House of Commons Hansard #37 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was suicide.


Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comment.

There is no increase in the number of strikes or lockouts, depending on the study and those conducting it, of course.

When locked out or striking workers are in the streets not earning a paycheque and they see replacement workers going to do their work in their place, under the working conditions that they negotiated and work in day and night thanks to an established organization, that stokes frustration, anger, and violence.

That is what we are trying to avoid. We want to enable negotiations between the parties as equals, and we want clear provisions so that there is no room for interpretation in the Canada Labour Code.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2016 / 6 p.m.

Cape Breton—Canso Nova Scotia


Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise today to speak to this particular piece of legislation on behalf of the party.

I would like to provide some perspective on a private member's bill that touches on a key component of the Canada Labour Code and one that would have a serious impact on federal labour relations in this country. Bill C-234 proposes to change the legislative provisions relating to whether federally regulated employers should be able to hire replacement workers during strikes or lockouts.

While most labour relations in Canada are regulated by the provinces, it must be underscored that part I of the Canada Labour Code governs labour relations in the federal private sector. It applies to some key industries in our economy, for example, sectors including international and interprovincial railway and road transportation, maritime and air transportation, as well as telecommunications and banking. Some crown corporations, such as Canada Post Corporation, are also covered under the code.

There is a lot of history behind this particular issue. For example, in 1995, the then minister of labour established a task force that did extensive public consultations on part I, which is the industrial relations part of the Canada Labour Code. Those consultations included labour, employer, and government stakeholders, as well as academics and others. The issue of replacement workers was part of those discussions.

Labour and employer stakeholders held then, and hold now, very different views on the issue. In fact, the task force report, entitled “Seeking a Balance”, noted, “No issue divides the submissions we received more than the issue of replacement workers.”

That report formed the basis of the comprehensive amendments to part I of the Canada Labour Code that came into force in 1999. It is important to note that the provision that exists now was recommended by the task force as a reasonable compromise between the competing views of employers and unions. That had been decided in 1999.

The provision of part I of the Canada Labour Code already limits the use of replacement workers in federal private sector industries. The code balances the union's right to strike with the employer's right to attempt to continue operating during a work stoppage. As the report recommends, “There should be no general prohibition on the use of replacement workers.” However, the report identified using replacement workers in an attempt to remove the union from the workplace as an unfair labour practice, and rightfully so. This is known as undermining the union representative capacity.

At the time of the task force report, the current provision in the code was considered to be an acceptable middle ground between the position of the federally regulated employers and the unions that represent employees. This provision is considered a compromise and a balance between union and employer interests.

While Bill C-234 may intend to improve labour relations, it has the potential to upset the carefully crafted balance of rights and responsibilities between unions and employers under the code.

It is not only the content of Bill C-234 with which I take issue, but I would also like to underline a flaw in how we have been asked to consider such an important change for federally regulated employees and employers.

Consideration of such a measure should take into account the perspectives of all stakeholders who are regulated by the Canada Labour Code as this requires the views of those who stand to be affected by it. To be clear, a private member's bill does not allow for the proper consultations, and it does not provide sufficient opportunity for all stakeholders to express their views.

In the past, both labour and employer organizations have been highly critical of changes being made to federal labour relations legislation through the use of private members' bills without prior consultation with the stakeholders. Members will no doubt remember that the government recently took bold steps to correct inequities introduced in Bill C- 377 and Bill C-525, which upset the balance of rights and responsibilities between federally regulated employers and unions.

Trade unions play a fundamental role in the relations between employers and employees. Unions work to ensure that their members receive fair wages and good working conditions in fair, healthy, and safe work environments. These bills put unions at a disadvantage and we believe they must be repealed.

Just like the current Bill C-234, Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 were private members' bills that were not subject to rigorous consultations. This is not the right way to approach such matters. We should not be looking at amending part I of the Canada Labour Code on a piecemeal basis. We believe in an open and transparent approach to labour relations, one that promotes stability and fairness.

Major changes to labour relations legislation have always been preceded by consultation between government, unions, and employers. I referred previously to the 1995 task force, which included an extensive consultative process, which was followed by ministerial consultations on the recommendations included in the task force report. However, this has not happened in the case of Bill C-234, and any changes on such a divisive issue would certainly need consultations with all stakeholders.

We cannot support Bill C-234 because it does not match our standards of openness and transparency in labour relations in this country. As I pointed out before, the code ensures balance between a union's right to strike and that of an employer to attempt to continue operating during a work stoppage. It is part of the balance between rights and responsibilities of employers and unions under the code.

Good labour relations are key elements of an economic system and indeed to the prosperity of this country. We have a long tradition in this country of labour legislation and policy designed to promote the common well-being by encouraging free collective bargaining and constructive dispute settlement. We believe in the strength of co-operation to develop good relations between employers and workers. If legislative changes are to be considered for part I of the code, let us do it the right way, through real and meaningful consultation and engagement with unions, employers, and stakeholders.

I know that in the member's comments reference was made to support from United Steelworkers. Let me read into the record the statement made by Ken Neumann when he was testifying before committee on Bill C-525. Mr. Neumann is the national director of United Steelworkers. He said, speaking about the past Conservative government:

We've seen this government operate in this way before - introducing major changes to the hallmarks of our democratic society through backdoor private member's bills. The Canadian Labour Congress rightly asks why tamper with a system that's working? The federal system is respected and supported, as a result of a consultative process that's been followed for decades for amending the Labour Code.

That comes from Ken Neumann from United Steelworkers. That is his opinion.

We have long recognized this in this country. Again, I would like to underline the fact that in the last four years we have seen it even more so. Labour legislation in this country has to be referred to a tripartite system, one that is consultative and is built through consensus. That is what we are committed to, to ensure that our labour laws are fair and balanced and that they represent the needs of employers and the rights and best interest of employees. That is what we are committed to and that is what we intend to deliver as a government.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise at this point in our study of the bill, which we will oppose for various reasons.

