My thanks to the committee for their confidence in electing me chair of the committee. It will be my pleasure to work with you in order for the committee to complete all its studies in a climate of mutual respect.
Before we move to the agenda, if my colleagues have no objections, I would like to modify the agenda a little in order to keep 15 minutes at the end of the meeting to discuss our future business.
I know that the committee has already proposed adding sessions. We have received replies from the witnesses we have invited. If there are no objections, let us set aside 15 minutes at the end of the meeting to discuss the committee's future business in camera.
Now we move to the agenda. Today, we have with us Mr. Ron Swain, Vice-Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. Mr. Swain will have 10 minutes for his opening statement. Then we will move to questions and comments. We will finish the first part of the committee's work at 11:50.
Then we will suspend the meeting to allow the next witnesses to come to the table. Those witnesses are Ms. Courchene and Ms. Manitowabi, who will make an opening statement for 10 minutes. Then we will be able to ask them questions.
Mr. Swain, thank you very much for joining us today. You have 10 minutes in which to make your presentation before we move to questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair. I'm here with my colleague, Julian Morelli. He's our communications director at the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.
Good morning, Chair and committee members. It's a pleasure to be here on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people to speak to you about matrimonial real property on reserve. I am the national vice-chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. As you know, National Chief Betty Anne Lavallée was to speak this morning, but unfortunately she was taken ill and asked me to make this presentation in her place. She sends her regrets.
Since 1971, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, formerly known as the Native Council of Canada, has represented the interests of off-reserve status and non-status Indians, southern Inuit, and Métis throughout Canada. Today, over 60% of aboriginal people now live off reserve, and this number continues to grow. The congress is also the national voice for its affiliate organizations and advocates on behalf of aboriginal people living off reserve throughout Canada.
The issue of matrimonial real property on reserve is certainly not new. The Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba addressed this as far back as 1988. At that time, the inquiry recognized the need for an equal division upon marriage breakup under the Indian Act. In addition, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples put forth recommendations on the issue. Over the last ten years, numerous studies and reports have been issued by the House of Commons and the Senate. A number of pieces of legislation have also been introduced by both the Conservatives and the Liberals.
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples supports matrimonial real property, and we feel it's time to move on. This legislation should not come as a surprise to anyone. Aboriginal organizations, including the congress, along with aboriginal people were consulted on matrimonial real property in 2002 through the Joint Ministerial Advisory Committee. In fact, under this committee we helped draft the legislation for the first nations governance act.
In 2003, the Standing Committee on Human Rights released an interim report called “A Hard Bed to Lie In: Matrimonial Real Property on Reserve”. This report is still relevant today. It outlines the importance of matrimonial real property for a variety of reasons by emphasizing many of the barriers aboriginal women face, including factors that intensify additional inequality and discrimination toward women in these circumstances.
One story in this report really was quite striking. An aboriginal woman and her five children were forced to leave their reserve. They lost their social support and were left with limited finances in search of a home. This woman sought assistance for affordable housing, but was turned down and ended up living in a rundown boarding house. Child and Family Services intervened and took her children. In the end, she could not take it anymore and in despair took her own life. This is just one tragic example, and there are surely thousands more. Yet these hardships continue today. For example, many women are forced to leave their reserve after a marriage breakdown. Those who leave the reserve in search of affordable housing could find their position quite grim.
Let me give you an example. In 2006 the federal government entered into the off-reserve aboriginal housing sector. They allotted $300 million over three years to the provinces for off-reserve affordable housing. Not one of our affiliates received the full amount of funding. When the federal government gave money to assist off-reserve housing, the money didn't get there. One province under this program received $38.2 million and refused to provide any resources for off-reserve housing. This particular province refused to assist off-reserve housing initiatives because, and I quote, “they had other priorities”. My question is simple. Where are these people supposed to go?
This is why our organization fought so strongly for all aboriginal people to be included under subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act of 1867. People who leave reserves for whatever reason should still have their rights. They are rightful partners in Confederation. They are a federal jurisdiction. Once a person leaves the reserve, they no longer have the same level of services or support available to them. They are simply not getting the help they need.
Obviously, conditions differ in every region of Canada, and individuals have their own unique challenges to deal with. However, I find it appalling that in this day and age aboriginal women continue to encounter discrimination and inequality and are literally being deprived of their rights.
