House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was saskatchewan.

Last in Parliament March 2008, as Liberal MP for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River (Saskatchewan)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Budget March 26th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I have a great deal of respect for the Minister of National Revenue and I will ask her a question based on the premise of certain situations for certain budget lines that I have talked about in the aboriginal community.

The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development have thrown numbers around out of context, which is very dangerous, such as $10 billion or $16,000 per first nations person, which really drives a politics of resentment between people. These numbers are very dangerous out of context. Unfortunately, the budget has shown a degree of indifference toward the problems that poverty presents.

As a member of Parliament, I also have the responsibility to see through the eyes of the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development with respect to some of the initiatives.

I myself support market based housing and the $300 million that has been talked about, but at the same time when I look at my home community, for example, of 3,000 people in Pelican Narrows, there are a few hundred people employed, maybe 400 people with the ability and 80% or so who are in social housing. They want to break out of that. They would like to have social programs and supports, and so on and so forth.

I am a little concerned that those people are being shut out of opportunities to break out of living conditions of 10 to 12 people per house. There is no way out for them under the current process with any initiative in place. I would like to hear how we could address that. Maybe the minister could provide her opinion on that matter.

Points of Order March 22nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I guess the nub of it is that the member for Palliser opposite stated out loud, to be caught on tape last night, calling me a “vote fraud artist”.

If the Speaker finds, on a prima facie basis, that there is evidence to support my claim, I would be prepared to move a motion.

Points of Order March 22nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I also rise on a question of privilege. Several comments were made to me last night during the adjournment proceedings in which I find a great deal of offence.

I was speaking specifically to the Ile-a-la-Crosse boarding school not being recognized as part of the compensation package for the students that are typically going to be compensated for the current residential school agreement as it is presently structured. I have some documents I would like to table in support of that argument.

My privilege that is being denied to me is the ability to sit in the House of Commons without having baseless insults thrust upon my character as a standing member of this House.

Many in Saskatchewan and Canada know that I won my riding by a small margin in a tough fought campaign. I have the greatest of respect for all the candidates that took part in that campaign. I openly and without reservation encouraged a call for two separate recounts, the first by Elections Canada and the second by a Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench.

Several allegations were made on my win, which ranged from attacks on my character to the voting process in the aboriginal communities, specifically first nations communities. These allegations were all refuted by a thorough investigation by Elections Canada, which I also submit clearly absolved me of any of these alleged wrongdoings.

Despite this my reputation and character is still being attacked. During the proceedings last night, the member for Palliser began to insult me and my standing in the House. He referred to me as a “vote fraud artist”. This comment was picked up by the microphone of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and is very clear on the taped proceedings of last night.

As far as I know, when an allegation to that extent is made, it is an offence. The member was accusing me of committing an offence.

I am sure outside the House those types of allegations would carry a different recourse than when they are said in the House. Some people just have to say what they have to say with the protection of the House.

After making this disgusting personal insult, the member then attacked the aboriginal communities that the former MP had made allegations against and which were also refuted.

First nations people were denied the right to vote in this country during more than half of the country's existence. When they come out to vote and are told that they are frauds and there are unscrupulous accusation that they are not entitled to vote, that is a shame to this parliamentary system. We have people in this country who were denied the right to vote and did not get it until the 1960s. Then, when they start to participate, they are attacked because the government opposite does not like the turnout now.

The parliamentary secretary decided to engage in the practice of smearing my reputation as well. He said in response to my second question last night:

Mr. Speaker, to comment on the assertions of the member opposite, I do find it somewhat dubious for him to make the claim that there was any sort of tampering with the electorate in terms of this approach that was taken. Of course, he would know nothing about tampering in elections.

This is disgusting. Elections Canada and the courts validated the Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River--

March 21st, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I guess that is all fine and dandy but when we look back at the promise, clearly they knew that this school did not qualify. In fact, as the former Conservative member of Parliament stated, “The Conservatives won't make that same distinction if they're elected to power”.

After this broken promise and ignoring the Métis nation for two straight budgets, there is no doubt that the Conservative Party is not ignorant of the Métis nation, it is simply disrespecting them.

I ask the parliamentary secretary to the minister and the Prime Minister for two things.

First, I ask them to keep the promise they made knowing full well the extent of the promise they were going to make. They knew the facts.