First of all, this bill covers workplaces under federal jurisdiction, which tend to be key sectors for our economy such as railroads, air transportation, ports, and telecommunications. These are key sectors not only for our economy, but also for our security.

Imagine a labour conflict in the communications sector that prevents a company from operating. How could people use 911?

Imagine a labour conflict in the air transportation sector that shuts down an airport. What would happen? The whole community would suffer, and the repercussions would reach near-global proportions in the transportation sector.

Since this affects key sectors, the situation is much too delicate for a measure like this. If the bill goes through, the House of Commons could end up spending its time passing back-to-work legislation, and nobody wants that.

We think that the current Canada Labour Code strikes the right balance and that the balance of power between employees and employers is fair. If we pass this bill, it would prevent companies, mainly SMEs, from hiring replacement workers during disputes and upset the balance of power at the negotiating table. Let us not forget that striking workers can always go work somewhere else. However, under the bill, SMEs would not be able to hire people from outside.

In our opinion, this disrupts the balance of power that must exist between workers and employers.

As the Coalition of BC Businesses said during an appearance here in Parliament in 2007:

...[the] options a small-business owner faces in this so-called level playing field are essentially three: to shut down; to give in to union demands to avoid a strike that it knows it cannot withstand; or thirdly, in the event of a strike, to seek a quick settlement rather than a settlement that serves the long-term viability of the enterprise and the jobs it supports.

This imbalance could ultimately be harmful to the workers because if the business closes its doors, everyone loses. That would also be harmful to the Canadian economy.

Earlier, when referring to studies, the hon. member mentioned that it is always tricky to quote studies because it depends on who conducted them.

I would like to talk about four studies commissioned by the Government of Canada, including the 1968 Woods commission. That goes back a long way, but it shows that this is not the first time that we have talked about this issue. In 1968, the Liberal government created the Woods commission, which found that these sorts of changes should not be made to the Canada Labour Code because the balance was being respected.

In 1996, the Sims task force, set up by the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien's Liberal government, found that the measure proposed by the NDP would not be good for the economy and would disrupt the balance of power between employees and employers.

In 1999, Cramton conducted a statistical study that analyzed 4,340 labour contracts in Canada from 1967 to 1993. The study found that in provinces that had this type of legislation, labour disputes lasted an average of 54 days longer than in provinces that did not have such legislation. Strikes therefore lasted 86 days. The same study found that this type of legislation increased the probability of a strike by 15% to 27%, depending on the industry.

Finally, in 2007, a study conducted by the department of employment and labour found that there was no evidence to show that a law prohibiting employers from hiring replacement workers reduced the number or length of work stoppages. On the contrary, this type of legislation was linked to an increase in the number and length of strikes.

I spoke about four studies, one conducted in 1968, one conducted in 1996, one conducted in 1999, and one conducted in 2007. The studies commissioned by the Government of Canada found that this sort of legislation is not a good thing. We need to keep that in mind.

Quebec has this type of legislation. It was implemented about 30 years ago. According to a study conducted by the Canadian Bankers Association, which compares Quebec and Ontario, this situation led to 90% more labour disputes in Quebec, and in 87% of cases, those disputes lasted longer in Quebec than in Ontario.

Unfortunately, the numbers speak for themselves. We do not think that this policy, this proposal, is good, which is why we will vote against the bill. We must not forget that this could have a devastating effect, or perhaps more of a very negative effect, on the Canadian economy. In the context of globalization, in which the economies of our cities are not competing against each other, but are competing with the economies of foreign countries, if we unfortunately pass this law that weakens our balance of power in the foreign market, we will only hurt ourselves.

This law exists in Quebec, and I can say that no one has died as a result. However, I am a member of Parliament from Quebec and I wish this were not true, but the Montreal Economic Institute conducted a study, which showed that, sadly, private investment rates in Quebec were 25% lower than in other Canadian provinces.

Therefore, we must be very careful for reasons linked to key sectors, Canadian economic security, and also goods and people, because we already have measures that strike a balance and four studies conducted over the past 50 years arrived at the exact same conclusion, namely, that we must not touch this sector. In fact, the Quebec experience shows us that this can be worthwhile in some respects. However, it can cause more and longer labour disputes.

In closing, I would like to sincerely congratulate and thank the member for Jonquière for introducing this bill. She is a new MP. She has been in the House for only a few months and she has already introduced an important piece of legislation. I salute her. We should remember that this is not the first time. I see some veteran MPs. I will not say that their hair is greyer than mine, but they have more experience than I do, and they can attest to the fact that this is not the first time that such a bill has been introduced. More than 15 such bills have been introduced, the fact that we do not agree with them does not mean that we do not respect them.

That being said, I heard people on the government side earlier arguing their point of view. What did the governing party say? It said that it would vote against the bill because it believes that bills like these should come through what it calls the front door. Bills like these regarding labour relations should not be private members' bills. They need to come through the front door, as government bills.

That party keeps going on and on about its lofty principles regarding labour relations, protecting workers, protecting widows and orphans, and protecting unions. If the Liberals are willing to walk the talk, I encourage them to introduce a bill, and not a private member's bill, but a government bill that gets to the bottom of the issue. Those people believe in this and I respect them. I do not share their point of view, but they were duly elected by Canadians and I respect them. Clearly, the people who form the government are saying that they will not touch the bill because it is a private bill, although they are using the wrong term. It is a back door bill.

I want to make this clear. As far as I am concerned, everyone here is equal and everyone has the right to table a bill. I do respect them, whatever they want to do or say. I respect the fact that we are all members from the front door, not the back door. I remind members of that.

I respect you and I hope that one day you will table a bill. I will never call your bill a back door bill. You are a front door member. It will be a front door bill.

I really salute my NDP colleagues. Although I do not share their point of view, I have to commend them. I have seen the work they do. We will be voting against the bill because we have convictions. It seems to me that they do not really want to talk about the matter.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Before resuming debate, I want to remind members that I will not be putting any bill forward. Usually one talks through the Speaker to put it forward.

