House of Commons Hansard #264 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was peoples.

Topics

Impact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we go to resuming debate and the hon. member for Lakeland, I will let her know that there are only about eight minutes remaining in the time for Government Orders for today. Of course, she will have her remaining time in the 20-minute period allowed for her speech when the House next resumes debate on the question.

The hon. member for Lakeland.

Impact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak at second reading of Bill C-69. I will focus my comments on part 2, the Canadian energy regulator act.

Bill C-69 is about so much more than exactly how pipelines and other major energy projects are reviewed and approved. It is about what role Canada will play internationally on resource development and energy production. It is about whether Canada will continue to be a leader in producing the most environmentally and socially responsible energy under the highest standards in the world. It is about whether the federal government will fulfill its moral obligation and economic imperative to enable Canada to supply the ever-growing global demand with Canadian oil and gas. Canada must remain open for business. The world needs and wants more Canada. The world needs and wants more Canadian oil.

Every other oil-exporting country is stepping up to meet that demand and to seize its growing share of the world market, but during the two years since the last election, energy investment in Canada has declined more than in any other two-year period in 70 years. The dollar value is the equivalent of losing 75% of auto manufacturing and 100% of aerospace investment in Canada. Recent reports show that in 2017 alone, four projects worth $84 billion left Canada.

The decline in Canadian energy investment is not only due to lower energy prices, which are now rallying, but due to irresponsible anti-energy policies and a lack of leadership and political will. The real consequences have been hundreds of thousands of Canadians, one-sixth of the total oil and gas workers in Canada, out of work; bankruptcies and foreclosures; family breakdowns; and escalating crime. The economic impacts have rippled through other sectors and across Canada. Canada is falling behind.

Reuters reports that Canadian oil producers are running out of options to get through to markets as pipeline and rail capacity fill up, driving prices to four-year lows and increasing the risk of firms having to sell cheaply until at least late 2019. Canada is a captive merchant to its American market with 99% of Canadian oil exports going to the U.S. However, the result of American regulatory reform and cost-cutting with the removal of the 40-year ban on oil exports is that U.S. shale oil is being recovered and sold to new markets at an ever-increasing pace. In 2005, the U.S. imported 12.5 million barrels per day. Today, it imports only four million. Today, it exports almost two million, and this number is estimated to double in only four years. The U.S. is expected to provide over 80% of the global supply growth over the next decade.

Market diversification is critical for Canada, and Canadian energy companies are trying to find a way to reach tidewater so that they can compete for international markets and not sell at a discount to the U.S. Meanwhile, the U.S. is removing red tape, ramping up exports, and rapidly pursuing its energy independence. However, the Liberal delays, uncertainty, and anti-energy agenda are threatening Canada's economy now and our position as a potential global leader.

The government's failure of leadership on the Trans Mountain expansion is the latest in a pattern of roadblocks to Canadian energy development. The same day the Liberals approved the Trans Mountain expansion, over 400 days ago now, they vetoed the federally approved northern gateway pipeline, which would have connected Alberta oil to the west coast for export to the Asia-Pacific region, where demand for oil will grow exponentially for decades.

Northern gateway had undergone the same rigorous review and consultation as Trans Mountain and Line 3, which were both approved, but despite the science and the evidence that the route was sound, despite the project being in the national interest, despite the 31 equity partnerships with indigenous communities, instead of the Prime Minister offering additional consultation or any options, he said that he did not “feel” right about the project and he vetoed it.

Recently, in October 2017, TransCanada was forced to abandon the nation-building energy east opportunity. It would have been one of the largest private sector infrastructure investments in Canadian history, and would have carried crude from the west through the heart of Canada to Atlantic ports for use in eastern Canadian markets and sale to Europe. However, the political risks and pressure were too great for the Prime Minister and after three years of delay, stops, and starts, additional review, and last-minute conditions, TransCanada finally warned and then withdrew its plans for the $15 billion project. TransCanada estimates that it lost just over $1 billion on energy east. Enbridge estimates it lost just over half a billion dollars on northern gateway, and that does not even come close to the lost opportunities for Canadians. Billions of dollars that should have been added to Canada's economy are going to other jurisdictions.

