House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was aboriginal.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Nanaimo—Cowichan (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 49% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe I used the words “knuckle under”. What I did say was that, in a respectful relationship, one tries to work toward a solution.

In my speech, I talked about the parts that are the sticking points that are not part of that five-year review process. From the Yukon first nations' perspective, some of their members were not even provided with copies of the documents that were under review at a meeting back in February 2014.

If we are going to have a fulsome consultation process, we have to allow enough time and provide people with the documentation to allow them to review it.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, for the last many years, from 2006 actually, we have continually seen legislation come forward that does not reflect, in many of our views, at least on the New Democrat side of the House, the duty to consult.

The government loves to trot out the fact that it has had eight meetings talking to people. What it fails to address is the fact that consultation actually should be a circular process. We provide information, we provide resources, we sit down with people, we hear what they have to say, and then we actually include them in working toward a solution where there were differences. It is the part where we include people toward working toward solutions where there are differences that the government consistently fails, whether it is on matrimonial real property, water, or education. Whatever legislation has come before the House to which first nations have objected, the government has failed to work to resolve those objections.

I would agree with the member for Hochelaga that it is a very paternalistic approach to working with first nations.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I did address that in my speech and acknowledge that the minister had quoted that. He did not quote a specific section, but he indicated that the Umbrella Final Agreement talked about the Government of Canada and Yukon.

I do not believe we can just brush away the spirit and intent. If we are to move toward reconciliation in this country, then first nations must be recognized as an order of government. When we are putting forward legislation that would have a profound impact on first nations' ability to manage their territories, then we need to have them at the table and not just brush them aside, which the government is attempting to do.

The parliamentary secretary can say that it is not about spirit and intent but about what is written right here, but the Conservatives are the ones who signed on to the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which acknowledges that first nations have a right to make decisions about matters, legislative decisions and other matters, that directly affect their ability to govern their communities.

I would argue that Bill S-6 directly affects their ability to govern their communities.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak on Bill S-6, an act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act.

I think the member from western Arctic has clearly outlined the NDP position on the bill, and of course, we are opposing it.

I will focus my speaking time on the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act aspect of the bill, because that is very controversial.

To give a bit of background, in May 2003, Canada enacted the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, or YESAA, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 12 of the Yukon first nations' comprehensive land claim agreements. Yukon first nations agreed to accept less than 9% of their historic land. They accepted this small land settlement partly in exchange for the establishment of a permanent assessment process that would manage all projects in their traditional territories in accordance with the objectives stated in chapter 12. That process is defined in YESAA, which was developed collaboratively by Canada, Yukon, and first nations.

A number of concerns have been raised by the Yukon first nations with regard to this piece of legislation. Following are the the primary concerns.

The Council of Yukon First Nations and Yukon first nations are concerned that the changes proposed in Bill S-6 would be contrary to the intent of the land claims agreements, would undermine the neutrality of the YESAA process, and would reduce the effectiveness of environmental and socioeconomic assessments. First nations' main concerns relate to four amendments that were never raised by Canada during the five-year review.

Number one is policy direction to the board. Clause 34 of Bill S-6 would provide an amendment that would give Canada the power to give binding policy direction to the YESAA board. Canada could choose to delegate this power to the Yukon government. Providing Canada with the authority to issue policy direction would undermine the independence of the board and designated offices. Independence is a fundamental element of the YESAA. During the development of the YESAA, Yukon first nations, CYFN, Canada, and Yukon, discussed this at length.

The following analysis is from a pamphlet called Changes to YESAA Threaten Our Land, Our Economy, Our Yukon. How Bill S-6 affects Yukon. It is a background fact sheet.

Providing a single party with the authority to direct the Board is contrary to the spirit and intent of the YESAA and the provisions of the Final Agreements.

The second piece that is controversial in this bill is the delegation of federal powers to the Yukon government. Providing the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with authority to delegate powers to the territorial minister without the consent of first nations would create a bilateral process that would exclude first nations from discussions about the balance of power. I will come back to this particular point.

The third sticking point is exemptions for renewals and amendments. This is a particular concern. It is addressed in clause 14 of Bill S-6. Again, I will quote from the background fact sheet:

This amendment allows governments to approve the renewal or amendment of permits and licences for projects without any YESAA assessment. Renewals or amendments could have serious impacts on the environment, regional economies and local communities.