The hon. member for Regina—Lewvan.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise as a seconder of this private member's bill, Bill C-234.

In the debate about a previous government bill, Bill C-4, government members often spoke about restoring balance to Canadian workplaces. We in the NDP were happy to support that legislation, because Bill C-4 did restore balance to certification and decertification. However, we need to be concerned not only about the right to join a union, but also about the right to bargain collectively.

An essential component of balance in collective bargaining is that in the rarer cases where this process breaks down, both sides bear a cost. Employers do without labour while employees must do without their wages. That puts pressure on both sides to keep negotiating to try to find a solution.

The use of replacement workers, or scabs, destroys that balance by allowing the employer to continue functioning as though there is no labour dispute. We have had far too many cases in Canada of employers demanding severe concessions, locking out workers or provoking a strike and then using scabs rather than negotiating in good faith. One problem with replacement workers is that they can be used to prolong labour disputes.

Another problem with replacement workers is that they increase the likelihood of violence. The process of moving scabs across a picket line into the workplace inevitably puts the employer's security forces in confrontation with the picketers. That is a recipe for bad things. However, even where replacement workers are not actually used, the implicit threat of scabs gives management an unfair advantage in bargaining.

There is a very simple solution to all of these problems: to prohibit replacement workers during legal strikes and lockouts. This is not a new or theoretical solution. Two provinces already have anti-scab legislation and the longevity of anti-scab legislation in those jurisdictions is a testament to its success and to its workability. Quebec has had anti-scab legislation for nearly 40 years. British Columbia has had anti-scab legislation for nearly a quarter century. In both of these provinces, anti-scab legislation was introduced by social democratic governments, but importantly, it has been continued by subsequent right-wing governments. At the provincial level, parties of both the left and the right have accepted anti-scab legislation.

What about at the federal level? What did we hear from the Liberal Party? The member for Cape Breton—Canso tried to tell us that the existing provisions in the Canada Labour Code, which do not actually prohibit replacement workers, constituted some kind of appropriate balance. However, I have already explained why the real balance involves pressure on both sides during a strike or lockout. The real way to achieve balance is not to have replacement workers in the equation at all.

The sense in which the member for Cape Breton—Canso considers this a balance is that we have two sides, unions and employers. Unions obviously would like to have anti-scab legislation and employers would not want to have it. He does not think we can make a change without consensus.

That is kind of a disingenuous argument, because the current situation confers a huge advantage to employers, so of course employers will never voluntarily agree to give that up. It is for parliamentarians to make a balanced assessment, and that is exactly what this private member's bill proposes.

We have also heard the argument from the member for Cape Breton—Canso that this is the wrong process, that we do not want to look at one little element of the Canada Labour Code, that we need to do a big tripartite review of the whole thing. Well I say, bring it on. There has not been a review of the Canada Labour Code since 2006.

The member for Cape Breton—Canso kept saying that we could not do this without a big review of the Canada Labour Code. Let us have that review of the Canada Labour Code. I think that would be very much welcomed on this side of the House. That is not really a good argument not to adopt this legislation. Let us go ahead with the review.

I think the main argument, though, from the member for Cape Breton—Canso is this notion that it is somehow inappropriate to put forward this proposal as a private member's bill. Leave it to the Liberal Party to turn a question of principle into a question of process.

The grain of truth in this argument is the idea that the previous Conservative government did abuse private members' bills to make changes to labour legislation without the same sort of scrutiny that would have been applied to government legislation. That is a criticism that one can make of a government; and if the present government wanted to put forward legislation to implement a ban on replacement workers, obviously, we in the NDP would support that legislation. The reason we are putting it forward as a private member's bill is that the Liberal government has not put it forward on the order paper. It missed the opportunity to do so in Bill C-4. The only way we have to put forward legislation is through private members' bills.

We heard the statement from the member for Cape Breton—Canso that this is introducing a change by the back door. It is not the back door. It is the only door to which the NDP has access. Therefore, yes, from a process point of view, one could criticize a government for sneaking things through with a private member's bill. One cannot criticize the third party for introducing legislation through a private member's bill, because that is the only way it can happen.

What did we hear from the Conservative Party in this debate?

The member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, first, suggested that anti-scab legislation was inappropriate in the federal sector because the federal sector includes these strategic industries, these kinds of essential services.

The way to protect essential services is not to allow replacement workers. If there are specialized people off the job in telecommunications and that is causing a national emergency, the solution is not to bring in scabs. The solution is, hopefully, to negotiate some sort of essential service protocol with the union. If that is not possible, there is the possibility of back-to-work legislation under the Canada Labour Code.

The member for Louis-Saint-Laurent said, well, we don't want to spend all our time in Parliament passing back-to-work legislation, which is kind of a funny statement because the Conservatives were content to spend all kinds of time doing that in the last Parliament when they were in power. Every major strike or lockout in the federal sector during the previous Conservative government attracted back-to-work legislation from that party. Therefore, I do believe that comment is a little out of context.

One of the concerns that the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent raised was that anti-scab legislation could force employers to settle labour disputes quickly.

I would suggest that is a feature, not a bug, of this private member's bill, that we actually want to bring these disputes to a quick resolution. One of the problems with replacement workers is that they drag things out, and one of the benefits of this legislation is that it would speed things up.

We also heard an argument from the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent that there were more labour disputes in Quebec versus Ontario and that this is all the fault of anti-scab legislation.

I would suggest there is a whole bunch of other differences between Quebec and Ontario, including the higher rate of unionization in Quebec. I think the better comparison is what happened within Quebec when anti-scab legislation was passed, because actually it was passed in response to an extremely high level of very disruptive labour disputes in that province, and the introduction of anti-scab legislation led to a great reduction in the number of strikes and the amount of picket-line violence in Quebec. Therefore, I actually see this as a good model for the federal sector.

