House of Commons photo

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

Situation in Indigenous Communities April 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, young people, children, and their families, when they are feeling the effects of PTSD, need to go to the health centre or the band office clinic and say that they need to speak to someone because they are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. They go in, and there is no one to talk to them. That is the immediate help needed in the area of mental health, counselling, and other areas.

I have heard, and I have read over and over again, how when young people, children, and their families have access to programs and services, they are kept busy and have other things to do in their lives. They feel important and valued. That is one area.

Another area for families, children, youth, moms and dads across Canada, is that we have heard in the House over and over again about the importance of employment. Yet, when we turn to statistics, unemployment is very high in northern Canada among first nations and reserves. To feel that important level of nation-to-nation, there must be opportunities in our communities for employment. It is not there. Therefore, a number of areas of help, from all levels of government, is required.

Situation in Indigenous Communities April 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe that my friend is asking this question. I am a Dene-speaking person, and he comes from the Northwest Territories.

Nation-to-nation first of all means to me language retention. I speak Dene, and I want to be able to have our first nation communities teach Dene to continue our language, and across Canada, with other first nations and Métis.

Nation-to-nation also means spirituality being acknowledged. These are practices of sweetgrass burning; medicine smudging; having access to an elder, a priest, a pastor of any kind, for the ability to pray.

Nation-to-nation means that I feel respected and welcomed. As an aboriginal woman, it means I do not have to feel scared in Canada, because statistics prove that as an aboriginal woman I run the risk of being murdered or going missing.

Nation-to-nation means for me, and for all first nations and Métis people across Canada, feeling safe and valued .

Situation in Indigenous Communities April 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is very important for me to stand up in the House today and take part in this debate, not only to speak for Attawapiskat, but also to highlight the challenges being met by the residents in my riding.

Before I begin, though, I want to share a personal story. Suicide has affected me and my family. My brother has had the challenge of losing three of his children to suicide in the past eight years.

Over the years, I have seen how both levels of government fail communities like La Loche by not providing services in mental health and other programs. This is a very touching, sensitive issue.

I have received many stories to share in this House and, before I begin, I want thank everyone who has shared their stories with me so that I could share them in the House of Commons. The personal stories are very sensitive, heartbreaking, and very sad. These stories also show the resilience and hope that exists in our communities and reserves across Canada.

The personal stories indicate that the first nations and Métis children, young people, and their families require immediate help and support. They need immediate help now and help in years to come. The personal stories indicate that first nations and Métis children across Canada are looking for us to give them hope. They are looking to the Canadian government for hope, and to industry, service providers, and all levels of government.

This first story comes from a health care provider in northern Saskatchewan. This health care provider had to travel 600 kilometres to Saskatoon from her community to seek help for her daughter, who had tried to kill herself in the previous few days. She could not find help in her own community because the existing health care services are inadequate and insufficient.

She, as a health care provider, struggled with getting a referral for a mental health specialist. I can just imagine how hard it is for people who do not have access to medical and other services. Not all families in northern Saskatchewan, Attawapiskat, and other communities have the resources to take their children to see specialists.

Reports from northern Saskatchewan, the far north, and other northern communities, indicate the lack of services and how poor these communities are.

Let me share another story, from a member of the Gitksan community in B.C. This person knows of over 100 suicide attempts in their community alone, and some were successful. The community was seeking to build a new arena so that the children could find a place to gather and play, without having to bargain with major companies to have it done.

This past weekend alone, I am very sad to say that there were more suicide attempts in La Loche. Since the shooting on January 22, 2016, I have stood before House of Commons parliamentarians requesting additional services from both levels of government. Unfortunately, help has not come from the many government levels.

Children and youth in La Loche and surrounding communities are showing signs of PTSD. They have no one to turn to and nowhere to go. The schools are doing what they can to provide services, sports, and recreational programs, but that is not enough. Families are left to fend for themselves and to try to take care of their problems, with no help from the health centre and no help from anywhere else.

Today another person wrote to me that the suicides and the attempted suicides across the country are a symptom of systemic failure, and I could not agree more.