Second, I ask them to apologize to the Métis survivors of the boarding school for being so heartlessly disrespected and unfairly treated by the government.

March 21st, 2007

Mr. Speaker, my question tonight is a follow-up one to one I asked the Prime Minister on February 19, regarding the Prime Minister's broken promise to compensate the survivors of the Ile-a-la-Crosse boarding school. I had asked the Prime Minister the question, but he refused to answer. I hope perhaps the parliamentary secretary can be helpful.

I was happy that the minister acted in response to my statement on October 30, 2006, regarding the Primrose Lake Air Weapons Range agreement and then honoured the agreement. I hope this type of cooperation can occur again.

Here is what the Prime Minister promised in a campaign radio ad that ran for a week before the January 23, 2006, federal election, “Under a Conservative government, we will address issues important to aboriginal people. We'll ensure aboriginal war veterans are properly recognized. We'll provide full compensation for residential school survivors, including those who attended the Ile-a-la-Crosse school”.

Unfortunately, not only did the Prime Minister break his promise to aboriginal veterans by quietly ignoring it, his broken promise to compensate survivors of the Ile-a-la-Crosse boarding school is heartless in the way that it was not honoured.

Let us review the facts.

First, in December 2005, the former minister responsible for the residential school negotiation stated that the boarding school did not qualify because the agreement only covered federally funded schools.

Second, on December 7, 2005, the former Conservative member of Parliament in response to the minister stated, “the Conservatives won’t make that same distinction if they’re elected to power”. He went on to say that the Conservatives would give the $10,000 base and $3,000 per year compensation to the boarding school survivors. This clearly established that the Conservatives knew at that time about the agreement's limitations.

Third, to further demonstrate the former member of Parliament and the minister knew the school did not qualify, I present the following. The former MP stated that he and the current Indian affairs minister co-wrote the residential school agreement. If they did indeed co-write the settlement, they would have known that the Ile-a-la-Crosse boarding school did not qualify.

Now I go back to the promise. Remember, the Prime Minister said, “We'll provide full compensation”. On November 28, 2006, I asked the minister if his government intended to keep its promise to the Ile-a-la-Crosse boarding school survivors. He responded, no, because the school did not qualify.

Then, on January 19, the minister stated in a CBC interview:

—[t]he full knowledge of facts that we have today, confirm that the school doesn’t qualify....The ad takes a different assumption that was in error and that’s unfortunate but when one knows the facts of the school, it simply doesn’t qualify under the agreement, and...that full knowledge wasn’t available at the time that the ad was run.

I repeat the minister said, “that full knowledge wasn't available at the time the ad was run”. Not only was full knowledge available, the Conservatives had all the facts, as I have demonstrated. They knew the school did not qualify, as demonstrated by my presentations, but despite that they still made the promise and ran that ad until January 23.

The minister's claim “that full knowledge wasn't available” is misleading to Canadians and, in particular, to those Métis survivors. He is either completely incompetent or he is being deceitful.

To review this, the Conservatives knew the Ile-a-la-Crosse boarding school did not qualify. They promised compensation anyway, a full month and a half after knowing the school did not qualify. They broke that promise. They then proceeded to cover everything up.

If this is not a scandal, I do not know what is. This is an issue of trust. The minister wilfully made statements that he knew were not true.

If there is new information that perhaps the parliamentary secretary can shed on his web of deceit and shadowy conduct, please indulge me.

Aboriginal Affairs March 21st, 2007

Mr. Speaker, first nations, Métis and Inuit leaders want to close the prosperity gap. Instead they get insults. They get nothing in this Conservative budget. I want to read a quote:

I have seen the face of aboriginal poverty. I have seen the face of aboriginal despair, the despondency of fetal alcohol syndrome and of teenage suicide. I am unashamed to say, as a citizen of Canada, that I have wept in the face of the poverty I have seen on first nations.

It is the current Minister of Indian Affairs who said that. Did he weep around the cabinet table when the Prime Minister said no to aboriginal funding?

Aboriginal Affairs March 21st, 2007

Mr. Speaker, it has been more than a year since the government broke a campaign promise to aboriginal Canadians and cancelled the $5.1 billion Kelowna accord.

The government has since insisted that issues such as the first nations child welfare crisis and a lack of access to clean water are not money issues. These are related to a shortage of fiscal resources. There is nothing for social housing, nothing for post-secondary education, nothing for child welfare. Where there is a lack of a plan, people perish.