This amendment will make project assessments challenging. Impacts would need to be identified for the entire project life because renewals would likely not have to go through an assessment. For some projects, effects cannot be foreseen at the time of the initial review. This may result in negative impacts to the environment, our economy and communities.

Under the amendment, governments can avoid assessment for renewals and amendments if they decide that the project has not changed significantly. The proposed amendments do not provide a definition for significant change, but rely on the opinion of the regulators. This will create uncertainty, and the perception of political interference, resulting in conflict and could possibly end up before the courts.

The fourth and final concern and objection is on the timelines for the YESAA assessments. The proposed beginning-to-end timelines would affect the thoroughness of environmental and socio-economic assessments and opportunities for first nations' input on major projects. Of course, we know that in many cases, first nations do not have the resources to drop everything and immediately respond to a project when an assessment is required.

It is very concerning and has the appearance of trying to ram through assessments without first nations having adequate time and resources to review them.

What we have heard consistently from the government is that there was consultation and that it was adequate.

I want to start with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and reference two articles, because it is important to set a context with regard to consultation. Article 18 says:

Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.

Article 19 states:

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

I want to remind the House that the government signed on to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and made a commitment to take some next steps to implement it, but so far it has failed to do anything meaningful or concrete to uphold its international obligations.

I want to address one of the myths with regard to consultation. A paper entitled “Changes to YESAA Threaten our Environment, our Economy, our Yukon” specifically addresses the issue of consultation. This is the myth:

There have been thousands of hours of consultation with First Nations on changes to YESAA over the past 7 years.

Here is the reality:

The Parties discussed the YESAA process for many hours between 2008 and 2011, as part of the YESAA Five-Year Review. It was a review required under the Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA). The Parties to the UFA, the Council of Yukon First Nations..., Canada and Yukon agreed to work together to improve the YESAA process through shared decision making and by consensus, when possible.

The amendments to YESAA under Bill S-6 that are of concern were never discussed and were never raised by Canada during the Five-Year Review. The amendments of concern include: giving binding policy direction to the Board; handing over powers to Yukon; imposing maximum timelines for assessments; and not requiring assessments when a project is renewing or being amended. These new amendments were introduced with little opportunity to ensure adequate consultation and accommodation.

I have outlined those amendments before.

The paper continues:

On February 26, 2014, Canada arrived at a meeting and provided paper copies of these amendments and refused to provide electronic versions to the First Nations that were on the phone for the meeting. This stopped them from being able to participate in a meaningful way.

Yukon First Nations had less than 2 months to review and respond to the changes proposed by Canada. That is not enough time to review important changes to the YESAA law. Consultation means providing the necessary information to the Parties. Canada didn’t do that step. Canada failed to meet the test of its Treaty and common law duty to consult and accommodate.

I have heard the government say that it consulted but that the Yukon first nations did not agree with it, so it was going to go ahead with the amendments, even though there was grave disagreement.

We have heard the Conservative government talk in the House a number of times about an agenda around reconciliation. If it has an agenda around reconciliation, does that not mean respect for its partners?

It signed an umbrella agreement with the Council of Yukon First Nations. I would argue that there is a spirit and intent around these agreements that is about a respectful relationship, a willingness to move toward reconciliation, and an unwillingness to unilaterally impose a federal government's will on first nations. It is fine for the government to say that it has consulted, but if it does not actually do anything about the disagreement to try to resolve it, that is hardly consultation.

Representatives of the Council of Yukon First Nations were in Ottawa because of their grave concerns. They we here at the invitation of the minister and had a meeting with him. CBC's headline was, “Ottawa trip on Bill S-6 ends in insult to Yukon First Nations”. In that meeting, Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation Chief Eric Fairclough said:

The minister shut us down by telling us we were “not real governments”, and therefore he does not need to make us active participants in changing legislation that arises from our treaties.

The article went on to state:

Fairclough says that's an insult that "flies in the face of recent court decisions that have affirmed the duty to consult First Nations."