In July, Petronas cancelled the $36 billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project after regulatory delays because “headwinds were too great”, despite widespread support, including the majority of first nations. Progress Energy, Petronas's Canadian subsidiary, anticipated Canadian investment dollars moving to American projects.

Calgary-based company, Veresen, recently announced it was investing up to $10 billion on a new LNG project, proudly called “Jordan Cove”, in Oregon. The project will invest $10 billion in the American economy and provide thousands of jobs in the U.S.

Oil and gas companies are moving their assets to the U.S. because the Liberals are constantly changing the rules of the game, making it ever more difficult to invest in Canadian energy. What is especially disappointing is that Canada has a long track record of rigorous and comprehensive environmental, social, safety, and economic assessments for energy projects like pipelines.

In 2014, WorleyParsons issued an exceptionally thorough report examining the processes and policies for oil and gas in many jurisdictions around the world to evaluate Canada's situation and compare it to its international competitors. It measured Canada against other countries for performance in areas such as overall decision-making process; cumulative assessments for regions with multiple projects; implementation of early and meaningful consultation with stakeholders and indigenous people, including the real integration of traditional indigenous knowledge; and the implementation of effective social impact in health assessments.

Here are the report's conclusions:

The results of the current review re-emphasize that Canada's EA Processes are among the best in the world. Canada has state of the art guidelines for consultation, TK, and cumulative effects assessment, Canadian practitioners are among the leaders in the area of indigenous involvement, and social and health impact assessment. Canada has the existing frameworks, the global sharing of best practices, the government institutions and the capable people to make improvements to EA for the benefit of the country and for the benefit of the environment communities and the economy....

In summary, the review found that EA cannot be everything to everyone. In Canada, however, it is a state of the art, global best process, with real opportunities for public input, transparency in both process and outcomes, and appeal processes involving independent scientists, stakeholders, panels, and courts.

However, since the 2015 election, the Liberals have constantly denigrated and undermined confidence in the regulator and in Canada's reputation, and have created a regulatory vacuum for energy development in Canada by ongoing reviews.

Impact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Lakeland will have twelve and a half minutes remaining in the time for her remarks when the House next resumes debate on the question.

I wish to inform the House that because of the delay, there will be no private members' business hour today. Accordingly the order will be rescheduled for another sitting.

Pursuant to an order made on Monday, February 12, 2018, the House shall now resolve itself into committee of the whole to consider Government Business No. 20 under government business. I do now leave the chair for the House to go into committee of the whole.

(House in committee of the whole on Government Business No. 20, Mr. Bruce Stanton in the chair)

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice SystemGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we begin this evening's debate, I would like to remind hon. members how the proceedings will unfold.

Each member speaking will be allotted 10 minutes for debate followed by 10 minutes for questions and comments. The debate will end after four hours or when no member rises to speak. Pursuant to an order adopted Monday, February 12 members may divide their time with another member and the Chair will not receive any dilatory motions, quorum calls or requests for unanimous consent.

We will now begin tonight's take-note debate.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice SystemGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

moved:

That the House take note of the experience of Indigenous Peoples within Canada's justice system.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice SystemGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Chair, thank appreciate the opportunity to rise on this very important issue. Before I start, I would to acknowledge the tragic events that have occurred in Florida and extend my thoughts and the thoughts of everyone in the chamber to the people of Florida.

On this important issue, Canada can and must do better when it comes to indigenous peoples, especially with respect to the criminal justice system.

The events of the past week have occurred not in a vacuum, but in the context of a strained relationship over generations between indigenous people and the justice system, a system that has often been used to control and even deny the basic rights of indigenous peoples.

For indigenous peoples in Canada, the numbers tell a disturbing story. Indigenous people are overrepresented in Canada's criminal justice system as both victims and offenders, while simultaneously being under-represented as actors within that system. The rate of violent victimization of indigenous people is more than double that of non-indigenous peoples and is particularly concerning when it comes to indigenous females. Shockingly, indigenous people are seven times more likely to be murdered than non-indigenous people.

