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Thursday, November 1, 2012

House of Commons Debates



Thursday, November 1, 2012

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 10 a.m.



[Routine Proceedings]



Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 19 petitions.




    Mr. Speaker, I rise briefly here today to present a petition concerning Bill C-400 introduced by my hon. colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

Shale Gas  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise here today to present another petition concerning the use of fracking, better known as hydraulic fracturing, to extract shale gas. That said, there are some other elements involved.
    As we know, hydraulic fracturing requires a great deal of water mixed with a lot of chemicals. In fact, one shale gas well can use up to 600 Olympic-size swimming pools of water mixed with one and a half pools of chemicals. That is very troubling.
    That is why I am presenting a petition here today on behalf of the Council of Canadians calling on the federal government to take more concrete action on this matter.


Rights of the Unborn  

    Mr. Speaker, it is my honour today to present a petition on behalf of constituents who note that Canada's 400-year-old definition of a human being says that a child does not become a human being until the complete moment of birth. The petitioners argue that modern science refutes that and they call on the House of Commons and Parliament to confirm that every human being is recognized by Canadian law as human, by amending section 223 of the Criminal Code in such a way as to reflect modern science.


    Mr. Speaker, I present a petition today on behalf of constituents from the Stephenville area of Random—Burin—St. George's. They are objecting to the government's decision to raise the age of eligibility for OAS from 65 to 67. The petitioners outline several reasons why that would be detrimental, one being that single women would be disproportionately affected by the change, as they tend to rely more heavily on OAS and GIS payments; and another being that low-income Canadians rely far more heavily on OAS and GIS. Indeed, 40% of old age security recipients earn less than $20,000 a year in retirement and 53% earn less than $25,000.
    Given those statistics, my constituents are asking the government to reconsider this decision. There is time to do it, and the time is now.

Experimental Lakes Area  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a number of petitioners here from St. Catharines and areas beyond. They call upon the government to reverse its decision on the Experimental Lakes initiative, which has been providing basic research and science since 1968 into the valuable resource that all Canadians cherish so greatly. The petitioners note that the government has made a decision to cut back on science and our understanding of our lakes and rivers, all the while gutting environmental legislation. They call upon the government to re-fund basic science.


    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from constituents in regard to housing co-ops. Housing co-ops are a wonderful, valuable alternative to owning a home outright. They provide many people throughout Canada with housing.
    These petitioners are asking the Government of Canada to recognize the benefits of housing co-ops to our communities by promoting and supporting current housing co-ops and the future of housing co-op development, along with asking the Government of Canada to work with other levels of government to foster a positive environment that would encourage housing co-ops. An excellent example of that would be found in Winnipeg North where we have the Willow Park Housing Co-op complex, two wonderful co-ops.

Sex Selection  

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present a petition signed by a number of people from beautiful Langley, British Columbia. They say that 92% of Canadians believe that sex selection should be illegal. They are saying that millions of missing women and girls as a result of sex selection is one of the main causes of human trafficking worldwide. They are calling upon the House of Commons to condemn this practice.


Experimental Lakes Area  

    Mr. Speaker, I also wish to present a petition on behalf of citizens of Ontario. The petitioners are calling on the government to reverse its decision to close down this research and education centre that benefits people across Canada.


Access to Medicines  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of constituents in my riding who support the work of the Grandmothers Advocacy Network. The petition indicates that in sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS still remains a killer of young women and children and that access to AIDS medication continues to be a huge problem. In this country, Canada's access to medicines regime was intended to provide affordable, lifesaving generic medicines, but it is unnecessarily complex. It has only been used once since 2004 and is not likely to be used again in its current form. Therefore, the petitioners call on Parliament to pass Bill C-398 to facilitate the immediate and sustainable flow of lifesaving generic medicines to developing countries.


Search and Rescue  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions this morning.
    The first is from residents of St. John's and the surrounding area in my riding and also from Deer Lake in Newfoundland and Labrador. These petitioners are calling on the government to reverse the decision to close the Canadian Coast Guard marine rescue sub-centre base in St. John's, Newfoundland, and to reinstate its staff and restore its services fully. This is one of many petitions that have been circulated and presented on this, and I believe many more are coming.

Experimental Lakes Area  

    Mr. Speaker, the petitioners in the second petition are mostly from Ontario and are concerned about the work of the leading freshwater research station at the Experimental Lakes Area. They want the government to change its decision and recognize the importance of this station to the Government of Canada's mandate to study, preserve and protect aquatic ecosystems. This was a leader in basic science research not only for Canada but also around the world on freshwater aquatics and science, and it should be restored.
    Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition today to save the Experimental Lakes Area. The petitioners are calling upon the Government of Canada to recognize the importance of the ELA to the Government of Canada's mandate to study, preserve and protect aquatic ecosystems, and to reverse the decision to close the ELA research station and continue to staff and provide financial resources to the ELA at the current or a higher level of commitment.


    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today to present a petition on behalf of citizens of Ontario who are calling on the government to reverse its decision to put an end to the experimental lakes program, because it is an invaluable resource for research in Canada.


The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I have today a petition signed by petitioners from New Brunswick, as well as British Columbia. It is interesting that two of our coasts are represented here. They are pretty concerned about the effects of hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, and its impacts on water, climate, wildlife and people's health. They point out that there is a federal issue involved, especially when we consider that it is the federal government that regulates air emissions and is responsible for the Canada Water Act, the Species at Risk Act and the Fisheries Act.
    They are looking for some answers from the minister and I can assure the House that the petitioners and I look forward to the minister's response.

Experimental Lakes Area  

    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents of Parkdale—High Park and many petitioners from Ontario, I am happy to present a petition concerning the Experimental Lakes Area. Since 1968, the ELA has been a global leader in conducting whole ecosystem experiments, which have been critically important and unique in the world. As part of its gutting of environmental legislation in its budget implementation act, the government has cancelled the funding for the ELA.
    The petitioners are asking for this decision to be reversed, for the ELA to be fully funded and its financial resources to continue so that we can continue this cutting-edge research.
    Mr. Speaker, as you will note, there are a lot of petitions being tabled today on the Experimental Lakes Area and I, too, am tabling a petition on it.
    It is important to recognize that since 1968 the Experimental Lakes Area has played an integral role in ecosystem experiments that have been critical in shaping our environment and our effort to understand the impact that humans have on our lakes and fishes.
    The petitioners are calling on the government to recognize the importance of the Experimental Lakes Area and reverse its decision to close the Experimental Lakes research station and continue to staff it and provide it with financial resources.
    We must take this into account when we consider the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.


    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by residents from right across southern Ontario, from small towns and rural communities, who are very concerned about the government's decision to cut the Experimental Lakes research station.
    The petitioners are calling on the government to reconsider this vitally important institution and its work in preserving the integrity of our freshwater system.

Employment Insurance  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions today. The first is in regard to the employment insurance system. It is absolutely vital for families during an economic downturn, and in fact at all times, that they have access to reliable employment insurance. We have seen the demise of a reliable system in the last few parliaments.
    The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to increase the benefit duration to 50 weeks in all regions; make 360 hours the time to qualify for EI benefits in all regions; provide an additional year of special extensions for those folks in very difficult situations; extend part 1 benefits under EI while a worker is in approved training; and increase benefits to at least 60% of normal earnings.


    Mr. Speaker, my second petition is in regard to old age security and the tragedy of increasing the age of eligibility from 65 to 67. We know it will hurt the most vulnerable, the poorest of seniors, who will be forced to work an additional two years, thus costing them $12,000 in each of those years.
    The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to maintain the age of retirement eligibility for OAS at 65, and to increase the guaranteed income supplement to lift every Canadian senior out of poverty.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 873, 874 and 875.


