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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was actually.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Liberal MP for Winnipeg Centre (Manitoba)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 34% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply May 12th, 2016

Madam Speaker, there is no doubt that this government supports Canadian businesses and recognizes the importance of international trade. Everyone in the House recognizes that some form of trade is essential to our economy. However, just as we recognize that it is essential for people to drink water, it does not follow that, because we all need water to live, we should drink it no matter what is in it.

The same goes for a trade deal. What is in it matters, and this is an agreement that is 6,000 pages long. I must challenge the premises of the opposition motion. First, the motion states in its first clause that “growing protectionism threatens the global economy” and then the next sentence talks about developing rules that protect Canada's economy interests. There are serious threats to our economy, but of all the possible threats, is protectionism really the most serious?

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1 May 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the opposition member's speech.

I have a few comments to make in that regard. When I served in the army, I found that all governments have nice things to say about veterans. Veterans are seen as sacred people who must be protected. However, when the time comes to truly protect those veterans and do something for them, these governments do nothing.

It was the same thing with the Conservative government. It cut 800 public service jobs. These employees were offering direct services to veterans. I am proud that we are currently making investments to help veterans. The Conservatives also made cuts to pensions that gave veterans a fixed amount each month. We are talking to veterans so that we can try to fix that.

I am very disappointed that members are talking about this today without really taking into account the actions of the previous government, which was unable to turn its words into action. I am proud that we are doing that with our veterans today.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1 May 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, could the member talk a little about Canada's child benefit, and some of the boutique tax credits the former government used to have in place?

I remember being in the military, with three young children, and not making a lot of money. It was around $50,000. My wife was at home, working with the children at home. We used to laugh at the tax credits in that they were actually not going to make a huge difference in the lives of a lot of our fellow citizens. They were not going to make a difference in our lives.

Could the member talk about what she thinks streamlining this process, making it more efficient, will do not only for government operations but also perhaps for the lives of average Canadians?

Criminal Code May 2nd, 2016

Madam Speaker, unfortunately, perhaps the member fails to understand indigenous philosophy, which is about the interconnectedness of everything. The member may believe that these are unconnected events, but in fact they are connected. We could debate about the definition of the bill. We could say “medically assisted dying” or “medically assisted suicide”. Our use of terminology is very important. If we use “medically assisted suicide”, it has connotations to it that people will understand. I am sure at some point that people will be banging on the doors at some emergency wards and saying they are suffering, they want to end it, and ask for help.

I apologize if I offended anyone in invoking the name of the young girl, but her name is in the newspapers and her case is well known. If we cannot speak truth in this place and use the truths that are out in society here in the House of Commons then where else will it happen?

Criminal Code May 2nd, 2016

Madam Speaker, not being a lawyer, I am not sure. However, I know once we start doing a process, once we have gone down this path, we cannot go back. We need to take time to look at Quebec and see what happens there, how it plays out in that jurisdiction, before we start elaborating in other jurisdictions.

I understand that there are people who are suffering, but I do not think we have dealt properly with the suffering that goes on in many communities. We have not taken the time to really understand or to make sure that they feel protected.

I do not have a lot of comments to offer the member, but it is a concern as well.

Criminal Code May 2nd, 2016

Madam Speaker, a report in The Globe and Mail on April 24, 2016, says 13-year-old Sheridan Hookimaw killed herself on the banks of the river that winds through Attawapiskat. The sickly girl had been flown out for weekly medical appointments. She wanted to end her pain, and in the process, she set off a chain reaction not only in her community but in communities right across this country, which we are still dealing with today.

This debate strikes at the very heart of the meaning of life, it strikes at the heart of bureaucracy, and it strikes at the heart of how we care for the most vulnerable in our society. I have been told over and over again that this situation is different, that there is no connection.

In the indigenous world view, everything is interconnected. It is holistic, meaning that when a change is made in one place, the impact will be felt elsewhere, and the two cannot be separated. In the western world view, often we compartmentalize things. We believe that we can play, that we can control certain situations, that we can effect change here and not see change in other places. Above all, we have come to believe ourselves able to predict and control all, to control the future. This does not mean, though, that we should not take action.