The Constitution Act of 1982, under subsection 35(4) states:
|| Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in subsection (1) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.
This is not the reality for aboriginal women.
We, at the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, understand the complexities of this legislation, but this is no excuse. This is legislation that should have gone through years ago. How land is managed and allotted on reserves plays a big part in how matrimonial real property is exercised. There are reserves that have different categories of land on the same reserve: for instance, a reserve is regulated by the Indian Act or voluntarily adheres to the First Nations Land Management Act or a self-government agreement.
The Indian Act itself is problematic on a number of levels. It does not enshrine the treaty relationship, but in many cases it undermines or seeks to replace it. It was introduced and amended by governments that took a paternalistic view towards aboriginal people. It is more about limiting the day-to-day existence of status Indians and reserve communities than it is about implementing and building relationships with sovereign people who entered into this act without their consent. The lack of matrimonial real property is probably the most honest example of what is wrong with the Indian Act at its root.
Some communities have voluntarily adhered to the First Nations Land Management Act to get away from the Indian Act. A small fraction of those communities have made the necessary steps in recognizing the division of family assets, but there are still difficulties for women when it comes to exercising those rights.
The Standing Committee on Human Rights' interim report states that “the federal policy on self-government calls for the application of the Charter”.
||The Government is committed to the principle that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms should bind all governments in Canada, so that Aboriginal peoples and non-Aboriginal Canadians alike may continue to enjoy equally the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Charter. Self-government agreements, including treaties, will, therefore, have to provide that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to Aboriginal governments and institutions in relation to all matters within their respective jurisdictions and authorities.
This legislation accommodates for the different land management on reserve. It allows for communities to establish laws that are specific to their culture and their traditions.
It has been argued that Bill could be interpreted to imply that it impedes on the non-derogation clause found under section 25 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our organization strongly supports the non-derogation clause, in that nothing should abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to aboriginal peoples of Canada.
I honestly believe that ensuring equal rights to both men and women does not impede upon aboriginal treaty rights. On the contrary, I would argue that not backing this bill is disallowing equality for all aboriginal people.
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples strongly supports matrimonial real property on reserve. We recognize that by implementing this legislation, many communities will be burdened with an increase in responsibility. For this reason, it is important that communities be provided with the necessary tools and financial resources to assist them in implementing this important legislation. This is an instrumental bill. It is important that we don't impose legislation on aboriginal people and their communities, but rather help aboriginal people by establishing a reciprocal relationship in working together and supporting aboriginal communities to ensure they are able to integrate equality while maintaining their cultural values and traditions.
Thank you for this time.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Swain, for being here. It was great to hear from you and that you support matrimonial real property.
I, too, find it appalling that women on reserve do not have the same rights as I have and as the other women who are sitting around this table have. I'm just happy to hear you support that, because they should have the same rights as we do and they should have the same protection as we do.
I do have some questions for you.
Do you think that individuals living in first nations communities currently have access to adequate protections and rights related to matrimonial property, and how do you think they could be improved?
I'll give you a little bit of my background. I'm an aboriginal man, a status Indian, and I have five children.
Unfortunately, I went through two marriage breakups. Right now, I'm a single father, so I know personally some of the realities of separation, the emotions, and some of the issues that can be involved.
I've also been an Ontario Provincial Police officer for 32 years, and I've worked on first nations communities throughout Ontario, both on and off reserve, so I'm speaking from some of my experience in that time.
Unfortunately, because of the nature of the fiduciary relationship to reserves—and I'll call them reserves because everybody seems to understand that “reserve” concept as opposed to “first nation”—the provincial laws don't apply when it comes to divorce court and different separation agreements. That complicates things and it makes this very problematic.
I've had personal experiences where, let's say, an aboriginal man is living with an aboriginal woman who is not from that community. When they break up, she is basically kicked right out the door. They have no protection under law. As a police officer, I've gone there. We keep the peace, but there's a band council resolution that has been passed telling her that she has to leave, and she's escorted off that first nations or reserve community.
I know personally that right now there is no protection. In some communities, but very few, they have created their own laws, basically divorce laws or matrimonial division laws—
Well, I can always go back to my own personal experience with a small community called the Thessalon First Nation, which is just outside Sault Ste. Marie in northern Ontario. I've also had experiences in Grassy Narrows, which is a community of about 700 people north of Kenora. I have had experiences in both of those.