The government just delivered a budget that does little for Canadians, but delivers virtually nothing for aboriginal people. The government should be ashamed of itself for its indifference to first nations, Métis and Inuit Canadians.

It is time to restore the Kelowna funding.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act March 20th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, it is with honour and pride that I speak today to Bill C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord, introduced by the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard who I am very honoured to have worked with in the past on this issue.

To begin, it is important to understand the context of the Kelowna accord. The Meadow Lake Progress, in its July 23, 2006 editorial, stated it best, “There is no underestimating the importance of the agreement”.

The Kelowna accord represents an historic consensus brought about by the commitment of the previous Liberal government to meaningfully engage and collaborate with first nations, Métis and Inuit leadership, along with the provincial and territorial governments, to address the challenges faced by aboriginal Canadians and by extension, Canada itself.

This effort, initiated by the member for LaSalle—Émard, was unprecedented. It signified a high-water mark in aboriginal state relations. Never before had the political leadership of our country committed to moving together, setting meaningful benchmarks and stable funding relationships.

This historic consensus remains intact. All first nations, Métis and Inuit leadership as well as the premiers remain steadfastly committed to the Kelowna accord. Only the Conservative government lacks the commitment needed to meet its goals.

The support for the Kelowna accord is also unanimous with the provincial political leadership in Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Party, the NDP and the Saskatchewan Liberals are all resolutely in support of the Kelowna accord. In fact, the NDP government and the Saskatchewan Party opposition joined together in March 2006 to pass a unanimous motion in the Saskatchewan legislature, urging the federal Conservative government to fully implement the Kelowna accord. Saskatchewan has committed to the accord because it knows the potential of its aboriginal population and the opportunities it presents.

The first nation and Métis population is the fastest growing segment of the Saskatchewan population. By 2045, the aboriginal population is set to be a majority in the province of Saskatchewan. This emerging population is well poised to become the leaders of a prosperous new Saskatchewan, particularly with baby boomers retiring and the economy in Saskatchewan and the west heating up. However, investments and strategies are needed to be put in place for education, housing, health and economic development.

The Kelowna accord made those investments and allowed communities to design strategies to respond to their own unique challenges, something that is absolutely critical in giving and empowering the communities to come up with the solutions because this is from where the best solutions come. This is exactly what the Kelowna accord was designed to do. Moreover and more important, it set the stage for greater collaboration in the future, setting a road map for moving beyond the goals of Kelowna with a relationship based on mutual respect and recognition.

It is a disappointment that the Conservative government does not seem to understand the full opportunity to strengthen the economy in western Canada and engage first nations, Métis and Inuit people to their fullest capabilities.

The July 23 Meadow Lake Progress editorial also captured the risks of abandoning the accord stating:

The accord should have been honoured by [the Prime Minister's Conservative] government after its January election....If the Kelowna Accord is gone for good, it will be this nation’s aboriginals who will suffer the brunt of that decision.

There’s a lot riding on the Kelowna Accord, including the relationships between aboriginals and nonaboriginals—which will deteriorate if the agreement is not honoured...

To allow that relationship to deteriorate now, after it has been slowly evolving and improving over the last 50 years, would be a terrible betrayal of the progress that been made by the first nations, the Métis and the Inuit of our country who at the table with the prime minister and the premiers of our country.

This relationship has moved from first nations, Métis and Inuit being completely ignored by governments in the past to where they stood tall and demanded recognition, to a phase where mutual respect and collaboration became the norm. The Kelowna accord marked the culmination of this relationship building.

The Conservatives' refusal to implement the Kelowna accord and their inability to form any sort of replacement plan is a huge disappointment, particularly because they promised to honour the goals of it.

Unfortunately, the abandonment of the Kelowna accord is only one aspect of a general larger backward trend of Conservatives choosing to become increasingly confrontational, ignoring their fiduciary duty to first nations, Métis and Inuit people. With respect to being confrontational, the Conservatives have adopted a much more adversarial attitude in treaty negotiations and the recognition of aboriginal rights.

The Prime Minister and the Indian affairs minister made repeated attacks on aboriginal rights during treaty negotiations in British Columbia. These attacks began in July with the Prime Minister's letter to the Calgary Herald, in which he used inflammatory language in opposing so-called “race based” fisheries, which are actually “rights based” fisheries, and refused to acknowledge the Supreme Court's affirmation of aboriginal fishing rights.

