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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

Indigenous Languages Act May 9th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, that is a very long question. There is a lot in there to unpack.

Obviously, I believe this bill does reflect the will of the House when we put forward our ideals and our values in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The federal government went to the United Nations in 2016, 2017 and 2018 to highlight once again Canada's support for the absolute acceptance of UNDRIP.

We are now at third reading. We have heard from a number of witnesses already on this bill. It is time to move forward, though. It is time to make sure this legislation passes, because if we continue to debate and debate, these languages will die. They are dying.

I was speaking with people from New Zealand, and only 10% of Maori are actually speaking the Maori language in New Zealand. That was an absolute disaster, but they started rebuilding the language, working together as a society, indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, and trying to come up with a path forward. Today, the language is spoken even in Parliament, and even non-Maori people speak the language and can do introductions.

I hope that one day all MPs will be able to at least do an introduction in the Cree language:

“Hello. I greet you. I am glad to see you all.”

Indigenous Languages Act May 9th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, suicide has taken too many lives. It destroys whole communities. Language and culture are part of their identity and grow our children right.

Indigenous Languages Act May 9th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by saying hello to my friends, my relations. It is good to see everyone today.

Let us start with a hard truth: we have had our languages taken from us. Canadians must be generous people and not allow these languages to die.

We have been walking a long pathway, and that pathway can lead to a Canada of great hope and promise. This proposed law is about hope: hope for the future, hope for the present and hope for our children.

In this great structure of Parliament, we have power and resources. In the beginning, we were told that our work was for all Canadians. We must all work collectively together, since Canada has written the promises in how processes unfold. We made a covenant, an agreement, together. We are related. If things have not happened right, we will change things to help respect one another.

Treaties are about respect and brotherhood. Indigenous peoples have always had treaties. The Cree and the Blackfoot made treaties using common sense. For example, there was to be no fighting in the winter, as it was too cold and not good to move children, women and the aged from their homes to different locations at that time. If one tribe made war, it sought out the other chief and explained the reason it was making war. Quite often, it was that the young warriors had too much energy, and they were bothering the whole camp. The old people knew that the best way to do things was to send them off to war against the enemy they knew. The two chiefs would talk and one would be given time to move the women, children and old people, and it worked for them. Later, in peacetime, they would talk about it.

The creation stories we tell about Wesakechak are about treaty. These world treaties are about water, earth, air, fire, and of course, the Great Spirit. For instance, when a child is born, the mother's water breaks and this signals that the child is to be born. He then gets his first breath of precious sacred air, and he is a living human being. He is then wrapped in the warm hide and fur of an animal and joins the warmth of the fire and the life-giving milk of his mother. Soon he is playing with the other children outside on their own land, which happens to be Canada.

When the Creator finished creating the land, sea and air creatures, he called everyone forward and told them to ask for gifts they wanted to have for themselves. Thus, he made treaties with all life on earth. Many asked to serve mankind. They were warned about mankind and what he would be like as the best and worst of all creation. They accepted and understood his warnings. For their understanding and sacrifices, they were granted a place in the hereafter. They would and should be honoured by men, women and children in ceremonies, which indigenous people still do to this day.

It is from these teachings that we respect air, fire and water in a spiritual way. They are included in all our prayers and ceremonies. It is a good way to live.

We all have our own languages, understandings and ceremonies. As indigenous people, we respect the earth and all the children of the feathered, furred, scaled, two-legged, four-legged and winged citizens.

Mankind is the only creation that breaks treaties continually. The others have never broken their sacred treaties with us.

From our own common sense, we must pray for the earth and all who dwell here. For over 100 years, we have signed treaties between our different peoples and countries. The original idea was not about subservience but about respect.

Languages must be used to be useful. They must be used by our children in school, in the home and in the rest of society. Our languages must be on TV so that people can see and understand why, where and when and can see what is happening in our Parliament. It is important to have our languages.

I saw a written sign at the entrance to a graveyard in Lac la Ronge, in northern Saskatchewan. It said, "If we could not as brothers live, let us here as brothers lie".

Man is represented by fire. Interestingly, women are represented by water. With just a single word or a single glance, she can elevate or destroy us. Personally, I would rather be a good brother to my fellow man than perish in a dirty flood of prejudice, jealousy, anger or fear.

