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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

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2 October 28th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I was just listening and heard about the benefit of the child benefit for families. Yet in my riding, I have single dads and single moms coming forward who have been cut because of the new plan. How can I explain it to them? I need an answer from the Liberals.

Indigenous Affairs October 28th, 2016

Madam Speaker, yesterday in response to failing to comply with the legal orders of the tribunal, Liberals announced consultations on first nations child welfare.

Before seeing any documents or findings or talking to child welfare agencies in ridings like mine, the Liberal consultant called more money identified by key expert Cindy Blackstock as throwing it “up in the air like confetti”. This is about delivering for these kids.

Does the minister actually believe Cindy Blackstock wants to throw money up in the air like confetti for these kids?

Canwood October 28th, 2016

Madam Speaker, from July 29 to 31, the rural municipality and village of Canwood in my riding celebrated its l00th anniversary. The three day celebration was a blend of narrations, exhibitions of rarely seen photographs, music, multicultural dances, and historic and comedic skills. Residents, past and present, from across Saskatchewan, gathered to celebrate this once in a lifetime event.

I had the pleasure to join the festivities in Canwood, as the community inaugurated its centennial monument. Ideas and design for the monument came from local people. The commissioned metal artist for the monument was Doug Reimer from Carrot River Saskatchewan. Working with Doug was his wife Carmen, his brother Steve and Steve's wife, Jen. Senior President Doris and Hilda gave me a tour of the local museum.

I congratulate all the volunteers and organizing committee on the success of the festivities. I wish Canwood another 100 strong and many more.

Business of Supply October 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister visited my community of La Loche during the horrific tragedy, the Prime Minister stood before us in the community and said that whatever we need, the government would provide for us.

I heard about the recent suicides and what the Prime Minister and the government said. The reality is that it places barriers in place, and there is discrimination. It does not act on the real solutions that first nations, the Métis communities, and municipalities and northerners are asking for.

Business of Supply October 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is very sad to have this discussion. When I go to my riding or get a phone call, it is from a mum or a dad who failed to get services for their kid who just tried to commit suicide.

For all the tragedies we have faced, here we are again. Canada was built in 1867. We are having the same arguments, because first nations, Métis, and northerners do not have the same equality as the rest of Canada.

Business of Supply October 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is heartbreaking and very sad that a sitting government that is supposed to support first nations children, Métis, and northerners across Canada finds ways to not support the tribunal ruling or the services and programs that are so very needed, not only on reserves but in Métis municipalities across Canada.

Regardless, the Liberals formed the government last year. They have the responsibility. When the Prime Minister of Canada speaks about nation to nation, the children, youth, families, and elders look to him for real change. That is what the children, the youth, and the families in my riding look for.

Business of Supply October 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I'm standing in the House today because first nation, Métis, and northern children are hurting. Their families and communities are struggling to make ends meet. They are denied culturally appropriate services. For example, when dealing with children and youth in care, their first languages of Cree, Dene, Michif, and other languages are not even considered and validated in trying to get support for the families.

The realities of northern Saskatchewan are rarely and barely recognized. I represent almost half of the province of Saskatchewan, geographically speaking. For example, northern residents have to travel long distances from home to their destinations. In Sandy Bay in my riding, the community has been struggling with a suicide epidemic for the last decade. The families often travel between six and eight hours to reach Saskatoon, so that they can obtain the required help.

Fond du Lac First Nation is a fly-in reserve in my riding. The cost of the airfare either to Prince Albert or Saskatoon is very expensive. The cost of living, the cost of buying healthy food such as fruits and vegetables, is very expensive. Families simply cannot afford to support their children, youth, and elders.

This year, the grocery store in Pelican Narrows first nation burned to the ground. Since then, the reserve and the nearby communities have no access to groceries because The North West Company has delayed its commitment to rebuild the store. In the meantime, in order to buy groceries, the vast majority of the residents must travel long distances. Imagine; the children and youth are hungry on a daily basis.

