our work. I am certain that my colleague will understand what I am talking about. I am talking about the work in committee where, in general, the members of the Conservative Party systematically refuse the proposals and suggestions submitted by the opposition parties.

Getting back to the matter at hand, there is one suggestion—it is practically a requirement—that has the support of aboriginal women's groups, among others. People are asking for a national and public inquiry that would allow everyone not just to have their say but to get to the root of the problem. Why is the government ignoring this request?

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have heard a mixture, and I have heard a lot of people say that it is not time for an inquiry. I am talking about aboriginal communities. That is what I hear on part of the aboriginal community. My grandchildren are aboriginal.

The fact is that aboriginal communities are saying that they need the shelters, the DNA missing persons index, leadership for missing persons and unidentified remains. All these things that came through the committee are things that the community is saying it needs and it is saying it very loudly. They do not want the money put somewhere else. They want it on a concrete basis in their communities so their lives can be better.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite says she likes the word “action”. I think folks on this side of the House would like action more than the words and we are not getting any. It raises some serious concerns. The reference that was made to the House was about changing the channel. The trouble is we keep finding reruns. The programs announced are existing programs.

Could the member opposite please help me? There are 41 shelters in 600 communities across the country. There is not one new dime, not one new shelter in these announcements. Where are these new shelters the member speaks of? Where are they going to come from if there are no new dollars put into this program?

Finally, can she explain why her party has forced communities across the country to hire auditors by the handful instead of councillors by the handful to deal with this issue? The emphasis is on blaming the victim continuously instead of solving the problem.

I see no action and I would like to have answers to those questions. Where are these new shelters and where is the new money for new shelters? I do not see it.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, quite honestly, there has been money put in for shelters on reserve, but there is also shelters in the urban areas that have been there for absolutely years and they are serving aboriginal people.

That is the problem. Members opposite, as soon as something good is started, they either vote against it, or they talk it down and badmouth it, take a little piece. Why? Because they want to grow up to be, I guess, in government. I guess all of us are here for that reason, but we should not tear down something that is the beginning of something very good to allow that to happen.

When we talk about shelters, let us talk about safe houses. There are a lot of safe houses across the country that I am particularly familiar with, both in rural and urban areas.

We are beginning something now very exciting and I wish everyone would get on board collaboratively and be a part of that and take credit for it.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, for the limited time that there is, I will be splitting my time with the member for London—Fanshawe.

I will begin this debate by acknowledging the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for leading off the debate on Friday.

I think from listening to the debate in the House, members will understand that this is a very emotional and heart-wrenching issue. We are talking about the lives of indigenous women and girls in this country and their families.

There was a special committee that was looking into murdered and missing indigenous women that issued a report. Sadly, what we found in the committee's work was the fact that although we heard a lot of testimony that called for some specific actions, when the majority report came out it disregarded some of those very specific calls for action. As a result, the New Democrats wrote a dissenting report, and I will quote from a couple of items in the report.

At the beginning of the report we referenced the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That is a good place to centre what we are talking about. We started by saying, under articles 18 and 22(2):

Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions....

States shall take measures, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.

In the New Democratic dissenting report, we said:

A call to action should imply some urgency; instead this report's recommendations suggest that the status quo remain and no extraordinary measures are necessary to deal with the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The report does not convey that there is a public safety emergency unfolding in every corner of the country and that a co-ordinated response is needed to address the high rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Further on in the report, we reference the fact that:

Nearly every witness agreed that a national public inquiry into the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls should be a priority of the Canadian government. Such an inquiry need not be limited simply to the circumstances of each disappearance or murder; it should also look into systemic problems with Canada's justice system and provincial child welfare systems as well as the effects of the Indian Act in perpetuating and institutionalizing racism and sexism against Indigenous women and girls.

As I have listened to the government talk about the call for a national inquiry and the fact that there are many reports that have already been done, it seems to imply that it is an either/or, either we have a national inquiry or we have a national action plan. That is simply a false statement and false premise. In fact, the member for Churchill has Motion No. 444 before the House, which specifically calls for a national action plan. That national action plan would be developed and implemented in conjunction with indigenous women and girls and their communities so that it would be driven by the communities and family members who would be most impacted. I think it is important to set the record straight that we can have an action plan as well as an inquiry.

I want to reference a recent court decision where I again hear the members opposite imply that it is just the New Democrats who are calling for some inquiry into the ongoing systemic causes for why indigenous women and girls continue to go murdered and missing in this country. Despite the actions that have been taken, we are still seeing the violence perpetrated from coast to coast to coast.

In the Oral Reasons for Sentence by Justice W.G. Parrett in British Columbia, in a trial where there were a number of women who had been murdered, he pointed out the following. He stated:

I cannot end this trial without adding something more. I am aware of comments being made to the effect that there is no need to embark on any formal inquiry into missing and murdered women, that policing is the solution to this problem.

He goes on further to state:

Perhaps an even more delicate area I want to say to those First Nations people who have so religiously attended this trial, I know in some small measure the pain and loss you feel, but this is not just a First Nations issue.

