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  • His favourite word is communities.

NDP MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Indigenous Affairs November 29th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, this is a sad day because I have to rise once again to remind the government that reconciliation is more than just words. By appealing, the minister is sending survivors of horrendous residential schools the message that they do not have the same right to justice as every other citizen. That is nothing short of appalling. What happened to the promise to build a new relationship?

I will repeat my question: will the Minister of Justice drop the appeal?

Indigenous Affairs November 17th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the government's own ministers agree that the government is not investing enough to help young indigenous people.

In committee yesterday, the Minister of Health said that federal health infrastructure investments were merely “a drop in a bucket” compared to the pressing needs.

My question is very simple. When will the minister finally provide adequate funding for the infrastructure and services that communities need?

Indigenous Affairs November 17th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, almost a year ago, just on the other side of the river here, the Prime Minister told the chiefs at the Assembly of First Nations the following:

We will support the work of reconciliation and continue the necessary process of truth telling and healing, we will work with [you] to enact the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, starting with the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Prime Minister promised real change, yet unfortunately we have yet to see the real or the change in this case.

We are heading towards the 150th anniversary of this place we now call Canada. The first peoples of this country should not have to wait another 150 years to see their fundamental human rights protected, respected, and fulfilled.

I invite the Prime Minister to respect that promise of reconciliation with the first peoples of this country.

Indigenous Affairs November 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs has confirmed that she will vote in favour of our motion today, so that is a good thing.

At the same time, she also said in an interview yesterday that the $155 million in additional funding that we are asking for and that is needed to address the underfunding of child welfare could actually have “really bad results”.

Is the minister truly committed to implementing our motion, or is she supporting it simply to avoid embarrassment?

Indigenous Affairs October 31st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I did not hear an answer. Without a deadline, it is all just hot air.

In 2007, the Liberals voted for our motion on Jordan's principle. Now the Liberals are in power, and even after two court orders, the children are still waiting. They cannot and must not wait any longer.

Therefore, I will repeat my question: what deadline has the government set for putting an end to this discrimination?

Indigenous Affairs October 31st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, we were pleased to learn via Twitter this morning that, after seven months of legal battles and four days of attacks against Cindy Blackstock's expertise, the government plans to support our motion to put an end to discrimination against indigenous children.

We are getting used to this government's empty rhetoric. I am therefore asking the Prime Minister this question: can he tell us what deadline he has set for implementing the will of Parliament?

Indigenous Affairs October 28th, 2016

Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister loves talking about nation-to-nation relationships. Clearly, however, his definition is different than ours. A real nation-to-nation relationship means respect, but it also means action.

Instead of eliminating racial discrimination against first nations children, he prefers to question the numbers brought forward by experts like Cindy Blackstock.

Is that really what the Prime Minister's most important relationship looks like?

Business of Supply October 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

He is right. I have a lot of experience with governments that refuse to comply with tribunals' orders and violate the constitutional rights of first peoples. Not many MPs have lived in residential schools; I might be the only one, and I spent 10 years there. I know my story.

It is important to remember that, in this country, a tribunal's ruling means something. If the government needs constant reminders about the meaning of law and order, we have a bit of a problem. I have often heard members talk about the rule of law, but they do not really understand what that means. It means respecting our institutions, including the tribunals that are set up to deal with injustices perpetrated in this country properly, injustices such as those that indigenous peoples have endured for 150 years.

Federal governments, be they Liberal or Conservative, have been fighting indigenous peoples in court for 150 years. Each and every time, their approach is adversarial. Never has the federal government argued for the rights of indigenous people in court, not even once.

Next year, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. It might be time for a shift in attitude, because the current one is incompatible with reconciliation.

Business of Supply October 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my friend from Toronto for that question.

First, none of this $155 million would go to my riding because it is largely covered by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and we have our own arrangements in that part of the country.

Second, the government has had this figure for a long time. Cindy Blackstock has submitted documents to at least demonstrate where this money is particularly needed, and that was the figure that was presented to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. The Liberals knew about it, so it is way higher than what they are proposing in their budget and what they are proposing after the next election, if they remain there. I do not think that is going to happen. I am pretty sure.

Third, one of the things we need to realize in this discussion is that the amount is identified for this year alone, I believe. There is a lot of work to be done. I agree that we cannot fix 500 years of discrimination. That is going to take a while. However, that is not an invitation that was given by Senator Sinclair. That was not an invitation not to do anything at this time.

