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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was first.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou (Québec)

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

Statements in the House

Natural Resources April 30th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, there is growing evidence that the government had already approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion while it was publicly saying it was consulting with indigenous peoples.

A first nations band in British Columbia has now submitted this evidence to the Federal Court of Appeal and plans to ask the court to order the government to produce all relevant documents.

Will the government fight this out in court, or will it be fully transparent and release the relevant documents?

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation Act April 26th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to rise on such an important issue for indigenous people, that of cultural property.

First, I would like to remind members that this government already committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

One would therefore expect that all legislation introduced by the government would be in keeping with the declaration, particularly when it comes to indigenous rights or issues. Sadly, that does not seem to be the case with the bill we have before us today.

I think it is important to point out that we will support this bill at second reading so that we can work with members to improve some of its aspects.

The cultural items that are currently held in museum archives, universities, and private homes were handmade from teachings and techniques passed down for generations among indigenous peoples. They are are necessary part of our self-identity, guaranteed by our inherent treaty rights, constitutional rights, and international human rights.

These are not artifacts belonging to some culture in pre-history. These bones are our ancestors, genetically proven. The clothing was worn by our cousins, the masks were carved by our uncles, the hunting tools were made with our fathers. The makasinan were sewn and beaded by our mothers.

I usually wear a sample, handmade pair of makasinan. The shoes are handcrafted of thick, brain-tanned moose hide, still smelling of the smoke that guarantees the leather stays soft, the same technique that has been used for thousands of years.

The financial considerations of indigenous communities regarding repatriation are not explicitly resolved in Bill C-391. I would like to know from the member what the bill proposes to do. For example, I know recently that in British Columbia, the government has allocated $2 million to help with repatriation efforts for indigenous peoples.

Imagine walking through a museum and coming across a bag made with one's mother, which was taken away at residential school and is now under glass. This has happened to indigenous peoples again and again. Imagine the loss when one cannot even keep a bag after having learned to bead as a small child.

There are cultural teachings about beadwork: leave a bead in the wrong place to reflect life's imperfections and keep us humble, a crucial value for many indigenous peoples around the world.

The makasinan are well-known, well worn, and have been to ceremonies, hunting camps, and visiting communities in many territories. The security guards, cafeteria staff, visitors, and my colleagues ask me why I wear slippers to work. These makasinan have meaning to me in a way slippers bought at a store will never have. They connect me to a time and a place, and remind me of what I have been taught to hold true.

I invite all members to come to my riding this summer. In my riding there is the Cree cultural centre called Aanischaaukamikw. For many years Cree elders have spoken of the need for a central place for the protection of our ways. They remind us that Cree culture must be captured, maintained, shared, celebrated, and practised. Aanischaaukamikw is the realization of that very vision.

The museum allows us to preserve and share the stories, legends, music, pictures, and physical objects that show the youth the Cree people's reverence for the land we have walked on for thousands of years.

This museum is an example of what is possible when we have our personal belongings returned to us and when we have the resources to properly restore and protect our heritage, share it with our children, and share it with others.

However, not all communities have the capacity right now to store or care for their objects. Some have developed arrangements to leave precious objects in museums for proper storage and care. Others have chosen a shared arrangement that allows objects to rotate between the community and the museum, which takes them back to conservation.

The current requirement on indigenous peoples to prove ownership and connection is onerous. Research costs, often paid by loans, can prevent communities from achieving successful repatriation claims. Indigenous peoples should not be blocked by financial constraints. That is contrary to the inherent rights to cultural identity and cultural connection.

The heart of the matter when we are talking about the importance of repatriation of cultural heritage is self-determination. In fact, cultural heritage is considered so important to national identity, self-determination, and international cultural diversity that many states—Pakistan, India, the U.S., and Bolivia, for example—have MOUs and agreements that regulate the exportation of cultural objects.

It is also part of the agenda of the Summit of the Americas, where governments in the western hemisphere pledged to enhance appreciation of indigenous cultures and cultural artifacts through various collaborative means.

The language in Bill C-391 is weak and leaves many of the bill's provisions unenforceable. “To promote and support the return”, for instance, “encourage owners”, and other similarly drafted wording leaves most of the bill as optional.

Since the protection of cultural property touches on so many different areas, responsibility for various aspects of policy development and enforcement involves multiple ministries and government agencies, raising the risk of inconsistent and even contradictory actions being taken if a coordinated mechanism is not in place.

I would like to see a strong mechanism contained within Bill C-391 for Canadian-nation-to-indigenous-nation agreements.

