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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was communities.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River (Saskatchewan)

Lost her last election, in 2019, with 28% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House November 29th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this motion today.

First, I want to thank the member for London North Centre for his work on Bill C-242. He chose a very serious and important area of the Criminal Code for his private member's bill, and I want to thank him for giving our justice committee and the House an opportunity to debate what he proposed.

Bill C-242 would have created a new offence in the Criminal Code to apply the term “torture” to heinous acts of violence that are currently prosecuted under a range of sections, from aggravated assault, to forcible confinement, to uttering threats, and so on.

The member suggested, and some witnesses agreed, that it is important for victims, as they are processing their trauma and moving forward, that society accurately label what has occurred; in other words, that we call it “torture” and not “assault”.

Although the committee did not receive any evidence on this particular point, I personally think it is important and—as I will explain in a moment—it should not be lost from this discussion. The voices of victims should be included in conversations about the criminal justice system.

At the justice committee, a number of practical concerns were raised about the bill.

First, it was the clear recommendation of the Department of Justice that if a new and more severe assault offence were to be created, it should not be called “torture” alone. To be clear, its advice was not that such acts do not constitute torture, as we commonly understand it; nor was it opposed to labels such as “torturous assault”, which members from the NDP proposed as solutions. Rather, its concern was with using only the word “torture” and, thus, creating two offences called “torture”.

It was suggested that to do this could undermine international agreements and norms against state torture, because it may encourage states with poor human rights records to create new or weaker variations of their laws to prevent officials from carrying out torture.

As I said, we considered this advice from the department and proposed that the new offence be called “torturous assault” so as to avoid the risks it identified, while still capturing the severity and brutality of the conduct.

Second, the committee heard from a number of legal experts who argued that the bill could not criminalize any conduct that is not already criminal in Canada. In other words, the acts that would give rise to prosecution under the new offence would already give rise to prosecution under a number of existing offences: assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, forcible confinement, uttering threats, and others.

Again, to be clear. The bill would have changed the term that is applied and could, in some cases, also have increased the maximum punishment possible, but it would not make illegal any activity that is somehow currently legal.

It was because of these concerns—the practical risks raised by the Department of Justice and the question of necessity raised by legal experts—that the committee decided to not proceed with consideration of the bill at that time.

However, at that time, we raised some concerns about some language that was used in the discussion of the motion. I think it is very important to repeat here what we raised then. It was suggested by some members that Bill C-242 was wholly redundant. We, in the NPD, disagree with that characterization. The concerns that expert witnesses raised at committee were heard. They supported the decision to not proceed with the bill. However, they did not support the claim that Bill C-242 is redundant.

Let me explain.

First, existing assault provisions do not require that the offender intend to cause pain and suffering. They only require that the assault is intentional and that the offender was reckless as to its consequences.

Therefore, creating a new and more severe offence that captures the deliberate infliction of pain and suffering would be a meaningful change to the Criminal Code. It would be harder to prove, of course, but it would also more accurately capture the brutal acts that occur in these cases.

Second, the argument about the importance of naming acts that was made by the member for London North Centre, and by some witnesses at this committee, should not be rejected. That is why we tried to salvage the bill by proposing “torturous assault” as a compromise.

Unfortunately, the justice committee did not hear the evidence on what effect the name of an offence has on the recovery of the victim.

However, we can certainly see how victims and their families struggle to understand how a bar fight and days of sadistic abuse both fall under the label of assault.

Therefore, I urge the government to consider these two points in its review of the Criminal Code. First is whether a new and more serious assault offence should be created to capture the deliberate infliction of pain and suffering. Second is whether such an offence could be given a name such as “torturous assault” that would more accurately capture the brutality of the crime. When the government conducts that study, I would urge it to hear directly from victims and their families, as well as experts.

We worked hard with all parties to resolve the concerns about the bill. I know that all parties supported the intention of the bill. Again, I thank the member for London—North Centre for his work.

While those concerns could not be resolved this time, I think it would be a grave mistake to abandon the bill permanently or declare it redundant. It contains some new and important ideas that should and must be considered by the government during its promised review of the Criminal Code.