This is not a race issue; it is a rights issue. I ask the Prime Minister not to focus on the colour of the skin of my people, but to focus on the rights that they have fought so hard their entire lives to advance in our country. Instead, his focus should be on his government's constitutional and fiduciary responsibility to the first nation, Inuit and Métis people of our country.

The Indian affairs minister has also been very insulting and inflammatory in his comments regarding aboriginal Canadians, showing incredible disrespect and refusing to honour his fiduciary duty to work for first nations, Métis and Inuit Canadians. The Indian affairs minister has been vocally attacking aboriginal funding levels and has been very misleading about the amount of money the federal government spends on aboriginal Canadians.

The finance minister has readily backed up him up, stating that $9.1 billion is the amount spent directly on aboriginal Canadians, but has failed to admit that a large part of that money is being spent on the administration across several departments. In INAC alone, the Treasury Board estimates that $600 million is spent on administrative costs, and INAC admits only 82% of the grants and contributions actually make it out.

The minister is also mixing up the entire amount going to Métis and Inuit as well as first nations and ignores the cuts that have occurred without consultation or notice. For instance, budget 2006 dedicated only $150 million in new money for “aboriginal investments” as $600 million for housing was already dedicated through Bill C-48 and passed by the previous Liberal government. However, spending cuts, totalling at least $220 million directly, were imposed on aboriginal programs, including health and languages funding. This means that first nations, Métis and Inuit actually lost $70 million in funding last year, not even including the terrible loss that the Kelowna accord represents.

Even more disappointing, the Indian affairs minister has made a bad situation worse by neglecting his fiduciary responsibilities. The Calgary Sun reported that a child and family welfare service executive in Calgary confirmed that INAC had been forced to redirect “non-core funding” such as those budgeted for child welfare to deal with the water crisis on reserves. Yet many communities are still under a boil water advisory and the minister has admitted he has failed in achieving his targets.

These meagre amounts in new spending for this year are an even bigger insult. They do not address population growth or inflation rates. They ignore the scope of housing, water, child welfare and health funding concerns evident in the first nations, Métis and Inuit communities. They do not make up for literacy and youth employment program cuts that had been made.

This budget is from a finance minister who is on record saying too much health money was being spent on aboriginal Canadians, who are not real people, and from an Indian affairs minister who is on record for saying that they already receive an awful lot of money. This is gutter politics. This time of confrontation has served no one and threatens to have terrible effects on the communities of our country.

The opportunities are still there, though. We encourage the government to respect and implement the Kelowna accord as it passes the House tomorrow night, as I am confident it will. However, regardless of the Conservatives' commitment to the Kelowna accord, the agreement still lives on as a goal and achievement. More than the funding, more than the benchmarks, the Kelowna accord represents a historic time when first nations, Métis and Inuit were respected and empowered to take leadership on behalf of their communities.

Doug Cuthand, a respected columnist for The StarPhoenix, wrote:

The great failure of Indian policy in Canada has been that other people have been making all of the decisions and deciding what is best for us. Politicians, Indian agents, pundits, missionaries and other various do-gooders have all done their share of thinking for us.

Over 30 years ago our leaders stood tall and fought for their rights in various court arenas throughout the country. They fight again today, using the best skills they have at their disposal, to move forward and respect what the Kelowna accord represented.

The Budget March 20th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, the fastest growing segment of the Canadian population is the aboriginal population. There has been virtually no investment and no consideration for the child care needs of first nations, Métis and Inuit communities in this country. That is a shame.

The Budget March 20th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, speaking to residents in Saskatchewan, residents from the aboriginal community, residents from the non-aboriginal community, Saskatchewan is the only province in the country to have the oldest and youngest population at the same time.

The youngest population is primarily aboriginal. There is a huge labour force gap right smack dab in the middle. There is anger in our province over the breaking of the promise, over the lack of investment in post-secondary education, employment skills and training and in literacy. People in Saskatchewan are completely dumbfounded that Saskatchewan was totally cut out of the Conservative budget that was presented yesterday. There is absolute anger in the streets. People cannot believe that they are, in their own words from what I have heard, being taken for granted. They do not appreciate being taken for granted and they will speak loudly with their feet the next time.