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

Infrastructure November 27th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, communities across northern Saskatchewan have become inaccessible because of broken and unfinished roads, lack of rail access and no safe public transportation. The conditions are worse now that winter has settled in. The Liberals keep neglecting the calls from the local leadership, like Mayor Bruce Fidler in Creighton, to invest in safe and reliable infrastructure. Northerners deserve better.

Why does the Liberal government not care about infrastructure in northern communities?

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 2 November 27th, 2018

Madam Speaker, before I ask my question, I want to clarify some points. One of the recent reports that came out in Canada about poverty indicated that the top two areas in Canada affected by child poverty are northern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba. My experiences in northern Saskatchewan have shown that all levels of government, whether the federal Conservatives or Liberals or governments at the provincial level, are way out of touch. They ignore and neglect northern Saskatchewan and possibly northern Manitoba as well.

I am curious as to what this poverty reduction plan looks like. I want to believe that it is suitable for northern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba. Can the government clearly explain? I do not want to hear about first nation involvement. I want to hear specifically about ridings like mine, Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, with a specific population of northerners that are first nations, Métis, farming communities and rural municipalities. Can the Liberal government clarify this point?

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 2 November 27th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I would like to remind the minister and the government of the realities on the ground when it comes to poverty, child poverty, and lack of infrastructure for communities on reserves across Canada. Our indigenous youth across Canada are struggling and they do not have the support of the government by investing in their future.

How can the government sit here and falsely give us information, saying that Canada is great and it is moving forward when it is not? When I hear about suicides, when I hear about roads being inaccessible, when I hear about job cuts in my riding and across northern Canada, I want to hear an effective plan from the government.

Criminal Code November 26th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, today I rise in support of, and in solidarity with, the generations of first nations, Métis and Inuit women who have come before me and will come after me. Today I would like to add my voice to the apparent silence that exists for indigenous women in Canada's justice system and speak in support of Bill S-215.

Within the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, all individuals are guaranteed equality before and under the law. All individuals have the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. However, it is clear that this is not the case for first nation, Métis or Inuit women.

If indigenous women had equal protection under the law, we would not have an ongoing inquiry into the 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. All those women and girls had names, are loved and have families and communities that continue to search for justice in a system that does not view them as equals.

If indigenous women were viewed as equals in Canadian society, we would not mourn with the families of young indigenous women lost in child and family care. We would not have to continue to fight for an inquiry into the systemic oppression indigenous women face. We would not have a Highway of Tears, and in 2018, we would not have to call for justice for the indigenous women forced into sterilization.

When first nation, Métis and Inuit women and the organizations that support them call for justice and propose changes to the justice system, we should be listening. Not only should we be listening, we should do everything in our power to bring those changes and reforms into effect.

Canada has a long history of oppressing and excluding indigenous women from systems of justice, but surely Canada's future is one that includes the voices of indigenous women. For this reason, I am proud to support this bill my friend in Saskatchewan, who serves our province in the other place, has brought forward, which is now being considered here. Bill S-215 would amend the Criminal Code to require a court to consider that when a victim of assault or murder was a first nation, Métis or Inuit female person, this fact would constitute an aggravating circumstance for the purpose of sentencing.

It is not without precedent that consideration of aggravating circumstances has been given to other groups in society. Among others, police officers, transit workers and animals have been identified as vulnerable within the Canadian justice system by virtue of the line of work and social position they are in when they are the victims of a crime.

The evidence exists for indigenous women to be given similar status. A 2014 RCMP report, reports from the Native Women's Association of Canada and reports from Amnesty International all affirm that indigenous women are three to four times more likely than other Canadian women to be murdered, sexually assaulted or made missing. Aboriginal women are seven times more likely to be targeted by serial killers. Statistics Canada has reported that being indigenous is a significant risk factor for women to experience violence, but that is not the case for indigenous men.

I myself am an indigenous woman from northern Saskatchewan, and I repeat these statistics here not for my benefit but for the benefit of my colleagues present in the House today. My family and community are Dene. Most of the constituents in my riding are first nation or Métis. My constituents know how difficult life is for indigenous people in Canada, because they see and experience Canada as indigenous people.

Our families suffered and survived residential schools. We feel the pain of colonialism every time young indigenous persons lose their lives, either from suicide or the violent actions of others. We feel the isolation of the north when we have to hitchhike for medical care. We know the danger of what it is like to be indigenous, because in virtually every way, our lives are governed by a colonial system that puts our communities at a lower status than those of non-indigenous Canadians.

Like many indigenous women, I am personally affected by the injustice of violence against women. My auntie Janet Sylvestre and my friend Myrna Montgrand are among the 1,200 women and girls who were murdered and made missing. To this day, their killers are not known. Happy Charles, from La Ronge, has been missing for a year and a half, and her family remains determined, despite a lack of answers.

I understand that we do not make policies or decisions as a government from the stories of individuals or from the anecdotes of history. However, at certain points in history, the stories of individuals become the narratives of a country if those stories are told again and again. This story of violence against indigenous women has been repeated far too often for us to think of it as a footnote.