The causes are many, rooted in the colonial legacy. This includes intergenerational effects of violence and sexual abuse at residential schools, which has resulted in poverty, isolation, and social exclusion.

The Inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls continues its work in seeking out the underlying causes that contribute to the violence and sexual abuse that indigenous women and girls are experiencing. No doubt its recommendations will be very helpful.

In the meantime, however, we must look at all available options to address the disproportionate victimization and incarceration of indigenous people if we truly can achieve and will achieve reconciliation.

The figures of indigenous overrepresentation as accused and in our prisons are just as alarming. Indigenous adults account for 27% of admissions to custody, while only 4.1% of the adult population. The numbers are even worse for indigenous females.

Indigenous youth account for 35% of admissions to correctional institutions, while constituting 7.5% of the Canadian youth population.

Please consider those figures and what they mean for the future of indigenous people if we do not act. Indigenous people constitute one-third of our prison population. In some provinces, the numbers are significantly higher. This disturbing trend will only get worse over time.

If over-victimization and over-incarceration continue, today's indigenous youth will be the majority inhabitants in tomorrow's prisons.

We still have a window of opportunity to act, but it is closing fast. We must save the next generation of indigenous youth from the vicious and interrelated cycles of victimization and incarceration.

There is another sad truth, one that contributes to the feelings within many indigenous communities that the criminal justice system is not there to serve them. That truth is that indigenous people hold few positions of power and influence in that system. Indigenous peoples are seriously under-represented as judges, lawyers, crown prosecutors, police, and jurors. This is no mere trifle. We have seen how persistent under-representation can taint the justice system, leading to indigenous peoples to feel that it does not represent them or serve them.

While indigenous peoples have a unique history and constitutional relationship within Canada, they are not alone in this feeling of exclusion. Earlier this week, I sat down with representatives of the Federation of Black Canadians. They described to me how people of African descent in Canada faced similar crisis of overrepresentation as accused and under-representation as people of influence in the system.

Similar concerns have been raised about the overrepresentation as accused in the criminal justice system of those with mental illness, FASD, and addictions. I hear those concerns too. Indeed, I am certain that as we work to improve the system for indigenous peoples, we will be doing so for all Canadians.

What is the way forward?

First, we must change the face of the system to make it one that is truly reflective of the diversity of Canadian society. Only then can all Canadians have faith and trust in its outcomes.

Our government has made important strides on this front. Since the beginning of my mandate, I have appointed indigenous jurists to the bench, along with other visible minorities, persons with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ2 community. These numbers will continue to grow with time and as the legal profession becomes more diverse. Our justice system will certainly be the richer for it.

In addition, many have suggested that peremptory challenges contribute to the under-representation of indigenous people on juries. This is also likely true for black Canadians and other marginalized populations. In this respect, I wish to underscore what the Prime Minister said earlier today. We will bring forward broad-based, concrete reforms to the criminal justice system, including changes to how juries are selected.

These are but two concrete steps that we can take to address the under-representation of indigenous people as jurors, judges, and professionals. I look forward to the debate today, as I am sure others will have helpful and innovative solutions to propose.

I also look forward, in the near future, to introducing reforms to the criminal justice system that will address not only delays but overrepresentation of marginalized communities. We have worked closely with the provinces and territories on this front. All have agreed that urgent, bold action is needed. There was support among my colleagues and I for improving the bail system to address its disproportionate impact on vulnerable people. Ministers also identified preliminary inquiries, offence reclassification, reform of mandatory minimum penalties, and case management as areas ripe for reform.

Rest assured, we will be proposing reforms that strike an appropriate balance between the needs of victims, indigenous and otherwise, and the need for off-ramps from the criminal justice system. Victims and their families have repeatedly expressed how they feel lost, excluded, and often re-victimized by the criminal justice system. We are working to change this.

