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

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns March 18th, 2019

With regard to federal funding in the constituency of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, between April 2016 and January 2019: (a) what applications for funding have been received, including for each the (i) name of the organization, (ii) department, (iii) program and sub-program they applied for funding under, (iv) date of the application, (v) amount applied for, (vi) whether funding has been approved or not, (vii) total amount of funding, if funding was approved; (b) what funds, grants, loans, and loan guarantees has the government issued through its various departments and agencies in the constituency of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River that did not require a direct application from the applicant, including for each the (i) name of the organization, (ii) department, (iii) program and sub-program they received funding under, (iv) total amount of funding, if funding was approved; and (c) what projects have been funded in the constituency of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River by organizations tasked with sub-granting government funds (i.e. Community Foundations of Canada), including for each the (i) name of the organization, (ii) department, (iii) program and sub-program they received funding under, (iv) total amount of funding, if funding was approved?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns March 18th, 2019

With regard to housing investments and housing assets held by the government: (a) how much federal funding has been spent in Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River on housing over the period of 1995 to 2017, broken down by year; (b) how much federal funding is scheduled to be spent on housing in Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River over the period of 2015 to 2019, broken down by year; (c) how much federal funding has been invested in cooperative housing in Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River over the period of 1995 to 2017, broken down by year; (d) how much federal funding is scheduled to be invested in cooperative housing in Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River over the period of 2015 to 2019, broken down by year; (e) how many physical housing units were owned by the government in Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River over the period of 1995 to 2017, broken down by year; (f) how many physical housing units owned by the government are scheduled to be constructed in Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River over the period of 2015 to 2019, broken down by year; and (g) what government buildings and lands have been identified in Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River as surplus and available for affordable housing developments?

Indigenous Affairs March 1st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have presented bills on indigenous languages and indigenous child welfare but have not committed any base funding. Children and languages are too important for their promises to be empty.

Language keepers and child welfare advocates both say these bills do not meet the needs of indigenous people. First Nations, Métis and Inuit people will not accept promises that come without funding.

Why are the Liberals making empty promises to indigenous people?

Bills of Exchange Act February 28th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, there are elder teachings, and many elders teach throughout Canada. I am going to make a comment to reflect this very moment.

To not love is to be fearful, to not be humble is to be self-centred, to not be honest is to be dishonest, to not be courageous is to be cowardly. In my line of work, historically and until now, when I am in the circles with indigenous people in communities, elders are very significant. The use of a circle, the teachings and learning to be humble are very significant.

I want to thank all hon. colleagues in the House of Commons for their time and for sharing their thoughts on Bill C-369. How we will fulfill the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action requires an active, all-party effort from everyone, and I appreciate that we saw that effort for call to action no. 80.

We still have a little time before all members gather here to vote on my bill, and I want to take a moment to respond to some of the points of debate that came up.

First, as I said a few nights ago, I welcome the amendments to my bill that came from a multipartisan effort to make sure this holiday was done in consultation with survivors of residential schools, with elders, with regional chiefs and with the major national indigenous organizations. The committee was thorough and well-meaning and ultimately came to the correct decision.

June 21 will remain National Indigenous Peoples Day and be celebrated by all Canadians, including first nations, Métis and Inuit people from coast to coast to coast. September 30 will be known as the national day for truth and reconciliation and will serve as an opportunity for Canadians to reflect on the history of residential schools and how the impact of our national shame continues to live on in Canada.

I have expressed my concerns about how the government will be honouring this holiday. Yes, a holiday will be created, but it is only meaningful if the resources are provided for Canadians to truly understand what that holiday means. That means a comprehensive engagement process with federal government employees to understand how their offices can meaningfully work with first nations, Métis and Inuit people. That means providing funding for cross-country memorial ceremonies done in partnership with survivors and first nations, Métis and Inuit organizations. That means creating culturally appropriate learning materials for education systems across the country, so that generations of Canadians will never forget what happened to indigenous people in this country. We are still waiting for answers to all of these questions.