The impact of this bill on people in Toronto may be very different than on the people in Nunavik or Attawapiskat. Our role as parliamentarians is to place ourselves in the moccasins of others, to place ourselves outside of our own experiences, to see the world through another cosmology and other world view, and to see the impact that our decisions may have on others.

We are making profound changes in concepts surrounding life, which cannot be undone in the future. In the indigenous tradition and philosophy, we are required to think seven generations into the future. If I am wrong and there is no connection between Attawapiskat and physician-assisted dying or suicide, if the average person does not see a connection and communities do not see a greater stress, then I will gladly say I was wrong; but if there is an impact, which is caused by the valorization of suicide, then what?

When the House passed amendments to the Criminal Code on other issues in our criminal justice system, who would have thought that indigenous peoples would now make up 23.2% of the prison population? It seems that madam justice is blind to the suffering of many of her fellow citizens. We have equal laws, and yet the treatment and effects are unequal across our country. We make laws often for the average person, but the impact is felt most by those who are on the margins of society.

Even though we have the Gladue rulings in our justice system and cases where we are supposed to take into consideration someone's upbringing, someone's past, unfortunately, those are not reflected in our justice system. Therefore, how can we be assured that the changes we are making today in the House will not have an equally detrimental impact on others?

My earliest memory, one of my strongest memories, is as a little six-year-old boy. My mother had just lost a house. We were in tough economic times in Calgary, Alberta, and she could no longer support us. She was a single mom, and she went off on the road looking for work. She decided at one point she could no longer raise me or my little brother by herself and she needed help, so she went to her ex-husband, my father. My father was a residential school survivor, an alcoholic, and a member of gangs. We knew all these things.

We knew he had a terrible temper. We were told this as young children, and we were very scared as children. We were dropped off at his place, with his parents, my grandmother and grandfather, and we were very upset. It is the only time that I remember my brother peeing his bed, because of the stress, because my mother had to find work because of economic stresses in her life.

I remember climbing a tree in the back yard and wrapping a rope around my neck at the age of six. This is a true story. People often think it cannot be true, but this happens in our country, like the case of the 13-year-old girl in Attawapiskat.

I wrapped that rope around my neck and thought, “Should I jump off into this universe, which is before me?” It was in that back yard that somehow I made the decision to climb down out of that tree and unwind that rope from around my neck.

If in my life I had seen, or I had known, that my grandmother had somehow used physician-assisted dying or physician-assisted suicide, or others in my family had completed the irreparable act, then it would have made it much more difficult for me to continue.

We might not think the impact will be there, but we do not know. We assume we know these things. We are deciding the future of a few for the end of a few.

In the case of Sheridan Hookimaw, as a society, we are unable to provide the necessary care, the love and the protection. We have failed our most vulnerable.

The Canadian Webbian bureaucracy was unable to respond to the needs of a 13-year-old girl. How can we be sure that it will now be able to respond to the needs of all in the future in our societies?

This debate is about life itself. Indigenous people never knew of suicide. It was unheard of in indigenous communities. Yet it now continues to plague our communities, and the spirit of suicide seems to always be there.

Life is not easy. It is about struggle, about fighting for another day. If indigenous peoples had committed suicide, then we would not be here today for all the trials and tribulations we have faced.

I participate in one of the high ceremonies of the indigenous custom and tradition of the Plains Cree. It is called the sundance. It is a four-day ceremony, and for three days and three nights, no food or water shall pass my lips. I pierce my body to sacrifice myself for others, in prayer for them. I do this not for myself, not to ask for something for myself, but for others.

In the sundance, in the sundance lodge, my Sundance Chief David Blacksmith talks about the spirit of suicide, how it is coming to take our young and is starting to take our old people, how it is affecting our society, how it is destroying our sense of community, and I have to listen to it. I have to be moved by the words he brings, because the people surrounding me in the sundance have all been affected by it.

We are placing ourselves now outside of nature. Nature itself is hard, to strive, to struggle, to see another day. It is a struggle that is noble. Now placing the tasks in the hands of the state removes us from nature, telling the state that it will now be the one who will be enabling us to do these things; someone else will be deciding, bureaucracy will now be deciding.