Question No. 873--
Ms. Kirsty Duncan:
    With respect to disaster risk reduction (DRR) and recovery: (a) what is the current value of the government’s infrastructure including, but not limited to, energy, social, tourism, and transportation infrastructure, and what are the government’s contingency liabilities; (b) what percentage of the national budget is devoted to DRR, (i) what stand alone DRR investments has the government made in each of its budgets since 2006, (ii) what percentage of each budget has been allocated to hazard proofing sectoral development investments and, if such allocations have been made, (iii) what amount has the government invested by sector, broken down by budget; (c) what monies have been provided for a national policy and legal framework with decentralised responsibilities, (i) what monies are required, (ii) what are the operational requirements, (iii) what human resources are required; (d) what dedicated resources are available to implement DRR plans and activities, (i) what monies are required, (iii) what are the operational requirements, (iii) what human resources are required; (e) what monies have been allocated to the national multi-sectoral platform; (f) what are the existing resources in regards to systems that monitor, archive and disseminate data on key hazards and vulnerabilities, (i) what monies are required, (ii) what are the operational requirements, (iii) what human resources are required; (g) what would be required to put in place a national public alerting system that would warn Canadians of imminent or unfolding threats to life in place in terms of (i) financial resources, (ii) personnel resources; (h) what resources are allocated to national risk assessments, (i) what monies are required, (ii) what are the operational requirements, (iii) what human resources are required; (i) what resources are allocated to local risk assessments, (i) what monies are required, (ii) what are the operational requirements, (iii) what human resources are required; (j) is information on disasters available to all stakeholders, and what are the resources allocated to ensure data availability, (i) what monies are required, (ii) what are the operational requirements, (iii) what human resources are required; (k) what resources are allocated to countrywide public awareness campaigns to stimulate a culture of disaster resilience, with outreach to urban and rural communities, (i) what monies are required, (ii) what are the operational requirements, (iii) what human resources are required; (l) what are the existing resources regarding economic and productive sectoral policies and plans aimed at reducing the vulnerability of economic activities in the event of a disaster, (i) what monies are required, (ii) what are the operational requirements, (iii) what human resources are required; (m) what resources are allocated to the planning and management of human settlements incorporating DRR elements, including enforcement of building codes, (i) what monies are required, (ii) what are the operational requirements, (iii) what human resources are required; (n) what resources are allocated to disaster risk of major development projects, (i) what monies are required, (ii) what are the operational requirements, (iii) what human resources are required; (o) what resources are allocated to national programmes aimed at making schools and health facilities safe in the case of an emergency, (i) what monies are required, (ii) what human resources are required; (p) what are the institutional commitments for financial reserves and contingency mechanisms in place to support effective response and recovery, (i) what monies are required, (ii) what human resources are required; (q) are procedures in place to exchange relevant information during hazard events and disasters, (i) what monies are required, (ii) what human resources are required; and (r) are procedures in place to undertake post-event reviews, (i) what monies are required, (ii) what human resources are required?
Hon. Vic Toews (Minister of Public Safety, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the information requested would require extensive manual research and analysis that would require a significant amount of time as well as human and financial resources to complete, which is not feasible in the allotted amount of time.
Question No. 874--
Ms. Kirsty Duncan:
     With regard to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Scientific Expert Working Group: (a) was the Scientific Expert Working Group aware that on December 7th, 2010, Dr. Beaudet assured the Subcommittee on Neurological Disease that “no physician will refuse to see and treat them for complications of a treatment received abroad”; (b) why did the Scientific Expert Working Group state that “media reports that have stated that Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients who experience complications after Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI) treatment are not being seen by Canadian doctors are not justified”, (i) what patients or patient advocacy groups were interviewed, (ii) what evidence was reviewed, (iii) what action was taken; (c) which of the provincial guidelines for follow up care does the Scientific Expert Working Group support; (d) what was the action undertaken by the government to ensure that all patients receive follow-up care, including patients suffering from complications from CCSVI treatments received abroad; (e) when was the Sub-Committee of the Scientific Expert Working Group formed, (i) why was it formed, (ii) who are the members of the sub-committee, (iii) what prompted a meeting to develop criteria for a recommendation for clinical trials on June 13th, 2011; (f) why did the Scientific Expert Working Group fail to sign a declaration of conflict of interest until June 2011; (g) what specific results were available from the seven MS Society of Canada-funded studies on June 28th 2011; (h) with respect to the Scientific Expert Working Group’s consensus workshop on ultrasound imaging, (i) on what date did the meeting take place, (ii) who was in attendance, (iii) what were the agenda items, (iv) what were the key recommendations, (v) why was Dr. Sandy McDonald not included, (vi) on what items did the group come to consensus; (i) what is the budget for the Scientific Expert Working Group specifically, (i) the monies allotted for 2010-2011, (ii) 2011-2012, (iii) the monies allocated for travel, (iv) the monies allocated for accommodation, (v) why was Agreement no 1148 to be signed at the end of February 2011 for monies that were to be available for 2010-2011; (j) with respect to Agreement no 1148 to support the Scientific Expert Working Group between the CIHR and the MS Society of Canada, (i) was the agreement ever signed and, if so (i) on what date, (ii) who made the grant application for the President’s Fund and on what date, (iii) what was the grant specifically for, (iv) why is the MS Society of Canada responsible for planning, support and implementation of the Scientific Expert Working Group, (v) what action is being taken to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest; (k) how many researchers/research groups applied for the Phase 1/11 clinical trial, and from what institutions; and (l) what has caused the delay in announcing the research team which was to be named by mid-April 2012?
Hon. Leona Aglukkaq (Minister of Health and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to the CIHR scientific expert working group, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research established a scientific expert working group, SEWG, to monitor and analyze results from seven U.S. and Canadian MS societies funded studies, as well as from other related studies from around the world related to venous anatomy and MS.
    On June 28, 2011, the SEWG reviewed data relating to CCSVI presented at international meetings and then were presented the draft results of a systematic review of peer-reviewed publications regarding CCSVI and MS. An update was provided by study investigators regarding progress of the seven North American studies funded by the MS Society of Canada and U.S. National MS Society. At that time, all seven funded studies had made good progress, many were well on their way to having their target number of subjects recruited, and a total of 1,267 individual with MS and controls were expected to be recruited over the course of the studies.
    The SEWG is not mandated to make recommendations on the follow-up care of patients who underwent the CCSVI procedure abroad. The working group did not publish any statements on this issue.
    Information on the SEWG, including its terms of reference and the highlights of its meetings, is available at: All members of the SEWG agreed to the CIHR confidentiality and conflict of interest policy.
    Primary responsibility for matters related to the administration and delivery of health care services falls within the purview of provincial and territorial governments. Several provincial authorities such as the colleges of physicians and surgeons of Alberta, Nova Scotia and Québec, as well as the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care have released guidelines and policies to help physicians in their respective jurisdictions make the best medical decisions for MS patients who were treated for CCSVI outside Canada. Information cited above is available from the provincial authorities.
    With regard to the consensus workshop, in February 2011, CIHR provided a one-time grant to the MS Society of Canada to provide operational support for the SEWG. This support included the organization of a consensus workshop in September 2011 on ultrasound imaging techniques.
    This grant represents a total investment of $317,500, $158,750 per year, and was funded for a two-year period from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2012. On February 29, 2012, CIHR informed the MS Society of Canada that the grant was automatically extended until March 31, 2013.
    The agreement for this grant was signed on March 2, 2011 by Dr. Alain Beaudet, president of CIHR and Yves Savoie, president and chief executive officer of the MS Society of Canada.
    The consensus workshop was held on September 6, 2012 in Toronto. CIHR employees were not involved in the organization or running of this consensus workshop. The workshop helped with the development of a protocol to be incorporated into the trial design. This protocol was part of the request for applications developed by CIHR. For additional information visit:
