House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was indigenous.

Last in Parliament January 2019, as NDP MP for Nanaimo—Ladysmith (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions October 19th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, because bulk anchorages are having environmental and property impacts and risking the sport fishing industry on the Salish Sea, the petitioners from Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Gabriola Island, where I live, urge the transport minister to not approve five new bulk anchorages proposed in a quite pristine area of the island. They cite impacts on forage fish and the food chain issues that come with that.

This reinforces testimony from Gabriolans against freighter anchorages at the transport committee this week. They pointed out that although bulk exports coming into port in Port Metro Vancouver had gone up 40%, the time that freighters were sitting at anchor had gone up 400% over the same period. We have a supply problem and they have specific solutions to fix it.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act October 19th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, indigenous women make up 2% of Canada's population but 38% of women in prison. Eighteen of the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission were about justice reform. There has been virtually no progress on most of them, according to witnesses at the status of women committee.

The legal counsel for the Native Women's Association, who appeared before the status of women committee, described solitary confinement as “a particularly cruel practice for women with histories of trauma and abuse, another area in which indigenous women are overrepresented.... [They are] particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of isolation.”

Bill C-83 does not seem to have a lot of friends who think that the government's actions are the right thing to do. Kim Pate says it would virtually eliminate “already inadequate limitations on its use.” Ivan Zinger, the correctional investigator, says “[t]here's no procedural safeguard” in Bill C-83. The Elizabeth Fry Society says that this legislation would not meet its needs.

Could the member let me know which indigenous women say this is going to make their lives better, because it sure does not sound like it to us?

Corrections and Conditional Release Act October 18th, 2018

Madam Speaker, my colleague raises an interesting point. As this bill was only tabled on Monday, that is not an analysis I have done.

It is certainly a good point to say that it is indefinite solitary confinement. There are times that segregation is necessary for the safety of other prisoners. However, we did have very clear direction from both courts, and very good advice from multiple witnesses, the investigation done by the correctional investigator Dr. Ivan Zinger and advocates across our country. The current government was given good advice, which it has failed to take.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act October 18th, 2018

Madam Speaker, both myself and other members of my caucus have gone into these committee meetings in good faith and have proposed in some cases hundreds of amendments only to have the Liberals vote them down one after the next without even debating them. I must say that it is a little hard to take my colleague's encouragement to vote in favour of a bill that does not even meet the orders of two supreme courts in this country. The government is probably going to invoke closure on this bill, like it does with everything else, and will probably jam it through just for it to be challenged in court again.

I will restate the recommendation that we gave the current government back in June. It should immediately stop the appeal that it launched against the 2018 ruling to end indefinite solitary confinement in prisons across Canada and recognize the practice is unconstitutional and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment that can lead to the suffering and death of some prisoners, including indigenous women in the federal prison system. This bill does not do that.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act October 18th, 2018

Madam Speaker, tomorrow is the 11th anniversary of the death of Ashley Smith. This is a tragic story that was broadcast across the entire country. Having been moved from one stage of the criminal justice system and Canada's jail system, Ashley died alone in solitary confinement without the protections that Canada offered her. This happened 11 years ago and here we are still.

As of June 2017, 399 federal inmates were in administrative segregation, including 94 who have been in isolation for more than 90 consecutive days. Between April 2011 and March 2014, 14 inmates died by suicide in solitary confinement.

The 2014-15 report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator reported the overuse of solitary confinement as a tool for managing the inmate population. Twenty-seven per cent of the inmate population experienced at least one stay in solitary confinement.

This overly affects some incarcerated groups more than others, including women with mental health issues, aboriginal inmates and black inmates.

Aboriginal inmates continue to have the longest average stay in segregation compared to any other group and represent approximately 46% of inmates in segregation.

The average segregation period is 24 days according to Correctional Services Canada.

Why does this matter? How does it harm?

In the spring, the status of women committee of which I am vice-chair studied the over-incarceration rates of indigenous women in prison, their experience in the justice system and their experience in jail.

Here are a few quotes and stats from that report.