Unfortunately, most of the time, in the dealings I've had, when a marriage breaks down, violence is involved, and, unfortunately, we're called at a time when there's a big fight going on. I can relate that to both Thessalon and Grassy Narrows. I won't use names. I'll just use the scenario. Usually, a big fight takes place, the police are called, the police show up, and whoever is the perpetrator or the offender gets arrested and taken away.
I can give you an example from up in Grassy Narrows. This is going back a few years. The individual happened to be from that community, and he was with a Métis girl who wasn't from that community and didn't have band membership or wasn't part of the band. Once the person was released from custody, he went to the chief and council. Within a very short time, a band council resolution was passed, and then he had control and custody of that building, the house, the matrimonial home.
They were in a common-law relationship at that time. She had some children but not from that relationship. She was basically forced to leave that community. There was no separation of property. She basically had no rights. They were not in a long relationship—I remember it as being two and a half years—but it still was a relationship for a significant time, and basically she was escorted off that community with just the clothes on her back and with her children. That was a situation with a non-band member.
I think that bothers everybody, the fact that they don't have any rights and they are simply forced out of the house and have nowhere to live. If you don't have family that you can go to, you have nowhere to go. I think what is more troublesome is that in an emergency situation, where there is violence, it's the woman who has to leave with the child.
I've had a couple of members of first nations who have told me that, from these organizations that are in my riding. In their case, their father was abusive and they and their mother had to leave, so she made sure she built her house off the reserve so that she would have access to half of the money that was put into that house if she and her husband split up.
I don't think it's only about having half of the ownership of everything you have, and you have those rights, but, in my mind, it's for emergency protection orders, too, to keep them safe.
Just very quickly, how would this change the reserves? Would it change the reserves very much once this is in place?
Thank you very much, Mr. Swain. Thank you for outlining the jurisdiction that the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples holds as an organization.
As you know, one of the concerns that the Native Women's Association of Canada as well as the Assembly of First Nations has raised is around the lack of.... The government tells us there's been consultation, but in fact first nations haven't been adequately consulted, and consulted in real terms, as we know needs to be done with first nations. Furthermore, for those who have been asked about this, their recommendations haven't been heard.
I'm wondering what you, as the representative here of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, would have to say about what these organizations are saying about the lack of consultation.
I think we can all agree, but perhaps I can just go back to that initial point. Are you okay with there being no consultation in the first place?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you for being with us this morning. I'm sure we all recognize that you have a lot of experience to offer with your line of work, and with the fact that you, too, had two breakups. You can see the importance of this bill, and I'm happy to see that you spoke of the importance of Bill .
Now, you know and I know that our government has always sent a clear message that violence against women, wherever it occurs, is something we cannot tolerate. But women on reserves are being abused and victimized, without the protection they need, and especially without the rights and protections that all Canadians receive. Our government is really working hard to make this happen, so there is less violence and so that women have their rights.
MP Ashton mentioned that no consultations had taken place, but we know that 103 consultations across 76 communities have taken place, at a cost of $8 million for the government. That is a prime example to show that our government is sincere and really wants to make this happen.
Would you agree that Bill S-2 would provide first nations' women with matrimonial property protections and would provide them with the rights on reserves that are similar to those enjoyed by all other women in Canada? That is our objective here, because we need these women to enjoy the same protection as other women have across Canada.
Thank you very much for allowing me to be here. I will share in a nutshell what my story is and my perspective.
In 2001 I entered into a relationship and shortly after we decided to build a home. The home was being built on his property. To try to protect my interests, I asked that the land be transferred in my name. My former partner produced a land transfer in January 2002 and gave it to me.
I began to finance the house construction. We moved in, in June 2002, and continued to work on the home. In 2003 I asked that my name be added to the house title. I had to, and I agreed, be liable for the outstanding loan, in addition to my own debts that I incurred, which were under my name, in constructing the house.
In 2005 my relationship was very strained, very clouded and complicated. There was a lot of conflict and stress. My former partner practised cultural ceremonies, helping others, and I supported him throughout. However, since 2001 he did not go back to work after his contract ended and I was paying all the bills, financially helping him to continue to help others, and supporting people seeking help. In 2005 he signed a quitclaim and handed over the title of the house and the loan to me, but it was never processed.