    With regard to research proposals, since researchers must be affiliated with an eligible Canadian institution or organization to apply for CIHR funding, applications were only received from Canadian researchers. To respect privacy and confidentiality, CIHR cannot share the number of applications received and only information regarding the successful applicants is published on CIHR’s website.
    In April 2012, CIHR announced that a research team was selected through a rigorous peer-review process to conduct a phase I/II clinical trial on CCSVI. To protect the independence of the institutional research ethics boards, REBs, the names of the research team's members and institutions involved have been withheld until REB approval. Once the selected team received ethics approval for two sites, Vancouver and Montreal, the Minister of Health announced the name of the principal investigator of the study:
    Two additional sites, Winnipeg and Quebec, are still seeking ethics approval, a process that is totally independent from CIHR.
Question No. 875--
Ms. Kirsty Duncan:
     With respect to disaster management in Canada: (a) what is the current value of government’s infrastructure, including but not limited to, energy, social, tourism, and transportation infrastructure, and what are the government’s contingency liabilities; (b) what are the main types of disasters in Canada and, for each type, (i) how have they increased or decreased for each decade from 1900-2010, (ii) what was the average number of lives lost as a result of these disasters for each decade from 1900-2010, (iii) what was the average disaster management cost for each decade from 1900-2010; (c) when did Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada begin tracking the number and types of disasters that impact First Nations communities on reserve, (i) what are the main types of disasters on reserve and, for each type, (ii) how have they increased or decreased for each decade since data became available, (iii) what was the average number of lives lost as a result of these disasters for each decade since data became available, (iv) what was the average disaster management cost for each decade since data became available; (d) what are the projected costs of extreme weather events related to climate change for each decade of 2020-2030, 2030-2040, 2040-2050, including but not limited to heat waves and heavy precipitation events, broken down by extreme weather event, (i) what are the projected human impacts, broken down by extreme weather event, (ii) what are the projected economic impacts, broken down by extreme weather event, (iii) what are the projected costs of mitigation, broken down by extreme weather event; (e) when was the national multi-sectoral platform for disaster risk reduction constituted, (i) what are the dates of all meetings to date, (ii) how many women’s organizations are participating and, if none, why not; (f) has a multi-hazard assessment been undertaken for Canada and, if not, why not; (g) is a multi-hazard assessment planned and, if so, (i) when is it planned to begin, (ii) when is it planned to be complete, (iii) what are the human and financial resources allocated for this assessment, (iv) are additional financial or human resources required and, if so, what are they; (h) what research methods and tools for each of multi-risk assessment and cost benefit analysis have been developed, and what is the level of institutional commitment for each of multi-risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis; (i) how does the government ensure that all Canadians are involved in emergency management, namely, (i) individual citizens, (ii) communities, (iii) municipalities, (iv) emergency responders, (v) the private sector, (vi) First Nations, (vii) academia, (viii) volunteer and non-government organizations, (ix) federal, provincial, territorial governments, (x) how is knowledge penetration measured, (xi) how are partnerships deemed effective; (j) what studies has the government undertaken to test Canadians’ knowledge of disaster risk, response, and recovery, and if such studies have been undertaken, (i) what are the details of the studies, (ii) the date undertaken, (iii) the results, (iv) any recommendations; (k) has the government undertaken drills on Parliament Hill to ensure that decision-makers know what to do during a disaster and, if such drills have been undertaken, (i) what are the details of the drills, (ii) the dates undertaken, (iii) the results and (iv) any recommendations; (l) what national and local risk assessments are available to date, and to what extent are each of these assessments comprehensive; (m) do national and local risk assessments take account of regional or trans-boundary risks; (n) have gender disaggregated vulnerability and capacity assessments been undertaken, and, if not, why not; (o) what school and hospital assessments have been conducted, broken down by province and territory; (p) are systems in place to fully monitor, archive and disseminate data on key hazards and vulnerabilities, and is relevant information on disasters available and accessible at all levels, to all stakeholders; (q) are disaster reports generated and used in planning and, if not, why not; (r) do early warning systems for all major hazards exist, with outreach to rural and urban communities; (s) does a national public alerting system that will warn Canadians of imminent or unfolding threats to life currently exist and, if not, why not; (t) is a national public alerting system planned and, if so (i) when is it planned to begin, (ii) when is it planned to be complete, (iii) what financial resources are allocated, and, are additional monies required, (iv) what human resources are required and, are additional resources required; (u) how is disaster risk reduction an integral component of environment related policies and plans, including, but not limited to Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) 2012, land use natural resource management and adaptation to climate change, and what is the level of institutional commitment; (v) will the impacts of disaster risk be taken into account in the environmental impact assessment under CEAA 2012 and, if so, (i) how will disaster risk reduction be incorporated, (ii) what are the disaster risk reduction responsibilities, requirements and procedures for the environmental assessment of projects in which the government has a decision-making responsibility; (w) what information does the Adaptation and Impacts Research Group provide regarding Canada’s vulnerability to climate change and extreme weather events, (i) how many personnel are devoted to this activity, (ii) what financial supports are given to this activity; (x) how are the impacts from our changing climate and changes in extreme weather predicted to impact the assets listed in (a), and what are the projected costs to climate proof these assets; (y) how are social development policies and plans being implemented to reduce the vulnerability of populations most at risk, (i) what is the level of institutional commitment attained, (ii) to what extent is the commitment comprehensive; (z) what specific action has the government taken to reduce exposure and vulnerability including, but not limited to, (i) investment in drainage infrastructure in flood-prone areas, (ii) slope stabilisation in landslide-prone areas, (iii) provision of safe land for low-income households and communities, (iv) stabilisation of its contaminated sites; (aa) what measures have been taken to address gender based issues in recovery; (bb) for each school and hospital assessment listed in (o), are (i) training, (ii) mock drills for emergency preparedness being undertaken and, if not, why not; (cc) are there contingency plans, procedures and resources in place to deal with a major disaster, do they include gender sensitivities and, if not, why not; (dd) what oversight exists of the development and implementation of provincial, territorial and municipal risk assessment processes; (ee) what oversight is being undertaken to ensure private businesses and public sector agencies are undertaking (i) strategic emergency management plans, (ii) business continuity plans in order to sustain essential services to government and Canadians; (ff) what specific training and exercises in support of existing emergency management have been undertaken by the government’s health portfolio, (i) on what dates were these exercises undertaken, (ii) what were the results, (iii) what were the recommendations; (gg) what is included in the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Emergency Stockpile System, (i) at the 1300 pre-positioned sites across Canada, (ii) is there coverage in areas where First Nations live, and, if not, why not; (hh) what are the procedures in place to undertake post-event reviews, (i) what is the level of institutional commitment, (ii) what human resources are required, (iii) what financial resources are required; (ii) what current activities are being undertaken to systematically incorporate risk reduction approaches into the design and implementation of emergency preparedness, response and recovery programmes in the reconstruction of affected communities, (i) what human resources are being afforded this activity, and what additional resources are required, (ii) what financial resources are being afforded this activity, and what additional monies are required; (jj) how are gender perspectives on risk reduction and recovery adopted and institutionalized; (kk) how are human security and social equity approaches integrated into disaster risk reduction and recovery activities; (ll) what is the status of national programs and policies to make schools and health facilities safe in emergencies, and are additional procedures required to complete the policies; and (mm) what is the level of institutional commitments for financial reserves and contingency mechanisms to support effective response and recovery?
Hon. Vic Toews (Minister of Public Safety, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the information requested would require extensive manual research and analysis that would require a significant amount of time as well as human and financial resources to complete, which is not feasible in the allotted amount of time.


    Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.
    The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]


Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act

     She said: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak today in support of Bill S-2, the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act .


    I am thankful for the opportunity to speak today in support of Bill S-2, the family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act, a very important piece of legislation for aboriginal women.
    I want to focus today on a key element of the bill, namely the provision that allows for emergency protection orders in situations of family violence affecting aboriginal women on reserve.
    Court order protection from domestic violence has long been available to Canadian women living off reserve. It has long been recognized, by law enforcement and those working to address violence against women and girls, as critical to the safety of women.
    Simply put, access to emergency protection orders saves lives. Extending these same rights to aboriginal women living on reserve will save more of them.
    I draw the attention of the House to what the latest edition of Statistics Canada's Women in Canada report states with respect to spousal violence against aboriginal women:
    Previous studies have shown that higher proportions of Aboriginal women experience spousal violence compared to non-Aboriginal women....
    In 2009...15% of Aboriginal women who had a spouse or common-law partner reported that they had experienced spousal violence in the previous five years. In the case of non-Aboriginal women the proportion was 6%....
    The report goes on to state:
    There is evidence that many Aboriginal women who are victims of spousal violence experience severe and potentially life threatening violence.
     In fact, the Statistics Canada report stated that:
    In 2009, 58% of Aboriginal women who experienced spousal violence reported that they had sustained an injury compared to 41% of non-Aboriginal women.
    It goes on to state:
    Almost half (48%) of Aboriginal women who had experienced spousal violence reported that they had been sexually assaulted, beaten, choked, or threatened with a gun or knife. A similar proportion...[just over 50%] of Aboriginal women who had been victims of spousal violence also reported that there were times when they feared for their life.
    All of us have heard the statistic that aboriginal women are five times more likely to be murdered than non-aboriginal women. Those are the cold, hard, ugly facts about the situation aboriginal women face day in and day out with, at the very least, the same protection afforded to women who live off reserve.
    It is no secret that many of these women are forced to flee their homes and communities to escape violence. Many end up homeless, alone and even more vulnerable than before. They become vulnerable to trafficking and further abuse and violence.
    If it is possible to enforce emergency protection orders, abusers can be ordered to leave the home and women can stay in the home. The ability to remain in their home would ensure that aboriginal women on reserves could continue to care for their children, could access the support of the community around them, but most importantly, could escape violence.
    Let me be clear. Today there are no protections for aboriginal women living on reserve. This means that, in the case of domestic violence and physical abuse, a court cannot order the spouse who holds the interest in the reserve home, which is almost always the man, to leave the home even on a temporary basis. The spouse who holds the interest in the on-reserve home, which is almost always the man, can sell an on-reserve family home and keep all of the money. As well, the spouse who holds the interest in the on-reserve home, which is almost always the man, can also bar the other from the on-reserve family home.
    The proposed legislation in front of us would provide basic rights and protections with respect to the fair division of the family home to on-reserve aboriginal individuals facing the breakdown of a relationship or the death of a spouse. The legislation would also provide protection for women in the event of family violence. These rights and protections are available to all other Canadians through provincial and territorial laws, which of course cannot be applied on reserves.


    It is unacceptable that first nations people, especially women, do not have access to the same protections simply because of where they live. This proposed legislation would offer protection to more than 100,000 individuals who are currently living without legal matrimonial real property protection. This is a very important change, but it is also a very big change, so it is planned that the implementation of this legislation would also include education and training for key officials, including police officers on reserve and judges. It is also planned that there would be a public education and awareness campaign.
    I would like to take a moment to look at the history of women's property rights, because historically a woman's property was under the control of her father, or if she was married, it was under the control of her husband. This issue first began to be discussed in the 1850s in both England and France. In Europe, of course, the law sided with men, who provided women protection but not equality.
    In the United States at the same time, women themselves began to speak out about the most important civil rights challenges that were facing women in that day. In Canada at the turn of the century, where marriage is a provincial matter, of course, most women still saw their property rights transferred to their husbands when they got married. However in 1911, the provinces began to examine the issue of a woman's right to property ownership after marriage dissolution. Married women in Manitoba, P.E.I. and Saskatchewan were finally permitted the same legal capacity as men with regard to their property.
     I have to say that, in my role as Minister for Status of Women, I find it difficult to accept that 100 years later aboriginal women living on reserve have not yet achieved the same rights. More than 25 years have passed since the Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark ruling on two cases that are very important to this issue: Derrickson v. Derrickson and Paul v. Paul.
    In its 1986 landmark decision on Derrickson v. Derrickson, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that courts cannot rely on provincial law to order the division of matrimonial real property on reserves. In doing so, the court underlined a legislative gap that has since meant that women residing on reserves and facing the breakdown of a relationship have not been able to access the Canadian legal system to resolve matters concerning their real property.
    In other words, aboriginal women who live on reserve do not have rights to property or protection on reserve. They are frankly being denied their very basic human rights, and we believe this must end. Without access to the same rights shared by other Canadian women, these women have been left vulnerable for far too long. Until on-reserve matrimonial real property laws are in place, aboriginal women who are living on reserve will continue to face the reality that in the event of spousal violence, separation, divorce or death, the law does not protect their property. It does not protect their interests. It does not protect their rights, but most fundamentally, it does not protect their safety.
    The Supreme Court of Canada's ruling did spark a dialogue and a larger effort to identify, develop and implement an effective solution. Over the years there have been a number of respected institutions, both in Canada and abroad, that have completed studies and analysis of relevant issues in this subject matter. Since 1986, a host of both domestic and international human rights bodies have studied, referenced and called for action on this matter.
    The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women is one of them. The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, the House Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, the House Standing Committee on the Status of Women, the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples have all studied this issue. The overwhelming conclusion of these reports was that legislation is the only effective solution and the only course of action.
    With this bill, the family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act, I am proud that our government is moving to tackle this critical issue. It is not just for aboriginal women and children on reserve but also as an important part of the continued fight for equal rights for all women. This legislation would finally eliminate the longstanding human rights gap and in doing so contribute to the end of the suffering of many women and families who live on reserve.


    I do want to acknowledge that there have been some efforts to address the issue of matrimonial property rights already by first nations. The First Nations Land Management Act does require first nations to develop laws related to matrimonial property rights and interests as part of their own land codes that they are developing. However, while these solutions have helped a handful of first nations, Bill S-2 would ensure that all women and individuals living on first nations reserves would have access not only to emergency protection orders to ensure their safety and security but also to equal matrimonial real property.
    In 2005, the Government of Canada initiated preliminary consultations on this issue. In 2006, we announced a national consultation process to find a solution to fill this legislative gap. This consultation process was conducted in collaboration with the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada, so that they could engage and consult with individual aboriginal communities across Canada.
    Along with these sessions, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada held consultations with and provided funding to a wide range of other aboriginal organizations. This is an important point because aboriginal women have waited for 25 years to see this type of protection, and it is a big change. The government has recognized this. There has been opposition to it by some parties. However, let us remember that, in total, to date, 103 consultation sessions have been held at 76 different sites across Canada. Hundreds of people have participated and expressed a wide range of opinions.
    To prepare a report and make recommendations for a legislative solution, the government also engaged a ministerial representative, a respected entrepreneur and former first nation chief.
    Due to the complexity of this issue and of course the diversity of views, consensus could not be reached on every aspect of what the legislation should entail. Consensus did emerge, though, on the key elements of a legislative solution. These elements, I am happy to say, are all part of the legislation that is being introduced to Parliament, which is Bill S-2.
    One of these elements is a two-part solution that is both practical and sensible. First, the bill would allow for first nations to develop and implement their own laws to protect the matrimonial real property rights and interests of community residents. These laws could be based on the community's tradition. The content of the laws would be entirely between the members of the first nation government, and must be approved by a community ratification process. The second part of the solution is a provisional federal regime that would apply, once in force, until the time the first nations develop their own laws.
    I want to emphasize the point that these provisional rules would apply to first nations unless or until they enact their own matrimonial real property laws under this legislation. This would ensure that laws exist to protect the rights and interests of all Canadians, regardless of where they live in Canada.
    As well, parliamentary committees reviewing these bills have considered the testimonies of a long list of witnesses and proposed a series of improvements. All of these amendments are also in Bill S-2.
    The simple fact is that the legislation now before us represents the culmination of decades of work to find an effective solution. Now is the time to implement this solution. Aboriginal women who have lived on reserve have waited too long.
    Bill S-2 also includes additional improvements that were made to the bill prior to its introduction in September of 2011. These improvements respond directly to concerns that were raised by stakeholders.
    Bill S-2 also features another improvement over previous versions, a significantly lower ratification threshold. Several witnesses who appeared before committee expressed serious concerns about the ability of some first nations to engage enough voters to secure a meaningful result under a double majority, which requires that a majority of eligible voters must vote and that a majority of those who vote must vote in favour. Now, with the changes that we have made, a first nations council would be responsible for informing its members of the content of its laws and secure the approval of a majority of voters. It must also inform the minister of the results and provide a copy of the approved law to the minister, any organization that may be designated by the minister and the respective attorney general.


