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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was aboriginal.

Last in Parliament November 2010, as Conservative MP for Calgary Centre-North (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 57% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act October 27th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-14, the Tlicho land claims and self-government act.

I would like at the outset to join my colleague in welcoming the Tlicho dignitaries to the House today. They are indeed a strong community with strong leadership. The questions of which I will speak in my comments relate less to the future direction of the Tlicho and more to the future direction of the government.

As the hon. members opposite are aware, I have a lengthy history in the country as an outspoken advocate in the resolution of both specific and comprehensive claims. In particular, as a private citizen and legal counsel, I served as the negotiator on the tripartite settlement of the Sturgeon Lake treaty land entitlement claim and more recently as a commissioner at the Indian Claims Commission, where I served as co-chair for almost 10 years.

I have been an outspoken advocate on the resolution of claims such as this and I have advocated institutional reform that would see claims resolved through an independent claims tribunal, which has the requisite independence from the federal crown. Through all that time, for nearly 20 years, I have advocated the resolution of claims, but I have also always advocated settlements which are founded on Canada's best long term interests, as well as the best interests of the aboriginal communities concerned.

I regret to say I am unable to support Bill C-14 in its current form. I do not believe that this legislation and the agreement which it brings into law, which is an aboriginal rights agreement pursuant to section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, have been fully negotiated and properly considered from Canada's point of view. The agreement gives rise to a constitutionally protected right. It does not amend the Canadian Constitution, but it does change it in the sense that it gives rise to a section 35 protected right.

I acknowledge that there are many aspects of the Tlicho agreement which are sound and represent a useful step forward in the negotiation of self-government arrangements. Indeed, this arrangement is unique. It is the first of its kind combining a comprehensive land claim with a self-government arrangement.

I would also say that I make no criticism of the lands and resources which have been allocated to the Tlicho under the agreement. I regard the agreement as a generous one. In that respect it will provide the Tlicho with the resources, both financial and otherwise, to build a partnership and a future in our federation.

Unfortunately, these positive aspects of the agreement are lost within a legislative scheme that raises serious national issues. Generally speaking, our concerns arise from the impact which the agreement will have on the governance of the country and the fact that it compromises to some degree Canada's capacity to exercise its international sovereignty.

Our opposition to the agreement is based upon our concerns that the approval of the agreement will impede the future governance of Canada. Furthermore, the passage of the agreement will create a precedent which will significantly erode federal constitutional jurisdiction in the north and also complicate Canada's international authority. In addition, important provisions of the agreement, most notably those pertaining to legislative paramountcy and concurrency and jurisdictional conflict, are internally contradictory and ultimately not decipherable in the agreement itself.

The agreement is the culmination of two separate negotiations. The first is the negotiation of the comprehensive claim which has been carried out pursuant to the federal government's comprehensive claims policy of 1986. In this respect the agreement has some similarities to the Nisga'a agreement. The second is the negotiation of the self-government arrangements which are based upon the 1995 inherent rights policy of the government. In this respect the agreement tracks the Westbank agreement.

The act gives the force of law to the tripartite agreement of August 25, 2003 and it accords that agreement paramountcy over the act itself and over any regulations which are passed pursuant to the act.

It is noteworthy and worth mentioning that the manner in which the agreement and the act have been placed before this Parliament are in effect by way of a notice of ways and means motion. This places Parliament and the House in the difficult position where it is an either all or nothing proposition, either the House effectively approves the legislation adopting the entire 208 page agreement or does not. There is no opportunity for the House to engage in a constructive amendment process.

Although the bill has received little public attention it is almost certainly the most significant such agreement considered by the Canadian government in recent years. The effect of the agreement is to create a third order of aboriginal government with concurrent but paramount authority, jurisdiction over the federal Crown in relation to matters affecting the Tlicho.

Moreover, the resultant Tlicho state is governed by a Tlicho constitution which is arguably paramount to the Canadian charter on the very terms of the constitution itself. The agreement also appears to acknowledge or perhaps confer some degree of international authority upon the Tlicho government. There are a number of provisions in the agreement that I would submit are flawed and debatable from a Canadian public policy perspective.

I will restrict my comments to four reasons why the agreement, as drafted, is damaging to the long term interests of Canada. First, I will refer to the absence of finality; second, to incursions upon Canada's international autonomy; third, jurisdictional confusion; and fourth, confusion surrounding the application of the charter as a primary instrument of Canadian law.