Our stories exist to teach us lessons and guide our future. If we learn nothing from the continued story of violence against indigenous women from the stories of Happy, Janet and Myrna, among so many others, we do nothing but silence those who bravely step forward to speak. This narrative of violence must be accounted for in Canada's laws so that indigenous women are no longer targeted and overwhelmingly the victims of violence in Canada.

Of course, the bill is not without concerns. I have heard and read the debates about how Bill S-215 would be unfair to aboriginal offenders who could be sentenced to more time in prison, and as a result, would be more likely to reoffend in the future. In particular, the bill, if implemented, could potentially negatively interfere with the section of the Criminal Code known as the Gladue provisions. To this I have two responses.

First, as my colleague from Manitoba has said, the Gladue provisions of the Criminal Code are not meant to reduce prison time. The Gladue provisions are intended to ask the court to consider alternatives to prison, such as restorative justice and rehabilitation programs. Programs like these retrain and heal offenders and thereby decrease the likelihood that they will reoffend.

Furthermore, the Gladue principles do not call for sentences outside the range of legally available penalties. A court cannot substitute a sentence just because someone is indigenous. The practitioners of violence would still get the punishment the law calls for, even with the aggravating circumstances the bill would put in place. It is even questionable whether the Gladue principles could be applied to violent crimes, with the Supreme Court ruling that for serious offences, there may not be any reduction in imprisonment for aboriginal offenders.

Second, I want to speak about the balance of rights for indigenous women in the justice system. It says a lot in a debate about how we can help indigenous women and their families get the justice they are owed when we put the concerns of the offender over the concerns of the victim. Do not get me wrong. I am not trying to say that perpetrators of violence do not have rights, because those rights are important, but where we have protections for aboriginal offenders in Gladue reports, our courts must not fail to consider the situations and circumstances of the victims.

Indigenous women who are the victims of violent crime are affected by the same historical factors and upheaval of economic development experienced by their communities. Not only are indigenous women victimized by the accused, they are victims of systemic discrimination and are economically and socially disadvantaged to a greater degree than the accused.

Bill S-215 is not a catch-all solution for the problems indigenous women face in the justice system. The justice system is not destined to stay the same forever. It changes just as society does. It is a living, breathing system full of individuals who are constantly challenging it. Bill S-215 is an opportunity for us to examine and question the belief systems judges, lawyers, police officers and court workers have and calls on them to see indigenous women from a new perspective.

For these reasons, I am proud to support this bill that works to create a safer world and a more equitable justice system for first nation, Métis and Inuit women.

Criminal Code November 26th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, as an indigenous woman, I am thankful for this discussion in the House of Commons, working every day. On behalf of all indigenous women across Canada, this is a very significant point for all of us.

I want to ask my friend across the way a question. I understand he is supporting this discussion personally. I would like to seek clarification on the position of the federal government. Where does it stand on this very important discussion?

Elections Modernization Act October 26th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I would like to voice some of my comments and concerns regarding this very important discussion this morning.

There is a level hypocrisy from members of both the Liberal government as well as the Conservative Party when they say that all Canadians are equal. Where I come from within the Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River riding, even obtaining a photo ID is a challenge.

Both parties are making it difficult for indigenous voters and people who are struggling. They are making it difficult to go out and vote. How can they improve that for all Canadians?

Housing October 23rd, 2018

Mr. Speaker, Northern Saskatchewan needs women's shelters and yet the Liberals refuse to release the funds they promised for a shelter run by the Athabasca Health Authority.

Indigenous and northern women are the most at risk to violence. Many have to travel hundreds of kilometres to get the help they need. This is unacceptable.

What are the Liberals waiting for to act on their promise to northern women and release the funds for the much-needed shelter in Black Lake?

Indigenous Affairs October 17th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, today I stand to support the work of women in northern Saskatchewan who are doing great things to support at-risk women and children in my riding; women like Marilyn Mannix at Healthy Babies Right from the Start, and Benita Moccasin at North of 54 in Meadow Lake, or Karen Sanderson of the Piwapan Women's Center in La Ronge. While these people do great work, the Government of Canada can do so much more to support them.

We must do better for the Athabasca Health Authority, which is still fighting for promised funding for a women's shelter in Black Lake. It has to fight bureaucracy at every level to get what it was promised.

I call on the Liberals to listen to women's organizations and to create a national action plan so that northern and indigenous women can have access to well-funded shelter services wherever they are.

Health October 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, this year the Liberals have cut funding for HIV and AIDs treatments in northern Saskatchewan, despite the record high number of cases in the province. Nurses and health professionals have called on the government to take urgent action. After meeting with Elton John, the Prime Minister said he is committed to creating an AIDS-free future.

Now that he has heard from health professionals and a Grammy winner, will the Prime Minister restore funding immediately to Saskatchewan HIV/AIDS organizations, yes or no?

Seniors October 4th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, Marie Trottier is a Métis elder from Buffalo Narrows who, this week, shared her experience with me of how expensive medical care is for elders in my riding. Like Marie, too many northern elders and seniors have to pay to get to a hospital in the city. They have to pay for hotels, meals and their prescriptions. This is unacceptable.

Why is the Minister of Seniors proud of the work she has done when so many northerners are being left behind?