Meanwhile, the system cannot see to the needs of victims and tackle serious crime because it dedicates too much of its time and resources to prosecuting vulnerable and marginalized offenders. These offenders need appropriate off-ramps from the criminal justice system, not another ticket back in.

Criminal justice reform is not easy, but current events have highlighted the need for action. We need to work together to adopt evidence-based approaches to criminal justice reform that truly work to make us safer and a more just society.

Before I end, I would like to say this. Reforms to the criminal justice system and the justice system writ large are indeed an integral and necessary step toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples in our country. However, those reforms will only achieve true success if coupled with a new relationship with indigenous peoples.

Today, we heard the Prime Minister, in his historic indigenous policy statement, confirm that all of our relations with indigenous peoples must be based on the recognition and implementation of rights, including self-determination and the inherent right of self-government. New legislation and policy will be developed in the near future and will formalize this approach.

One of the implications of this is that indigenous governments and nations, as they undertake the work of rebuilding their political, social, and economic structures, will play an increasing role in reshaping elements of Canada's justice system. The role of indigenous laws, legal orders, and courts will expand as we continue to evolve Canada's tradition of legal pluralism.

The importance of this cannot be understated. Our justice system has never been static; it changes and evolves. The next frontier in that evolution will see indigenous peoples continuing to craft their own solutions to the crisis in confidence we currently face.

Perhaps more than any one set of reforms, it is the forging of this new nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples, creating a climate of trust with them and a climate of trust in our justice system, that will truly set us on a path of reconciliation.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice SystemGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we go to questions and comments, a reminder to all hon. members that under the rules of debate for committees of the whole, members are not required to be in their usual seats and will still be acknowledged from where they sit in the House.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice SystemGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the Minister of Justice for her comments. As a fellow British Columbian, I appreciated what she had to say.

We are obviously here because there has been an outpouring of concern and support about a recent court case and for the Colten Boushie family. All members of this House expressed their condolences to the family for the loss of a young man who had so much life left before the incident that has been the subject of a court case.

The member is the Attorney General of Canada. She is perhaps regarded as the most important lawyer in the entire country. The Canadian Bar Association felt compelled to issue a statement after the Prime Minister and several ministers of the crown issued statements on the weekend. It stated:

The Canadian Bar Association is not commenting on a case that may be subject to an appeal. We have concerns with politicians calling verdicts into question. When parties in a case believe there has been an error, the appropriate avenue is through the appeal process. The integrity of the justice system must be respected.

As a lawyer, as the Attorney General of Canada, I wonder if the minister can comment on that statement by the Canadian Bar Association and tell us whether she thinks ministers of the crown did comment on a specific case and perhaps violated their duty as members of the bar by doing so.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice SystemGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Mr. Chair, I am happy to respond. I am assuming the member opposite is referring to social media tweets that I, the Prime Minister, and other ministers of the crown put out.

With respect to what has transpired over the last week, I sent out a tweet after the Prime Minister, recognizing and acknowledging the anguish I saw on the faces of the Boushie family and on the faces of Canadians across the country. As the Attorney General of this country, to turn a blind eye and not acknowledge the anguish of people marching in the streets I feel would have done a disservice by not acknowledging the tragic events. It was not commenting specifically on a verdict but commenting generally on the criminal justice system and how that system has been unjust for indigenous peoples, black Canadians, and other marginalized individuals within it. My comments were on the criminal justice system and how we can and must do better. As the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice, I am incredibly proud to stand up here every day to fight for fairness and equality for all Canadians.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice SystemGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Chair, I want to thank the minister for being here tonight. I am thankful that this institution can be used to tackle an issue that has shocked our nation.

We have heard from people, urban and rural, indigenous and non-indigenous, who feel that our system failed Colten Boushie's family. I thank the minister for her comments. When the system fails an individual, there is recourse through appeals, and there is legal precedence, but we are talking about a system that has failed a people. This is a moment of reckoning.

I want to talk about what I did not hear from the minister. I want to get to specifics. I would love to think that great visionary ideas could change the world, but I have come to think that it is changed on the ground.

