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  • Her favourite word is communities.

NDP MP for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski (Manitoba)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply October 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House to speak to the opposition day motion put forward by our party. I want to acknowledge the important work of my colleague, the member of Parliament for Timmins—James Bay.

This opposition day motion is very important to the people I represent in my home of northern Manitoba. I want to share the language of this motion so that people at home and those who are tuning in know exactly what we are putting forward here today. It reads:

That the House call on the government to comply with the historic ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordering the end of discrimination against First Nations children, including by:

(a) immediately investing an additional $155 million in new funding for the delivery of child welfare that has been identified as the shortfall this year alone, and establishing a funding plan for future years that will end the systemic shortfalls in First Nations child welfare;

(b) implementing the full definition of Jordan's Principle as outlined in a resolution passed by the House on December 12, 2007;

(c) fully complying with all orders made by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and committing to stop fighting Indigenous families in court who are seeking access to services covered by the federal government; and

(d) making public all pertinent documents related to the overhaul of child welfare and the implementation of Jordan's Principle.

Before I go on, I would like to indicate that I will splitting my time with the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

The opposition day motion I just read is extremely fundamental. We are talking about addressing the systemic underfunding of first nations child welfare. We are talking about implementation of a decision on the historic matter of Jordan's principle, which we all supported in 2007, nine years ago. It is about complying with the orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. It is about stopping the fight against indigenous families who are seeking justice. This motion is fundamental to the work we should be doing as parliamentarians.

However, it is also deeply troubling that one year after a new government was elected, a government that made all sorts of commitments to first nation people, that we have had to put such a motion forward because the government has been failing first nation people so deeply in our country. I want to spend a moment reflecting on how disturbing it is that we have to stand once again in the House to call on federal leadership when it comes to Jordan's principle.

Jordan's principle was named after a little guy from my constituency, Jordan Anderson, from Norway House Cree Nation. Jordan's experience of being shuffled back and forth between the provincial and federal system is, sadly, the inspiration behind Jordan's principle.

Jordan, because of the illness he faced and the way in which the federal government and the provincial government dealt with him, was not able to be at home with his family. Sadly, because of the chronic underfunding by the federal government of first nations, and first nations youth in particular, Jordan could not even spend the last days of his life at home with the people he loved.

Jordan's family and the leaders of his community, like Mike Muswagon and many others, fought for justice for Jordan, but they went beyond that. They said that no first nation child deserved to live through what Jordan had experienced, and that a first nation child, no matter where they are from, ought to have the same access to health care, safe housing, and services if they have disabilities, and the same kind of dignity, as any other child in Canada.

Nine years ago, parliamentarians stood in support of Jordan's principle, and I, like my other colleagues, want to acknowledge the hard work of Jean Crowder, a member of Parliament that I had the privilege of working with, who put forward Jordan's principle in the House. It is absurd that so many years later, despite the promises by the government across the way and its hollow commitments to first nations people, we have to once again ask it to fulfill its commitment to Jordan's principle.

I have the honour of representing 41 first nations in my constituency. Day in and day out in my constituency, I see the incredible energy that so many young people in first nations and Métis communities have across our north. However, over the last number of years, I have also seen the incredible challenges and massive barriers they have faced, particularly on reserve. We can trace all of those barriers to the inherent neglect we have seen from the federal government, to the decades of underfunding of first nations health care, housing, education, infrastructure and, more broadly, services. We can also trace it back to the colonial mentality in which Liberal and Conservative governments have imposed patriarchal views on first nations people, seeking assimilation, practising genocidal acts, and ensuring that first nation people do not live the lives that so many other Canadians live in terms of dignity.

Yesterday I was honoured to host a one-of-a-kind forum on Parliament Hill. It focused on the rise of precarious work in the millennial generation. We heard loud and clear from indigenous speakers about the particular barriers that indigenous youth face in our country. That is perhaps most emblematic in the experiences of children and young people who have grown up in the system of child and family services, the child welfare system, young people who have often been left to their own devices, who have faced incredible abuse, and who we know will be living with the impacts of that kind of neglect for years and even generations to come.

One of the most powerful speakers yesterday was Tasha Spillett, a Nehiyaw woman from Winnipeg, whose roots are in our north. She talked about the dangers of being, as she called it, “young and brown” in Canada. She talked about the impacts of colonization and the marginalization of indigenous youth in our country. In her speech, she connected these broader issues to a very real example of the way in which indigenous youth in our country are facing abuse. She chose to focus on perhaps one of the most powerful examples of the way in which indigenous lives are shown by some to not matter in our country, that being the case of Colten Boushie, a young man who was killed in August of this very year. He was a 22-year old Cree man from Red Pheasant Cree Nation who was shot and killed by a white farmer after approaching a farmhouse in Saskatchewan.

Tasha talked about the need for justice for Colten, as have others, such as Erica Violet Lee, an incredible writer who is also based in Saskatchewan. In one of the articles Erica wrote, she talked about the importance of asking why indigenous values, and particularly the lives of indigenous youth, are devalued in our country.

She asked:

What is it like to live with a fear of Native people so intense that a second thought is not spared on loading your rifle and shooting a young Cree man dead who simply dared to cross your fence-line?

She continued:

Despite the foreign weight that bears on our bodies, Native folks are just like you

—meaning non-indigenous people—

at least in some ways.