Second, there has been some conversation about replacing other holidays that already exist. That is a fair question, but a debate that should happen at a different time. Generations of indigenous people have been told time and time again that they are in the way, that their concerns are secondary to everything else going on in Canada. For generations, indigenous people have been left out of political processes, left out of decisions that affect their ways of life, left out of decisions that say what languages they can speak and what gods they can pray to. If members of this House want to discuss the number of holidays in Canada, that debate should not be associated with the importance of this bill. The loss of a colonial holiday should not come at the expense of survivors and indigenous people gaining a holiday. I refuse to believe that this holiday will bear the weight of inconvenience to a colonial system.

As a final thought, I want to return to the positives of this bill, because far too many of our conversations rely on reliving trauma and discussing the problems in our first nations, Métis and Inuit communities.

This bill will not solve the housing crisis indigenous people live through and it will not fix the overrepresentation of indigenous children in foster care and it will not close the education gap that leaves indigenous children behind.

However, it will give Canadians the opportunity to fully understand why those problems exist. It would give space and time for the government to reflect on its failures and remind itself why it so important to work for and with indigenous people every other day of the year.

Progress will take time, but through my bill, we are taking the time to make progress and are moving forward.

Infrastructure February 27th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, northerners are taking part in the ice road jigging challenge to raise awareness about ice road communities. Their message is clear: We need roads that work all year to bring supplies to our communities and to travel to doctor appointments.

The Liberals do not seem to understand the climate change is making Hatchet Lake first nation inaccessible because the ice roads are open for shorter periods of time. Why does the Liberal government keep neglecting the basic needs of northerners?

February 26th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, Canada has a rich history when it comes to first nations, Métis and Inuit, but history has not been kind to indigenous people from coast to coast to coast. There is enough evidence that first nations, Métis and Inuit people across Canada have been harmed over and over again.

With the truth and reconciliation work that was done, I hear about elders, young people and families across Canada wanting to heal and move on. We honour the past. That is what was laid out in truth and reconciliation, and I want to hear from elders across Canada. It is a very important time in our Canadian history to truly honour first nations, Métis and Inuit people, and we as Canadians and the Canadian government in the House of Commons in this area must start demonstrating that.

February 26th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the date of September 30 is very significant to the survivors of residential schools, as well as to boarding school and day school survivors.

The meaning of reconciliation is that of coming together and healing. Now is the time as we move forward. We reach out to the kids in schools across Canada, from public and provincially run schools to reserves across Canada and the territories. This is the time for the federal government to lead the way on what it means to build better relationships, to follow through with its commitments and to work really hard at continuing to improve relationships and the lives of first nations, Métis and Inuit people.

February 26th, 2019

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, today is indeed a good day. Today I am proud to rise on behalf of my constituents in Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River to present my private member's bill for one last time in the House of Commons.

This was a journey that began what feels like ages ago, and there is a sense of comfort as this stage of our work together on this comes to an end.

It is not lost on me, and it should not be lost on all our hon. colleagues in Parliament, that it was not too far from here that Canada's system of residential schools was created. It was in these halls that political leaders from across Canada decided that the cultures of first nations, Métis and Inuit people had no place in Canada. It was in the chambers not too far from here that leaders spoke for hours about how first nations, Métis and Inuit people were not deserving enough to speak their own languages. Not too far from here a Canadian prime minister stood with the backing of his party and decided that first nations, Métis and Inuit people needed to be silenced, separated and struck down.

Today I stand here with a small amount of pride and a great amount of humility knowing that history is back on the course of justice. Today is the result of countless hours of consultation with my elders, with my constituents and with the history of our people. Today is another step toward our multipartisan effort to fulfill the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action number 80. Today's bill is the product of a multi-party effort to best honour the legacy of residential schools, to honour survivors and to think about how to do right by indigenous people in Canada for generations to come.

I want to thank the members of the Canadian heritage committee for the thoughtful consideration and time they put in to making my bill happen. No single individual or political party can claim ownership of how we proceed on our path toward true reconciliation. Reconciliation is a goal that we all have an obligation to work toward and reflect on. This includes not only us as members of Parliament, but also our staff and everyone who works for the Government of Canada.

My bill will affect those of us in the federal service, because it was this government that decided to persecute and oppress the first nations, Métis and Inuit people across Canada. It is a tragedy that we all must atone for, and we must all work together toward fixing the systemic racism that is so commonly found in Canada's colonial government.