One of the issues that came out in the Boushie trial was the treatment of the Boushie family by the RCMP; the way it was investigated; the way that, from the beginning, the seeming criminal was the boy who was dead on the ground; and the way his family was considered criminal and his friends were considered criminal. Every step of the way, in the way the RCMP handled it, set a tone that we see across social media now with some really ugly racist trolls misrepresenting what happened.

What the family has asked for is some form of oversight and investigation of the RCMP's actions in the Boushie killing and also an oversight process in Saskatchewan, where the RCMP are not subject to outside, independent review, as exists in other jurisdictions.

Would the minister talk to the Minister of Public Safety and admit to this House and to indigenous people in Saskatchewan that out of this there will be a process and that an independent review of police actions will be a priority? Whether it is in Thunder Bay or Val-d'Or or anyplace else where these actions happen, we need to have this indigenous lens to make sure that justice is done and done fairly by the police.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice SystemGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the important comments about a moment of reckoning. I could not agree more that we are at a time right now when things have to change. We have to turn words into action, and I am committed to doing that.

I, as well, had the opportunity, along with the Minister of Public Safety, to sit down and meet with the Boushie family a couple of days ago. What they imparted to both of us was the need to ensure that we continue to build relationships and that we continue to find solutions to the systemic challenges that exist within our criminal justice system.

I will say this. Racism, discrimination, and bias have no place in that system, and we have to do everything we can to eradicate that to ensure fairness and equality.

At that meeting, to the member's point, they raised the issue of the RCMP. The Minister of Public Safety and his office are working with the Boushie family, connecting them with the appropriate people and assisting them in that regard. As the member has asked, of course I will talk to the Minister of Public Safety to follow up, not only with respect to the request of the Boushie family but to ensure that we continue to work collaboratively, he and I, to address all issues, from the time someone enters the criminal justice system to the point when they are incarcerated. We can do better.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice SystemGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Markham—Stouffville Ontario

Liberal

Jane Philpott LiberalMinister of Indigenous Services

Mr. Chair, I want to reassure the Minister of Justice that, like other members in this House, I am delighted that she is putting a priority on criminal justice reform. We will all support her in that.

I believe that the minister knows that one of the issues I have been concerned with is the severe overrepresentation of indigenous children in the foster care systems across the country. When we follow what happens after that, we can see that among missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, many were once in foster care, in very large numbers. When we look at the number of indigenous people in the criminal justice system and prisons, huge numbers of them were once children in foster care.

In light of how we are going to address the foster care system and the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples, the minister and the Prime Minister talked today about a recognition of rights and how when we recognize the rights of indigenous peoples, that will fundamentally change their lives.

I want to know how the minister thinks this recognition of rights framework will support our work to address the severe overrepresentation of indigenous children in care and how it might help us keep those children with their families.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice SystemGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2018 / 7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Mr. Chair, that is an incredibly important question. There are many negative reasons why indigenous individuals and other marginalized communities find themselves in the criminal justice system. The minister pointed out having been in the custody of the child welfare system.

In terms of what the Prime Minister spoke about on the recognition of rights and creating a framework, this is an opportunity to ensure that we are listening to indigenous communities, listening to citizens within indigenous communities, and creating the space to ensure that it is indigenous parents and communities that take care of their children and have control over the jurisdiction of child and family services. This is the opportunity to inject traditional approaches into child welfare issues, ensuring that children can stay within their families and communities and not be removed, which has certainly been shown to pave the way into the criminal justice system, which many individuals do not leave. We can do better than that.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice SystemGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we resume debate, I would again remind all hon. members that while we are in committee of the whole, and the format invites a less formal exchange across the aisle, to keep an eye on the Chair so I can give some cues as to the remaining time. From time to time, I would ask them to check and keep their comments directed to the Chair.

I am at a slight disadvantage. I have a height disadvantage to begin with, but when I am seated in this big chair, it is that much more accentuated. Since we are not able to stand, I and other chair occupants will signal when members are getting close so we can make sure members are not taking more time than might be available to other hon. members.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice SystemGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Chair, tonight the House of Commons is stepping back from its usual business and taking a few hours to discuss the experience of indigenous people in Canada's justice system.