Language can convey respect and meaning. It represents culture, and it defines who we are, our self-identity. It is about learning, education and knowledge.

Elder Dr. Winston Wuttunee asked me to talk about how our language is important and related to our belief structure. There are four elements: water, air, land and fire. Language is related to these four elements. When we take a word in Cree and break it down, there are additional meanings within that word.

Let us take water as an example. Water is women, life and connection to all of creation. It is beauty itself.

Let us look at air. There is fresh air and dirty air. It all has an impact on how healthy we are. It is life. It is breath. Animals fly in air. We need good air to be healthy.

Let us look at land. We live and we die. When we die, we become the land and the land is our relatives. It feeds the grasses. It feeds the bison. It feeds us. It is us.

Think about fire. Fire is also life. It keeps us warm. It lets us cook and survive. It cleans the land. It is also men. It works best with water.

Let us take one word in the Cree language, nikamoun, which means “to sing”. Nika means “in front”, and moun means “to eat”. Nikamoun, therefore, means "to be fed song". If we break it down further, it could mean "to be fed food by the one in front". This could also be the Creator. To take it a bit further, it means "whoever is in front is feeding us". This is where the greed for money becomes our sustenance. This has quickly become a starvation diet for us all, nature and mankind too. Do we have the responsibility and the ability to respond and learn to save ourselves, our children, mankind, and our world?

Without language, who are we as individuals? We become without a past, unable to understand the thoughts of the past and unable to understand our ancestors in ceremony. They, in turn, are unable to understand us when we cannot communicate in our language.

Our modern Parliament has a role to play in helping indigenous peoples. We can add to the scale of justice by ensuring that our Canadian languages, our indigenous languages, do not become museum pieces relegated to the back of anthropological shelves on linguistics but instead are living, alive, and adapted to a modern world while remaining spiritually connected to the past.

I have dreamed of this moment when the Canadian state, which has for far too long tried to ignore and terminate these languages, would be part of the process in Parliament of breathing life into our common languages.

I thank my colleagues, the House leader and Canadians. I thank our ancestors, who never stopped living. I thank the unborn, who will soon carry the spirit bundle of language into the future. I thank them very much.

Business of Supply May 7th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, it is extremely important to have a balance in the economy, working with indigenous communities and making sure we can get it done in the right way, but that takes a lot of effort.

We have seen 50,000 consultations on this side by the government contacting individuals and first nations, talking with people directly—Canadians, indigenous people, environmentalists—ensuring that environmentalists can actually give their opinion when we are building this to make sure it is done in a good way.

This works to ensure that indigenous peoples can also see a profit from this, that they can have sole-sourced revenues, so that they can fund their own programs.

Not only that; it is also about ensuring that we invest in those things that sometimes people do not see, like the aboriginal centre on Higgins and Main in Winnipeg Centre, which has received money to retrofit its windows, so that it can have less heat loss, so that the building costs less to heat during the winter, which is sometimes very long in Winnipeg.

We have also been spending lots of money ensuring that indigenous communities do not have to truck in thousands of tons of diesel fuel to run electrical generators, that we hook communities up to the actual hydro being produced on their territories. That sounds like equity.

Let us talk about Shoal Lake and building the Freedom Road so that indigenous peoples can actually access their community, and then we can actually start building a new water treatment plant, which supplies the city of Winnipeg with its clean water. These things are concrete actions that we have been taking day in, day out, year after year for the last three years, which have started to make a significant difference in people's lives.

I hope we do not stop, because if this stops, if we do not have the opportunity to continue, we are going to set back reconciliation and we are going to set more Canadians back into poverty. That is not what we should be about here in this country. We should continue investing in all Canadians, making sure that all Canadians have an equal opportunity, an opportunity to succeed in this country, our nation.

Business of Supply May 7th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I am quite proud of the four years of hard work that we have done on this side to actually improve the lives of Canadians, lifting children out of poverty. That is why we want to talk about it, because that is something to be truly proud about.

It is four cents on a litre of gas. It is important. It does have a great impact on people's bottom line, but that money also goes directly back to Canadians in the form of the climate action incentive. Canadians are receiving it back. What this plan hopes to do is modify people's behaviours so that we do not have forest fires across the country, so we do not have major flooding and so we continue to have snow. The climate is changing in such drastic ways across the country.