Indigenous Affairs November 29th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, a Manitoba judge decided that requiring residential school survivors to show a perpetrator's sexual intent was “fundamentally inconsistent” with past cases involving sexual assault.

Instead of applauding this decision, this Minister of Justice is appealing it. The Liberals are arguing these survivors of sexual assault must prove the intent of their abusers in order to get compensation. This is despicable.

Will the minister do the right thing and immediately drop this appeal?

Water Quality November 25th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is with great interest that I stand in the House of Commons today to speak to Motion No. 69, presented by the hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.

Let me start by saying, water is life.

Thousands of protesters are in Standing Rock, as we speak, to convey this important message. I would like to take this opportunity to express my solidarity with my constituents who are there now, and others who are heading there to join the peaceful protest. Their banner represents the very issue we are talking about today: protecting our water resource and ensuring access to clean water for communities.

In 2013, Bruce McKenzie walked from Stanley Mission, Saskatchewan, to Ottawa, to raise awareness about access to clean drinking water and protection of our water resources. He saw the importance of having clean drinking water in our communities, so he took time off work to walk across Canada to highlight this very concern.

In my community, and in communities across the country, we count on this resource for survival. It is a no-brainer. It is a resource that we use every day, to drink, to eat, and to clean. I also think about indigenous communities who use lakes and rivers to fish and to hunt. These are integral to their traditional practices and customs. Canadians need to be confident that their water is clean and safe for consumption. This should be the very least of their worries, and it is the government's responsibility to establish that assurance.

The motion calls on the government to address the growing concerns of lead pipes and water quality in private residences across Canada by working with provincial and territorial governments, with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, as well as with indigenous partners, to advocate and establish passable solutions.

The motion would mandate the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to undertake a study on the federal government's role in lead pipe infrastructure in Canada, and to report back to the House next year with its findings. I support this mandate. This is a particularly important issue in my riding, where the quality of drinking water is too often compromised.

In northern Saskatchewan, we know all too well what it is to be under constant alert by water boiling advisories caused by storms, power failures, and even because of oil spills, as we witnessed last summer with the Husky spill in the North Saskatchewan River. Poor infrastructure is also an important component of persistent water boiling advisories. Outdated water infrastructure in municipalities and on first nations reserves does not often guarantee clean drinking water. We have seen, on many occasions, contaminated water reaching private residences that are connected to lead pipes. This is without mentioning the amount of chemicals that are used to clean the water. In most cases, a great amount of fluoride is used to treat the water, which could have serious repercussions on people's health.

I understand that we are speaking about lead in private pipes, but I feel it is important to highlight that lead is one component, among other challenges, that northerners face when it comes to access to drinking water. Distribution of water in households and in businesses should be seen as a package. As the FCM and the National Research Council Canada noted in their guide entitled “Water Quality in Distribution Systems”, “The ability to measure, monitor, and control all aspects of your distribution system water quality is mandatory to ensure safe water, to assess the seriousness of a situation during an emergency and to prove due diligence."

Before I end my presentation, I just want to note that before I came here, I received a call informing me that half of northern Saskatchewan has a power failure, which means that when the power is restored, boil water advisories will have to be issued.

Indigenous Affairs November 25th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, this week Cindy Blackstock, AFN, Chiefs of Ontario, and Nishnawbe Aski Nation all filed motions of non-compliance against the government, after already issuing two previous compliance orders.

When the Liberals supported our motion, indigenous families hoped things would change, but two days later the government was back in court fighting first nations children.

When will the government do what it promised and work with first nations peoples and not against them?

Health November 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, a senior official at Health Canada admitted at committee that it has no method of tracking requests, delays, or denials when it comes to counselling for first nation kids. This is a major concern.

Last month, in my riding alone, there have been several suicide attempts, and six were successful.

What is the government's plan for identifying the needs of indigenous youth? How can the health minister know what is needed without tracking this information?

Petitions November 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to stand in the House today to present this petition on behalf of my constituents.