Business of Supply October 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague from the other side of the bay for bringing the motion forward. I am honoured to be his colleague and am very grateful that he brought the motion forward.

On January 26, 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found the Government of Canada was racially discriminating against 163,000 first nations children. This is not something that happened in the past. This is happening today, in 2016. In fact, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered the government to resolve the problem at the “first reasonable occasion”, according to its own words. That first reasonable opportunity was on March 22 when the government presented its budget, and resolution did not happen.

I would like to share with the House something that Cindy Blackstock taught me. There are several things that have always been true about the government's relationship with indigenous children. The government has always known about the wrongs at the time they were perpetuated, the degree of harm at the time they were perpetrated, and has always known of solutions to fix the problems, but chose not to do it.

Canada's first public health officer, Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, found that 24% of children who went to residential schools were dying every year and if those children were followed over three years, that number increased to 47%. Dr. Bryce said that the health science at that time knew exactly what to do to save many of those children. The government at the time said it was too expensive and retaliated against the doctor for speaking out in defence of indigenous kids.

Deliberate inaction on the part of government to prevent the deaths of children amounts to manslaughter. Those are not my words. Those are the words of a respected lawyer who examined Dr. Bryce's report in the 1920s. There are key elements to Dr. Bryce's story that are instructive in the case of the 163,000 kids today. First, the government knows about the preventable deaths of children. Second, they have the solutions to fix it. Third, they have chosen not to obey the order of the tribunal to prevent further harm, and in fact retaliates against and resists those who demand better. Fourth, it can get away with it if members of Parliament allow it. We cannot make the same mistake twice.

The findings of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal are so contrary to the ideals that Canadians adhere to and identify with. Racial discrimination is not tolerated in Canada in 2016. It is easier to tell ourselves that we have accomplished the Canadian ideal than to face and remedy the inequalities that the Government of Canada continues to perpetrate. It is much easier to think that the residential schools are a tragedy of the past. However, through its policies and programs, the government continues to actively racially discriminate against hundreds of thousands of children, little kids, in this country.

Today I have heard many excuses from the other side. I heard the government speak about the current funding levels of their programs, but none of the government members had the courage to stand and acknowledge that the discrimination still has not been remedied. It is continuing the policies of the past. It knows it is perpetrating harm and has chosen not to fix the problem. I will not sit quietly and allow the government to discriminate against little boys and girls in this country anymore.

The government said that the problem cannot be fixed overnight. It has said repeatedly that it cannot fix this problem overnight, that it will take time and consultation, and that it has made a good first step. Why is it that in 2016 indigenous kids are being asked to be grateful for a government that is only willing to take one baby step?

In the brave work of the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada, one little girl defined racial discrimination as “when the government doesn’t think you’re worth the money”. If that is how children feel today, in this country, do we really have to ask ourselves why we have a suicide crisis in so many communities in Canada? Children as young as 10 do not feel as though their lives are worth the same as those in other municipalities.

For those of us who have children, for those of us who have grandchildren, and who care for children in our lives, imagine if we were told that our children were not worth the money. What part of that statement is acceptable? If it is acceptable, then what is it that we can do, today, to make substantial and meaningful changes to improve the quality of life for first nation kids in this country?

The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is not over. Senator Murray Sinclair explained that it has taken 150 years to get us in the mess we are in today, and that it may take 150 years to fix it. However, that was not an invitation to do nothing. That was not an invitation to not take major steps today as we approach 150 years of this country.

The government must, as quickly as possible, ensure that there will never again be another generation of indigenous children who have to recover from their childhoods and that there will never again be another generation of non-indigenous children who have to say, “I'm sorry”.

I have often said that Canada is a country of unfulfilled promise.

How do we explain that such a rich country and a G7 member is still unable to improve the lot of first nations, the lot of the first peoples of this land, and especially the lot of indigenous women and girls, as well as that of the most vulnerable and marginalized children in the country?

To date, not one but two orders have been ignored by this government.

Why does the opposition have to move a motion to ensure compliance with these two orders? That makes no sense for a democracy such as ours.

When we reach the point that a tribunal's rulings are not followed, even though there is an order to comply, we wonder what will happen to the other promises made by this government to Canada's first nations.

I invite all members of the House to vote in favour of the motion because it is the only right thing to do in this country today.