In conclusion, I urge members to support this private member's bill, which they are free to do because it is a private member's bill. They do not have to vote on party lines. This legislation would strengthen the right to strike while, at the same time, producing fewer, shorter, and less violent labour disputes.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to address this piece of legislation.

I am taking a different approach to this in the sense that I used to be the labour critic in the Province of Manitoba. I was first elected to the Manitoba legislature in 1988. At the time, controversial legislation called “final offer selection” was being proposed. Hansard will demonstrate that even back then I was afforded the opportunity to give my thoughts and views on labour legislation. I found out early in the game how important it was for government not to use political IOUs in order to please one group over another.

The Liberal government introduced Bill C-4 because we passionately believe that the previous Conservative government used the back door through private members' legislation, Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. Many interest groups and stakeholders from both sides acknowledged that. Our government, through Bill C-4, is rectifying a wrong made by the previous Conservative government.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour commented on the New Democratic Party using a private member's bill. I understand and appreciate the arguments put forward by the previous speaker, but I am suspicious of New Democrats when it comes to labour legislation. Like all Liberal members, I believe in the important role that unions play and we do what we can to support our union brothers and sisters as much as possible, but we believe in fair play.

Let me go back to the provincial election in 1988. It is important that we recognize that industries regulated for labour are primarily at the provincial level and the federal level deals with regulations. Howard Pawley hoped to become the premier of Manitoba at that time. He sat down with a number of union representatives and said that, if the NDP formed government, it would bring in anti-scab legislation. He and the NDP made that commitment. The NDP became government, but it did not bring in anti-scab legislation because the then NDP premier argued that it would not be fair after all. Instead, the government brought in final offer selection legislation in its place. That is when I was elected, in that 1988 provincial election, and when the Conservatives took office they repealed the legislation. We sat until two o'clock in the morning in committee debating this. Many union and non-union members made presentations about the benefits of final offer selection. We often heard about the NDP compromising itself by promising to bring in anti-scab legislation but not doing that and instead coming in with final offer selection. Final offer selection was disposed of because the numbers were not there for the Liberals and the NDP back then.

In 1999 the NDP regained power. One would have thought it would have brought back final offer selection or anti-scab legislation, but it did neither.

The reason I say this is that I believe we have to be more honest with our union brothers and sisters. We have to look at what is in the best interests of Canada as a whole and look at the worker and how we can enhance our workforce. We need to not only look at how we can protect workers but look at the different sides sitting at the table. That is what is being proposed by the Government of Canada today. The NDP and Conservatives have used labour relations as a wedge issue time and time again at the cost of union workers. I have witnessed it.

I did not tell the House about an amendment that was put forward by the Liberal Party in 1990, which would have improved final offer selection, but back then New Democrats voted with the Conservatives to get rid of it.

I am familiar with the games that are played between the Conservatives and the NDP with respect to labour. We in the Liberal Party are saying enough is enough. We need to do what is in the best interests of the worker and the—

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Order, please. I just want to remind hon. members that, if they want to wait until another time, they can ask questions, but at this point there is one person speaking alone in the House.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we need to recognize that there are competing interests and that those competing interests are best dealt with in a tripartite fashion. It is not just the Liberals who are saying this. As has been quoted, union leaders and other stakeholders have said that we should not bring one-off, piecemeal legislation to try to change the Canada Labour Code. We believe that to be the case. If there are mechanisms through which we can move forward, then we are open to that.

If we look at Bill C-4, we see it is important to this Liberal government. It was one of the first pieces of legislation we introduced shortly after our tax break to the middle class, if I can give that an extra plug. That was our first piece and our first priority. We saw how important labour and unions are to our great nation and introduced Bill C-4 to rectify a wrong.

I passionately believe in the importance of our union movement through which great strides have been made not only in terms of better working conditions, better hours, and better rates of pay and benefits but also with respect to the many different social causes they have played a critical role in developing.

My door is always open, as are the doors of my colleagues. We are more than willing to meet with and do what we can to protect our workers. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with many individual members of the union movement. I have also worked with private business. I have had the opportunity to walk on picket lines in support of many workers who were constituents of mine and had to go on those picket lines.

I understand the importance of negotiations. People do not want a strike, whether they be employees or employers, because I would argue that we all lose. However, at times it is necessary. Until we can come up with a better way to deal with these issues, such as through a tripartite mechanism, we must continue to rely on the system that has done us so well over the years. Unlike the Conservatives or the NDP, if we take the politics out of the picture, I think we would have more harmony between labour and management, and that is good for Canada.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Order, please. The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

6:35 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The House will now proceed to the consideration of a motion to adjourn the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter requiring urgent consideration, namely the situation in indigenous communities.

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

6:35 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON


That the House do now adjourn.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.

I would like to begin by thanking my colleagues for participating in this very important emergency debate.

As parliamentarians, we are responsible for keeping indigenous youth in Canada and all Canadian youth safe. We are also responsible for working together to find a solution to this tragic crisis and working with communities, leaders, youth, and their families. Canada's Parliament must make the necessary resources available to support the communities and help them find long-term solutions.

I want to thank my colleagues for being here. At the beginning I would like to pause and particularly thank Chief Bruce Shisheesh, the council in Attawapiskat, the teachers, the front-line workers, the police, the leadership in the region from Grand Chief Jonathon Solomon, and our Nishnawbe Aski nation.

This is not just about Attawapiskat particularly. This is about who we are as Canadians and our whole nation.

I want to particularly thank the young people. We see the image of these helpless communities and these lost children, but if we travel in these communities and see their faces and see the potential, we see that the greatest tragedy in this nation is that we would waste a generation of children and squander their potential.

I think of Shannen Koostachin, the woman who inspired me more than anybody except my wife, who had to lead a national fight at age 13 just to get a school. I think of Chelsea Edwards, who took her fight to the United Nations when she was living in boarding houses far from her home.