Let us talk about more things we are proud of. Under the Harper Conservatives, in 2013, garbage was sent to the Philippines. I am proud to say, working with the member of Parliament for Winnipeg North, that we are going to make sure that garbage comes back, that we do not send garbage to poor countries and developing nations, that we actually spend time ensuring that we look after our environment here and that we look after the garbage we produce here.

We should be very proud about that. That is why we talk about it. That is why I am proud to serve with people like the member for Winnipeg North who cares about those things and who will make sure that we get our garbage back from the Philippines, unlike the Harper Conservatives who sent it there in the first place.

Business of Supply May 7th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to have the opportunity today to speak about how we must invest in the middle class and build an economy that works for everyone, an economy that provides more good, well-paying jobs for the middle class and helps those working hard to join it, an economy where everyone, no matter their age, can live and work with pride.

At the same time, people across the country want to protect their children and grandchildren from the dangers of climate change. They want to invest in technologies that will help us lower the cost of living and reduce the emissions that cause climate change.

A Canadian green deal is based on balance. Failing to invest in a cleaner more sustainable future threatens the things that Canadians rely on for their success: an affordable cost of living; good, well-paying jobs and resilient communities. It would make it harder to help those who are poor, because it would make it difficult to ensure that we have those things to pay for those services.

Climate change, as we know, is real, and we need to take action today. Budget 2019 made significant investments to protect Canada's environment while also creating new jobs and making life more affordable for Canadians. These investments go hand in hand with efforts to help more people find a home, find and keep good jobs, retire with confidence and get affordable prescription drugs when they need them. The budget also delivers on a promise of a stronger middle class, and advances the plan to protect the health of all Canadians, the health of our economy and the health of future generations.

During their 10 years, the Harper Conservatives ignored the needs of a better future for all, the needs of the environment, of the middle class, and especially the needs of those who are most poor in our society who want government to work for them. Today, more Canadians are working, more families have more money in their pockets and Canada's middle class is growing.

The current leader of the Conservative Party, as well as Ford and Harper, all spent time cutting services and are cutting services today, like local library services, day care centres and even tree planting. This is absolutely unconscionable. The priorities of Ford and the current leader of the Conservative Party are about slashing funds for city services while moving forward with a pricey campaign promise to bring beer into convenience stores. They want to make it cheaper and more affordable so that we can drink beer. “Where is the sense in that?”, said Mayor John Tory. “Cutting public health programs and daycare programs to find the extra money to pay the Beer Store to change their contract?” That is what he said.

In Manitoba, in alliance, the leader of the Conservative Party and Pallister continue to cut services, including emergency services at a hospital in my riding, the Misericordia Health Centre. They are about to cut it at the Concordia Hospital. Gone. They have been reducing services in health care right across the province.

In fact, Premier Brian Pallister is leaving money on the table, including $547 million for public transit, which is important to having a good climate change program to ensure we protect the environment. The Manitoba government left $451 million of green infrastructure dollars on the table. Where is the Canadian green deal in that, a deal based on balance? It is not with the Pallister government. It left $61 million behind for community, cultural and recreation infrastructure. We need more good programming to ensure we do not have the meth crisis we have in Winnipeg right now, and to ensure that young people do not have to join gangs in order to find something to do. The government also left $112 million of rural and northern programming on the table. It is absolutely unconscionable.

On this side of the House, we have taken action to ensure there is a price on pollution right across Canada in 2019. We have implemented a federal backstop system in jurisdictions that do not have a standard that meets that standard at the federal level. As part of this plan, the federal government will be returning the bulk of the direct proceeds from the fuel charge in the form of a climate action incentive payment directly to individuals in the provinces, meaning it is costed so that those dollars are going back to the citizens. The residents of Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have a government that is looking out for them and for all citizens. Their families can claim that climate incentive on their personal income tax returns. The remainder of the direct fuel charge proceeds will be used to support small and medium-sized businesses and other particularly affected sectors in these provinces.

The Canadian green deal is about balance. It is balanced to help reward good behaviour that will have an impact in protecting the environment and stop, or even at some point reverse, climate change.