For the past week, Canadians have engaged in an intense, emotional discussion about the outcome of the trial concerning the death of Colten Boushie. There have been protests across Canada and passionate debate among many concerned with justice. This sad situation has touched a nerve with all Canadians.

The outcome of this trial does not change the fundamental facts of the situation: A young man's life has ended, tearing him away from his family and his closest friends. I think every member of the House can agree that this was a tragic situation. First and foremost, our thoughts, prayers, and condolences are with Colten's family and friends.

I lived in a community where there were an indigenous and a non-indigenous community side by side, and we did have some challenges over the years. However, I learned from those challenges that the job of our leadership is to try to calm people and create a sense of unity rather than a sense of division. It is certainly incumbent upon all of us to help these communities in Saskatchewan heal. We have to continue to have difficult conversations that unite rather than divide, and do so with respect and recognition that we are all working to build a better Canada.

When we have difficult situations like this, we should always be open to ensuring that more Canadians have trust in the justice system. Of course, we also need to acknowledge that we have a system that has been built and improved over decades of careful work. Conservatives have always been ready to listen to voices seeking change in our justice system, especially for the benefit of victims and their families.

In office, our previous Conservative government passed over 30 pieces of legislation to keep Canadians safe while putting the rights of victims ahead of the privileges of offenders. We also created the federal victims strategy and the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. We provided significant resources to the aboriginal justice strategy and the indigenous courtwork program, which enable indigenous communities to take a greater role in the administration of justice in Canada.

We introduced Bill C-2, the Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act, which made important reforms to jury selection laws to allow for a larger jury if the judge thought it was necessary. The same bill helped to protect the identity of jurors.

We authorized the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, the first law to entrench the rights of victims of crime into a single piece of legislation. As the former attorney general, Peter MacKay, said when the legislation was introduced, “every victim deserves to have an effective voice and to be heard”.

I remember when we were developing that particular piece of legislation. There was a very tragic case near the riding I represent where an 18-year-old girl had been brutally murdered. The court process was continuing, but the family was able to participate in Mr. MacKay's process so that they could share their experiences and hopefully help make that particular piece of legislation better.

I acknowledge that trial many years later. It is still going on. It was 2011 when the daughter was killed. There was an automatic presumption that the parents were suspects because they were family. They experienced some very difficult moments. At the round table, I remember them talking about not being able to say goodbye to their daughter because they were in the RCMP office. It was profoundly impactful to hear them talk about not only the very difficult loss of their daughter, the murder of their daughter, but also the immediacy of the RCMP process. It was an awful experience for them, and it informed the Victims Bill of Rights.

We had 30 pieces of legislation. In contrast, we know that the current government has not passed a lot of legislation. There were a number of articles out a while ago comparing the Liberals' record of actually getting legislation through the House to our record. To be quite frank, in two and a half years, the Liberals have failed to table any legislation to improve Canada's justice system. We are hearing that they have to do something, but they are two and a half years in. They do not have anything on the table yet for us to look at.

We have to wonder if this is even a priority for the government. There is scant mention of justice issues in past remarks and in the mandate letters, and nothing in the Prime Minister's speech to the UN. Recently, since this tragic case, the Liberals have referenced the 2013 report by former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, but until this week, it was never acknowledged or put out there as something they were going to look at. We have all heard media reports that some form of legislation will be coming in the near future. It almost has the appearance that the Liberals are scrambling to tack on some changes to jury selection, and it almost seems like an afterthought. All of a sudden they are quoting a report that they have not talked about in their time in office.

I talked about the number of measures that we brought forward over 10 years, and I want to talk about the ones the Liberals voted against: ending house arrest for serious offences such as sexual assault and kidnapping; tougher penalties for those who produce, traffic, and import date rape drugs and those who sell drugs near schools; ensuring that state sponsors of terrorism are held accountable for their crimes; ensuring that public safety comes first when dealing with individuals found not criminally responsible; the protection of indigenous women under threat of domestic violence. I could go on.

