Mr. Speaker, as I start debate tonight, as other colleagues have done, I want to provide a bit of a warning at the top end of my speech, because what we are discussing here tonight is graphic and should not make anyone comfortable. It should make every person in this country deeply uncomfortable.
What we are talking about tonight are the horrendous murders of four indigenous women and countless others in our country, but I want to talk specifically about these four women and what the families have been going through, and then contextualize that with how much I really feel our country and our government has failed these families and what we need to do going forward.
The remains of these women are in Winnipeg-area landfills. That is what the Winnipeg police have expressed, I believe. I would like people to think about the refuse that they have produced. They should think about their kitchen trash bag or the smell of their garbage in the summer in their garages, and then think about the garbage they have produced being piled on top of these women. That is what these families had to go through this week. They were told by the Winnipeg police that it was not feasible to provide closure to them by searching the landfill for remains.
That really got me. When would it be feasible to provide closure to families? What would it take? Would it take it being the remains of a former male premier of Manitoba perhaps? Why are we just content to let these women's families sit like this? I cannot believe it, yet I can. I grew up in Winnipeg. I spent 25 years in Winnipeg, and I can believe it because the conversation we are having here tonight is something I have heard for the entire duration of my time on this planet.
I was eight years old when J.J. Harper was shot in Winnipeg by Constable Robert Cross. J.J. Harper was doing nothing wrong and was unarmed. He was just walking around and got shot for the crime of being a first nations man in Winnipeg. There were supposed to be all of these recommendations to make the police less racist in Winnipeg, and here they are today saying it is not feasible. Can anyone imagine? I cannot believe it. I am just going to say it. If it had been a man of upper-class society in Winnipeg, that type of a man, it would not have been okay to say it is not feasible.
The government is comfortable with its not being feasible. It is comfortable with it. Why? It is because for seven years first nations people have been tokenized, given platitudes, given promises and given nothing. That is fair to say because we are having the same debate again, six months after we had it the last time. This is a perpetual debate that we have in the House of Commons.
The government allocated $78 billion-and-something in 2017 to address homelessness, and this past year the Auditor General said that, even though homelessness under this plan was supposed to have been cut across the country by at least one-third, there were more homeless people in Canada on the streets than ever before. When the government announces funding for homelessness, which is the number one determinant of the cause of death in missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada and the number one thing that the report talks about, how can Liberals sit here with a straight face and talk platitudes? How are we having this conversation?
There needs to be action. This is not about a government going and tokenizing women. I will say it again: The government had an indigenous woman with her hands on the reins of power in the justice ministry, and it turfed her. The Liberals are content to give platitudes and photo ops on funding but never to deliver. They are not content to allow for independent first nations oversight of government funding to address some of these issues.
Some of my colleagues, particularly my colleague from Winnipeg Centre who called for this debate tonight, have some really concrete suggestions to address, in the short term, the pain and suffering that these families are going through, but there are so many more. First of all, she has called, and many of us across party lines have called, for the federal government to address the fact that saying that it is not feasible to provide the families closure and saying that we cannot do anything about those remains in that landfill is not good enough. I agree with her. That line normalizes remains being left in a landfill. That is what it does.
I know in my heart that if it were not a first nations woman it probably would have elicited a different response. The federal government needs to move on that. It needs to give closure to these families. If anything, it needs to give closure to these families.
We have also talked tonight about having independent oversight of government spending or lack thereof. It is not just about spending. It is actual outcomes on some of the big issues, like housing, education and changes in justice. There needs to be independent first nations oversight. Clearly, this is not working. We are here talking about women in a garbage dump, and we are still getting platitudes and no concrete plan.
It is my job to hold the government to account. There is nothing to celebrate here. There is only tragedy to mourn and make right. Also discussed tonight was the need to have a red dress alert. Why do first nations women not have some sort of tool available to let the public and those around them know that there has been an abduction or a missing woman, or some sort of effort to find them and to intervene early so that we are not talking about the feasibility of excavating a garbage dump for remains?
Frankly, we also need to address the issue of trust with police for those growing up in Winnipeg and growing up through the J.J. Harper case. There was a report issued in 2020 that I remember basically saying that nothing had changed, that the vast majority of people since the J.J. Harper shooting in 1988 who were on the receiving end of deadly force by police in Manitoba were indigenous persons. When a family is sitting in with police and they are being told that it is not feasible to find remains or find justice, can we blame them if they do not trust them?
This is particularly true when there is a government that is content to give photo ops and say thanks for the donation, and then fire a first nations indigenous woman from the justice ministry and hope that we are all going to go into holiday recess and forget about it. Then what? Do we have this debate again in three months? That is the cycle here. That is the cycle that has to end. Something has to be done to establish trust within first nations communities, first nations survivors and first nations women that we are going to do something here. Nothing has been done. We are having the same debate.
In closing, the last thing I want to say is that I want to disabuse anyone of the notion that it is up to the first nations communities, and first nations women particularly, to do the emotional labour and heavy lifting of getting the government to move on these issues. They have enough to do just to survive on a daily basis.
It is up to each and every one of us in this place, and at home listening to this tonight, to understand that the government has not delivered. It has failed, and we cannot allow it to keep tokenizing women in these communities and abdicating its responsibility to provide action.