I do not want to give the impression that today is the end of our journey toward reconciliation. In the grand scheme of things, we have achieved very little on our journey. Everyone will shake hands and pat each other's backs after today, just as they did after the heritage committee, and claim victory in the name of political points. However, working on reconciliation is not a political platform. It is a moral obligation to do the right thing.

It is also worth noting that our work on the national day of truth and reconciliation is far from over. When I first proposed my bill, it was clear to me after my consultations that June 21 should be a statutory holiday. June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, is a day that has been chosen by first nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada because there is spiritual significance for many related to the summer solstice.

Knowing this, the Government of Canada funds nationwide celebrations from coast to coast to coast. The government provides the funding for first nations, Métis and Inuit people to publicly celebrate who they are, where they come from and where they will be tomorrow. These celebrations would take place anyway, but that the government has a system for non-indigenous people to participate in our celebrations is well thought out and welcome.

However, such a funding system is not currently in place for the national day of truth and reconciliation. The government has made a public commitment that this holiday will be taking place this year, but we have yet to see any action on what the government plans to do on this new holiday. This is particularly important because our intention was never to just give federal employees another day off work; it was intended to be a day for federal employees to engage with the first nations, Métis and Inuit communities that surround them so they could better understand the system of oppression that still exists.

An empty commitment from the government is not acceptable. Without clear guidance from the government, done with the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous people, this holiday will mean nothing if federal employees are not engaged in a meaningful way with the history and legacy of residential schools. I, along with my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, call on all members of Parliament to put the work in and make sure that this holiday is meaningful.

There is also concern, and I have heard this from a number of my constituents, that limiting this holiday to just employees of the federal government is not a comprehensive response to call to action number 80. I fully recognize the limits of the federal government. We do not have the ability to legislate for the provinces in this matter, but I believe that we should do everything within our power to talk to our friends within the provincial governments to take up this call to action themselves.

It was not just the federal government that carried out the harm against first nations, Métis and Inuit children in residential schools. Provincial education boards and employees were directly responsible for much of the harm that has been caused. Everyone who has a seat in this chamber has an obligation to reflect on this holiday but also an obligation to have difficult conversations with their friends, families and their own elected representatives so that all people across Canada will have the time to appropriately think about the impact of residential schools that continues to be felt. We owe that to survivors. We owe that to victims. We owe that to Canada.

My last concern is likely the most important concern I have, and it has to do with the scope of the holiday. I first proposed June 21 as the date of this holiday, because National Indigenous Peoples Day is inclusive of the overwhelming majority of first nations, Métis and Inuit people from across Canada. Changing the holiday to September 30 and renaming it the national day of truth and reconciliation would not be harmful on its own, but it does make me wonder about those indigenous people who have had their culture taken from them by the federal government outside of residential schools.

In particular, I think about the survivors of boarding schools and day schools who are still waiting for the government to listen to their stories. I think about all the children who were taken from their families as part of the sixties scoop, forever taken from their families, their cultures, and their languages. Yes, this day of reconciliation would be good, but would it be inclusive of their truth and stories? I very much look forward to continuing to have these discussions with people across northern Saskatchewan, and I invite all members of Parliament to open their hearts and their ears and invite these stories to come into their lives.

I have expressed these concerns in the past to committee members, and they have provided me with assurances that these are conversations the government wants to have. It is with great honour that I accept my job as the member of Parliament for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River to hold the government to account and make sure that it meets the full intention of what this holiday would work so hard to achieve. It is not a small task, and it must be taken seriously and with the highest amount of respect. I will be watching, indigenous people will be watching and all of Canada will be watching.

At this point, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the amendments to the bill and speak to why the bill should pass through this chamber and head over to the other place.

When I introduced my bill here a few years ago, I proposed that June 21 be the statutory holiday, for reasons I outlined previously in my comments today. At that time, the Assembly of First Nations, the Congress for Aboriginal Peoples, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and many other prominent indigenous organizations and people across this country all called for the creation of June 21 as a statutory holiday recognizing National Indigenous Peoples Day.