Since we have been speaking loudly about the challenges that indigenous communities face in northern Saskatchewan, my office has been receiving phone calls, emails, Facebook and Instagram messages, and correspondence from youth and their families who are eager to share their painful, heartbreaking stories with me. For example, I have been in touch with families and neighbours who are painfully impacted by the most recent four suicides in Stanley Mission and Deschambault Lake first nations. The youngest, 10 years old, died last Tuesday while we await the final rulings on the cause of these terrible tragedies.

We must ask ourselves what our children see. Do indigenous children, girls in particular, see a country that champions their intrinsic importance, in both word and deed? When they watch the news and check their Facebook and Twitter feeds, do they see our various levels of government and those in positions of authority conveying the message that their lives are valued? Let us reflect on these questions as we consider the current state of the overrepresentation of indigenous children across the country and the high rates of missing and murdered indigenous women.

This is why I want to speak in favour of the opposition day motion presented by my colleague the member for Timmins—James Bay. I would like to thank him for his long-time advocacy for first nations and Métis children.

Across Canada and specifically in my riding, first nations, Métis, and northern residents were very hopeful with the language that the Liberal Party was using. Elders were pleased to hear the words “nation to nation”. Children, youth, and their families placed high hopes in the words “real change”. A year later, those very elders and families are frustrated and questioning the Liberal government's commitment to nation-to-nation relationships with first nations, Métis, and northerners. Hope is fading away.

The government fails to acknowledge the sense of urgency in requiring services that our first nations, Métis, and northern communities face. When I was the mayor of the northern village of La Loche, I worked collaboratively with government agencies and the local schools on this very topic. Teenagers from 14 to 18 years of age who were in care, and still are, either go from home to home or they are literally homeless. When I was the chair of the New North association, the mayors and councils of 34 municipalities would share similar stories.

The majority of these children and youth have treaty cards, so they are considered first nations people who live in municipalities. What that means is that they have very little or no support.

This brings me to the topic of the shortage of foster homes in my riding. When a child is apprehended, he or she is either placed in a home that is overcrowded or is taken out of the community to where a foster home is found. For example, when I visited Hatchet Lake First Nation a few months ago, it was shared with me that there was a home that sheltered 21 individuals, including small children. What is more, the foster families support group in northern Saskatchewan has been continuously asking for support to train and work with foster families, to this day.

The court ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on January 25 was clear. The Canadian government was found guilty of racially discriminating against tens of thousands of first nations children by systematically underfunding federal services. The tribunal's ruling called on the Liberal government for immediate, medium-term, and long-term reforms so that children could receive the treatment they deserve. They are innocent children who deserve to feel to safe, to be cared for, and to feel valued, and they deserve to have the same opportunities as everyone else.

In not appealing the decision, the Liberal government accepted all the legal obligations placed on it. However, two compliance orders have been put out by the court because the government has failed to meet its legal and moral obligations to first nations children. In fact, instead of meeting the obligations ordered by the court, the current government has continued to fight first nations children in court.

I ask this again: Where is the commitment to a nation-to-nation relationship the current government promised to uphold, when there is a clear lack of urgency to act on this court ruling?

Speaking of broken promises, failing to comply with the court ruling is in direct disregard of the TRC's call to action on child welfare. This first call to action demands that the federal, provincial, and territorial governments reduce the number of indigenous children in care in Canada. It stipulates that governments provide “adequate resources to enable Aboriginal communities and child-welfare organizations to keep Aboriginal families together where it is safe to do so, and to keep children in culturally appropriate environments, regardless of where they reside”.

Now the tribunal has found that the federal government was discriminating against 163,000 first nations children in its delivery of child-welfare services on reserves. The cumulative outcome of this intentional and discriminatory practice has led to children being removed from families to foster homes and to frequently languishing in non-indigenous child-welfare systems.

One example is the case of Maryann Napope from One Arrow First Nation, who has been fighting for several years to get custody of her grandchildren. There is nothing she would like more than to reunite with them and take care of them, but the foster system has failed her and her family. Her grandchildren were put up for adoption without the consent of the mother. They fell through the cracks of the child foster system. She said that she is committed to continuing to fight to be reunited with her grandchildren. This is one story among many others.

In fact, in Saskatchewan alone, 87% of children in foster care are indigenous. This is a number that is very concerning and could be reduced if the current government adopted once and for all the Jordan principle, as ordered by the tribunal. At its heart, the principle states that first nations children should be able to access the same government services as non-indigenous children and that we must not allow jurisdictional disputes to get in the way of providing services to children.