At the aboriginal affairs committee yesterday, I asked the minister whether or not he had said that. He put it into context, and I will read his response into the record. He stated that “The point I made is under the umbrella agreement, government is defined as being the Government of Canada or the Government of Yukon, so my point was that this delegation is contemplated under the umbrella agreement and it does not define government as being first nations. Their argument is that, under the umbrella agreement, they should be considered governments, and unfortunately, that was not the deal concluded. The umbrella agreement is clear that “government” is defined either as Government of Canada or Government of Yukon. I said that for the purposes of the umbrella agreement, they were not considered and defined as government. That does not mean they are not governments. They are governments but not under the umbrella agreement...”.

We have a government that talks about how it supports all government agreements with first nations. I am not a lawyer, but I know there are many fine lawyers in the House who will tell us that we cannot outline every single possible detail in any agreement, and that what a lot of it comes down to is the spirit and intent. From many presentations and court cases, I can tell members that the rights of first nations have been reaffirmed.

I want to refer to a document from January 2007. It is not a legal document but rather an interpretation. It is entitled, “Recognition and Implementation of First Nation Governments”. This was put out by the Assembly of First Nations. Under “3.3 Core Functions of First Nation Governments”, it states:

The United Nations Development Programme views “capable government” as a precondition to development. Governments are the primary vehicles for promoting social, cultural , and economic development within a society. A capable government must be the one that makes decisions affecting its citizens. A government works best when it is close to those it governs.

It goes on to say:

Communities need to be able to govern themselves with real authorities and jurisdiction. We have governed ourselves effectively in the past and continue to do so despite external impositions like the Indian Act....All regions agreed that First Nation governments have the inherent responsibility and jurisdictions to legislate on those areas that affect their communities.

Surely the changes that are proposed in Bill S-6 would fundamentally affect economic development, the environment that Yukon first nations live in, and their way of life. If that does not meet the test of what should be considered a government-to-government relationship, I do not know what does.

It is not just first nations who are opposing this legislation. I have a number of letters here, which I unfortunately will run out of time reading into the record, but I will quote a few to give members a sense of their flavour.

The Tourism Industry Association of Yukon wrote to the member of Parliament for Yukon stating the following:

On behalf of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, I am writing to express our support for the Council of Yukon First Nations' opposition to particular amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act...by the Government of Canada, through Bill S-6. We believe that these changes will have a negative impact on the tourism industry, and for Yukoners overall.

In conclusion, the TIA states:

TIA Yukon asserts that taking land use planning decisions away from the Territory will ultimately give tourism operators in the Yukon less of a say over land use issues where resource extraction interests conflict with the interests of tourism businesses.

The Casino Mining Corporation wrote to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development stating this:

On behalf of Casino Mining Corporation...I am putting forward our company's concerns regarding the fragility of intergovernmental relations in the Yukon surrounding Bill S-6 and the negative impact this is having on the territory's mineral industry.

It is imperative for Casino that the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act...has the broad support of all governments in order to ensure the confidence of both project proponents and Yukon residents in the YESAA process and to facilitate investment in the territory....

Casino believes that if the YESAA has the full support of all levels of government, it will provide greater certainty for the mineral industry. To this end, we encourage Canada, Yukon, and Yukon First Nation governments to engage, work collaboratively and find a solution to address the outstanding issues within Bill S-6.

In a letter to the member for Yukon, the Wildlife Conservation Society states:

I am writing on behalf of Wildlife Conservation Society Canada...to express opposition to Bill S-6, recently introduced through the Senate of Canada by the federal government.

I have witnessed the implementation of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act...since its inception in 2005, and have been generally impressed by the record of its implementation body....

That is the YESA Board.

It continues:

Bill S-6 proposes various amendments to the YESAA that will undermine the independence and integrity of the environmental impact assessment process currently administered by YESAB. Therefore the social licence for project approvals that YESAB has gained runs a strong risk of being compromised. Bill S-6 has substantial shortcomings, both in the process by which it has been drafted, and in its content.