As the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed last week, most households will receive more in climate action incentive payments than their increased costs resulting from the federal carbon pollution pricing system. People are going to be better off under this plan.

We know that climate change is not just an environmental issue but also an economic and social issue.

Our government's plan will grow the Canadian economy, build a nation of innovators and create good, well-paying jobs that strengthen the middle class.

Budget 2019 proposes significant investments and, above all, enables the government to implement new measures to help Canada's middle class and all those working hard to join it.

In budget 2019, our government announced several actions that build on our plan to help Canadians and support our communities. For example, we intend to lower the energy costs of Canadians by investing $1 billion to help increase energy efficiency in residential, commercial and multi-unit buildings. The budget also proposes to provide new infrastructure to help build cleaner and healthier communities through a major municipal infrastructure top-up investment of $2.2 billion. We are helping communities. This will double our government's commitment to municipalities and help communities fund their infrastructure priorities, including public transit, water and green energy projects. However, this is not all that we are doing.

We asked the wealthiest 1% of Canadians to pay a little more so that we could give the middle class a tax break. That tax break is helping over nine million Canadians.

We have also created the Canada child benefit, or the baby bonus. This baby bonus is important to the people of Winnipeg Centre. In 2018-19, every month, on average, we make 8,490 payments of the baby bonus to citizens in Winnipeg Centre, helping 15,510 children. It is helping to lift thousands of children out of poverty. It is $790 on average, which is $6,733,000 a month directly into the economy of the people of Winnipeg Centre.

This is not all that we have done. We have also helped seniors in my riding. We have made 9,580 payments under old age security, for an average of $6,520 under the guaranteed income supplement; 4,620 payments for an average of $6,490; as well as our top-up, which came in the last budget, of 2,620 new payments, for a total of $1,040 a month, to seniors in Winnipeg Centre. That is $96 million which is going to help Canadians advance in life.

In closing, I would like to say that Canadians want a plan that will enable them to prosper in a world where the climate is changing. Our government is investing in a cleaner and healthier future for all Canadians.

We have made a lot of progress since the fall of 2015, since the decade of darkness. However, we know there is more work to be done, and we are not going to lose sight of that goal. We will keep helping the middle class and those working hard to join it. Our government will work hard for Canadians to build an economy where everyone has a fair and true chance of succeeding, lifting thousands of Canadians out of poverty. We will ensure that our government works, not just for the few as under Harper, not just for those who might vote for them, but for all Canadians no matter what their political stripe, so that we ensure we are all better off in the future.

Petitions May 6th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I wish to table another e-petition on behalf of fellow citizens from Winnipeg Centre. This one relates to military assault weapons and how Canada should immediately draft legislation to ensure that these assault weapons do not have a place in our society.

Petitions May 6th, 2019

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to present another petition. I wanted to give other members an opportunity before me by not presenting too many petitions at once. I have one final petition to present, and I hope I can have permission.

Petitions May 6th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition on behalf of a citizen, Randolph Shrofel, who talks about how the Canadian coat of arms is found on all documents and buildings and should represent all the founding peoples of Canada.

He is calling on the Government of Canada to change the coat of arms of Canada to reflect the contributions of indigenous peoples.

Shirley Malcolm Fontaine and Benjamin Chee Chee May 2nd, 2019

Mr. Speaker, an inspirational woman has joined her ancestors and husband Earl Fontaine in the spirit world this past week. I would like to acknowledge Shirley Malcolm Fontaine for her contributions to the Manitoba first nations and her lifelong commitment to improving educational opportunities for children.

Shirley was involved in several important initiatives, including the creation of the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre, which provides the province's leading education, administration, technology, language and cultural services to first nations schools in Manitoba.

Shirley believed in her people and language and had a commitment to bettering our youth through education. I thank Shirley. Meegwetch.

Let us also recognize one of the finest artists of Canada, Benjamin Chee Chee. He always refused to be an indigenous artist; he was a proud Anishnabeg. He drew simple lines, usually acrylic on paper.

Highly influential in his time, he said he did not paint the past but the present, the living of today.

We can see his works, like the flock of four geese. They represent the four directions of the unborn, the youth, the adults and the elders all moving in the same direction.

Even though he died in tragedy and is buried in Ottawa, far from his land and people, he still inspires today.