These are things that were focused on protecting the victims, and the Liberals have a history of voting against them. We worked hard to ensure that justice is served swiftly and the rights of the victims are put first.

With this record in mind, if and when the government finally decides to table some legislation in response to this tragic situation, we will take the time necessary to consider it and its effects. This is what Canadians expect us to do.

At this time, we need to respect the independence of the judiciary and ensure that we do not undermine the crown's ability to seek an appeal of this verdict, should it intend to do so. It is not the role of parliamentarians or ministers to assign guilt in this case or any other. It would not deliver justice to the victims or to society at large.

There can be no political point scoring in this case. There are no winners, only grief and sadness. There is a mother without a son, a brother gone, a friend lost. There is a man with the death of another on his conscience, a memory that will not be erased. There is an indigenous community feeling once again that it is left in the cold, its needs and its sense of justice forgotten by the rest of us.

This sad turn of events has moved Canadians and escalated some of the most fundamental debates in our society today. As the official opposition, we will play our part in these discussions, fighting, as we always have, for a justice system that puts the rights of victims first.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice SystemGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Marco Mendicino LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to be able to thank my hon. colleague for her remarks, but there was one glaring passage within her presentation that drew some concern from the government side of the aisle. She suggested that this government has not taken any concrete steps whatsoever when it comes to criminal justice reform. We have to respectfully disagree.

Where was the hon. member and her colleagues on that side of the House when this government introduced Bill C-51 to address sexual assault and take down the systemic barriers that have for far too long stopped victims, who are disproportionately represented in the indigenous community? Where was her support? Where was her colleagues' support? Why does she not make mention of that?

To be very particular about it with regard to that legislation, in that context we have ensured that we are going to codify Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence. We are going to ensure that we are shoring up rape shield laws, which are aimed precisely at taking down the twin myths that have served as systemic barriers, and which would enable victims to step forward to get the justice they deserve.

I ask my hon. colleague in good faith to turn her attention to the good work that is being done on this side of the House. Will she agree?

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice SystemGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had it wrong. The Liberals have not introduced none; they have introduced one piece of legislation, and we supported it.

We heard tonight the justice minister saying how much work has to be done, how much is undone, and that is what my comments are about. If there is so much work to be done, why is it not before the House already? Yes, there was one piece, and we supported it. I do accept that I should not have said there was none, but I really think there is a lot of work to be done and obviously it is not getting done.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice SystemGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I looked up a report that was made back in 1991, reviewed by the Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission of Manitoba, which Senator Sinclair was on. The report talked about the use of peremptory challenges to exclude indigenous peoples from jury. I want to read a passage of that report. It says, “We believe that the exclusion of potential jurors on the basis of their race is an unacceptable and probably unconstitutional practice which should be ended by reform of the method of juror selection.”

What does my colleague think about that passage from that report, almost 30 years ago? Do we have to wait for another Boushie case to move on these issues?

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7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do understand that there have been a lot of reports over the years. It is now two and a half years since the government was elected. We would look at any proposal and give any proposal that the government puts on the table due diligence in terms of what Canadians expect us to do. However, quite frankly, until we have a piece of legislation on the table, there is really not much I can say.

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7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are all aware in this House that visible minorities, including our indigenous peoples in this country, have experienced and continue to experience acts of hate and discrimination. We are all aware of that. Members would agree that acts of discrimination, whether in person or online, whether through denial of services or at businesses, must come to an end. We have to continue to have difficult conversations that unite rather than divide us, and to do so with respect and recognition that we are all working toward building a better Canada.

I would like to ask the member to speak to ways in which we, together, can take proactive steps to eradicate discriminatory acts toward all people, minorities included, in our communities.

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7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, anyone who has been watching this discussion would see some very passionate debate happening, looking at our system and what we can do. Is it working? Is it not working? What do we need to do to make it better? However, we see that many Twitter feeds and Facebook feeds are filled with vitriol and anger, which is very concerning. Certainly, as parliamentarians, we all have a responsibility to call people on that.