The 2006 report of Correctional Services Canada, which is called “Ten-Year Status Report on Women’s Corrections” said:

Segregation tends to have a significant impact on women offenders. Generally speaking, women are linked to each other through relationships and the isolation of segregation, combined with the crisis or stress the woman is experiencing, can take its toll.

We heard testimony on February 1 from Ms. Virginia Lomax, legal counsel for the Native Women's Association of Canada, who said:

Segregation is a particularly cruel practice for women with histories of trauma and abuse, another area in which indigenous women are overrepresented. Their specific lived experiences of colonial patriarchy, intergenerational trauma, and state violence makes them particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of isolation.

...Prohibiting the use of segregation for prisoners who are actively self-harming is an acknowledgement that the practice should not be used to manage mental health crises, but does nothing to address the fact that segregation itself is often the cause of escalating self-harm behaviours.

For these reasons and many others, the Native Women's Association of Canada calls for a complete end to the practice of solitary confinement by any name and for any duration.

Dr. Ivan Zinger of the Office of the Correctional Investigator said in testimony at committee on February 2 of this year:

The impact of segregation is also something that we've identified. The great majority of the women incarcerated in secure units have experienced segregation. There's also a gender-based classification system, which requires that some inmates who are seen as higher risk are handcuffed and sometimes shackled to go off the unit, which creates all sorts of problems for those women.

In response to a question I asked him about how Correctional Services Canada treats women prisoners in need of emergency health care in the Pacific region, he said:

The practice of taking a woman with acute mental illness and putting her into an all-male institution, completely isolated, all alone in a unit, is shameful and a violation of human rights. I think there is no room for this in Canada.

It has to be said that these women were tried and are in jail for a reason that the justice system identified. We certainly heard a lot of testimony. They said that they were themselves usually victims of crime before they entered the criminal justice system.

We absolutely do need to protect victims and we need to see justice be done in cases of violent crime.

Many times we heard from witnesses that they want these people to end up on the other side of the criminal justice system better than they started and some of the practices described tell us otherwise.

This is an important debate about solitary confinement.

This is what the NDP recommended. In our final report to the government, tabled here in June, we quoted Ivan Zinger, the correctional investigator of Canada. He said:

I sincerely believe that in a women's facility, you could de facto abolish the practice altogether, if you used those secure units with the same sort of rigour in making it a last resort and using those secure units to separate, and not isolate, the few cases that you need to deal with for a short period of time.

The United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women, who monitors Canada to see whether it is upholding its commitments to the United Nations, said:

... I would like to call for an absolute ban on solitary confinement, segregation, intensive psychiatric care, medical observation and all other related forms of isolation of incarcerated young women and women with mental health issues.

The NDP said, in its final report to the government:

It is shocking that instead of moving forward with reform, the Liberal government appealed the BC Supreme Court ruling against solitary confinement, choosing to spend taxpayers' money fighting the BC Civil Liberties Association in court instead of implementing reforms to help indigenous women in prison.

What did we get? The government tabled on Monday, Bill C-83. It tweaks administrative segregation, or solitary confinement, and rebrands it with different wording. It retains much of the same language and the framework that is used for administrative segregation. It ignores the rulings from the B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court that ruled that administrative segregation was unconstitutional. It failed to give an option for independent oversight for decisions to further restrict liberties of inmates by transferring them into the renamed segregation units. Instead of spending 22 to 23 hours a day in segregation in the current system, the new scheme proposes up to 20 hours a day for an indefinite period of time. The Ontario Superior Court had already found that the harmful effects of sensory deprivation can manifest in as little as 48 hours.

Finally, in a critique, the Supreme Court ruled that the indefinite nature of isolation is again unconstitutional, although the federal government, as I said earlier, is currently trying to appeal that decision.

This morning, at the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund breakfast in honour of Persons Day, we heard a presentation from Senator Kim Pate, who flagged that, in addition, sections 21, 81 and 84 are all interfered with in Bill C-83. These were all mechanisms, enshrined in law, that allowed prisoners to be moved to different levels of care to carry out parts of their sentence, whether that was in the community or it was a healing lodge. There were three different tools. All of them had been underutilized, hardly used at all. Senator Pate, in her previous role with Elizabeth Fry and now as a senator, had been drawing attention to them. Both the public security committee of this Parliament and also the status of women committee had studied those three provisions and made recommendations on them and, strangely, they are now gutted in this bill. It is a funny coincidence.