I know that First Nations people are far too much as a percentage of the missing and murdered women. They are disproportionately represented in this roll call of misery.

But as the facts of this trial so vividly demonstrate this is not just a First Nations issue. It is a sociological issue, one that arises from, among other things, a high risk lifestyle. It is something which must be dealt with.

He concludes by saying:

It is a mistake, in my view, to limit the seriousness of this issue and to pretend, as some do, that policing is an answer when the circumstances of this case raise questions about the effectiveness of that process.... We simply must do better, especially where the commitment to policing is reflected in an 84 per cent cut to the budget of the Highway of Tears task force.

New Democrats all agree on this side of the House that we absolutely must invest in policing. We must invest when a crime has been committed. We must protect the rights of victims when a crime has been committed, but we also say that we must absolutely invest in prevention. We must stop women from being murdered and going missing.

In adding their voices and asking some very good questions, APTN has been running stories. There is a recent story that says there has been a war against indigenous women since colonization. This was written by the former Native Women's Association of Canada president Beverley Jacobs. In her article, she proposed some very good points. She states:

Families of Sisters in Spirit and many of the advocates and activists who are assisting families of [missing and murdered indigenous women] across the country want answers now too. Many Indigenous women in various communities across the country are taking action with little resources that they do have. Finally, in the last couple of months the national media has been bringing attention to the issue. And we do know that action is needed…NOW…IMMEDIATELY.

She goes on to pose some questions that I think it would serve each one of us in the House well to examine. Beverley Jacobs asks:

So what is stopping all of us, as human beings, to act? What is stopping each one of us to take responsibility and address it now? Does each one of us know how to do that? Are we taking action?

She calls for the action, but in this article for APTN she also calls on us to conduct a national inquiry. We have a well-respected indigenous woman adding her voice to the call for both an inquiry and for a national action plan.

We have also heard in the House that money is being invested in shelters. One of the concerns that New Democrats have raised is that this so-called action plan to end violence against indigenous women and girls is going to result in some concrete measures, yet one of the questions we have raised is that there is a lack of transparency with exactly what these measures are, how they will be implemented, how community members will access them, and what the end results will be.

Again, I want to talk about APTN. It ran an article titled “Status of Women's 'Action Plan' inflated Aboriginal Affairs' violence prevention project spending by $24.5 million”. It says:

When it released its “Action Plan” to fight violence against Indigenous women, the...government inflated by $24.5 million the amount of money Aboriginal Affairs planned to spend on reserve-based family violence prevention projects. Status of Women’s “Action Plan,” released Sept. 15 claimed Aboriginal Affairs planned to spend $66.2 million over five years beginning in 2015 on “violence prevention activities” under its Family Violence Prevention Program.... Aboriginal Affairs, however, said over the weekend it was spending $41.7 million over five years on violence prevention projects.... The difference between the Action Plan figures and Aboriginal Affairs’ numbers is $24.5 million.

We have a government that says it has an action plan, but it cannot even get straight how much money it is spending. Right now there are 40, plus or minus, transition houses or shelters on 634 reserves in Canada, and the government cannot tell us exactly how many shelters will be built on reserve, how they will be funded, or whether they will get funding comparable to shelters off reserve, which currently they do not get. Communities deserve answers to these very relevant questions.

I heard the member for Kildonan—St. Paul talk about the fact that this should be a non-partisan issue and that we should work together. New Democrats would welcome the opportunity to work together. We have concrete suggestions and solutions. We have proposals. We have committed, in the first 100 days from when we form government in 2015, to institute a national inquiry.

However, the member for Churchill also has a concrete motion before this House on a national action plan. If that member and the Conservatives believe that they can work across the aisle, why do they not support the member for Churchill's motion on a national action plan?

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate very much the value of the comments the member put on the record.

We have heard community members from all across this country. I just want to go back to the fact that over the summer, many people in Winnipeg, first nations, aboriginal people, and others were all touched by the brutal killing of Ms. Fontaine at a very young age. We need to have this inquiry to prevent young women and girls from being murdered and going missing into the future.

The final message is that we have nothing to lose by calling for a public inquiry. I think we would be assisting many of those families and communities that have been so devastated by providing some hope.

I wonder if the hon. member could provide comment on the need for hope at this time.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government has been referencing the fact that there have been a number of reports written. Yet we continue to see tragedies like Tina Fontaine and many other young women, mothers, aunties, and grandmothers who have gone missing or have been murdered.

One of the tasks an inquiry could take on would be to actually look at these reports that have been written. It could look at the recommendations that have been made and look at the gaps and why these recommendations have not been implemented. Why do we continue to see this epidemic of violence against indigenous women and girls across this country? We have all these reports, and yet they have not been implemented.

I think this is an opportunity for us to come together across the House. This is an opportunity for us to say that we hear what they are telling us and that we are actually willing to work with these communities to develop the terms of reference for a national inquiry and the terms of reference for a national action plan and to implement those two measures.

We have women with signs saying, “Am I next?” If we are truly listening to the grassroots movement across this country, we need to actually move forward and do the things the communities are asking us to do.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 7:30 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith the question necessary to dispose of the motion now before the House.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.