I think of all the young people who leave home at 13 to live in boarding houses in Sioux Lookout and Timmins because they believe there is a better future, and we fail them, and it has to stop.

Tonight might be the beginning of a change in our country. That is what I am asking us all to come together to do.

What do we need in the short term? We have to end the Band-Aids, the emergency flights and the hand-wringing.

This is not new. A 1999 coroner's jury for Selena Sakanee in Neskantaga had 41 jury recommendations. What happened?

In 2008, after the horrific Kashechewan fire and inquest, there were 80 recommendations. What happened to them? They are still sitting on the shelf.

After the 2011 Pikangikum suicide crisis that was so devastating, the coroner's report had 100 recommendations. What happened to them? They are still sitting there.

Now it is up to us. It is no longer possible to say that we did not know or we do not know and we will find out. We know what the problem is. From a parliamentary point of view, we have to end the nickel-and-diming of services. When we say to a young person in crisis that we will medevac them out on a flight, that is an extreme. Most times they are left on their own. However, if we do medevac them out, we send them back two days later because nobody in government will pay for the treatment centre they need.

We have to end the culture of deniability whereby children and young people are denied mental health services on a routine basis, as a matter of course, by the federal government.

Cindy Blackstock points out that in this budget the children are being failed because of child welfare issues. We have to close that gap. That is an issue of political will that we could change tonight.

We have to ask where the health care dollars are, because we know this crisis has been happening, and there are no new augmented funds.

We have to work with our front-line workers. I talked to the incredible police officers at NAPS, the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service, who suffer from PTSD because they are the ones who go in to deal with the children. We have to augment them and give them support so that we can keep drugs out of the communities and build communities at the grassroots.

What are our long-term solutions? The solutions come from the communities, from their culture, from their incredible relationship to the land, and most Canadians have no concept of how deep that goes. The solutions will not be from outsiders who come in. We need to put the resources there to help, because they know where the solutions are.

We need to get a mobile crisis unit in Mushkegowuk territory so that the communities can start to deal with this themselves.

We need healing centres and treatment centres. We actually have lots of them across the country, and they are just sitting empty, because governments built them but never put a dime in to fund the resources so that they could actually staff them. Among the ones that we have sitting empty, there is one in Attawapiskat. Where are the resources, the mental health dollars, to have those local healing and treatment centres for the young people when they need them?

We also have to talk to the youth. Maybe this is a moment to think outside the box. When the body of little Alan Kurdi was found on the shores, it shocked the world and it shamed Canadians. Canadians stood up and said that they would do whatever. All of civil society came together. Well, this is our moment.

I am thinking tonight of young Sarah Hookimaw who has left home to go to school in Timmins. She wrote me a message. She said, “I wish I could be there with the young back home, my cousins and my peers. I can't right now, but I am seeing the leaders standing up and I'm proud to be who I am, even though it is not easy. I want us to build a relationship with the government.”

This is the voice of the youth speaking.

Abagail Mattinas of Constance Lake First Nation wrote me a message tonight. She said, “I want to be part of the teams that will bring light in the dark time. Let me know how I can help so we can plan an assessment to end the suicides in our communities.”

Where is the will to take from the youth and start regional and national teams and empower youth to come to this Parliament and tell us what change should look like? The days of Indian Affairs and Health Canada dictating to them how their resources are going to be spent is a failed model, and it has to end.

I want to thank my colleagues in the House for their goodwill on this, because this is not a partisan issue. As parents, as adults, this is our primary responsibility. It is the fundamental responsibility, and we cannot use this in any cheap partisan manner.

There have been mistakes. There has been a 150-year system of systemic discrimination and racist denial, but by coming together, we can change that, and that is what I am asking for tonight. I want to see political will, because what I am hearing in the communities is that they do not want another declaration of emergency. We have lost count of the declarations of emergency that were lip service or were ignored or were denied. They are tired of that.

They want a nation-to-nation relationship, and it begins when we get past the talk. It begins when we get past the rhetoric and say that we will commit and put that money into the health services that have been regularly denied. We will stop fighting children when they need access to proper mental health services. We will deal with the crisis in education that still makes the children in my communities like Kashechewan go to school in rotten, broken-down portables.

We have to end that, because the greatest resource we have in this country is not the gold and it is not the oil; it is the children. The day we recognize that is the day that we will be the nation we were meant to be.

We will have this journey together for as long as the rivers run, as long as the grass grows, and as long as the sun shines. That is our commitment to each other, and I am asking everyone tonight to follow through and make it true.

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

6:45 p.m.


Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Timmins—James Bay for his comments and for making this debate happen. This is extremely important.

I had the opportunity of going to Cross Lake just a few short weeks ago with a gentleman by the name of Robb Nash. Robb Nash is a gentleman who gives motivational speeches through rock and roll, trying to connect with youth in order to stop suicide.

At the end of his concert and motivational talk, nine students went up to him and presented him their suicide notes. It is an absolutely incredible thing to witness. We often just read about it in the newspapers, but for people to actually see it with our own eyes not only touches our hearts but really drives us to action. I know members feel the same way.

I know there are things we can be doing in this country to make a difference in the lives of our fellow citizens. I know there are many people who care about this issue very deeply. The House, even though this is a special debate, is relatively full, and I think that is a testimony to our commitment to ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to make sure they are not forgotten, that they are important, that they can have hope, and that their voices will be heard even though those voices might be in the wilderness of our country.

I am very thankful for this debate and I hope we can have it with great respect and try to understand some of the consequences of what is going on. Hopefully, somehow we will come to a conclusion so that we can move forward in some way.

I would ask the member of Parliament for Timmins—James Bay if there is a solution he sees that we could carry into the future, something concrete that will actually make a difference.

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

6:50 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are concrete steps that parliamentarians can take.

Number one, we have to close the gap on child welfare. As Cindy Blackstock said, kids cannot be left behind. Let us dedicate that money and let us do it now. We need to close the gaps in terms of health care dollars, the lack of services, and the culture that exists deep within the federal government of denying the basic needs of indigenous children.