The petitioners call upon the government to amend the Canada Elections Act to introduce a suitable form of proportional representation after all the public consultations are conducted. Fair voting systems better reflect the will of voters. Let them vote for the candidate or party they prefer, and give each community fair and accountable representation.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns November 2nd, 2016

With regard to all federal funding in the riding of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River for each of the fiscal years from 2011-2016, inclusively: (a) how many projects received funding from a department or agency over this period; (b) what projects received funding from a department or agency over this period; and (c) what was the value of the projects that received funding from a department or agency over this period?

Indigenous Affairs November 1st, 2016

Again, Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate that despite the important role it plays, funding for NORTEP-NORPAC is a continuing challenge. The institution underwent a complete federal funding cut under the previous government, and despite a recently-signed five-year agreement with the Province of Saskatchewan, there is now a decision on the redirecting of the institution's funding.

The organization, its staff, students, and community at large are grappling to understand these imposed program challenges, cuts, and changes, which are proposed to take place as early as 2017. They are counting on the federal government to do everything in its capacity to ensure that NORTEP-NORPAC remains independent and continues to offer the high quality that northerners seek in their education services.

The students, staff, teachers, and communities in northern Saskatchewan have made it clear: keep the north strong and save NORTEP-NORPAC.

Indigenous Affairs November 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak about the redirecting of provincial funding for the northern teacher education program, NORTEP, the Northern Professional Access College, NORPAC, and the unwarranted cuts to this program by the previous federal government.

The students, staff and communities in northern Saskatchewan see this issue as a multi-jurisdictional issue. We cannot sit by while witnessing the risk of seeing one of the most valuable educational institutions losing its independence or, even worse, closing its doors. The uncertainty regarding the future of NORTEP-NORPAC is causing great concern in northern Saskatchewan.

NORTEP-NORPAC is an inclusive learning environment where indigenous and non-indigenous students learn and grow together in northern Saskatchewan. This last summer, the program celebrated its 40th anniversary. That was when this successful institution learned that its funding would be redirected by the provincial government in July 2017.

NORTEP-NORPAC plays a crucial role in educating and providing meaningful employment opportunities to Indigenous northern communities. Eighty-four per cent of its graduates are Indigenous, 79% identify as women and 92% of NORTEP's employed graduates are working as teachers across northern Saskatchewan, which includes hamlets, villages, towns, resorts and on first nations.

I feel there has been a premature decision made without reasonable consultation by both the provincial and federal governments. I have written to the hon. minister about this concern and I am waiting for a reply.

NORTEP-NORPAC's graduates, in the last five years, are employed in northern Saskatchewan. This institution is a driving force in the northern economy. This is a positive indicator, particularly for my riding, considering that it is one of the regions with the highest rate of unemployment in the country.

Many of my constituents are wondering why and how could this funding rearrangement happen without the decision makers offering support or even a short window of opportunity for the staff and board of directors of NORTEP-NORPAC to rethink or consider its financial options. This would allow them to continue what is clearly a program that has successfully contributed to education, employment and the economy of northern Saskatchewan for the last 40 years. The uncertainty is causing great concern about the future of this learning environment.

The federal government cannot stand idle and silent while proven educational and employment opportunities are in jeopardy. NORTEP-NORPAC is a pivotal entity that could be better utilized to effectively deliver culturally relevant educational programming. The government has committed to first nation and Métis post-secondary education, to a nation-to-nation relationship, and to the TRC's calls to action. We need to see action on these commitments.

The future of NORTEP-NORPAC is unknown. The program is important to northerners, the economy, and future generations of students, particularly in light of the recommendations for education made by the TRC.

While I believe that there has been unwarranted cuts of federal funding for this important institution and that NORTEP-NORPAC has been besieged by chronic underfunding and now is threatened by not having a current funding commitment from the Saskatchewan government, will the government ensure that NORTEP-NORPAC receives funding that strengthens the vision, sustainability, and high quality that northerners seek in their education services?

Indigenous Affairs October 31st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, there is more sad news coming from my riding. There has been a sixth suicide in the span of three weeks in northern Saskatchewan. On behalf of the NDP, I would like to extend our condolences to the families and communities going through this hard time.

The government needs to end the band-aid strategy and commit to a culturally appropriate long-term approach to mental wellness. Will the Prime Minister stand up and address the immediate needs for indigenous mental health in the north? How much louder do our kids need to be?