House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was aboriginal.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Nunavut (Nunavut)

Won her last election, in 2006, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canadian Human Rights Act February 19th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, we do not oppose this change. It is how it is being done.

People have to understand that some of these communities are barely given enough funds to cover their operations, such as, providing housing, education, clean water, keeping the facilities up to par, just the funds for a band. We will have to explain to people what this change will mean to them. Processes have to be put into place. We will need to do capacity building in the communities.

Some of the bands and reserves are not big operations. Some of them are very small communities. Even though we do not have bands in my territory of Nunavut, I can relate to some of these communities. When only 300 people live in a community, we have to serve our residents on all levels. If we are asking people to fundamentally change how they operate, they have to be given time to deal with the change. Resources and a process are needed to deal with the complaints, and I just do not see six months as a reasonable time to deal with it.

If we look historically at what has happened with some of the procedures, parliament has gone into elections and bills have died on the order paper. This is beyond the control of the people who are trying to pass the legislation.

The AFN, the Native Women's Association and even the Canadian Bar Association are asking that there be an interpretive clause in the legislation which we do not see. We are very worried that there will be an unjust balance in how these complaints are taken care of if we do not have that kind of interpretive clause.

We are not against people having their human rights defended, but there needs to be ample time to phase it in and also an opportunity for the people who are affected to make sure that there is a good understanding of collective rights versus individual rights.

Canadian Human Rights Act February 19th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join my colleagues and speak to Bill C-44, a bill that seeks to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act by repealing section 67 that pertains to the Indian Act. Section 67 reads:

Nothing in this Act affects any provision of the Indian Act or any provision made under or pursuant to that Act.

At the outset I can say that I am a very staunch supporter of human rights. I have spoken publicly on this topic many times. Therefore, I support the bill in principle. What I do not support is the lack of sensitivity and understanding of the perimeters of the bill and its implications on the aboriginal way of life.

I am also saddened by the fact that the Conservative government failed to listen to many interventions already made in the past about the approach to take with the step to repeal section 67 that no one is arguing with, mainly the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Canadian Bar Association, to name a few.

I am also disappointed that the government failed to work with the very people who will be impacted by this legislation to draft a bill that has their blessing, the first nations of Canada.

Many members have spoken to the technical aspects of the bill. I will speak more to the human elements and the fine balance of collective rights versus individual rights. I will also speak to the need for an interpretative clause, as recommended by the Human Rights Commission in more than one report.

In its report entitled, “A Matter of Rights:”, the Canadian Human Rights Commission review panel amplified that point by saying:

In repealing section 67, it is important to ensure that the unique situation and rights of First Nations are appropriately considered in the process of resolving human rights complaints.

The commission stressed that there be an additional clause that provides an interpretation of how individual rights do not ultimately discriminate instead on legitimate collective rights.

I will read an insert from AFN's report which states:

In previous submissions on section 67 the AFN has strongly advocated for the inclusion of an interpretative clause. Our rationale for doing so relates to our concerns about the effect of federal legislation in undermining our collective rights and its strong interest in achieving an appropriate balance between individual and collective rights.

The Indian Act is an instrument that has been used to undermine the “collective” economic, social, cultural and political rights of First Nations Peoples in Canada for more than 100 years.

This same CHR report spoke strongly of the need for provisions to enable the development and enactment in full consultation for first nations. It was also sensitive to the timeframe required to implement the changes and gave a more realistic transitional period of between 18 and 30 months so that first nations and the commission are ready and prepared to work to resolving complaints efficiently, effectively and quickly. There needs to be time given to adapt to another fundamental change to a different way of doing things.

Aboriginal people suffer constantly because of decisions made somewhere else that do not give us any opportunity, first, to be part of the process that leads to that decision. Then we must live with it and are usually not given any chance to phase in the change. Canadians wonder why we are suffering social consequences.

Governments have had over 100 years to implement the Indian Act, as imperfect as it is. Now they are asking bands to implement Bill C-44 in six months. Where is the fairness in that?

The previous Liberal government was building a strong relationship with the aboriginal communities and worked with concerned people on the scope of legislation before it was tabled in the House.