I talked about how we had some difficult challenges in the past in some communities I represented. One thing that started out of that was community-to-community forums, where the leadership of the indigenous and non-indigenous communities, the mayors and councils as well as the chiefs and councils, said, “We need to start talking with each other in a way that is honest and truthful. Let us set our common and shared goals and values.”

Anything the federal government can do that might support those conversations that happen in communities, we should all get behind.

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7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by my former colleague on the indigenous affairs committee. We talked about a number of issues, and I know she is quite knowledgeable on the issues that are challenging aboriginal people across the country.

I am one of the few MPs who still lives in an aboriginal community. Of the people in my community, 95% are indigenous, so I see these issues every day. Every month, once a month, we will see the court party come in by plane. It is almost a spectator sport, because the community pretty much has to shut down. I live in a small community of 800 people. If there is a callout for 200 jurors, the store has to shut down because all its staff has to show up. The school has to shut down because the teachers have to go. There is a list of people and the docket is so full that sometimes the court party will have to stay two or three days. Normally, the party will not, and it will have to come back, so the court list grows and grows. It is unfortunate because these are people I know. These are people who are related to me. These are my friends. We know the challenges in our communities. We know about the residential school fallout. We know about the addiction problems. We know about the sexual abuse. We know all these things exist, yet we continue to ignore them, and the system stays the same. A royal commission made recommendations 25 years ago that we have pretty much ignored up to now. We need to do more.

I hear from women in my riding who cannot get child support or deal with divorce issues because they cannot manouevre in the system we have. How do people in a small aboriginal community out in the middle of the Northwest Territories in a remote situation get access? Over the years things have deteriorated. Support programs have disappeared. Native court worker programs are gone. How do they manoeuvre? They need someone to help them. Now is a good time to start moving forward.

We need a system that allows our elders, who are much respected in our communities, to be part of the process, part of the solution. We need a support system that will deal with some of the people who end up in the correction facilities, the jails.

I heard my colleague say that it is too slow, that we should have done more. Is now a good time to start the reforms to bring changes across the government, which includes justice?

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7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, what we indicated is that we would receive and give due scrutiny to anything the government proposes.

I want to pick up on something the member talked about with respect to his experience of communities closing down. In the very tragic court case I spoke about, the young girl was murdered in 2011. It is now 2018, and the appeal processes are still going on. We heard story after story where, because of the delays, people who had committed horrific crimes are being let off. I really think we have to look at doing something that will move the system along in a more speedy and appropriate way, because it is not acceptable that seven or eight years later a family is having to deal with the pain of reliving the tragic murder of their daughter.

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7:45 p.m.

NDP

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

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

When I heard of the verdict in the trial for the murder of Colten Boushie, I sent out one tweet and one tweet only saying that I went to law school because I believed in justice in this country, but the decision of the court totally devastated that belief. The system needs to change in this country.

I was taught by my elders that the spirit and intent in the words of our treaties that we share with Canada allowed for just co-existence, and the preservation of Indian ways of being and indigenous laws. The injustices that indigenous peoples experience in their daily lives and in special circumstances like murder are built into the Canadian legal system and political framework. The peremptory norm of non-discrimination, a fundamental tenet in international human rights law, requires that indigenous peoples have access to justice on an equal basis to the general population. How we do that is the question.

Lawyers need training and education. Criminal crown prosecutors should have specific directives. Gladue rights only address the problems at the sentencing level. What about before that? It is equally important. Police also need training to establish protocols. We must consider how police investigate themselves when an error or a tragedy occurs.

I strongly recommend that the House consider the 2013 study, “Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” on access to justice. Wilton Littlechild, a well-known grand chief, participated in the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples. The work has already been done by excellent people at the expert mechanism level in the report that I just referred to by the Manitoba aboriginal commission. We can continue from there.

We cannot discard, in my view, the knowledge and experience of our ancestors and elders, who remind us that the treaties contain all we need for a framework that ensures justice for all peoples who live in this land we call Canada.