    More important, I think the changes we have made to Bill S-2 are consistent with the direction this government is taking in terms of diminishing the role of the federal government in the day-to-day administration of first nations and handing those responsibilities over to first nations, where it belongs.
    Finally, when the Senate adopted Bill S-2, it did so with two additional changes that would allow judges to extend emergency protection orders beyond 90 days. This would allow judges to exercise discretion on the duration of the order upon the rehearing of the case or when changing or revoking emergency protection orders. This is very important for the safety and security of aboriginal women living on reserve.
    The Senate passed Bill S-2, as amended, on December 1, 2011. Bill S-2 is informed by many years of study, consultation and debate. The proposed legislation builds on previous attempts to enact similar legislation. It incorporates a series of amendments adopted by parliamentary committees in response to stakeholder testimony, and was substantially altered before its introduction into this Parliament to further strengthen the bill and to facilitate the development of first nation laws in this area.
    I believe it is our duty to adopt Bill S-2 and finally put in place a legislative solution, which is long overdue, to support aboriginal women on reserve.
    I also want to point out that some of the criticisms raised of the bill are based on false information. For instance, some people believe that the proposed legislation could take away the property rights of first nations. The view that a non-member of a first nation could gain ownership of reserve lands is completely false.
    The bill, in clause 5, explicitly states:
(a) title to reserve lands is not affected by this act; (b) reserve lands continue to be set apart for the use and benefit of the First Nation for which they were set apart; and (c) reserve lands continue to be lands reserved for the Indians within the meaning of Class 24 of section 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867.
    The legislation is very clear. At no point would the collective ownership of first nation lands be jeopardized under Bill S-2.
    Another criticism refers to what is actually not in the bill, namely that Bill S-2 does not include specific funding to improve access to the courts, to emergency family shelters and to on-reserve housing. Bill S-2 is not about policy or funding levels. It is about eliminating a cause of injustice and closing a legal loophole that creates inequality and leaves aboriginal women vulnerable. It is about ensuring all Canadians, whether they live on or off reserve, have similar protections and rights when it comes to family homes, matrimony interests, security and safety.
    Consider the testimony provided by one aboriginal leader before committee during its review of Bill S-2. This is what Betty Ann Lavallée, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, had to say. She said:
    [Bill S-2] is addressing the real human issue of an aboriginal person, something taken for granted by all other Canadians.... A spouse within an aboriginal relationship should not be denied, or put out on the street alone and without any recourse, because of a family [or marital] breakdown.
    That has been happening in Canada for far too long.
    National Chief Lavallée recognizes that Bill S-2 is ultimately about preventing abuse and discrimination. Her words are informed by her knowledge of the often harsh realities of day-to-day life faced by many women residents of first nation communities.
    I agree completely with Chief Lavallée's eloquent words and I believe that Bill S-2 strikes an appropriate balance between individual and collective rights.
    Here again I must return to my role as the Minister for Status of Women. We also know that this issue is critical to future generations of aboriginal children. We are working hard to advance equality for women and to remove the barriers to women's participation in society and eliminate violence against women. This includes aboriginal women.
    As the Minister for Status of Women I am very concerned with the pattern of violence against aboriginal women and the impact it has on the families and the communities who suffer from it. Today we have a chance to make a change. This issue is a responsibility that we all share and by working together we can better address it.
    I call on my colleagues in the House to support the legislation. For more than 25 years women living on first nations communities have had to live with this human rights gap. For most Canadians that protection exists. For women on reserve, that protection does not exist.
    I call on all of my colleagues in the House to move this forward and end this human rights gap once and for all for aboriginal women living on reserve.


    Mr. Speaker, perhaps to correct the record, aboriginal women in Canada have actually been living with discriminatory practices since colonization. This is not just in the last 25 years. I think that is an important note.
    Where we would agree with the minister, of course, is that discriminatory practices around how matrimonial real property is divided need to be addressed. The question is around how that gets addressed.
    The minister mentioned this in her speech but I would ask the minister specifically about it, since the government has been well aware of the problem over a number of years and since there have been consistent calls for non-legislative measures to help address some of this. Could the minister tell us specifically how much money has been invested in the land and housing situation to help with property division?
    How much money has been invested in legal remedies and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms? How much money has been invested in community legal aid and mediation services? If the minister is truly concerned about violence against aboriginal women, when will she initiate an inquiry on murdered and missing aboriginal women?
    Mr. Speaker, I hope the hon. member's comments mean that she will support an end to this human rights gap and she will support Bill S-2 to ensure that aboriginal women living on reserve will finally have protection under the law, as do other women who live off reserve.
     I know the hon. member is a woman who believes in women's rights, as I do, so I cannot imagine that she does not share my concern that, for this many years, since the Supreme Court ruled 25 years ago, this legislative gap has existed. I cannot imagine that she will not support Bill S-2.
    There have been attempts to go the non-legislative route. The hon. member knows that. There have been attempts to encourage and in many ways to work with first nations to ensure that matrimonial property rights are addressed on reserve. Unfortunately, there are very few first nations that have achieved that.
    We are now at a place where I think we have to act. There are women, as the hon. member well knows, who encounter severe violence on reserves every day. These aboriginal women need us to act.
    This is a legislative gap that has been identified by not only domestic but international human rights bodies as something we have to address. As a woman who believes in equality for women, it is unacceptable to me that aboriginal women do not have the same protections on reserve as women who live off reserve. It is time that ends.


    Mr. Speaker, in view of the status of women committee's appalling record of going in camera and that in the last study on violence against women it refused to put anything to do with aboriginal women in the recommendations because it said its mandate was restricted to just those things directly under the responsibility of the minister's department, will the minister agree that the bill be referred instead to the aboriginal affairs committee, where it can be studied properly by people who understand aboriginal rights, understand legislation and will do the proper thing in calling the appropriate witnesses?
    Mr. Speaker, I do not think I heard the hon. member correctly. I hope I did not. She suggested the members of the status of women committee, who have an interest in seeing equality rights for women across this country, will not do an appropriate job studying the bill.
    I disagree with the hon. member. The bill has been studied by many committees over the years. I think the members of the status of women committee are very well positioned, considering this is inherently an issue of discrimination and equality. This is inherently an issue of discrimination against aboriginal women living on reserve.
    I think the status of women committee is perfectly positioned to study the bill.
    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be able to ask the Minister for Status of Women a question that would help vulnerable women on reserves, not only in the London area but all across Canada. I have heard from women in my riding and they have told me that the bill is needed now more than ever. I am proud of the many women's groups in my city of London that work tirelessly to promote and strengthen women's rights. This bill would accomplish both.
    Can the Minister for Status of Women please explain to the House why it is so important that we move ahead with Bill S-2?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women, who has done an incredible job championing the rights of women. I know that she will do an excellent job working with her committee colleagues on all sides of the House on this issue.
    The legislative gap that Bill S-2 will close has hurt families and entire communities, but most specifically it has hurt aboriginal women living on reserve. It is our position, as a government, that it is unacceptable that on-reserve residents, particularly women who are the most affected by this legislative gap, are deprived of their rights and protections because of where they live. That is unacceptable. For most Canadians undergoing the breakdown of their conjugal relationships or marriages, or in the event of the death of a spouse, there is legal protection to ensure that their rights, including property rights, are protected. In this situation, there are no laws that protect the rights of aboriginal women living on reserve. Their interests are not protected and, in the case of emergency protection orders due to family violence, their safety and security are not protected.
    This has been a long time coming. I hope that all members of the House, especially women, see fit to see the bill finally through so that aboriginal women would have the protections they deserve.