She went on to say:

We take naps in the August heat, we go for long drives to the river, we swim, we fall in love. The difference is that we do all these things in a county that long ago decided Native freedom, Native love and Native life are, more than anything else, a threat. A threat to westward expansion, to Canadian civilization, to private property, to your farm tractor. Take your pick.

She went on to say:

In the few remaining warm days of this year, Native people will continue doing what we have always done, since time immemorial, in our prairie homelands

—meaning surviving, thriving, and resisting.

My concluding message to the government is that if we are going to make it clear to indigenous youth that their lives matter, supporting and fulfilling this motion is one important step in doing that.

Business of Supply October 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the member across often refers to his time in the Manitoba legislature. He may know, through even a personal connection he might have, that in Manitoba there was a unanimous decision earlier this week to condemn the federal government for its treatment of aboriginal children in child and family services. This was a motion directed at the federal government. In a province like ours, we have an acute understanding of the way in which the federal government has neglected child and family services, particularly on reserve, and how this has led to all sorts of issues and challenges that indigenous people face in our province.

Will the member and his government come to realize that supporting this motion and showing leadership in addressing the chronic underfunding of child welfare is the way forward? Let us cut the rhetoric. Let us listen to provinces like Manitoba that are saying that the federal government has a responsibility to finally take action.

Labour October 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, while the Prime Minister calls precarious work a fact of life and the Minister of Finance says that we should get used to it, Canadians have a different message for the government.

Yesterday, 200 people attended our forum on Parliament Hill on the rise of precarious work in the millennial generation. We heard stories of unstable work and the need for national leadership.

The Prime Minister likes to pass himself off as the minister of youth, but when young workers are facing a seismic shift, all he can do is shrug. When will the government admit that precarious work is an issue of critical importance, and when will it take real action for—

Youth Employment October 25th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, after a year of the government turning its back on young people, delegates at the CLC youth conference today symbolically turned their backs on the Prime Minister. Young Canadians are growing increasingly frustrated by their precarious future.

Yesterday, I invited the Prime Minister to our national forum on the rise of precarious work in the millennial generation.

Will the government recognize that this trend is a result of policies, many brought in by Liberal governments, that are marginalizing the millennial generation? Will the Prime Minister recognize that young Canadians do not need selfies, but that what they need is economic change?

Millennial Generation October 25th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will be hosting a national forum on the Hill entitled The Precarious Generation: Millennials Fight Back.

We invite all to attend this forum, the first of its kind.

Millenials have something to say about their future. The stories we heard were often very moving and more powerful than what we could have imagined.

The most common words that have come up at our consultations across the country are “hopelessness” and “anxiety”, and common phrases are “I've done everything I needed to do and I still can't make it” or “The deck is stacked against me”.

Young workers represent only 15% of the labour force, but more than 25% of unemployed workers. In fact, 48% of young workers have part-time jobs, and often that is not by choice.

The struggle for justice for our generation is a struggle for all Canadians. It is part of a global struggle against exploitation and marginalization, a struggle for a better social and economic system for us all.

Tomorrow's forum is only the beginning.

Labour October 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, with a non-answer like that, the minister and the government may come to figure out that their jobs are precarious too.

Millennials in Canada are facing a precarious future. Today, I would like to invite the Minister of Finance and the minister for youth, the Prime Minister, to a national forum that we are hosting on the rise of precarious work in the millennial generation this Wednesday on Parliament Hill.

Young Canadians expect more from their national leaders when it comes to dealing with the insecurity they face. Therefore, today I ask the Minister of Finance if he will step up and show leadership to fight against the rise in precarious work for young and all Canadians.

Labour October 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, last weekend, the Minister of Finance told Canadians that they would have to get used to job churn. He said that a few days after the Bank of Canada downgraded its economic outlook for our country.

Job churn is a reality for many Canadians. They deserve a government that shows leadership, not one that tells them to “get used to it”. That is unacceptable.

Will the minister do something about the increasing prevalence of precarious work for Canadians?

Employment Insurance October 5th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, another promise made, another promise broken. Over 3,000 mothers were denied sickness benefits under the Harper government, but during the election campaign, the Liberals promised they would drop all federal opposition to their class action lawsuit. These women have waited and waited and waited, and had nothing from the government.

Instead of spending millions fighting them in court, when will the government give these women the benefits they deserve?

Temporary Foreign Workers October 3rd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the temporary foreign worker program is a source of national embarrassment. Today, migrant workers, advocates, and labour brought their calls for status and justice to Ottawa.

The reality is that migrant workers in Canada are exploited. Their rights are abused and they are under constant threat of deportation. We also know that the program puts downward pressure on Canadian wages. This is exploitation by design.

Will the government stop the rhetoric, listen to migrant workers, and end the exploitation?

Business of Supply September 29th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would like to sincerely thank my colleague for her efforts on this issue and for fighting for human rights day after day.

The issue is why the Liberals are refusing to support this motion. It really is a fundamental issue. We wonder why the federal government is opposing transparency and accountability. Those are the values that the Liberals championed during the election. They bring them up in the House of Commons.

Yes, this debate in the House is about an issue that is very important and very serious. We are proposing that a committee be created to ensure transparency and respect for human rights. We really are wondering why the Liberals are refusing to create this committee. I am certain that Canadians are increasingly wondering about that, given what this government is doing.