My colleague mentioned a rock and roll tour. We need to be looking to all the departments of the federal government to play a role in a national youth vision. For example, I remember the days when the Debajehmujig Theatre Company used to go into the isolated communities. Those actors transformed lives. They had young people who felt hopeless who were learning to act and grow, but it costs money to tour. Fifteen or 20 actors cannot go into isolated communities. The government wanted them to do it on the cheap and they could not do it.

Where is the health care? Where is Indian and Northern Affairs? Where is the justice department? Where is arts and culture? If we talk about a national youth vision that we are going to commit to with a road map for it, they all have to be there.

We can start to do this now. Just talking is the beginning, but we can do this.

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

6:50 p.m.


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Timmins—James Bay for what was clearly a very passionate speech. His speech indicated what an incredible amount of concern he has on this very tragic issue.

I appreciated his first question, which asked what the next steps are. I think there are both long-term and short-term answers. I also represent a rural area, so I would like the member to talk about acute indigenous service provisions as well as general concerns about the provisions of rural psychological services, which are both important issues, and speak to the whole issue of how to deliver critical health care services to both indigenous rural communities and rural communities in general.

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

6:50 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. In the rural regions in the north and in all our communities, we see a crisis in health care, in particular a lack of access to mental health services. However, up in the far north, in indigenous country, the disparities grow exponentially. That is why we are two months into a health state of emergency in Treaty 9 territory. We can look at the crisis in rural Canada and then see how magnified it is.

If we put the resources in, it will save us money. We will not be bringing young people out by medevac, we will not be dealing with suicides, we will not be dealing with the traumas. Let us put the resources in now for front-line services, and then we can start to build the kind of future that we all believe in as parliamentarians.

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

6:50 p.m.


Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is very important for me to stand up in the House today and take part in this debate, not only to speak for Attawapiskat, but also to highlight the challenges being met by the residents in my riding.

Before I begin, though, I want to share a personal story. Suicide has affected me and my family. My brother has had the challenge of losing three of his children to suicide in the past eight years.

Over the years, I have seen how both levels of government fail communities like La Loche by not providing services in mental health and other programs. This is a very touching, sensitive issue.

I have received many stories to share in this House and, before I begin, I want thank everyone who has shared their stories with me so that I could share them in the House of Commons. The personal stories are very sensitive, heartbreaking, and very sad. These stories also show the resilience and hope that exists in our communities and reserves across Canada.

The personal stories indicate that the first nations and Métis children, young people, and their families require immediate help and support. They need immediate help now and help in years to come. The personal stories indicate that first nations and Métis children across Canada are looking for us to give them hope. They are looking to the Canadian government for hope, and to industry, service providers, and all levels of government.

This first story comes from a health care provider in northern Saskatchewan. This health care provider had to travel 600 kilometres to Saskatoon from her community to seek help for her daughter, who had tried to kill herself in the previous few days. She could not find help in her own community because the existing health care services are inadequate and insufficient.

She, as a health care provider, struggled with getting a referral for a mental health specialist. I can just imagine how hard it is for people who do not have access to medical and other services. Not all families in northern Saskatchewan, Attawapiskat, and other communities have the resources to take their children to see specialists.

Reports from northern Saskatchewan, the far north, and other northern communities, indicate the lack of services and how poor these communities are.

Let me share another story, from a member of the Gitksan community in B.C. This person knows of over 100 suicide attempts in their community alone, and some were successful. The community was seeking to build a new arena so that the children could find a place to gather and play, without having to bargain with major companies to have it done.

This past weekend alone, I am very sad to say that there were more suicide attempts in La Loche. Since the shooting on January 22, 2016, I have stood before House of Commons parliamentarians requesting additional services from both levels of government. Unfortunately, help has not come from the many government levels.

Children and youth in La Loche and surrounding communities are showing signs of PTSD. They have no one to turn to and nowhere to go. The schools are doing what they can to provide services, sports, and recreational programs, but that is not enough. Families are left to fend for themselves and to try to take care of their problems, with no help from the health centre and no help from anywhere else.

Today another person wrote to me that the suicides and the attempted suicides across the country are a symptom of systemic failure, and I could not agree more.

Parents feel hopeless as they try to do their best to provide for their children. We live in Canada. We should not feel hopeless, and yet our first nations and Métis communities across Canada feel hopeless. We can speak to the issues of a lack of cultural and recreational facilities and programs, the high rate of unemployment and poverty, poor housing, poor infrastructure, the high cost of food, high cost of living, and no mental health supports or other services.

Communities like La Loche, Attawapiskat, Cross Lake, Gitksan, and others across Canada, require help, not band-aid solutions. It is nice to get visits, but that is not good enough. We need concrete help. We need more funding to assist our communities across Canada to make sure we are helping our young people and their families deal with the problems at hand.

Some examples by the residents who shared their stories include language immersion programs and retention programs, in Dene, Cree, Michif, and other first nation languages. Other suggestions are for more cultural and recreational facilities to keep young people and their families busy.

Cindy Blackstock has a dream for Canada's birthday: a country where first nations children no longer have to fight for equality. I share her dream, but we cannot wait until next year. We have to fight for them now. We cannot lose any more of our children to suicide in Attawapiskat, Le Loche, and beyond.

The government promised to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations in its entirety. This is the time to act because it is 2015. Oh, I forgot; it is now 2016.

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

7 p.m.


Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her attention to this very serious issue across Canada. I come from the Northwest Territories, and suicide is also a very big issue there.

The suicide rates in the Northwest Territories are double that of the national average, and they are not restricted only to aboriginal people. However, it is the leading cause of death among first nations, Métis, and Inuit people across Canada.

Suicide is the ninth-leading cause of mortality in all ages and genders. The government of the Northwest Territories did a study in 2014 and concluded that there were 121 suicides within a 15-year period. They were highest among the Inuit, three times the territorial rate. The non-aboriginal population made up 27% of the suicides.