    Mr. Speaker, I would like to pursue the matter with the hon. minister of the route the bill has taken. First, it is odd that it started in the Senate. Second, it is odd it is going to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women instead of the committee on aboriginal affairs, which would have the expertise. Third, I am troubled by the lack of consultation with first nations before having the bill come before this place.
    Will the members of the parliamentary Standing Committee on the Status of Women insist that everything that goes on in that committee be restricted to the mandate of the Minister for Status of Women, as it has done in the past, or will that committee expand its mandate to include aboriginal issues? I think it is going to the wrong committee. I will be blunt about that.
    I ask for the hon. minister's comments and perhaps her assurance that the committee will not restrict its mandate solely to the matters within the minister's portfolio.
    Mr. Speaker, the member will be happy to find out that we are working very closely with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. We understand the member's concerns but again it is very important that she recognize that this issue affects women living on reserves more than anyone else. The status of women committee is perfectly positioned. This is an issue about equality for aboriginal women living on reserve. It is about safety and security and by all means it is about addressing a legislative gap that affects violence against women, especially women living on reserve.
     This is an issue that all women should champion. This is a legislative human rights gap that has existed for far too long. We will work and are working closely with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. As I said, over 100 consultations have been held with first nations in 76 locations across this country. We will be open to any witnesses who would like to appear before committee. That is, of course, the purview of the committee to decide. However, at the end of the day this is inherently about discrimination against women living on reserve.


    Mr. Speaker, the minister mentioned consultations, particularly with aboriginal organizations. It is obvious that these consultations were not productive because groups such as the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada have very serious reservations about the implications of this bill. She talked about sending the bill to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and not the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
    How can the government introduce this bill knowing that the main aboriginal groups have very serious reservations about it and do not want it to move forward?


    Mr. Speaker, I have to say that I have been disturbed over the years about this issue. This has been an issue that has mattered to me for many years. I know that there are some male chiefs who have not supported this and have exerted all kinds of pressure behind the scene to see this bill not go forward, and that is not appropriate. I hope the member is not insinuating that he in any way sides with that kind of pressure.
    We are not going to set the bill aside or set aside the interests of women living on reserve to consult and consult again. We have consulted for 25 years. This is the fourth time that this House has tried to pass this legislation. There are all kinds of people who would like to see it undermined, but we are not going to allow that. We are going to be on the side of aboriginal women.
    Mr. Speaker, we have before the House Bill S-2, an act respecting family homes situated on First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves. The minister who just spoke talked about this being an act to address inherent discriminatory practices against women. However, it is interesting that the title of the bill does not mention that.
    The bill deals with matrimonial breakdown, which generally speaking is between a man and a woman, although same sex relations are legal in this country, so it could be between a same sex couple. One of the challenges we have before the House in dealing with the bill is the need to balance the rights of women and men who are involved in a marital breakdown against inherent rights within first nations. It is a very difficult balancing act, and I want to lay out some context on how we got to this place today.
    Others in the House have noted that the bill was introduced in the Senate and is now referred to the status of women committee. Although this is a very competent committee with very capable members, there are questions arising, first of all, about why the bill was introduced in the Senate rather than the House of Commons, where one would think it legitimately should have been introduced. The second is why the bill was not referred to the aboriginal affairs committee, which is the committee that has the mandate to deal with matters within the Indian Act and other matters facing first nations, Métis and Inuit in this country
     We hear the member opposite positioning the act to deal with discriminatory practices against women. However, arguably it is an act that deals with a much broader matter facing first nations communities.
    In terms of context, I want to turn briefly to the “Report of the Ministerial Representative Matrimonial Real Property Issues on Reserves” by Wendy Grant-John and her colleagues, who did this report for then minister of aboriginal affairs, Jim Prentice. She included a lengthy laying out of the history. I will not start with the pre-colonial period and work through to the modern day, but she included a quick summary of 1990 to present.
     In her summary, she indicated there have been several commissions of inquiry in Canada drawing attention to the issue and that eight UN human rights bodies have expressed concern. There has been litigation. There have been Senate and House of Commons committees, and there have been various pieces of legislation. However, here we are today, in 2012, still dealing with this matter.
    In terms of the broader context, there have been many reports, but I will refer to the “Discussion Paper: Matrimonial Real Property on Reserve”, which is an excellent report. It lays out both the context as well as many of the challenges facing any government in terms of coming up with a legislative approach to this matter. I mentioned a couple of the reports, studies and conventions that have been cited, but this particular report cites:
    The lack of remedies under federal law for married women on reserve that are typically available to married women off reserve under provincial law has been a violation of Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights....
    It has also been cited in a 1998 report from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which noted concern with:
...Canada's failure to ensure equal protection of the law as between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women in respect to matrimonial real property:
    It also notes the final report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba, AJIM, which recommended that:
    The Indian Act be amended to provide for the equal division of property on marriage breakdown.
    I will not read the various statutes in the study, but the report indicates that:
    A few words must be said about the larger historical and policy context in which the issues of matrimonial rights on reserve is situated.
     Prior to European colonization efforts, many First Nation societies were matriarchal in nature. Missionaries and other Church officials discouraged matriarchal aspects of First Nation societies and encouraged the adoption of European norms of male dominance and control of women. According to the customary law of the Mohawk nation for example, the matrimonial home and things in it belong to the wife and women traditionally have exercised prominent roles in decision-making within the community.


    It is interesting, as I noted earlier in a question to the minister, that these discriminatory practices are long-standing in this country.
    The minister also noted the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in her speech. First of all, I want to note:
    Section 91(24) [of The Constitution Act] therefore would appear to allow federal legislation applicable on reserve to provide remedies on separation or divorce such as interim possession of the matrimonial home or forced sale of the right to occupy. While rights of ownership to reserve land cannot be created under the Indian Act...individual rights of possession in relation to parts of reserve land can be transferred or sold among band members. Individual band members can own homes or other buildings on reserve.
    This is an important context. When we are talking about division of property, we are dealing with a different land regime than we are dealing with off reserve. It is important to note that in this context. When we are talking about division of matrimonial property, often the occupants of that home will not have title to the land. There are some anomalies there with certificates of possession and other matters, but it is an important note. This is noted in the Constitution.
    The royal commission also noted this:
    The Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) recognizes existing inherent powers of Aboriginal peoples as an aspect of a right to self-determination within Canada, and as a constitutional right protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The (RCAP) analysis includes jurisdiction over marriage and property rights in respect to First Nations lands (such as Indian Act reserve lands) as part of the core area of First Nation inherent jurisdiction that can be exercised without negotiation of agreements or other forms of recognition by federal or provincial governments.
    This is an important point. At the outset, when I talked about the very difficult challenge of balancing discriminatory practices against women and the need for remedies—again, I believe all members in this House would agree there is a need for remedies—there is also this other jurisdictional aspect that first nations have. It has been cited in many court decisions.
    The royal commission continued:
    In the context of matrimonial real property issues on reserve, such an analysis would recognize how First Nation women historically have experienced racism and sexism and other forms of discrimination as a result of the Indian Act. For example the imposition of non-Aboriginal concepts of private or individual property rights combined with numerous forms of patriarchal bias have led to First Nation men being the primary holders of Certificates of Possession on reserve. This in turn contributed to the displacement of many First Nation women from their traditional roles as women, negatively affected their gender relations with men and the relationship of First Nation women to First Nation land. With respect to matrimonial real property, the collective impacts of colonialism...have resulted in many women finding themselves in a disadvantageous legal position when their marriage or common law relationship breaks down.
    The royal commission report went on to say:
    In addition, many women in submissions to the RCAP and other processes have drawn attention to the problem of women being affiliated automatically with the bands that Indian Affairs records show they were connected to in the past through their fathers or husbands. Many women now apply for membership in their husband's band. On breakdown of the marriage, women can encounter difficulties resuming their affiliation with the band they were born into, and asserting residency rights there. In this regard, Indian Affairs has acknowledged that “[r]egistrants would much prefer to be affiliated with a band closer to their domicile or to a band with which the mother or wife in a marriage is affiliated”.
    The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples report did make a number of recommendations, and I want to touch on a couple of them. They summarize it as follows:
    Family law falls within the core of (inherent) Aboriginal self-government jurisdiction and as such, does not require negotiation of a self-government agreement to be exercised.
    The recommendations of the RCAP clearly favour a recognition of Aboriginal inherent jurisdiction to adopt laws addressing family law issues generally, and see the exercise of this jurisdiction as the most immediate way of ensuring culturally appropriate legal responses are developed as quickly as possible. The exercise of this jurisdiction is seen as the best way to take the immediate action required to address the serious areas of legal vacuum respecting matrimonial real property on reserves. This exercise of inherent jurisdiction would take place pending the negotiation of broader self-government arrangements...
    One of the RCAP recommendations was:
working out appropriate mechanisms of transition to Aboriginal control under self-government;


