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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

Situation in Indigenous Communities April 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador.

I am proud to stand here on the unceded land of the Algonquin people, the meeting place of the Métis Nation, the united first nations, the Inuit people, and the home of all Canadians.

I have a message for the people of Attawapiskat, for the people of Cross Lake with whom I have met, for every indigenous person, whether they live in Quebec City, on a reserve or in a city, in Newfoundland, in Winnipeg, or in Regina. Wherever they are in Canada, each and every one of them matters. Every life matters.

An elder said to me, “We need to fight hard to keep the spirit of suicide out.”

The pain those people feel is real. It is a pain that I have felt myself. They may feel powerless. They may feel despair. They may feel hopelessness. However, there are cracks in the world, and that is where the light can come in. If they can hold on through that pain and muster their strength to make it through another day, that pain can fade, and they are never alone. There are people across Canada who care about what happens to them. This is a demonstration here tonight of the people who care about them. They matter. They are important.

The only thing harder than losing someone is losing someone before his or her time. The pain he or she is feeling is a part of grieving. It is part of honouring a lost life. Grief is hard, but it is not evil. It is our spirit that is in pain because we have been split away from the one we loved. However, the loss of hope that we feel is something greater, more profound, and it is real.

The reality of the lives of the people in Cross Lake and Attawapiskat needs to be heard across the country and around the world. Life in first nation communities is hard, and it is harder than it needs to be. There are too many communities like Cross Lake and Attawapiskat, across Manitoba and across the country where too many people, young and old, are living without hope. There are many indigenous people living off reserve who struggle with poverty and racism in our great cities. We, as their brothers and sisters, as their fellow citizens, as their fellow human beings, have let them down.

There is a prophecy that was told to me by an elder, Winston Wuttunee, who comes from the west. The prophecy as told is that after contact with Europeans, the indigenous people will suffer greatly. However, upon the shoulders of the seventh generation will fall the task of lifting up the people. Starting in greater numbers, they will start to take pride in themselves, in their culture, in their religion, and in their families. They will realize that their culture and their ancestors are strong, and that their ancestors are standing behind them willing them on to success.

There is a second part to this prophecy, which is that the seventh generation will not do this by themselves. Rather, hand-in-hand with newcomers they will bring change to their common society, because we all know it has to change and the change must be deep and structural. We must embrace deep change for our communities. I believe that change is possible.

Despair can give way to hope, and fear can give way to joy, but it will take an awful lot of work. It will take work from every level of government, from the esteemed members of this chamber to every chief and band council across the country, to provide the deep change that is needed. It will also require the work of corporations and our fellow citizens. It will take the federal governments, provinces, cities, and first nations, the Métis nation and the Inuit people, because too often when we hear about a tragedy or a tragedy-on-tragedy in first nations communities, our very first thought is to separate ourselves from the problem and pronounce our own innocence. Too often we, as Canadians, say, “What are they doing? What is their leadership doing to solve their problems?” We do not ask what we are doing. We do not ask what our leadership is doing to solve our own collective problems. These are our collective problems.

Since before the first European set foot on Turtle Island, the territory we now call Canada has always been home to not one but many people. Today, Canada is home to many people from many nations, and first nations and all indigenous peoples are Canadians. We are still many people united as one. It starts with hope. Everything begins with hope. Making hope a reality takes work, effort, and resources.

I will urge them to do something more. Every single one of them is stronger than they know. Every single one of them is better than they know. When times are at their hardest, I urge them to use the spark of sacred energy within them to hold on to hope, to look to the light, to look within them to keep moving forward, even when hope seems lost. If they hold some guilt or shame within them or think of themselves as a bad person, they should know this: that they can change, they can grow, they can be forgiven, and they can forgive themselves. They are not born good, nor are they born bad. We become good by doing good deeds. We become generous by doing generous acts. We can inspire others to goodness so they can join with us. If they wake up in despair, they can say, “Today is a good day because I am alive and I matter.” The road ahead may not be easy.

Basil Johnston, an Anishinabe elder, wrote that each and every one of us has a life path, a potential, a destiny. We start with many possible paths, but we must choose one path. For some in our society, that path is steep and rocky. The young start climbing the hill. Some walk, some run, some crawl, and some stumble. Those who arrive at the top of the path and see the path continues, they move along that path getting older. Some youth will pick a different path, a path which will not lead to their full potential. They arrive at the top of a rocky hill. They look over to the other side and the road continues. Some will give up and not realize their full potential, but others will continue and conquer that mountain and see that promised land that we heard about over 50 years ago.