The process for developing these amendments and compiling them in draft legislation has been flawed. The original YESAA derives from the Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA) under which Aboriginal claims for rights and title have been settled in Yukon. A review of YESAA was mandated to occur after 5 years of implementation, and that review began in 2008. The subsequent process has been long and ultimately produced Bill S-6. The major problems with the process have been: (i) a number of issues raised by First Nations up to June 2011 were ignored or overlooked without explanation in the Interim Draft Final Report of the review process released by the federal government (March 2012) and in the Final Review Report (October 2012); (ii) some of the stages of the review process were held in camera so there is a lack of transparency and accountability to all the negotiating parties and to the public; (iii) certain stakeholders, notably the non-renewable resource extraction industries, participated in the review process in camera; (iv) Bill S-6 has been introduced by your government without the endorsement of Yukon First Nations which makes it contrary to the spirit and intent of the UFA. In sum, the consultation process has lacked transparency, appears biased, and has not addressed First Nations' concerns which are of equal validity to those of Canada or Yukon in a government-to-government agreement such as the UFA.

There are also reasons for concern about the content of Bill S-6, and I highlight three. First, the Bill provides the option for the federal government (Canada), or by delegation the Yukon Territorial government, to impose policy direction on the Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Board (YESAB). This undermines a stated purpose of YESAA (5, 2(a)) which is to produce a "neutrally-conducted assessment process" at arm's length from government. The existing YESAA already allows the Yukon Territorial government, through the Executive Council Office, the power to accept or reject YESAB recommendations. There is no need, in practical or moral terms, to further remove power and influence from YESAB and place it unilaterally in the hands of one or other government. Doing so goes against the spirit and intent of the UFA and the First Nations' final agreements.

Second, Bill S-6 imposes specific timelines on YESAB for project review. As a result, complex projects will receive relatively cursory review because of a rushed process. It is unclear why this would be needed other than perhaps that the YESAB review process in operation before Bill S-6 has come under criticism from the mining industry when YESAB requests additional information during the process. Speaking from the perspective of a biologist who is aware of ecological impacts brought about by mining operations, this is not a reflection of a faulty review process, but a reflection of inadequate preparation by industry and its consultants. In other words, there is a strong argument to be made that YESAB's reviews have been working well by uncovering poor planning and preparation by project proponents.

Finally, as I mentioned, they also raise the following concern:

Bill S-6 removes the need for any YESAB review of project amendments or renewals, unless there are "significant changes”.

A number of bodies have pointed out the very serious concern that this piece of legislation does not define what significant changes are.

There are other organizations, including the the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and the Yukon chapter of CPAWS, who have also raised very serious objections with regard to the independence and impartiality of the development assessment process. Generally, they are calling on the government to pull this bill and to work with Yukon first nations to make sure that the bill reflects both the spirit and intent of the Umbrella Final Agreement, and the spirit and intent of government-to-government relationships, which would include the Yukon first nations.

Given the number of objections that have been raised by Yukoners, including industry and non-governmental organizations, I would urge this government to take a step back and look at the four key areas where there are very serious objections.

Business of Supply December 3rd, 2014

I want to thank the House leader for heckling during my speech, Mr. Speaker.

I still believe that, fundamentally, at the core of what we are talking about is a desire for change in the electoral system. People are very concerned about the hyper-partisanship that is a symptom of our parliamentary process. They are very concerned about the under representation of youth, women and aboriginal peoples in this House.

Surely, again, if we are concerned about what many people are calling the democratic deficit, we would move forward on a system that better reflects the wishes of Canadians.

Business of Supply December 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member quoting my leader in the House. I am pleased to hear that the Liberals listen to the leader of the official opposition. That is good news.

I also want to acknowledge the comment that an NDP provincial government had not put forward a system of proportional representation. It is unfortunate that has happened because we would have had a good chance to have it succeed if an NDP government had moved forward with that initiative.

Business of Supply December 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I actually addressed that in my speech by saying that part of the challenge for people with the single transferrable vote system was they wanted change. That was pretty clear in the first referendum. It was 57% and they needed 60% to make that referendum pass.

We have to wonder about the cynical approach in setting up that referendum. The Liberals made the threshold so high. First, they put together a citizens' assembly and they thought that the citizens' assembly could never come to consensus. They were wrong. The citizens' assembly came to a consensus. Then they set the referendum threshold very high. It was a complicated formula and it came so close that what they actually had to do was go back and have a second referendum.