    In 1996 there was a clear road map laid out for how to deal with the issue of matrimonial real property on reserve. Here we are, in 2012, continuing to have this conversation. Most of the recommendations from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples were never implemented. In fact, a couple of years ago there was a report from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples which gave, not just the current government, but any government since 1996, a failing grade on moving forward on what was seen with many first nations, Métis and Inuit as a good faith exercise. We continue, I would say, to talk out of both sides of our mouths. On one hand in the House, we commission very important reports, and on the other hand we simply do not act on them.
    With regard to case law, what happened previously was that there was an application of provincial laws to reserve lands on matrimonial breakdown. There is a well-known case, Derrickson v. Derrickson, in which the Supreme Court of Canada held that provincial family law could not apply to the right of possession of Indian lands. More specifically, the court determined that provincial laws entitling each spouse to an undivided half interest in all family assets could not be applied to land allotments on reserve. The court stated:
    The right to possession of lands on an Indian reserve is of the very essence of the federal exclusive legislative power under s. 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867. It follows that provincial legislation cannot apply to the right of possession of Indian reserve lands.
    The court was able to make an order for compensation, taking into account the value of the land allotment for the purpose of adjusting the division of family assets between the spouses under the relevant provincial family law.
    In the case of Paul v. Paul, the court said that even if this were the case, the provincial legislation being relied on was in conflict with the Indian Act provisions and, applying the doctrine of federal paramountcy, the federal provisions would prevail.
    There were a number of other court decisions. The summary stated:
     The overall result of the case law is that provincial and territorial family law legislation does not apply to reserve land in any way that can affect individual interests in unsurrendered reserve land. Such legislation is considered to be in conflict with the provisions of the Indian Act....
    A number of court decisions have said that provincial law does not apply. Now we have a piece of legislation that is supposed to be an interim measure that will allow provincial provisions to apply on first nations lands where the first nation does not have a code in place to deal with matrimonial real property. I want to talk about ability to look at some of those codes in one moment.
    Some questions have arisen out of this. Of course, we know that the provinces and territories all have different provisions around division of assets for people living within the province off reserve. It then becomes that we have a federal government that in some ways is abdicating its responsibility in developing legislation that would apply across the country from coast to coast to coast and abdicating its responsibility to the provincial governments in the matter in which, previous cases state, provincial legislation does not apply. It is an interesting question in terms of what the federal responsibility is versus provincial jurisdiction. We have seen the government rely increasingly on provincial jurisdiction in matters facing first nations, Métis and Inuit.
    Currently there are first nations that have custom codes in place and there is a provision under the First Nations Land Management Act where first nations can develop their own codes. I will go back to the report that was commissioned a number of years ago on matrimonial property. It outlined the following:
    In order to clarify the intentions of the First Nations and Canada in relation to the breakdown of a marriage as it affects First Nation land:
(a) First Nation will establish a community process in its land code to develop rules and procedures, applicable on the breakdown of a marriage, to the use, occupancy and possession of First Nation land and the division of interests in that land;
for greater certainty, the rules and procedures referred to in clause (a) shall not discriminate on the basis of sex;
    The reason I am raising that is because there are mechanisms right now where first nations can develop these codes.


    The First Nations Land Management Act has a waiting list of nations that actually want to participate in this process. Therefore, one of the doors that could be opened to first nations to develop their own marital property relations codes is closed due to a lack of resources. If the government were serious and committed to a respectful nation-to-nation relationship with first nations, it would put additional resources into the FNLMA to assist first nations in taking part in that regime and developing those codes.
    I do not have a lot of time left, but I want to quote from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 19 states:
    States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that affect them.
    Article 44 states:
    All rights and freedoms recognized herein are equally guaranteed to male and female indigenous individuals.
    After enormous pressure, the government finally did endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and indicated that it would take the next steps to move forward on it. Of course, we have seen no action since that happened.
    However, this declaration that speaks of free, prior and informed consent is at the heart of much of the opposition to Bill S-2, because although the minister claims there were all kinds of consultations, the reality is that appearances at committee do not constitute consultation.
    The Hon. Jim Prentice, the then minister of the day, did set up a process wherein there was a ministerial representative who developed an extensive report. A lot of the recommendations in the report were simply ignored in developing the legislation, and I want to touch on a couple of them.
    In one of the recommendations, Wendy Grant-John outlined a preamble and what the sections of the act should include. She included things like acknowledging the importance of the principle of reconciliation in respect to existing aboriginal and treaty rights and the sovereignty of the Crown; the need for co-operation and reconciliation between first nations and the Crown on matters relating to matrimonial property on reserves; the importance of including women at all levels of decision-making as equals; and the need to take into account the interests of other family members and first nations' cultural interests.
    In part, the legislation does talk about the interests of other family members, but does not specifically address the other cultural interests.
    There was a case regarding the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination. It issued a report back in February or March 2012 with regard to the division of property on a marital breakdown and made some very specific recommendations. It is interesting what those recommendations included.
    The recommendations to the state were to provide housing commensurate in quality, location and size to the one the applicant was deprived of; provide appropriate monetary compensation for material and moral damages commensurate with the gravity of the violations of her rights; recruit and train more aboriginal women to provide legal aid to women from their communities, including on domestic violence and property rights; and review its legal aid system to ensure that aboriginal women who are victims of domestic violence have effective access to justice.
    Despite the long-standing recognition that there are serious problems facing aboriginal women in this country, we have not seen the kinds of measures put in place that would help women and their communities deal with the violence against aboriginal women, and their lack of adequate housing and access to remedial measures and conflict resolution.
    It is one thing to put a piece of legislation in place and another to not then put the resources in place to help women, their communities and families deal with this very serious problem.
    Based on the concerns that we have, the New Democrats will not be supporting this legislation.


    Mr. Speaker, this bill is based on a careful balance between individual rights, specifically the need for spouses and common-law partners on reserve to have access to rights and protections similar to those existing off reserve, and the collective interests of first nation members in the reserve lands.
    The bill clearly states that it is not intended to affect the title to the lands or change the status of the collective reserve lands. It also includes provisions to ensure that first nation councils may make court representations.
     Under the bill, notice of applications for orders, except emergency protection and confidentiality orders, must be sent to the first nation council so that they can make representations to the court on the cultural, social and legal aspects of collective rights regarding the land. The bill states that first nations must have an opportunity to provide evidence on their collective rights and lands during court hearings. In response to the testimony of witnesses, government amendments were made to extend this opportunity, for example, to court hearings to change or revoke an emergency protection order.
    Why does the member opposite not want to support women on reserves and help them get the emergency protection they deserve?