In 2006, after much torment, isolation, emotional and psychological abuse, illness, financial debt, and stress, I ended our relationship. I intended to stay in the house, and I was supporting him through an episode of illness. I tried negotiating, reasoning, coming up with some compromise, but he firmly stated all along that it was his house.
On January 1, 2007, my son and I were thrown out of the house. I had no place to go. I was in a crisis. I went to a shelter in a neighbouring town where I had sat on the board. The community was silent. Few people asked what had happened. When I went to move my belongings, people showed up to take appliances or offered to buy things from me. I was angered and humiliated, and I moved only what I could. I moved into my sister's house.
I carried on with my responsibilities of work, council duties, paying the debts, and I sought help. It seemed like no one wanted to help me or to deal with me. I was in a prolonged quiet crisis.
I learned in May 2008 that the land transfer I received in 2002 was actually amended that same day, and he had left with a copy that had only my name on that land transfer. I also learned later that the quitclaim was actually cancelled by him, which is why it was never processed.
Clearly I was not only taken advantage of, but I believe it was calculated since 2002. In December 2008 I filed a civil lawsuit. I didn't want to talk about family issues, culture, tradition, impacts on my son, as I was still dealing with all of this. I just wanted some of the money back, for which I had receipts, from building the house.
It took a while to find a lawyer to help. All first nations lawyers were in a conflict of interest. I filed representing myself, and later I found someone to help me. After much delay, stalling, and refusal to participate in mediation, we went to trial in July 2012, four years later.
I sought help to deal with the impacts, to help my son, and I'm doing better now in helping him since I have been able to deal with some of the issues myself.
At the court trial, my case for financial claim was presented. I had testimony for each receipt. I went through all of the receipts I had. His side was a real fiasco, with character references for traditional ways and repetitive messages from the judge about court processes. He had his two young nieces representing him. All I wanted from the court was some of my money back.
There was no jurisdiction, no guarantee of payment, even if there was a court order. The trial was going on every couple of days here and there from July to October 2012, and it was very frustrating. My emotions and mental state were high and low. I ended up taking time off work.
In October 2012 I settled for a lesser amount, just to stop this. I didn't want to hear any more about culture, tradition, or respect while sitting in a courtroom. I appreciate my responsibilities and the mistakes that I made in this relationship. I didn't want to be in a court with character references or such things. It was supposed to be about money to build a house and what I was owed if he kept the house.
In looking back, he threw out my son and I after I incurred the debt of building the home. Now I understand it was calculated since 2002, with the land transfer that he knew was amended that very same day. The traditional teachings didn't make sense to me in going through that whole court thing.
This legislation would have helped to determine share and occupancy, and it would have considered the impacts on my son. I hope it's available to help other women and children on reserves. I only had my family to turn to and I'm grateful for them.
I'm here today to tell our story. It's not only my story; it's my children's and my story. I'm here today with the support and approval of my children. With that, I am only here to represent my kids, nobody else.
We currently reside in Winnipeg due to the fact that we're not able to live in our home in Sagkeeng. My children are 18, 11, and 8. The 18-year-olds are twins. They're of age now. They're going to be 19 this year. When we were kicked out of our home, they were 7. I was in a common-law relationship for 10-plus years.
After our twins were born, my common-law boyfriend and I were engaged. The twins were born in 1994. Before 1994 I applied for a house with Sagkeeng, and we were granted a house in 1995. The twins and I moved to Winnipeg in 1996 because the place we were living in, in Sagkeeng, was a one-bedroom apartment, so we moved to Winnipeg because the apartment was getting too small. The twins were two years old. They were getting big. There were four of us living in the one place.
It was actually only the twins and I who moved to Winnipeg, meanwhile maintaining a relationship with my ex-fiancé—a long-distance relationship because he stayed in Sagkeeng. After we were granted the house, in 2006 we were able to move back to Sagkeeng because our house was complete. My second daughter was born in 2001. In 2002 we were kicked out of our house—the twins, my second daughter, and I. My ex-fiancé was a drug addict. He was also an alcoholic, and for 10-plus years we suffered, my kids and I, emotional abuse, physical abuse—all kinds of abuse.
When we were kicked out the first time, we became homeless. When we were kicked out, I was getting our stuff and my ex-fiancé called the RCMP on us. They came to the house and told us we weren't able to take anything from the house—nothing. The only things we were allowed to take were our beds and our clothes. We left. We were homeless. We had nowhere to go.