On the absence of finality, the agreement is a generous one in terms of lands, moneys and resources which are provided. It is worth noting that, as my friend said, the Tlicho lands will comprise as I understand it, the largest contiguous block of first nation owned land in Canada.

Unfortunately, as one who has negotiated specific claims, I am having some trouble understanding what concessions Canada has received in return for this.

Chapter 27.6.1 of the agreement provides that the Tlicho will also receive equivalent benefits to those granted in the future to any other aboriginal group in the Northwest Territories, whether by land claims agreement, self-government agreement, tax power exemption or legislation. In other words, the Tlicho agreement is clearly not a final agreement in the same sense that the Nisga'a agreement could be said to be a final agreement.

With respect to incursions upon Canada's international autonomy, the agreement contains several remarkable sections relating to international matters. I would point out for the benefit of the House that what is remarkable about those provisions is that they are a violation of the federal government's own policy relating to the negotiation of comprehensive claims. That policy states that powers relating to Canadian sovereignty are non-negotiable when the government is negotiating comprehensive claims, self-government arrangements.

Chapter 2.9 of the agreement states that it does not limit the authority of the Tlicho to enter into any international, national, interprovincial or interterritorial agreement which suggests by implication that the Tlicho government does have some authority to enter into such agreements. The agreement, moreover, contains the following remarkable provision which is self-explanatory. I refer to chapter 7.13.2:

Prior to consenting to be bound by an international treaty that may affect a right of the Tlicho Government, the Tlicho First Nation or a Tlicho Citizen, flowing from the Agreement, the Government of Canada shall provide an opportunity for the Tlicho Government to make its views known with respect to the international treaty eitherseparately or through a forum.

The agreement carries on in chapter 7.13.4, “to provide for an arbitration mechanism between the Government of Canada and the Tlicho government in respect of international legal obligations and disputes relating thereto”.

Furthermore, the Government of Canada is obligated under chapter 7.13.5 to consult with the Tlicho government before taking positions before an international tribunal in circumstances where the Tlicho government has taken action giving rise to an international legal controversy.

The clear implication of this is that the very jurisdiction that the federal government on its own principles said is non-negotiable has been negotiated and to some degree compromised. So, from the perspective of Canada, this agreement has compromised the international sovereignty of this country.

With respect to jurisdictional confusion, the provisions of the agreement relating to the future governance of this part of the Northwest Territories are, I would submit, poorly drafted and, in several respects, contradictory.

The intent or the effect of the agreement seems to have been to create a new order of aboriginal government with concurrent, although paramount, authority over the federal Crown in relation to matters concerning the Tlicho. The bill is very clear in making the provisions of the agreement paramount over the statute and over any regulations passed under the statute.

Unfortunately, the agreement itself is not internally consistent. It is contradictory, resulting in confusion regarding the concurrent and the paramount authority of the Government of Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Tlicho government.

The agreement addresses these interjurisdictional issues in at least three different places and prescribes three different distinct concepts of paramountcy. First, in chapters 7.7.2 through to 7.7.4, there is a hierarchy of authority which essentially flows as follows: first, federal legislation of general application; second, territorial legislation implementing Canada's international agreements; third, Tlicho law; fourth, territorial legislation of general application; and fifth, specific federal legislation relating to the Tlicho.

Yet, in chapter 2.8.3, there is a separate concept of paramountcy in that it makes the settlement legislation paramount over the provisions of any other legislation or the Tlicho laws. Yet the definition of settlement legislation in the statute refers to both territorial legislation and federal legislation.

In other words, this provision seems to create quite a differently hierarchy; namely, the following: first, the agreement; second, federal settlement legislation, which is presumably this bill; third, territorial settlement legislation; and fourth, other legislation for Tlicho laws. This is arguably inconsistent with the concepts outlined in chapters 7.7.2 through to 7.7.4.

Third, in chapter 2.10.7, there is yet another legislative hierarchy which applies in the event of an arbitration relating to jurisdiction or power, and it is entirely different. It outlines the following hierarchy: first, federal laws of overriding national importance; second, federal laws implementing international agreement obligations; third, other federal legislation; fourth, territorial legislation implementing Canada's international obligations; fifth, Tlicho laws; and sixth, other territorial legislation.