Of the suicides, 79% were male and 21% were female. There are many risk factors that we can point to for this. Alcohol and drug use, depression, emotional stress, housing, poverty, education, and trauma are all issues that contribute to this issue.

We need to be able to prevent suicides. We need to have people connect to the families and the culture. We need clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders.

There are many other things we can point to, but we have to conclude that people who are committing suicide usually feel overwhelmed, hopeless, helpless, desperate, and alone. We need programs and preventive strategies that target specific high-risk people.

I would like to ask the member how a nation-to-nation relationship would help on this issue.

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

7 p.m.


Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe that my friend is asking this question. I am a Dene-speaking person, and he comes from the Northwest Territories.

Nation-to-nation first of all means to me language retention. I speak Dene, and I want to be able to have our first nation communities teach Dene to continue our language, and across Canada, with other first nations and Métis.

Nation-to-nation also means spirituality being acknowledged. These are practices of sweetgrass burning; medicine smudging; having access to an elder, a priest, a pastor of any kind, for the ability to pray.

Nation-to-nation means that I feel respected and welcomed. As an aboriginal woman, it means I do not have to feel scared in Canada, because statistics prove that as an aboriginal woman I run the risk of being murdered or going missing.

Nation-to-nation means for me, and for all first nations and Métis people across Canada, feeling safe and valued .

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

7:05 p.m.


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for a very powerful speech. She talked about how La Loche did not get the services it required. I wonder if she could elaborate, both in the short term and the long term, but mostly the short term, on what she was hoping would be there in terms of support and what is missing.

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

7:05 p.m.


Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, young people, children, and their families, when they are feeling the effects of PTSD, need to go to the health centre or the band office clinic and say that they need to speak to someone because they are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. They go in, and there is no one to talk to them. That is the immediate help needed in the area of mental health, counselling, and other areas.

I have heard, and I have read over and over again, how when young people, children, and their families have access to programs and services, they are kept busy and have other things to do in their lives. They feel important and valued. That is one area.

Another area for families, children, youth, moms and dads across Canada, is that we have heard in the House over and over again about the importance of employment. Yet, when we turn to statistics, unemployment is very high in northern Canada among first nations and reserves. To feel that important level of nation-to-nation, there must be opportunities in our communities for employment. It is not there. Therefore, a number of areas of help, from all levels of government, is required.

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

7:05 p.m.

Markham—Stouffville Ontario


Jane Philpott LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I will be dividing my time with the member for Toronto—St. Paul's.

I want to start by thanking the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay for the care and compassion he has shown to his constituents, to first nations communities throughout Canada, and from all of us here, the leadership he has shown in calling for this emergency debate. I want to thank him for his willingness to work with fellow parliamentarians to draw attention to this crisis, to address it, and to find a way to bring help and hope to these communities.

I would also like to thank all of my colleagues for being here to participate in this important debate. Despite our many different points of view and perspectives on the best way to govern the country, our common denominator is that we are working to serve the people in the best interest of all Canadians.

I think we can all agree that we as a government we must act quickly and compassionately to ensure that we address the ongoing mental health crisis in indigenous communities.

Suicide rates among aboriginal youth are among the highest in the world, and even domestically, as the members here well know, the gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous groups are staggering.

When I use the term “youth”, I mean someone up to the age of 19.

A first nations male youth is 10 times more likely to commit suicide than a male non-indigenous youth. Worse still, suicide rates among first nations female youth are over 21 times higher than their non-first nations Canadian counterparts.

The numbers are no more encouraging for Inuit youth. In fact, they are worse. The rate of suicide by Inuit in Inuit Nunangat, the Inuit homeland, is more than 10 times the rate for Canada as a whole. Suicides among Inuit male youth are 35 times higher than their Canadian non-Inuit counterparts. Among Inuit female youth, it is 27 times higher than comparable Canadian females.

I want to pause for a moment to ensure that we have reflected on what I have just said: 35 times higher than the average should be. It is a staggering reality, and it is completely unacceptable.

I am a family doctor. As I have been sitting here tonight, I have been reflecting upon patients of mine who have either taken their own lives, or more commonly, have had someone in their families have who taken their own lives. There is nothing more devastating than realizing that some people have reached the point of no hope, that they think there is no possible way that they can go any further, and that the only solution to end the pain is to put an end to their lives.

When I think that there are communities in our country where young people, as young as my 15-year-old daughter and even younger, in groups are deciding that there is no hope for their future, we must do better. We have to find a way to go forward. I agree with the member for Timmins—James Bay that tonight has to be a turning point for us as a country to decide together that we will do better.

I have been listening to the words of despair out of many of the youth in Attawapiskat. They talk about bulling, low self-esteem, and not thinking their lives are worth anything. They talk about a lack of things to do, overcrowding, and so many other reasons why they and their peers are turning to suicide or other forms of self-harm.

Something must be done to stem the tide and reverse these disturbing trends. If the people in this House are not the people who will take a stand and commit to doing something, then who else will?

We cannot do it on our own. It is going to be a project with the entire nation. It is going to be working hand in hand with our counterparts at all levels of government, with our counterparts in first nations, Inuit, and the Métis nation, to find a way forward.

There is no doubt in our minds that the health conditions of these communities across Canada are deplorable. They must be fixed. The health outcome gaps are real and unacceptable. These are issues that move well beyond the scope of health care, and yet they have a devastating impact on health nonetheless.

In January, I personally visited the community of La Loche. I also visited other communities in Saskatchewan, including Standing Buffalo First Nation. I have had some opportunities to see the challenges that are faced in respect to social conditions, health, mental health, and health care.

Recently, we have been hearing pleas repeatedly for improved access to quality care from first nations in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the list goes on. We all would agree that these problems are complex, that they will not be solved overnight, but we know that our response in return has to be broad, multifaceted, and interconnected. I agree with the member opposite that this is not a time for partisan gamesmanship; this is a time for us to work together as Canadians, one and all, to find solutions.