First nations should also be given resources, not only to implement this change but to help develop the interpretive clause so sorely needed with this legislation: funds to do capacity-building, funds to explain the changes to everyone, funds to develop procedures and implementation systems, funds to phase it in and to do the work in the language required to reach the people who will be affected.

We see examples already in the world of fundamental changes happening, but also of how the people are slow to follow in the actual practices. The western world rejoiced in the fall of the Berlin wall and also when Communism was no longer a way of life in Russia, but we know that people have been slow to exercise their new freedoms. There is always a need for transitional time for life changes. Six months does not cut it.

I am sure we can go to these countries and see the people still learning to embrace their new freedoms and exercise their democratic rights. Why would the Conservative government think it would be any different for first nations? Does it think they are not the same as other human beings, which would then, of course, defeat the whole purpose of repealing this section? I say this because the Conservative government is sending mixed message to the aboriginal peoples of Canada in how it is treating all its aboriginal files, without any sensitivity and true deliberation on the issues.

I also want to address briefly the issue of individual rights versus collective rights. I know this is a difficult concept for our Conservative friends to understand but it is a real concern for us, as aboriginal people who stand firmly on the issue of our collective rights.

In my riding of Nunavut, we chose within our modern day treaty to own the land collectively and not individually. This is a fundamental difference in our way of dealing with real estate than most Canadians. One of the things that I am really worried about with this legislation is that it may be a first step to putting the land under fee simple, which would then cause a total erosion of aboriginal claims among the first nations people.

Also, when there is an economic opportunity, like a park or a mine opening, most aboriginal people want the collective to benefit rather than a select few. How we achieve this can be in the area of hiring practices or in awarding contracts and giving preferences to our members, or in providing programs and services exclusively or on a preferential basis to members where justifiable. This is done for members who are usually not benefiting from this economic activity or prosperity of their region.

Sometimes there is a need for affirmative action programs for a group of people who are already disadvantaged in order to get them to a level playing field. We need to ensure that first nations have that flexibility within reason to address the social dilemmas facing many of our aboriginal communities. First nations must be given that option.

One example I can give with my own modern day treaty is that we need to get mining companies or even the different governments to have an impact benefit agreement with the people who live there. That would ensure that the benefits are reaching and benefiting the people who live there and not all of the money is going out of the territory.

However, I am very sad to say that this legislation chose to ignore that and I must question why. Is there another reason for this? Because there is no provision for that in this legislation, I can stress the lack of sensitivity to the realities of our lives as aboriginal people.

I strongly urge the government to make the bill more user friendly and not another imposition and another change in which they had no opportunity to be part of the decisions leading up to this change. I had thought we were past that stage in Canada's history. Do not make us live it again.

Aboriginal Affairs February 16th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the Inuit of Nunavut are suing the government for $1 billion because it is failing to address the real life needs of the Inuit. It has been many months, 11 to be exact since I last counted, since Thomas Berger issued his final Nunavut report calling for major investments in education. There has been no action from the government.

Why do Nunavut residents have to resort to a lawsuit to get action from the government?

Nobel Peace Prize February 16th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am thrilled to share with the House that on February 1, it was announced that Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an Inuk environmental activist, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the former vice-president, Al Gore, by two Norwegian members of parliament.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier has worked tirelessly on the international stage to bring to the attention of other nations and leaders, on behalf of the Inuit, the vital importance of informing people of climate change and the impact it has on the Canadian north and the people who live there.

It is imperative that the Conservative government stop ignoring the north and the impacts climate change is having, not only on our environment but on the people and their way of life.

I ask this House to join with me in congratulating Sheila Watt-Cloutier on this nomination and wish her all the best.

The Environment January 31st, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the world's scientific community is about to release a report that is unanimous about the growing climate change crisis. The Kyoto protocol is the only global effort to deal with this crisis, but the Prime Minister has never believed in Kyoto. In fact, he has said, “as economic policy, the Kyoto accord is a disaster, and as environmental policy, it is a fraud”.

Was the Prime Minister misleading Canadians then, or is he misleading them now?