The language used in this bill must also reflect already accepted national and international definitions of cultural property. I am not currently satisfied that it does. Definitions can be found in the Quebec cultural property act, the Canadian cultural property export control list, UNESCO conventions, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I refer members to article 31, for instance, under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to article 12, paragraph 2, of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

There is a lot of potential for the bill to provide closure to many people around the world and in this country in particular. Ancestors can be reburied with respect. Stolen items can be returned to their owners. Cultural teachings and practices can be revived. I look forward to working with the member on the bill.

Business of Supply April 26th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, you may have noticed I have not put my name forward to speak on the motion, although I seconded it. The reason for that is pretty simple. I have gone to residential school, 10 years in my case. When people are being invited to speak about that experience, they are being invited to relive that trauma. I was not prepared to do that. I do not think I am capable of doing that.

However, I want to thank my colleague from Scarborough—Rouge Park for his comments and support for this motion. I truly appreciate him, not only as a colleague but as a friend and co-worker on the committee. I appreciate his words of support.

Natural Resources April 17th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, most of those so-called agreements are letters of understanding, MOUs. We can hardly call them agreements.

A letter of understanding does not mean consent for the project. We have had enough of these false characterizations at the expense of indigenous communities. The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, which represents over half of all first nations in the province, remains resolutely opposed to the project.

When will this government finally get serious about its most important relationship, the relationship with indigenous peoples?

Natural Resources April 17th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, indigenous opposition to Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion is strong, it is growing, and several first nations have already taken the government to court for having violated its constitutional duty to consult. It is a sad day when, despite lofty rhetoric, the government also is ignoring its constitutional obligations.

The government wants to talk about the rule of law. How about respecting section 35 of the Constitution? How about respecting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples' free, prior, and informed consent? Whatever happened to that most important relationship with indigenous peoples?

The Budget February 28th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, it is always enjoyable to listen to my friend. He is a great colleague on the standing committee for aboriginal affairs as well.

Speaking about social deficits in our country, the member is fully aware of the importance of housing in indigenous communities. He was part of the study we did on suicide among young indigenous people. We heard from almost every testimony about housing and the importance of responding to that crisis in aboriginal communities.

The budget provides for $600 million over three years, which is $200 million per year for the next three years for on-reserve housing. If we break that down to the some 630 indigenous communities, it amounts to about $320,000 per community per year. The member knows the cost of construction in the north. That is about one house per community for the next three years. Does he think that is sufficient with respect to housing for indigenous communities?

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice System February 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, earlier a member talked about living on a reserve. I still do too.

My dear hope is that this type of case will not surface again in the future. I faced exclusion throughout my life and still do to this day. That needs to stop. The words “reconciliation” and “justice” go together, and if we are truly committed to reconciliation and justice, there cannot be reconciliation in this country in the absence of justice.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice System February 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, these types of situations have already been studied to death. I mentioned the aboriginal justice commission of Manitoba which looked into the 1971 murder of Helen Betty Osborne. It is a similar case. In this case, the commissioner's report recommended that the Criminal Code be changed with respect to jurors. When I look at that report and the quote that I read a while ago, that is the first step we need to take in this type of situation.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice System February 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I think the basis of our work in all the things that we do, either from a policy perspective or a legislative perspective, needs to be based on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The norms contained in the UN declaration are the minimum standards for the survival of the dignity, well-being, and security of indigenous peoples in this place.

I am grateful that the government has supported Bill C-262, because that is the kind of basic framework we need in this country.

Indigenous Peoples and Canada's Justice System February 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.

When I heard of the verdict in the trial for the murder of Colten Boushie, I sent out one tweet and one tweet only saying that I went to law school because I believed in justice in this country, but the decision of the court totally devastated that belief. The system needs to change in this country.

I was taught by my elders that the spirit and intent in the words of our treaties that we share with Canada allowed for just co-existence, and the preservation of Indian ways of being and indigenous laws. The injustices that indigenous peoples experience in their daily lives and in special circumstances like murder are built into the Canadian legal system and political framework. The peremptory norm of non-discrimination, a fundamental tenet in international human rights law, requires that indigenous peoples have access to justice on an equal basis to the general population. How we do that is the question.

Lawyers need training and education. Criminal crown prosecutors should have specific directives. Gladue rights only address the problems at the sentencing level. What about before that? It is equally important. Police also need training to establish protocols. We must consider how police investigate themselves when an error or a tragedy occurs.

I strongly recommend that the House consider the 2013 study, “Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” on access to justice. Wilton Littlechild, a well-known grand chief, participated in the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples. The work has already been done by excellent people at the expert mechanism level in the report that I just referred to by the Manitoba aboriginal commission. We can continue from there.

We cannot discard, in my view, the knowledge and experience of our ancestors and elders, who remind us that the treaties contain all we need for a framework that ensures justice for all peoples who live in this land we call Canada.