The elders are victors for they have walked many winding paths, yet they still stand at the top of the mountain and can look back and see the young, the youth, and the adults in the distance behind them and still look forward into the sun and see the grandfathers in the distance.

However, each of them have a road and a path they can follow out of the darkness and into the light.

I will carry them in my heart on my travels and I will remember them and think of them, and I will invite them to work with me, for themselves and for all of us to see the deep change we need.

However, we know that hope is not enough and words are fleeting, especially off in the highest chambers of our land.

Hope is a good breakfast, but a poor supper.

In the midst of darkness, we need to redouble our efforts and offer not just words but action. We must offer not just hope but opportunity.

We can build homes for the homeless. We can provide jobs for the jobless. We can provide better health care and education. It is our duty and our plan to do so, but we must do more.

We have an opportunity to move forward, not simply in reconciliation, as survivors waiting passively for the house of Canada to come to the rescue, but we must move forward in celebration of indigenous peoples as a founding people of this land in recognizing the covenant that we have together.

There are four directions in my indigenous tradition. There are four seasons in this land. There are four founding peoples. They are the indigenous peoples, the English, the French, and the newcomers who have come from around the world who now call this place, Canada, home. That is the true nature of our nation.

We did not make this broken world that we inherited, but we do not have to leave it to our children.

It is about recognizing dignity and freedom and care for all Canadians, about recognizing that each and every one of us is a human being, worthy of respect, that each and every one of us matters.

Tapwe akwa khitwam.

Situation in Indigenous Communities April 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I thought I would highlight a little incident that happened many years ago when I was discussing Attawapiskat with someone. This person said, “We are spending so much money on this community. Look at all the money they have wasted and everything they have let go. They have not pulled themselves up by the bootstraps. Look at all the federal money the government has spent on them.”

Then I said, “Let us look at Quebec City”, where this person lives. The provincial government spends $12,500 per year on each person. Then the federal government spends around $11,500 per citizen. Then the city government spends around $2,500. Added up, it is over $26,500. However, if we look at the spending in Attawapiskat, where the sole responsible level of government is the federal government under the Canadian Constitution, it is around $13,000 a year. The difference is absolutely enormous. If we expect to see different results when we spend so much less, then I think we need to start considering our own values and what we can actually do.

Perhaps there is a role for the government to play. I am not saying it is the only role, but it certainly has an important role to play, especially in relation to the structures of society.

Situation in Indigenous Communities April 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, there are systematic issues in the communities. One of the major issues is child and family services. These are the departments in the provinces that are responsible for children. In my riding, we do not just deal with immigration issues; I deal with child and family services issues, especially among first nations children.

In Manitoba alone, 11,000 children are in care of the state, which would work out to over 100,000 children in Ontario, or 90,000 in Quebec. Out of that, 10,000 are indigenous children, and 8,000 are first nations children. In fact, in the province of Manitoba, before the age of 15, around 22% to 23% of first nations children will be in the care of the state at some point. Is this any way to raise a child, or to love a child? Is this a way to produce good, long-term outcomes?

We often talk about suicide, but when I was on my trip to Cross Lake, I discovered that some of the children who had committed suicide, unfortunately had been in the care of the state. They had been taken from their families. In this House, in 2008, we made an apology in order to ensure we would not repeat the mistakes of the past with residential schools, yet we have been unable to do so.

Unfortunately, I do not have enough time to do this, but my comment would be to look at customary adoption. We do not seem to be going toward the area of a very simple solution, to allow indigenous families to make choices themselves.

Situation in Indigenous Communities April 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Timmins—James Bay for his comments and for making this debate happen. This is extremely important.

I had the opportunity of going to Cross Lake just a few short weeks ago with a gentleman by the name of Robb Nash. Robb Nash is a gentleman who gives motivational speeches through rock and roll, trying to connect with youth in order to stop suicide.

At the end of his concert and motivational talk, nine students went up to him and presented him their suicide notes. It is an absolutely incredible thing to witness. We often just read about it in the newspapers, but for people to actually see it with our own eyes not only touches our hearts but really drives us to action. I know members feel the same way.