That clearly demonstrates that there is an appetite for change. We have to work with people in order to ensure they understand the change and that they are involved in putting forward a proposal that will work for them.

Business of Supply December 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting, as I rise to speak to the motion put forward by the member for Toronto—Danforth, to hear people talk about how we cannot rush into this change.

I was elected in 2004. I would like to pretend that this is the very first time that I have risen in the House to speak to the notion of moving toward proportional representation, but sadly, it is not.

I spoke about it when our former leader and the former member for Ottawa Centre was in the House in 2004 and 2005. I spoke about it when Catherine Bell, the former member for Vancouver Island North, brought forward her motion. I spoke about it in 2008, when a member from the Bloc brought forward a motion.

I know that over the last 10 years, many other members in this place have raised it time and time again. I hardly think that this is a rapid change. In addition, a number of studies have been done and I am going to reference them.

Before that, Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be splitting my time with the member for Ottawa Centre.

I would like to turn to the 2004 report from the Law Commission of Canada entitled “Voting Counts: Electoral Reform for Canada”. I wish I could read all of the couple of hundred pages, but I cannot.

In its executive summary, it said:

For the past decade or so, Canada has been in the grip of a democratic malaise evidenced by decreasing levels of political trust, declining voter turnout, increasing cynicism toward politicians and traditional forms of political participation, and growing disengagement of young people from politics. However, as the Commission heard throughout its consultation process, many citizens want to be involved, want to have a real voice in decision making, and would like to see more responsive, accountable, and effective political institutions.

That was in 2004. A substantial amount of consultation was taking place and some very strong recommendations were made.

It goes on to criticize our current first-past-the-post system. Those of us who have been around for a while can talk about the problems and challenges with our first-past-the-post system after seeing in 2011, that the Conservative government was elected with less than 40% of the vote.

There is something wrong with a system that allows less than 40% of the voters, which was only about 25% of the eligible voters because the voter turnout was so low, to actually put a government in a majority situation. It is now driving the agenda for a whole country, when it does not remotely have a majority of Canadians supporting it.

The Law Commission of Canada identified problems with the first-past-the-post system. It said:

For many Canadians, this system is inherently unfair—more likely to frustrate or distort the wishes of the voters than to translate them fairly into representation and influence in the legislature. It has been criticized as: being overly generous to the party that wins a plurality of the vote, rewarding it with a legislative majority disproportionate to its share of the vote; allowing the governing party, with its artificially swollen legislative majority, to dominate the political agenda; promoting parties formed along regional lines, thus exacerbating Canada’s regional divisions; leaving large areas of the country without adequate representatives in the governing party caucus; disregarding a large number of votes in that voters who do not vote for the winning candidate have no connection to the elected representative, nor to the eventual make-up of the House of Commons; contributing to the under-representation of women, minority groups, and Aboriginal peoples; preventing a diversity of ideas from entering the House of Commons; and favouring an adversarial style of politics.

Again, over the last three years, I can certainly speak to my own personal experience in the House. It is the most adversarial that I have seen it in the 10 years that I have been a member.

In its conclusion, the Law Commission of Canada said:

Canada inherited its first-past-the-post electoral system from Great Britain over 200 years ago, at a time when significant sections of the Canadian population, including women, Aboriginal people, and nonproperty owners, were disenfranchised.

I heard the Liberal member talk about the fact that there are three western democracies that still have this system. It seemed to me that he was touting this as a great thing, whereas other democracies have moved on. I would suggest that, perhaps, after 200 years of the same system, it might be time to take a fresh look at how Canadians should be represented.

The Law Commission of Canada also said:

Canada’s political, cultural, and economic reality has vastly changed; the current electoral system no longer responds to 21st century Canadian democratic values. Many Canadians desire an electoral system that better reflects the society in which they live—one that includes a broader diversity of ideas and is more representative of Canadian society. For these reasons, the Commission recommends adding an element of proportionality to our electoral system.

Furthermore, because of its many potential benefits, electoral reform should be a priority item on the political agenda.

Its final note was:

However, it has become apparent that the first-past-the-post electoral system no longer meets the democratic aspirations of many Canadians. Electoral reform is thus a necessary step to energize and strengthen Canadian democracy.