Others may feel that they are a burden. Others may say that they are a burden. I think there is something noble in sacrifice and in striving in the struggle for life itself, to hold someone's hands in the final moment, to have to grow up and not simply say, “I am going to hand it off to someone else to look after, but that I will stand there or I will sit there, holding your hand at that exact moment. Even in your final breaths, even though it may be difficult, we will continue on”.

Perhaps this is just another step on the road of moral relativism that we are in nowadays, but even our judiciary cannot serve as a balance between the different societies making up Canada. We are in a sorry state. We have truly entered a new age, one of the throwaway culture where all boundaries are starting to crumble.

Finally I would like to say, in the words of Elder Winston Wuttunee, “If you cry, your children will die”. It is dangerous to abandon one's self to the luxury of grief. It deprives one of courage and even of the wish for recovery.

From an indigenous perspective, I look at this bill and I cannot support it, because it leads to a place where I do not believe we are looking out for the interests of all people within our society. It is not allowing us to fully comprehend the needs of everyone who makes up Canadian societies, but really, it is taking us down a path that is very dangerous, and we do not know where it ends.

Let us be very careful in this House, and take the time that is necessary as we make our decisions.

Business of Supply April 21st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, supporting farmers is very important. I think we all love farmers. Who does not love a farmer?

As someone who represents one of the poorest ridings in the country, the price of milk and cheese affects the health of many of my fellow citizens. I have been working with dairy farmers in Manitoba, trying to come up with some of the issues surrounding the accessibility of food in Winnipeg Centre. When people have the choice of buying a large jug of pop for $1, or buying milk at double that price, this affects the health of children and adults, particularly in northern communities.

I am trying not to be partisan, but do you have any practical solutions to deal with this? What could we be doing? How could farmers be working to ensure greater accessibility to high-quality foods for more of our fellow citizens?

Petitions April 21st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I present, on behalf of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg and many of the Catholics of Manitoba, a petition to this House. I am very proud to have talked to Archbishop Gagnon. Even though I am not a Catholic myself, I believe it is important that all citizens have the right to have their voices heard in this chamber, and I represent all citizens of Winnipeg.

The petitioners bring attention to the House that vulnerable people and people with disabilities, such as seniors, and all people must be protected from the abuse and practice of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, as now allowed pursuant to a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter versus the Attorney General of Canada. Further, the rights of conscientious objection on behalf of the health care providers in Canada must be safeguarded. All citizens in Canada should be able to avail themselves of quality palliative care.

I am very proud to present this very large and thick petition on behalf of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg and my fellow citizens.

Situation in Indigenous Communities April 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, we do not have to do one specific thing. We could be doing many things on all sorts of fronts.

First off, we need to ensure that indigenous peoples have the monetary resources to raise their children properly. No child should live in poverty. I hope some of our new government programming will go a long way toward providing that in the form of a type of guaranteed income. Though not enough, it would certainly be a very good start.

I also hope that we can perhaps look at some of the treaty territories, such as Manitoba first nations. Perhaps we can look at Treaty 4 territory. Perhaps this area is now ready for self-determination. Perhaps it is ready to look after itself. With 34 first nations, perhaps it is ready to work together to build communities among itself and use them as an example of what we can build off from the James Bay Cree. Perhaps we could then move into Treaty 4 territory and then perhaps Treaty 6 and look at building long-term relationships, an actual nation-to-nation relationship, and look at building long-term capacity. An individual community of 500 might not be strong enough to develop the necessary long-term capabilities to provide for themselves, but if first nations work together, perhaps they will be able to in the very long term.

Situation in Indigenous Communities April 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I do agree that our children are the future. We are imperfect as adults. We have done things imperfectly, but our children can have the perfection that we can never have.

There is a need for deep and profound change within our Canadian society. We need to ensure that we see the deep change, that we think about the long term, the structural change that needs to occur in governance structure. We need to think about empowering people, ensuring that first nations are able to come together like the James Bay Cree and have the opportunity to create a society that fulfills their long-term potential.

When I think of successful first nations, I think of the James Bay Cree. This first nation has been able to govern itself since 1975 and be autonomous to a large extent. It still has issues with some relations with other governments, but at the same time it has always been able to build capacity and build a future.

The differences are stark between Attawapiskat and its brothers just on the other side of the Quebec border. That is telling about the different types of structures: one exists under the Indian Act, and the other exists in self-determination under its own governance structure as proud indigenous people.