Certainly, the general scheme of the legislation is that the powers of the Tlicho government to enact laws are concurrent with those of the Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories.

The difficulty, from the provisions I have just outlined, is determining how and when the legislation of the Government of Canada is paramount, and how and when the legislation of the Tlicho government is paramount because there are multiple definitions that apply in the event of conflict. This will not be a good situation in the future as we determine who is responsible for what areas of activity.

Fourth, concerns the application of the charter and, frankly, the adoption of governance structures which may be inconsistent with the charter. The overall scheme created by the bill, the agreement and the Tlicho constitution appears to have implications for the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to Tlicho citizens. Although both the agreement and the Tlicho constitution speak of consistency with the charter, they do not say that they are bound by the charter.

It is noteworthy that the Tlicho constitution itself is very clear, in chapter 3.1, that the Tlicho constitution, not the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is the Tlicho nation's highest law. That is clearly expressed in the Tlicho constitution.

Frankly, the entire legislative scheme is quite unclear as to the constitutional relationship between the Constitution Act of Canada, the charter and the Tlicho constitution.

It creates a category of Canadians called Tlicho citizens, and prescribes an electoral system where only Tlicho citizens may be elected as the chief of the Tlicho community government. In addition, at least 50% of the elected councillors must be Tlicho citizens. To be a Tlicho citizen, one must be properly enrolled and registered, as I understand it, as a status Indian of Canada. The agreement clearly creates a segregated, racially based electoral system which does raise charter implications.

The Conservative Party believes that self-government must occur within the context of the Constitution of Canada. To ensure fairness and equality, the principles of the charter must apply to all Canadian citizens. Other claims such as the Nisga'a are very clear in stating that the charter binds the aboriginal self-government which is created. This document lacks that clarity.

Let me ensure that the record is clear as to my position. The future settlement of outstanding comprehensive claims must be pursued on the basis of a clear framework which balances the rights of aboriginal Canadians with those of the Canadian nation as a whole and, in particular, negotiated settlements must balance the economic and social needs of aboriginal Canadians with Canada's need for certainty and finality of terms.

Self-government agreements must reflect Canada's need for both efficacy and practicality in our institutional structure and constitutional harmony so as not to impede the future governance of Canada.

In our view the agreement has not been adequately considered from this perspective of Canada's overriding federal and international workability. In our view the agreement fails to satisfactorily balance the economic and social needs of the Tlicho on the one hand with Canada's need for certainty, finality of terms and constitutional workability on the other.

We would emphasize that this agreement has not been properly considered in that respect and that it is not in the best interests of Canada to approve a document which is contradictory on its very face, and which exacerbates the jurisdictional confusion in the north and potentially erodes Canada's federal authority and international autonomy.

The way in which the government has placed this statute, with the agreement attached, before Parliament precludes this honourable House from addressing in any significant way the issues which I have dealt with in my comments, real issues of legal significance. The House of Commons lacks the capacity in any meaningful way to address those issues because of the way in which the legislation has been brought forward.

Business of supply October 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member opposite and the government find the risks for aboriginal women to be unacceptable, it is hard to understand why they are not doing more to deal with this issue.

My friend has spoken of the excellent work of Terri Brown and the Native Women's Association of Canada. They are doing extraordinary work. They placed a proposal in front of the government in July of this year and they still do not have an answer.

I say to the government, and I will quote from the Amnesty International report:

In every instance, Canadian authorities could and should have done more to ensure the safety of these women and girls or to address the social and economic factors that had helped put them in harm's way.

Why will the government not act and do more to protect aboriginal women and children?

Business of supply October 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, three weeks ago Amnesty International issued a report entitled Stolen Sisters , detailing the violence that far too many aboriginal women face in Canada today and the discrimination that often confronts them or their families when they seek the help of the police.

The report made it clear that the government has failed to protect aboriginal women. However, whether three weeks or three years ago, the government's reaction, or rather its inaction, never varies. The Amnesty International report painted a shocking and sobering picture of the plight of many aboriginal women in Canada today. It stated:

A shocking 1996 Canadian government statistic reveals that indigenous women between the ages of 25 and 44, with status under the Indian Act, were five times more likely than all other women of the same age to die as the result of violence.