I didn't like to get my parents involved, my family. I tried to shield them from that, to shield them from what we were going through. I called my parents that day. They took us in. We went to their place and lived next door to them. My brother had a house and they said we could move in there, my twins, myself, and my baby—she was just a baby at the time. We lived there for a few years. I managed to find a place in Powerview, so we lived there for six-plus years. I worked with Sagkeeng, with the band. I kept my job. I did everything I could to keep our lives going.
Then in 2011 my landlord said he was moving back to Powerview, so I would have to leave. Once again, we were homeless. We didn't have anywhere to go. I asked the ex-fiancé if there was any possibility he could find it in his heart to let us move into our house, and he said “Yes, you can move in with the condition that you're only here temporarily, because it's still my house. It still belongs to me.” I said okay. It didn't matter to me, as long as my kids and I had somewhere to stay and as long as we had a roof over our heads. He said I should remember that I was only there temporarily, and I said okay. We moved there in September of 2011, and we stayed there until July of 2012.
In the whole time we stayed there, in order for us to live in that house we had to renovate it. We spent thousands of dollars renovating that house, because it had been vacant for nine-plus years. It wasn't maintained, so we spent thousands fixing it up. Throughout the whole time my ex-fiancé was harassing us, asking over and over when we were leaving, saying that we had to get out, that we had to leave because the house was situated on their land. I said we were doing all we could to leave.
We finally left in July of last year and moved to Winnipeg. I found a place in Winnipeg. The whole time we've been paying rent, we've been paying somebody else's mortgage. I've paid almost $80,000 in rent since we've been homeless, since we weren't able to live in our house. I'm not complaining about that. I would do anything to find a place. Where my kids are concerned, I would do anything. We're living in Winnipeg now. The house is still situated on their land. We've done all we could to try to get our house back.
With our leaders, chief and council, we tried to get the house back. Our leaders told us—this was in the mid-2000s—the only way we would get our house back is if we went to court. So I went to court. It took just under two years. At the end of the court process the judge said all he could do was grant me the right to occupy the home. He said they can't give me the house because it's on crown land. I said okay, but it was kind of disappointing because our leaders were depending on him giving us our house. That's the only way they could move it.
After that I just kind of gave up. We fought for it for so many years, and we just gave up. We kind of said, okay, well, I guess we'll never get our home back. I guess we're going to pay rent until we can afford to buy our own house on the reserve, because it doesn't seem we're ever going to get help. It just doesn't seem that way. My family and I have become stronger because of it.
That's everything. I'm sorry for....
I really want to thank you for being so brave, for coming today and sharing your testimony with us. It is truly, truly heartbreaking to hear your story, which is why we are here today.
I'd love to spend more time sharing our stories, because many of us have, in many different ways, worked with first nations and have walked with them. I have worked to build shelters and homes in the downtown eastside in Vancouver. Many of us in Manitoba, Calgary, and across...we have worked in shelters and with school children who have been similarly evicted and tossed away from their communities, as in the story you've told. We certainly have never walked your walk, of course, but we really want to walk alongside you, which is why we're here today to talk about Bill .
Earlier on we heard testimony from the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which supports this new legislation. Vice-Chief Swain talked about the fact that he is now the third generation. His grandmother was evicted from their community and their home, and they have had to spend time away from that community, etc.
So we hear your current stories, and for over 25 years we have identified this legislative gap—we know there's a gap there—so we are presenting Bill , which is legislation to close that gap to give you the rights that other Canadian women have.
If what happened to you happened to me, I would have a different outcome in the courts, right? And you have experienced everything in terms of hanging on through all of the pain, and in fact being evicted from your home and your community, where, in your case, Ms. Courchene, the home was vacant. Is that correct?
Your partner was not even using the home. It was almost deliberately vindictive, to evict you from the community, and you had absolutely no rights.
I want to ask a couple of questions, because the opposition is not supporting the legislation. They do not feel this is important or necessary, or it's not perfect, and that's why they're not supporting it. Some opposition members have said this is just a piece of paper. It's going to make no change to communities across Canada.
I want you to speak to this, because that's not what I heard today. Having been through the court system, having had the court rule against you because of this sense of title...and giving aboriginal women rights as well as giving children and families protection. Do you think it's just a piece of paper, or do you think that having this new legislation in place will change the outcome for you—what you've gone through and where you would be today?