Parents feel hopeless as they try to do their best to provide for their children. We live in Canada. We should not feel hopeless, and yet our first nations and Métis communities across Canada feel hopeless. We can speak to the issues of a lack of cultural and recreational facilities and programs, the high rate of unemployment and poverty, poor housing, poor infrastructure, the high cost of food, high cost of living, and no mental health supports or other services.

Communities like La Loche, Attawapiskat, Cross Lake, Gitksan, and others across Canada, require help, not band-aid solutions. It is nice to get visits, but that is not good enough. We need concrete help. We need more funding to assist our communities across Canada to make sure we are helping our young people and their families deal with the problems at hand.

Some examples by the residents who shared their stories include language immersion programs and retention programs, in Dene, Cree, Michif, and other first nation languages. Other suggestions are for more cultural and recreational facilities to keep young people and their families busy.

Cindy Blackstock has a dream for Canada's birthday: a country where first nations children no longer have to fight for equality. I share her dream, but we cannot wait until next year. We have to fight for them now. We cannot lose any more of our children to suicide in Attawapiskat, Le Loche, and beyond.

The government promised to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations in its entirety. This is the time to act because it is 2015. Oh, I forgot; it is now 2016.

Infrastructure March 10th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, last month I was visited by a delegation from the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities. I thank those representatives for taking the time to visit me. Their issues were very familiar to me as a northern resident.

To participate in Canada's economy, rural and remote northern communities require access to diverse markets, access to services, access to training and educational programs, and access to the Internet and cellphone services.

We in the north learned to adjust to life without services and employment. However, northern and remote communities are integral to Canada's economic prosperity.

In the spirit of ensuring fair and equitable distribution of wealth, I am committed to working hard to help our rural and northern communities to reach their potential. This means pushing the government to increase infrastructure spending and create jobs. After years of Conservative cuts, it is time for the government to invest in our northern communities.

Health March 8th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, indigenous women in Canada are more likely to be victims of violence. Many studies have shown that being a survivor of violence has a significant impact on mental health, but for women on reserves in rural and remote communities, mental health supports and services are often inadequate or non-existent.

Will the health minister work with indigenous communities to ensure that culturally sensitive mental health services are available to all women?

Indigenous Affairs March 7th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, six weeks after my community of La Loche experienced a profoundly painful tragedy, we do not have the mental health support we need to deal with the crisis in our community. Many people are showing signs of PTSD, but literally have no one to turn to for help. Will the Minister of Health send help to La Loche immediately, and urgently invest in culturally sensitive mental health services for communities in northern Saskatchewan?

Northern Affairs February 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, Wollaston Lake, a northern Saskatchewan community of 1,800 people, is running out of fuel and food. Mild weather has made the ice road across Wollaston Lake unsafe, so there is no way to get supplies. The chief and council of Hatchet Lake First Nation warn that they may have to close their school and health centre, thanks to the shortage.

What will the government do to help schoolchildren, sick people, elders, and the rest of the community get the supplies they so badly need?

Health February 22nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the government has discriminated against first nations children. Documents from Health Canada confirm what first nations people already knew. Rejecting orthodontic appeals for first nations children is standard. Almost 100% of claims are denied.

These documents actually state that the government will provide these services if the parents agree to give up their children to foster care. This is unacceptable. What steps has the Minister of Health taken to end this discrimination?

Shooting at La Loche February 16th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, when I first stood in this House and spoke about my community, I never could have imagined that the next time I would say the name of La Loche here would be in the wake of the painful events of January 22, 2016. As we learn more about what happened and the acts of heroism and courage by the people in my school, I am thankful to the local fire department, the RCMP, and the other first responders. On behalf of La Loche and northern Saskatchewan, I want to thank all Canadians who sent their thoughts and prayers to La Loche and the Clearwater River Dene Nation. I am thankful for the comfort they have given us, for the strength they have given us, and for the hope they have given us. With the help of the government and the support of all Canadians, together we can rebuild La Loche and the Clearwater River Dene Nation.

Mahsi cho.

Indigenous Affairs December 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the government has promised to implement all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including recommendation 29, which is to conclude all outstanding claims from residential school survivors through negotiations. Canada must stop forcing survivors into a painful and adversarial court process like the one taking place in Labrador. Will the minister commit to keeping her promise of resolving all outstanding claims through negotiations?