That was in 1996. How much progress have we seen in the last eight years? Far too little. Clearly we need a new strategy for Canada's aboriginal people. Another 11 years of Liberal rule will just not do.

It is hard to know where to start, given the number of areas in which the Liberals have allowed aboriginal Canadians to languish so far behind the rest of the country in terms of wealth, health and opportunity. If we are going to begin to deal with the problems that afflict Canada's aboriginal communities, then we must abandon the failed strategies that the government has pursued for far too long. Amnesty International's report and the excellent work of the Native Women's Association of Canada confirms this stark point.

The Government of Canada spends in the neighbourhood of $10 billion to $15 billion each year on Canada's aboriginal peoples. It is simply astounding that with that level of investment the government has been unable to deliver basic services such as education, to say nothing of health care, housing and clean water.

The first step to a better future for Canada's aboriginal people is ensuring that the money we do spend is spent wisely. We need a legislative framework in place which prescribes a standard of service for the delivery of government services. It matters what we spend, but what really matters is what we deliver. We need to focus on delivering more.

Both aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians are entitled to complete transparency and accountability in the expenditure of all funds on aboriginal programs. It is only through accountability that this place can be assured that the federal government is getting the support to those who need it most, namely, aboriginal women and children.

This is an indispensable aspect of ensuring democratic accountability, both within aboriginal communities and more broadly in this country. Aboriginal Canadians need to have the same tools available to them as are available to all other Canadians to identify and constrain any excess in the use of government power, or corruption, or for that matter, mismanagement.

I hope that we have seen the last of Amnesty International's report decrying Canada's neglect of its aboriginal people. Our party is committed to pursuing a new strategy to better the lives of aboriginal Canadians. We need a strategy that exchanges dependence for empowerment. We need a commitment to transparency and good governance. We need a government that will address seriously the issues raised in the Amnesty International report.

I, along with all other Canadians and the aboriginal peoples of this country, and indeed the world, continue to wait for the government's response to this damning report.

Oil and Gas Industry October 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the great pipeline race has now started and we need to know if the government is even in the race.

This past week the United States government moved to fast track the Alaska pipeline. However, Canada's $7 billion Mackenzie Valley pipeline is at risk. The government has failed in its obligation to settle with the Deh Cho and has failed in its obligation to streamline the regulatory process. It has failed in its obligation to resolve environmental issues.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister guarantee that Canada's north will not lose this project due to the government's ineptitude?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 20th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member will be familiar with the position I put forward in the context of the throne speech debate, and I will reiterate the issue I raised at that time. In the throne speech, at page 14, there is reference to the circumstances of other people elsewhere in the world and the government purports to offer this advice to people elsewhere in the world:

In so many of the world's trouble spots, establishing order is only the first step. Poverty, despair and violence are usually rooted in failed institutions of basic governance and rule of law.

The throne speech carries on to offer advice to people elsewhere in the world. Taking that advice and applying it closer to home, what specifically does the government propose to do to address the issues which the government itself recognizes in the throne speech? The throne speech talks about the yawning gaps that exist between the life expectancies in terms of issues such as teenage suicide, fetal alcohol syndrome and the like, and between aboriginal Canadians and non-aboriginal Canadians.

The throne speech, however, offers no specifics, no plan, no plan of action, nothing other than a vague promise to try to measure the circumstances by which aboriginal Canadians are suffering these problems.

This is not the first time we have heard this from the government. If one were to look at the throne speeches that we have seen time and again over the past 12 years, it is a reiteration of the same difficulties. If we were to look at the throne speech of 1993, it chronicles the aboriginal frustrations of the day: unemployment, health problems, poor housing, unequal educational opportunity and unsafe drinking water.

Twelve years later there is no change, and the most recent throne speech acknowledges that. In the intervening 12 years we have had throne speech after throne speech which offered nothing but vague promises, promises to forge partnerships, to build partnerships, to develop partnerships and to turn the corner on what the government itself calls the shameful living conditions of aboriginal Canadians.

What has changed? Clearly nothing has changed. What specifics does the government intend to embark upon to address these issues?

Sponsorship Program October 15th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, yesterday's testimony was damning. We heard evidence of “big Liberals” receiving taxpayers' money. Canadians now have confirmation that the corruption of the sponsorship program was tied directly to big Liberals.