Ten years ago and we are still making no movement with regard to examining the first-past-the-post system.

In a speech on October 15, 2005, on ethics and democratic reform, the Hon. Ed Broadbent noted a couple of key points. I will not talk about the ethics and the accountability part of the speech, but I will focus on proportional representation.

In his opening statement, he said:

The debate and time spent in Parliament should be about the state of our health-care and the state of our economy, about foreign policy and human rights, about the security of our seniors and the poverty of our children. I have never seen such a reversal of priorities as in the past 12 months.

I want to remind people that this is 2005 I am talking about. He said:

Time spent on governmental policy has yielded more often than not to debates about the process of governance: about Canadians' concern over the integrity of elected politicians and public servants, about the rules and accountability governing those appointed, about access to information, about contract corruption, about high living at public expense, about unaccountable lobbyists, about wrong-doing partisan-appointed officials resigning with legal impunity—

Here we are almost 10 years later and we have got exactly the same situation here in this House. We can lay part of that at the foot of the fact that we still have a first-past-the-post system. We do not have a more representative House here.

Mr. Broadbent talked about the ethics and about some of the ways to address the accountability deficit in this House, but he also talked about democratic reform. He said:

A major source of needed democratic reform is our outmoded first-past-the-post electoral system.

Ninety percent of the world's democracies, including Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland and Wales have abandoned or significantly modified the pre-democratic British system that still prevails in Ottawa. As the Law Commission recommended and five provinces seem to agree, fairness means we need a mixed electoral system that combines individual constituency-based MPs with proportional representation. Only such a system would positively redress the existing imbalance in gender, ethnic, ideological and regional voting preferences.

Just a note on the gender issues, over a couple of decades we have only seen the representation of women marginally increase in this House. In many countries, proportional representation has assisted in that.

He went on to say:

In particular, as the Pepin-Robarts Commission pointed out 26 years ago, our present system does a great disservice to Canadian unity because regional representation in the House of Commons--in the caucuses and in the cabinet--does not reflect Canadian voters' intentions.

I know that members in other parts of the House talk about how the Senate can address regional representation, but I am talking about elected representation here. That way, people have a real voice in who it is that speaks for them here in the House.

British Columbia unfortunately had a failed referendum with regard to a single transferrable vote, but the process that was used in order to come up with the system, the first time it went to a referendum, it was so close that the government had to hold a second referendum.

Part of the reason the second referendum lost was not because people were not hungry for change, they wanted change, but what happened in British Columbia was that many people did not understand the system.

Many British Columbians that I spoke to, after the referendum failed, said that they really did want change, but they did not understand what it was, so they voted no.

What we need is a very clear proposal for Canadians, outlining how it would affect them in their riding, in their district, and how their access to a parliamentary procedure would improve under a system of proportional representation.

We should all be very concerned in this House about the lack of participation in the electoral process. We should all take a hard look at how we operate in this House. Our objective here should be to increase voter participation. Our objective should be to ensure that the values of Canadians are adequately represented in this House by having a broad cross-section.

I have heard people say that the NDP proposed this system because it would advantage it.

Actually, in a number of elections, proportional representation would have advantaged the other parties, whether it was the Liberals, the old Reformers or the Green Party. We are proposing a system that will more adequately reflect what Canadians want to see.

I would encourage all members of the House to support this good motion and help us ensure that the next election in 2019 reflects true Canadian wishes.

Justice December 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative tough on crime agenda is disproportionately impacting aboriginal women, who now make up fully one-third of all incarcerated women in Canada.

The Correctional Investigator has warned the government that there is an urgent need for change in the way aboriginal offenders are treated. His warnings were dismissed by the minister, and now we have a crisis on our hands.

Instead of continuing this failed approach, why does the government not invest in community resources to prevent aboriginal women from being criminalized in the first place?

Justice December 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, a new report from the Department of Justice shows that the number of aboriginal women in Canada who are behind bars has grown by a shocking 97% in the decade since 2002. This overrepresentation is compounded by a lack of access to culturally appropriate programming and rehabilitation, and the complex needs of many aboriginal women offenders.

Does the minister acknowledge that when one community doubles its representation in prison in a decade, the status quo is simply not working?