I would like to conclude by saying that I will be supporting my colleague's motion on Tuesday, and I invite this House to unanimously vote for the motion. A vote for the motion is a vote for first nations children, for their safety, and for their recognition. Parliament must step in and order the government to fix this historic wrong, because we cannot fail another generation of first nations children.

Indigenous Affairs October 20th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, yesterday students and faculty gathered to protest the cuts to NORTEP-NORPAC programs in La Ronge. These programs train many first nations, Métis, and non-aboriginal professionals in northern Saskatchewan. Graduates go on to be leaders in our communities and build great futures for northerners.

The Liberals promised to invest $50 million in first nations post-secondary education. Where is it? Will the Liberals ensure that programs like NORTEP-NORPAC receive funding that strengthens education services for northerners?

Disaster Assistance October 17th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate the concern about the long-term effects of global warming on the everyday lives of northerners. This includes first nations communities, rural municipalities, farming communities, and small towns.

Scientists are warning us about what the future holds for us. While efforts to mitigate global warming are necessary, the government must also be ready to assist residents in remote communities by providing them with the appropriate disaster assistance, training, and infrastructure.

My constituents are counting on their government to meet their needs to mitigate the effects of wildfires and other natural disasters. Our elders, knowledge keepers, and communities are eager to provide their suggestions to reduce the negative impacts of global warming.

Disaster Assistance October 17th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am here today to bring back a question to the government relating to disaster assistance in northern Saskatchewan. As you know, Mr. Speaker, the shortfalls that northern remote communities live through have been going on for far too long.

Communities are neglected. Their resilience is inspiring me to be here and to speak out. To show children, the elders, and their communities that they matter, we must make sure that they are treated with respect and are provided with the appropriate attention and resources. This means investing in adequate mental health services and cultural activities. It also means investing in the broader sphere, including complementary infrastructure such as roads, energy systems, broadband connectivity, and what we are here to talk about today, disaster assistance to mitigate the effects of natural and/or climate change related disasters.

I stood in the House a few months ago as a fire was inching its way into Saskatchewan from Fort McMurray. I asked the government about the kind of support it had offered to communities like Buffalo River, Clearwater River, and La Loche, to name a few. These communities were being affected by low air quality and were increasingly concerned about the spread of the fire in Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, I have not received a reassuring response from the government.

Maybe not many people know this, but northern Saskatchewan is a region where the effects of global warming stand out all too often. Northern trappers, hunters, fishermen, farmers, and harvesters are well aware of climate change and are very concerned with the affects it brings. They should also be part of the solution.

One major example among many others is the increase in wildfires. Climate change is leading to higher temperatures and drier conditions, which make the sky ripe for dry lightning. Professor Toddi Steelman, a leading expert in the country on wildfires, stated that communities living near forests will have to learn how to coexist with fire better because she thinks this is what we are going to see in the near future.

In the summer of 2015, northern Saskatchewan experienced a horrible wildfire. Residents are still living with its effects today. This last summer, several fire bans were issued across the region because of the high risk.

The 2015 annual forest fire assessment by Natural Resources Canada says a warming climate will contribute to a 50% increase in large fires, new tree diseases, and more insect infestations. Although scientists say it is difficult to link any single natural disaster, such as a flood or fire, to man-made global warming, the frequency and intensity of such events has been increasing and is likely to continue, especially in a northern country like Canada.

Saskatchewan saw fires burn three times its 10-year provincial average area. Scientists agree that this reality should motivate concern and activity to better prepare over the coming decades to reduce the impacts of global warming. In the meanwhile, communities need to feel they can manage the effects of global warming.

Saskatchewan is prone to more disasters. Northerners want to know if they can count on their federal government to be prepared for assistance when difficult situations arise. First, I would like the minister to inform us about the disaster assistance efforts that were provided, particularly to the communities who were affected by the wildfire this summer in my riding.

Second, how is the government going to invest its community infrastructure and training budget to ensure that in the long run communities will be better equipped and trained to mitigate the effects of such natural disasters?