We know that the hon. member himself is now a big Liberal, but this is the minister's chance to come clean and disclose to the House the names of other big Liberals who received sponsorship money because of their ties to the Prime Minister.

Sponsorship Program October 15th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. If one is a Liberal, membership clearly has its privileges. I have in hand yesterday's testimony from the Gomery inquiry. We know the Gomery inquiry: that is where direct questions get direct answers.

Yesterday Madam Roy was asked whether political affiliation carried weight in funding decisions under the sponsorship program. She said yes. My direct question to the minister is, in addition to former hockey stars who hosted million dollar cocktail parties for the Prime Minister, what other friends of the Prime Minister received taxpayers' money?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 8th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to respond to the experienced member from Calgary Centre.

The throne speech contains a remarkable statement that is offered to us in the context of Canada's role in the world and what we have to offer as a nation. It states:

In so many of the world's trouble spots, establishing order is only the first step. Poverty, despair and violence are usually rooted in failed institutions of basic governance and rule of law.

If in the throne speech the government can see with clarity that is the situation in the world, why does it lack the judgment, the decency and the compassion to realize that we are dealing with the same problems of institutional failure in Canada? That is the source of the despair and the despondency. If that applies elsewhere in the world, why can we not apply the same Canadian sense of imagination to the problems of our first people right here?

I referred in my comments to Amnesty International. I am not the only one who feels this way. This was not in the throne speech. This is what Amnesty International had to say in a report that was issued this week:

The Committee is greatly concerned at the gross disparity between Aboriginal people and the majority of Canadians with respect to the enjoyment of Covenant rights. There has been little or no progress in the alleviation of social and economic deprivation among Aboriginal people. In particular, the Committee is deeply concerned at the shortage of adequate housing, the endemic mass unemployment and the high rate of suicide, especially among youth, in the Aboriginal communities. Another concern is the failure to provide safe and adequate drinking water to Aboriginal communities on reserves.

These problems are well chronicled. They are problems that commenced with institutional failure of a governance system that was initiated more than 100 years ago in the form of the Indian Act and that has undergone some change, but paltry change, in the time since. Aboriginal Canadians do not have control of their own affairs. The Indian Act, if there is to be progress in this country, must be replaced by a modern legislative framework which provides for the full devolution of authority so that aboriginal Canadians in concert with government can work to solve these problems.

The government, this aging regime, in throne speech after throne speech has spoken of these issues, has offered vapid, vacant promises and yet, at the end of a period of 11 years of governance, aboriginal Canadians are no better off in this country than they were, by its own admission, 12 years ago. It is a failure of governance and it will be cured only when there is a government in place which has the courage to act, to step forward, to take the initiative, to work together in partnership with aboriginal Canadians and develop governance structures which will present a bright future for aboriginal Canadians.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 8th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Souris--Moose Mountain.

I rise as a new member of this honourable House and in so doing, allow me to say that it is a great honour for me to be here, to stand here on the floor of the House of Commons as the advocate, the spokesman, and the voice of the fine citizens of Calgary Centre-North.

This throne speech purports to offer Canadians lives of dignity characterized by cultural expression, vibrant communities and dynamic economic opportunities. Heady stuff, but not so for aboriginal Canadians because the throne speech for them speaks of another darker, more sombre Canada. For these Canadians the future is one of poverty, despair, lives overshadowed by fetal alcohol syndrome, teen suicide, chronic disease, and government failure to provide education or basic infrastructure.

Those are the government's words from the Speech from the Throne. Independent observers, such as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and, more recently, Amnesty International, are even less generous in what they have to say.

In what must surely be one of the saddest chapters in modern throne speeches, the government offers only a confession. There is no plan. There are no specifics. There is no compassion. There is no vision.

As it is written in stone, at the entrance to this hallowed building, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”, and so it shall be with our young aboriginal people in their communities unless and until the government, or more likely a future Conservative government, has the courage to address these problems.

The government is so bereft of ideas that it dares to present a throne speech which acknowledges intolerable consequences and yawning gaps. In response, it vaguely offers to meet to talk about it, and only then to set measurable goals, as though we were discussing statistical information rather than the lives of our children, for aboriginal children are our children. They are Canadian children.

There is a growing consensus on what must be done.