Aboriginal Affairs December 13th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, as members know, December 10 was International Human Rights Day. The Prime Minister issued a statement to mark the occasion in which he is quoted as saying:

Canada...will continue to stand up for human rights and take principled positions on important issues to ensure that freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law--values that define our country--are enjoyed around the world.

Canada is not standing up for the human rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada when it votes against the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Canada has human rights to stand up for within our own borders, as well as around the world.

Petitions December 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present two petitions on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Nunavut. The petitioners call upon Parliament to reinstate the funding to literacy programs that was cut by the Conservative government and to undertake a national literacy strategy to ensure that all Canadians have the opportunity to achieve this vital skill.

Ron Wiebe Award November 23rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, recently in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Mariano Aupilardjuk of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, received the Ron Wiebe Award for his work in restorative justice.

The award was established in honour of the late Ron Wiebe, former Correctional Service Canada warden, for his outstanding commitment to and leadership in the field of restorative justice.

Aupilardjuk is the first Inuit to receive this prestigious award. I am very proud of him and very proud to know him. Aupilardjuk is an extremely respected elder who has dedicated his life to helping others. He is a man who has reached out to many who are less fortunate and, in this case, to those impacted by violence, whether they are victims or offenders, in order to help them become productive participants in society.

We owe tremendous thanks to this man and to his tremendous knowledge, which he willingly shares. I congratulate Aupilardjuk, who is a great example to all of us with his compassionate approach to others and his community service. I know that I truly do this on behalf of my constituents.

Committees of the House October 31st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, we all know that if we feel there are certain wrongs that have been done, whether it is in personal life or as a government or a country, acknowledgement of that is always a very powerful message. It is certainly part of learning to work with different groups in the country. We have a country that is totally diverse in culture and language, and has differences regionally depending on where one lives in Canada .

I fully acknowledge that this motion speaks not just to my riding of Nunavut but to other parts of the country that are also affected, northern Quebec being one of them, Labrador, and Northwest Territories.

We can find many incidents in the history of this country where different parts of the country and different groups in the country have felt that there needed to be some acknowledgement of some injustice or some misunderstanding that has happened. Any acknowledgement goes a long way in reconciling our differences. It is not just this but to use this as an example, as I mentioned in the previous answer, acknowledgement of our unique situation certainly goes a long way in making it easier for us to work with different groups.

When there is better understanding between two opposing groups and a better effort to understand the two sides, there is always a better chance for us to come to some compromise.

When I look at the different land claims that have been successful in this country there is always compromise on all parts, whether it is the aboriginal group, the territorial or provincial government or the federal government. There must be compromises on all sides. That happens because they were able to recognize the differences and come to an understanding of where everyone is coming from.

This is a part of building that relationship, understanding that there is a unique part of this country that has to be looked at differently in applying government policies. There is never going to be one answer that fits all. I know we tried to do that with national laws because that is our mandate, but understanding that there are different parts of the country that need to be understood in a different way goes a tremendous way in bringing those bridges together.

Committees of the House October 31st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, certainly, and that is what I am trying to make other people understand. It is always more than dollars and cents. It is always more than the actual writing of a report or motion. It is always more than the words.

The implications and the impacts of policies laid down, usually in Ottawa, do not fully take into consideration what that means to the average person on the street. Sometimes the significance of things that we do here is not taking in the whole picture. What might seem like a simple thing here, south of 60, ends up being such a complicated issue.

In my speech I tried to present a picture of the impact of some of the decisions made down south. I am always very appreciative when members of the House come to my riding to experience for themselves the impact of some of the policies and decisions that are made here in Ottawa.

Our entire country needs to understand that it is not as simple as dollars and cents. It is important to be aware of the relationship and the understanding that people have of our part of the country, and the different culture and different group of people who so much want to live in that part of the country and would not trade it for anything else, and yes, even the offer of trees.

Some people once said to me that they felt so sorry for me because I lived above the tree line. I said that I love being able to see as far as the eye can see, and I know someone from Saskatchewan will understand that.

It is with those kinds of dialogues, the visits and interaction among different Canadians that we begin to appreciate and better understand why people are so happy to live in that part of the country and want the rest of the country to understand the different difficulties and challenges that they have. That makes for better policies here in Ottawa and it certainly makes for better lives in this country.