I know there are things we can be doing in this country to make a difference in the lives of our fellow citizens. I know there are many people who care about this issue very deeply. The House, even though this is a special debate, is relatively full, and I think that is a testimony to our commitment to ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to make sure they are not forgotten, that they are important, that they can have hope, and that their voices will be heard even though those voices might be in the wilderness of our country.

I am very thankful for this debate and I hope we can have it with great respect and try to understand some of the consequences of what is going on. Hopefully, somehow we will come to a conclusion so that we can move forward in some way.

I would ask the member of Parliament for Timmins—James Bay if there is a solution he sees that we could carry into the future, something concrete that will actually make a difference.

The Budget April 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Outremont for his passion for democracy.

This is a historic budget for investment in children. In 2011 there were 392,105 indigenous children in Canada. The child benefit would do a lot to ensure that these families and single mothers and single fathers will have the means to support and look after their children. Six thousand dollars a year would be going to young mothers who are going to school and living in a one-bedroom apartment, like my friend Melanie. I am proud of Melanie and I hope this child benefit will allow her to complete her education and support her young son.

There is a problem. We need to ensure, though, that provincial governments do not roll back these supports, especially for families on social assistance. Is the NDP willing to work to ensure that provinces make a difference in the lives of our most vulnerable citizens and do not claw back these benefits?

Rwandan Genocide April 11th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, this week marks the 22nd anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. We wish to honour the memory of the hundreds of thousands of people killed by unprecedented violence that stemmed from identity policies, but we also want to take this opportunity to highlight the progress that has been made.

I want to underscore the work done by the people of Rwanda and Burundi to overcome ethnic divisions and tribal loyalties. Although this work has only just begun, as an aboriginal Canadian, I encourage the Rwandan and Burundian leaders to draw inspiration from the efforts being made by their fellow citizens to build modern nation states that respect human rights, human dignity, democracy, and the rule of law, and that will be an example for the rest of the world to follow.

[Member spoke in Kinyarwanda as follows:]


The Budget April 11th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, aboriginal children are a wonderful reason to invest. The $8.4 billion will not be wasted. It is an investment in the personal futures of our fellow citizens.

The premise of the hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland is that this idea is a wasted investment, that indigenous children are a wasted investment, that lifting 300,000 children out of poverty is a waste.

I have spoken at many churches in Winnipeg, and they have the ideals of compassion. They have the ideals that collectively we have the responsibility to our fellow citizens and that indigenous people are not just pet causes. They are an integral part of Canada. They are Canadians who deserve not to be ignored but to be engaged.

Should we waste another generation of indigenous Canadians, or should we engage in the future of all Canadians together?

Homeless Street Census March 7th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign, I had the opportunity of going door-to-door in the inner city of Winnipeg, and I came across a lady by the name of Elizabeth. I asked her if she voted, and she said no she had never voted even though she was 50 years old. I took the time to say that we would see if we could get her registered. However, I discovered there were five other individuals in that house who did not have addresses. They were in fact homeless people who were staying at her place.

In Winnipeg in October, there was a homeless street census done by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, which found that there were 1,400 verified homeless people. However, that often did not include people like the five I found in this one house.

I would like to thank the organizations that have spent so much time trying to build up a data set that we can use now to craft great government policy.

Louis Riel February 16th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it was a great day yesterday, not just because we spent time with family but because we honoured a great Canadian. In Manitoba, it is known as Louis Riel Day.

He was not just a Métis hero but a patriot who believed in the ideals of justice, love, respect, honesty, courage, humility, knowledge, and effort. He was an example to all Canadians, leading a province into Confederation even upon pain of death and at great personal sacrifice.

He believed in a society where, no matter one's creed, colour, culture, or religion, we all have a rightful place in this world.

With modern human values, he is a true Canadian hero. In his time, he was a traitor, but he is no longer. Hai hai.

Shooting at La Loche January 25th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, my friends, the tragedy in La Loche has shaken and shocked us all. I offer the family and friends of the victims our deepest condolences. Our hearts and prayers are also with those injured in the attack. May they have a full and speedy recovery.

We must acknowledge the medical professionals and the RCMP, who all worked tirelessly in a very dangerous situation and acted with bravery.

All of Canada stands with the community of La Loche and its residents at this tragic time.

We must be determined to do whatever is necessary to offer hope and a path forward for communities like La Loche and its people. Solutions need to be built from the community members through listening to their hopes and dreams.

For now, we grieve.

[Member spoke in aboriginal language]