First, there is a need for accountability in the money that is spent. The Government of Canada will expend almost $10 billion on aboriginal programs and services in this fiscal year, yet it does so without any legislative framework for the expenditure on social services, education or health. Stated simply, there are no laws in place governing these expenditures, no laws defining what services or what standards of service aboriginal Canadians are supposed to receive. Perhaps most important, there is no way for Canadians, aboriginal or non-aboriginal, to find out how much of that money is making its way through to aboriginal Canadians themselves.

Second, the Indian Act must be replaced. It must be replaced by a modern statute providing for aboriginal self-government. Everyone agrees that the country requires an orderly devolution of full legal and democratic responsibility to aboriginal Canadians. This must happen within the context of our federal state and with full consultation with aboriginal Canadians.

It must be obvious, even to this directionless Liberal government, that it is in the process of destroying the lives of Canada's Aboriginals who have been stuck in an outdated system of governance for more than a hundred years.

Aboriginal Canadians, like other Canadians, are entitled to a governance framework which ensures stability, certainty, safety, respect for the rule of law and which allows first nations themselves to address issues such as the availability of on-reserve private property ownership.

Thirdly, Canada's Aboriginals are entitled to a system in which public funds are managed transparently and accurately. How much of the $10 billion really goes to the people who need it most?

Fourth, the government lacks the vision to propound a legislative framework for the settlement of comprehensive claims for the development of self-government agreements and the overarching resolution of specific claims, all in a way which would respect the rights of aboriginal Canadians while simultaneously ensuring constitutional harmony so that this nation is governable.

Pathetically, after 12 years of Liberal government, the speech contains only a telling admission of failure, that for many their water is unsanitary, their communities are not safe and their children, who for all of us are the repository of our hopes and dreams, live in despair.

In a democracy governed by the rule of law, there is no place to hide, and so it is for the aging and decaying regime that has penned the throne speech. The Liberal government has had the past 11 years to pursue meaningful institutional and legal reform with a view to improving the lives of aboriginal Canadians. I say unequivocally that it has failed and someday it shall bear the harsh judgment of history.

It is not just the 2004 throne speech. The 1993 Liberal red book chronicles the aboriginal frustrations of 11 years ago: unemployment, health problems, poor housing, unequal educational opportunity, unsafe drinking water. In the time since the Liberals have retreated on every difficult issue.

I have reviewed the throne speeches of these ensuing 11 years. Placed in the saddened context of teenage aboriginal suicide, they are a stunning indictment of vapid promises. In 1994 there was a promise to forge a new partnership with aboriginal people. In 1996 there was a promise to incorporate aboriginal aspirations. In 1997 there were promises to develop partnerships to build strong communities. In 1999 there was a promise to build stronger partnerships. In 2001 there was a promise to share the Canadian way with aboriginal Canadians and a commitment not to be deterred by the length of the journey of the obstacles. In 2002 there was a promise to close the life gap. In February 2004 there was a promise to start to turn the corner on the shameful circumstances on reserves. Finally in October 2004, again after 10 years, there was a new promise of partnership. In the intervening 10 years there has been no significant institutional change, no significant legislative change, no self-government legislation, no accountability legislation and no governance legislation.

What we do have is the consequences of 10 years of failure: more bad water; continued educational gaps; infrastructure shortage; and sadly, more fetal alcohol syndrome and teenage suicides.

The 2004 throne speech is correct because there is sham in all of this. I have travelled the length and the breadth of the country. I have seen the face of aboriginal poverty. I have seen the face of aboriginal despair, the despondency of fetal alcohol syndrome and of teenage suicide. I am unashamed to say, as a citizen of Canada, that I have wept in the face of the poverty I have seen on first nations.

I say today that we can do better. Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, deserve better.

We can and must do better for all Canadians, Aboriginal or not.

They deserve more than this throne speech has offered. They deserve vision, they deserve purpose, they deserve hope and they deserve a government which has the courage to effect change. Without that, that which makes this country what it is, we shall surely perish.

Aboriginal Affairs October 8th, 2004

My question, Mr. Speaker, is for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

This week Amnesty International issued a scathing report highlighting Canada's glaring and obvious inaction over the past decade toward the fact that Canadian aboriginal women face a higher risk of violence than other women in our society. The report states “In every instance, Canadian authorities could and should have done more to” protect these women.

Why is the government failing to protect our aboriginal women from violence?