Could you both speak briefly about that?
Thank you very much, Ms. Manitowabi and Ms. Courchene, for sharing a very difficult part of your lives, and even more so in public.
I do want to be clear that for us in the NDP there's no question that there is a gap when it comes to what indigenous women on reserve—because that's what we're talking about—can access. I think both of you alluded to the fact that we need to look at issues like access to housing, access to shelters, access to police to enforce an emergency protection order so that there is that kind of enforcement. Particularly women, and your children and their children, need it most.
We're here to do the best we can. It's not just about putting forward a piece of legislation without looking at those options.
One of the concerns raised has been that first nations haven't been listened to on a nation-to-nation basis.
Ms. Courchene, I had the opportunity to connect with the chief in Sagkeeng, somebody I've worked with on other issues. I'm wondering whether he has raised, or, in your experience, whether any of the counsellors have raised, the lack of consultation directly with Sagkeeng or with other first nations when it comes to this bill.
There's a lack of affordable housing in our community. I was really lucky—this doesn't happen very often. Another band member was selling his home, so I went and got a mortgage to get that house. I had to go through the band council to get a BCR. This was later in 2007, the same year I was thrown out of my house.
People in the community were saying things like “Just make sure it's in your own name” and “Now you have your own house”, comments like that. And I was thinking it wasn't fair that I was paying for another house. But they just didn't understand.
The thing is, no one talks about it. When you're dealing with this as your own quiet crisis, you don't know what's true or valid, and you second-guess yourself on everything. It was just a really clouded time for me.
I'm glad I was able to find help through all of that during those years. People stuck with me, and that helped to validate the truth of the matter for some things. That helped me, and I'm doing a lot better.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you both, Rolanda and Jennifer, for being here today.
We can all see how difficult it is for you to tell us your stories. I absolutely admire your strength and your courage for being here. I know it's a public place.
Jennifer, you said you'd never told your story to so many people all in one place, and I bet the same holds true for Rolanda. We really appreciate it. We know it's difficult, and we thank you so much.
The reason this helps us, and why we're thanking you today for coming, is it makes us, as politicians and parliamentarians, recognize that we can talk about what we're doing here, we can talk about every aspect of the legislation in an impersonal way, but when we see you and we hear your stories...we all want this legislation to pass because we know that we won't see any more people going forward—any more women—who have the same problems that you do. It's women and children, because not only did you suffer for many years because of this problem with the law as it is—or because it doesn't exist—but your children suffered as well. That's very apparent.
Just in the last hour, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples' vice-chief told us that they look at this as an equality issue. They don't believe that making this equal for women on reserves and giving them this right in any way takes away other rights from indigenous people as a whole.
I want to ask you if, based on whatever knowledge you have of this bill, you want to see it pass in Canada's House of Commons because you think it will help other women in the future not have to go through what you went through.
I want to echo, too, ladies, my tremendous admiration to you for coming here, because I know it's not easy. My mom was involved in starting one of the early shelters in Alberta, and it was because she met someone like you on the street who had nowhere to go. She just felt that there should be a need....
Mostly it is your personal stories that we're here to hear about. Other people have spoken to the ins and outs of the legislation, but really it's you we're trying to help.
I want to finish with a couple of questions that you were asked but I thought you had something more to add. Both of you talked about this feeling of vulnerability and that you didn't feel safe, and I saw tears coming. I know these things are difficult to talk about, but you are here now and I'm just wondering if you are feeling any differently, knowing that if this bill passes, you would have a right to stay in your home if you were physically abused, a right to have that upheld by the police and the courts, and a right to get an emergency protection order against the person who was abusing you.
I'll ask you that first, Rolanda, please.
My children were elated to know they might actually be able to live in their home. They were really happy. They said, “Can we move back into our own home if this bill is passed? We've been living in somebody else's home for so long.” They were very happy.
You know, I'm the mom, so if it makes them happy, then I'm happy. They want to be home. They want to be close to their family, because all our family is in Sagkeeng.
My parents are getting older. They're grandparents. They want to be close to their family. Just because there was a marital break-up...my kids are still very close to both sides of the family. It's something that I can't replace. We can't have that in Winnipeg. We have to drive an hour and a half north to Sagkeeng to take them there.
So, yes, it definitely changed the way we feel. We're a little bit lighter, knowing that somewhere down the road we might actually be able to live in our home.