I do not view amending this bill to make September 30 a national day of truth and reconciliation as a bad thing, so long as the government adequately addresses the concerns I raised earlier in my comments. What I was hoping to achieve with my bill was to begin a national conversation about a holiday honouring survivors and the legacy of residential schools, and today's debate shows that this is something we have achieved together.

I am very happy to see that the democratic process worked and that we had a public conversation, through the committee process, about this holiday. As the Minister of Heritage himself has said, imperfect bills are presented and amended through the committees of this House. That is how our democracy is supposed to work, and with regard to this bill, it has worked.

At committee, we heard from elders, national indigenous organizations, indigenous women's organizations, labour unions, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and a number of chiefs from across Canada. The overwhelming response from them was that September 30 should be a day of truth and reconciliation.

There are a number of people across Canada who may be upset that this bill has been changed, and with them I empathize. I put forward the best case I could for June 21 and National Indigenous Peoples Day, but after a lot of thinking and a lot of consultation, we have, in my opinion, really and truly identified an appropriate date for this holiday to take place. My door is always open to continue having this conversation, because it is far from over. It is my commitment to my constituents to always be there to listen.

One of the best lessons I have taken away from this consultation process is the idea that there is a difference between days of celebration and days of mourning. June 21 as an established day of celebration has its place. A day of truth and reconciliation cannot be included within existing celebrations. For this reason, I welcome the amendments to the bill.

As I have said before, September 30 has become more and more recognized across the country as a day to reconcile with our history. In both northern Saskatchewan and here in Ottawa, I was very encouraged to see so many people in orange shirts saying to the world that what happened to first nations, Metis, and Inuit children and families was unacceptable. I am so encouraged by the work of others to improve the lives of indigenous children across Canada. I am inspired by people like Dr. Cindy Blackstock, who has dedicated so much of her life to working towards child welfare in Canada. I also think often about the work that elders, friendship centres, indigenous culture camps and educators do across the country to bring young people back into the culture of their family. I think about Kevin Lewis, who runs a program like this in northern Saskatchewan.

I also think about the indigenous activists in Canada who have fought so hard to make sure that indigenous voices are heard by this government. I think of the indigenous women who refused to stay idle when the government threatened their land and indigenous sovereignty. I think of the stolen sisters, who remind us every day of generations of indigenous women who continue to live on in our hearts. I think of people like Colleen Hele-Cardinal, who worked almost single-handedly to make sure that survivors of the sixties scoop see the justice they are owed.

I say all this to remind the members of this House of the context in which our debate today takes place. First nations, Métis and Inuit people have been fighting so hard for so long for their people. To establish this day of truth and reconciliation is not to pat ourselves on the back. It is to give ourselves the opportunity to learn more about their work and how we can incorporate their ideas so that indigenous people can have justice and tell survivors of residential schools that what we have done to them will never happen again.

The calls to action put forward by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are not a checklist of things to be achieved. Completing just one call to action is not a step towards progress. Until the day all calls to action are completed, we have very little to celebrate. Today we feel good, but tomorrow we must work harder. Today we look toward a brighter future, but tomorrow we must work harder to make life better for first nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada.

On September 30, we will remember and honour the past and future, but on every other day of the year we must fight to reverse the injustices committed against the indigenous people in Canada.

Public Safety February 25th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, when the Liberals do not support the RCMP and community safety programs, people and communities suffer.

In Pelican Narrows, the community safety officer program is responsible for recruiting and training officers to do nightly patrols, but they lack the resources to bring in the talent they need. People's safety should be a priority, yet the Liberal government is failing to act.

When will the Liberals commit to the safety of people in northern Saskatchewan and dedicate funding for their community safety programs?

Indigenous Affairs February 22nd, 2019

Madam Speaker, people in Pelican Narrows are suffering from a lack of affordable and accessible housing. The community has 266 new housing requests but only the funding to complete three, and that does not include the requests for home renovations.

While the Liberals brag about their housing strategy, people in Pelican Narrows are still waiting for a place to call home. They cannot and should not wait any longer.

Will the Liberals stop waiting and immediately invest in housing for the people of Pelican Narrows?