The representative of the Elizabeth Fry Society said, “While we have advocated for decades for the abolition of administrative segregation, Bill C-83 leaves much to be desired.”

I say, with sadness, New Democrats wanted to see real reform. We have made specific proposals on what that would look like. The government has rebranded this unconstitutional practice instead of doing what the court ordered.

I will leave with a reminder. More than one in three women in federal prisons is indigenous; 91% have histories of abuse; and many also experience debilitating mental illnesses. We have to end the use of segregation and solitary confinement. We will oppose this bill.

Status of Women October 18th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, today all the ministers responsible for status of women meet in Yukon. Tuesday, I called again for Liberals to walk the talk, finally end violence against women and remove barriers to economic justice. Whether it is pay equity, child care or a national action plan, the Liberals have promised so much and delivered so little. Women fought in court to be called persons. They still fight in court for equality because the government will not legislate it.

The time is up. When will the Liberals lock in equality?

Canada Labour Code October 16th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, a theme that was repeated throughout the committee review of Bill C-65, and has certainly been reflected in my colleague's speech, is removing barriers to victims of harassment in the workplace that prevent them from coming forward because they fear privacy concerns. The member alluded to this in his speech.

One of the amendments my New Democratic colleague, the member of Parliament for Jonquière, made at committee was blocked by the government and again in the Senate amendments. It was a provision to ensure the investigation report could be released to the victim and the health and safety representatives, with details such as the workplace redacted, which might reveal things about the victim's identity.

The question is about how to share the victim's recommendations about changes to the workplace without revealing who that victim is. Are there any comments from my colleague about how that could be accommodated given my understanding is the government has refused those amendments?

Canada Labour Code October 16th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, when Bill C-65 was at committee, there were repeated requests from the labour movement, from the NDP and from my colleague, the member for Parliament for Jonquière and NDP labour critic, to keep alive the role of occupational health and safety committees.

They have been extremely important, being made up of both employer and employee representatives, with a great diversity of representation, whether gender, indigenous or racialized. It is something that has worked very well for decades, supporting complaints and investigations under the labour code.

All of those witnesses, including the Public Service Alliance of Canada and others I mentioned, asked that the role of those occupational health and safety committees be maintained. In the case of workplace or sexual harassment, they asked that the complainant have the option to turn to these committees and all the experience they have garnered. The NDP's amendment to have that included in Bill C-65 was rejected by the government side. The Senate proposed the same amendment, and that was also rejected by the government side.

Is it my colleague's view that these occupational health and safety committees truly have no utility here?

Canada Labour Code October 16th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I understand the long-standing involvement of the labour movement, with local health and safety representatives on the occupational health and safety committees, has been a very important part in ensuring that the Canada Labour Code works well and that investigations have people on the ground as part of the process.

It is my understanding that in the process of reviewing Bill C-65, the government's amendment to include harassment and violence in the workplace directly in the Canada Labour Code and make it also apply to the parliamentary precinct and the good men and women who support us in our work has been left out.

I would like to hear more about the efforts of our labour critic, the member of Parliament for Jonquière, to try to insert the advice of the labour movement into the draft version of this legislation. What is lost by the exclusion of that long-standing practice to have occupational health and safety committees and their representatives be involved in investigations of workplace harassment?

Petitions October 16th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I bring voices from coastal communities urging government action to deal with the backlog of abandoned vessels.

The petitioners call on the government for legislation that would direct the recycling and/or removal of abandoned vessels and to pilot a turn-in program modelled on the successful cash for clunkers program that different provinces use for automobiles.

It has been proven in Washington state and Oregon that the backlog of abandoned vessels that present an oil spill risk and jeopardize coastal jobs can be dealt with using a vessel turn-in program. Many other solutions in this petition would be in line with existing marine salvage businesses.

The petitioners are from Nanaimo, Duncan and other communities on Vancouver Island.

I commend this petition to the House.