We need to be transformative in our work. We need to address the socio-economic conditions that will improve indigenous people's wellness in addition to ensuring that first nations and Inuit have the health care they need and deserve. If we are to truly succeed in placing these communities on the path to renewed and sustained health equity, we will need to focus less on treating symptoms and focus more on finding and fixing the causes.

A serious discussion about suicide prevention in first nations and Inuit communities must be informed by understanding the social, political, and other health inequities that exist and the way these inequities work together to negatively influence the environment in which many of these young people grow up. Every parent here would agree that we want our children to have the best chance in life. We know that best chance means getting a good education and access to nutritious food and being able to have clean water, a good solid roof over their head, and access to quality care. These are the basics.

I find it so troubling that in a country as affluent as ours there are citizens who struggle to achieve these very basics. Unfortunately, I am no stranger to these types of inequalities. In fact, this was one of the reasons why I chose to pursue politics.

I lived and worked for almost 10 years in the country of Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world. It was there that I came to truly understand the social determinants of health and the way that the good things of life were so unevenly divided across this world, so unevenly divided from one country to another, from one ethnicity to another, and that this uneven distribution of resources could converge to make one community prone to sickness and disease while another community, sometimes very close by, enjoyed good health and prosperity. We know this is not right.

I also know there is only so much doctors and nurses can do to respond to improving these conditions. It is that realization that brought me to enter into politics and to this noble profession that we share in the House, where we have a responsibility to close these inequalities and to directly influence the social determinants of health that are at work in these communities.

To that end, we need to enter a new era of federal, provincial, territorial, and indigenous co-operation. I intend to work with the members of the House. We are committed to change. We are committed to not only respond to the needs of these communities in the short term, but to ensure that the actions are sustained over the long term.

It is known in the House that in the recent budget our government laid out a comprehensive plan to invest that will go a considerable way to addressing these health gaps. It includes $8.4 billion that will help provide better schools, housing and clean water. It will provide better nursing stations where nurses will want to stay and work, where young people will feel comfortable and can go to have their needs taken care of.

These are some of the immediate measures, but I know the House is aware that we need to take long-term measures. I look forward to doing that and to hearing the members' questions. I look forward to working on this with all the members. With each of us working together, along with indigenous partners, we will find a way forward, we will find hope.

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, on January 22, there was a horrific tragedy in La Loche. A lot of people went to the communities and expressed their concerns over what was happening.

As a physician, the Minister of Health would be very aware that PTSD would be significant. There was a trauma to the community.

Tonight the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River has told us that people do not even have someone to whom they can talk. People cannot pick up a phone. There is no one for them.

Two months later, have they been forgotten? Is there nothing there for those people with PTSD who have suffered significant trauma from this event?

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.


Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question draws to mind a very important reality. Crises such as we have seen in recent weeks are very important because they draw attention to a situation. The media is paying attention to this as are Canadians. As well, we are having this debate in the House of Commons.

However, these things have not just happened recently. They have been going on for a considerable period of time. All of us in the House can agree that there are generations of wrongs that have led to the situation we face today.

It is for that reason that Health Canada's first nations and Inuit health branch continues to work in communities. I know it has been working with colleagues in the provincial government in Saskatchewan to continue to provide support in La Loche. I will certainly look into ensuring that those supports continue to be there. It is my understanding that they are. I look forward to talking to the member opposite and ensuring that those supports are in place.

This has not been easy, but I want to acknowledge that, clearly, we have not done enough. However, there are mental health services across the country, to the extent that we are investing $300 million this year in mental health and wellness programs in indigenous communities. We will continue to address this. I will continue to work to find the mental health resources these communities need.

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for the work she is willing to do with her teams in the communities I am honoured to represent.

The minister talks about dealing with this long term, because we are dealing with historic wrongs. The historic wrongs are built into the operational policies of the government. The task the minister has is to deconstruct those discriminatory and racist policies. Those policies prefer to destroy indigenous families by taking their children away, rather than supporting the families in their home environment.

The Human Rights Tribunal ruling said that the department routinely denied access to drugs that were prescribed by pediatricians, and to medically necessary devices. We heard the story raised at the Human Rights Tribunal of the four-year-old child who suffered severe cardiac arrest and an anoxic brain injury. The federal government would not pay for a lifesaving bed for her to return home. That is a systemic problem.

We need to implement Jordan's principle and stop talking about it, but I do not see the money for it. We need to close the gap so the child welfare shortfall ends once and for all, so children can stop living in the hotels away from their families. However, I do not see the money for that.

I know there is existing money for health care, but we know the shortfalls and the crisis. How will the minister come into line with the Human Rights Tribunal and start to dismantle the system that she has inherited and that she must oversee, so the doors are finally blown open and so “no means no” suddenly becomes “yes” for the children whenever they need it?

Situation in Indigenous CommunitiesEmergency Debate

7:20 p.m.


Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out a couple of things that the member may find interesting.

First, in terms of Jordan's principle, obviously it is something to which we must adhere. In that regard, we had a meeting just a week or so ago in Ontario, where the chiefs of Ontario met with the provincial health minister and myself. It was at that meeting where we said that there was no longer any excuse for arguing whose jurisdiction it was. We have to work side by side, the federal government, the provinces, the territories, and indigenous leaders, to ensure people get the care they need.

It is unacceptable to have multiple tiers of health access. We would agree that all Canadians, regardless of where they live, what their ethnicity may be, or what language they speak, need to have access to the medical care they require based on that need, not based on where they live or whether they can pay for it. This is a fundamental principle that I will uphold.

Along that line, I will be working, as I work toward a new health accord, to ensure that the accord is reached in co-operation with first nations and Inuit leaders across the country. We will be looking at the health gaps, finding out what it will take, what kinds of investments are required to ensure that all Canadians enjoy the health they deserve.