    Mr. Speaker, I will respond to the member with another question. Why does the member and her government not put mechanisms in place to help aboriginal women, first nation, Métis and Inuit, when they are facing domestic violence and a lack of adequate housing? There are no resources around things like dispute resolution mechanisms.
    In a report on matrimonial real property on reserve by the Scow Institute, it concluded with something that is very important for all of us in the House to take to heart. It says:
    The lasting solution is one that comes from the community and builds on Aboriginal traditions. These traditional values of caring, nurturing, supporting, and respect are the proper way forward, not just for Aboriginal women but for everyone, young, old, male and female. The community is the solution.
    When will the government put the resources into the community to help it develop appropriate codes and the non-legislative measures required to help families in crisis?
    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party critic has mentioned the importance of ensuring that all of the different stakeholders feel welcome in participating at the committee level. Would she want to comment on how important it is that all of the stakeholders feel they are empowered to participate in public hearings? In fact, some might even suggest that the committee go beyond the Ottawa bubble. It might be an appropriate issue for us to go into the communities on. Would the member support the Liberal Party's idea of maybe expanding these hearings outside of Ottawa so that we can ensure that different stakeholders are able to participate in the dialogue?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg North is absolutely correct. Indeed, when we talk about non-legislative remedies, one aspect that we need to look at is what happens in a community where there is a marital breakdown and one person ends up with housing and another actually has to leave the community because there is no other housing. There are significant waiting lists in most communities. There is the problem of not having available non-legislative remedies for housing, dispute resolutions, and safe houses.
    The other issue is that this is being portrayed simply as an issue of discrimination against women. There are absolutely serious problems with discrimination against women in the way that property is divided in a marital breakdown. However, there is a larger context to this.
    Part of what the Liberal member asked was why this was not being referred to the aboriginal affairs committee. Here I would say that the larger context of this is around land regimes on reserves. They are not private property. There are issues of certificates of possession and inherent treaty rights, and all kinds of other complicating factors that it would seem the aboriginal affairs committee would be seized of.
    Therefore, to respond to the member, I agree that it is very important that the committee goes out to communities and looks at the reality of what happens when there is a marital breakdown there, but second, it should also look at the larger context around aboriginal rights and title.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the speech by the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, as I know that she is well versed on first nations issues.
    I want to bring to light the view of one of my chiefs. He talks about the fact that first nations' inherent right to self-government needs to be recognized, just as it is by section 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act 1982, which includes independent jurisdiction with regard to family law and real property on and off reserve. He goes on to talk about the fact that his community has actually adopted a matrimonial real properties act, which is working very well. The issue is not that first nations cannot do this.
    He and his community continue to maintain that the proposed MRP package interferes with fundamental property and other rights, and that the federal government cannot therefore proceed without seeking the prior, full and informed consent of individual first nations, who are the actual rights holders.
    Again, I want to raise the issue that there are opportunities for first nations to put these matrimonial property acts in place, and that these do actually work. I am wondering if the member can elaborate on the fact that those tools are currently there for first nations.


    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing for that very good question, because she is absolutely right. Many first nations have developed codes. They are in place and functioning effectively.
    Part of the challenge before the House actually concerns the heart of the relationship between the federal government and first nations. If one's starting premise is that there is a nation-to-nation relationship, then there are different approaches that derive from that relationship.
    The minister admitted that the government has known for years that these discriminatory practices are happening. One thing that could have happened over these last many years is that resources could have been put into working with the first nations communities who were interested in developing their own codes. There could have been a tool kit put together around best practices and then some resources for the community to help develop their own code that would reflect their own practices, customs, traditions, cultural values and language.
    We did not see that happen, so now we have a piece of legislation being imposed on nations that did not have the resources to develop those codes and practices. The hon. member is absolutely correct: there are some very good codes already in place.
    Mr. Speaker, I think that anyone watching at home today would appreciate that we are having a debate about women's equality rights taking place primarily among female parliamentarians. I think that is something to be celebrated.
    The reason we are able to do this is that a legislative change was put in place that allowed us to stand in this place and have these types of debates, given our gender as women. Sometimes we need to have legislative change in order to effect real change.
    Kofi Annan once said:
    Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.
    Sometimes we need legislation to do that.
    After all the consultations that have taken place, the millions of dollars that have gone into the consultation process, with over 103 sessions in 76 sites, I would simply ask my colleague this: why will she not support common sense legislation that stands up for the rights of aboriginal women and their property rights?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talks about consultation. Yet the culmination of that consultation was a 2006 report entitled, “The Report of the Ministerial Representative: Matrimonial Real Property Issues on Reserves”, a significant number of whose recommendations have been disregarded by the government.
    The question then becomes this. The government carried out what it calls a consultation process, got a report, and then ignored it. Then the government went back and said that it had consulted, but did not say it would actually take the consultation to heart and develop legislation based on that legislation. One cannot call something consultation and then not do something about it.
    If the government were serious about consultation, it would go back to this report and rewrite the legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on my question to the minister and again insist that the bill needs to go to the aboriginal affairs committee, not to the status of women committee.
    Regarding the record of the status of women committee, including its recent study, “Improving Economic Prospects of Canadian Girls”, I would refer the members to the dissenting report of the Liberal Party, including the hon. member for York West. We were appalled that despite all of the evidence gathered from people such as Vivian O'Donnell and Susan Wallace, the committee refused to include any recommendations in the report, stating that it would exceed the mandate of the Minister for Status of Women. It thinks its mandate is the 40-year old written mandate for status of women committee, as though it were the responsibility of the current Minister for Status of Women.
    It is clearly an issue, as my colleague from the NDP has said, for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Given the complexity of dealing with property and aboriginal rights, those can only be properly studied at the aboriginal affairs committee. I cannot repeat that strongly enough. It is totally inappropriate that this go to a committee not used to studying legislation, and which has, in its very last study, refused to deal with the issue of aboriginal girls and young women, stating that it is not the specific responsibility of that minister or her department.
    The Liberal Party does not question the need for legislation to address the legal gaps and other problems surrounding family breakdown for first nations living on reserve.



    Many national and international reports have called on Canada to address the legislative gap with regard to matrimonial real property on reserves, and a number of parliamentary committees have examined this issue.


    However, the bill would not effectively deal with the problems associated with the division of matrimonial property on reserve and would fail to provide first nations with the tools to implement appropriate measures for families to resolve disputes safely and in a culturally appropriate way.
    Bill S-2 would not improve gender equality for aboriginal women, as claimed by the Conservative government. Instead, it would create the potential for new open-ended interests for non-first nations individuals on reserve and would fail to address the root causes of family breakdown and domestic violence, namely the lack of housing, inadequate funding for child welfare and inadequate access to legal aid for aboriginal women.
    The Liberal Party of Canada believes that all legislation, or policies concerning aboriginal peoples, requires the government to work with, nor for, aboriginal peoples, as we promised to do in the original treaty relationship and as expressed by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. It commits Canada to uphold indigenous rights and ensure first nations enjoy the same quality of services and care as other Canadians. It explicitly says that there must be free, prior and informed consent on any issues dealing directly with first nations in Canada.
    We also must recognize and affirm aboriginal or treaty rights as laid out in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and Canadian courts. As well, it is imperative that we provide sufficient resources so as to guarantee that aboriginal communities have the capacity to implement the legislation and our policies on which we have worked collaboratively. Unfortunately, yet again, the government has failed to meet any of these criteria in the approach to matrimonial real property on reserve. It is raining down legislation in “thou shalt” kinds of ways without the resources and the support to actually achieve the objectives of the legislation.
    Yet again, consultation has been inadequate. Consultation requires both a substantive dialogue and the government to listen and, when appropriate, incorporate what it hears into its approach. Although consultations were done on MRP in general in 2006-07, consultations were not done specifically on Bill S-2, in particular prior to the introduction of the bill.
    The Native Women's Association of Canada is not confident that the legislation will solve the problems associated with matrimonial real property on reserve and has been clear that the current bill fails to address many of the recommendations repeatedly raised each time the legislation has been brought forward. NWAC held meetings with first nations women from its provincial and territorial member associations and produced several reports that included their views to address MRP. Bill S-2 still neglects most of those recommendations.



    The Conservative government failed in its constitutional duty to consult the first nations when drafting this bill and did not take into consideration the serious problems identified by stakeholders when the Senate examined Bill S-4, the previous version of this bill, in the last Parliament.


    The non-derogation clause in Bill S-2 does not sufficiently affirm constitutional rights to self-government, that is nothing in the act shall be construed “so as to abrogate or derogate from...aboriginal or treaty rights recognized and affirmed under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982”. This is not acceptable.
    As my colleague from the New Democratic Party has said, the resources are inadequate to achieve the objectives of the bill. As I said In the letter I sent to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs a year ago August, it is completely unfair to legislate when the resources are not there to implement the objectives of any legislation.
    This afternoon we will see the same thing on the water act, that “thou shalt have clean drinking water” and there are no resources to make sure it happens. This is exactly the same thing. In the objective of the bill on matrimonial real property, there are just not the resources to actually give women real choices with their families for them to remain safe in situations of violence.


    Any proposed measure must be based on a holistic approach designed to address family breakdowns and domestic violence in aboriginal communities and tackle the problems of poverty, the housing shortage and the tragic legacy of the residential school survivors and their families.


    In 2006, then INAC minister, Jim Prentice, announced that the nation-wide consultation on MRP reserves would take place, and appointed Wendy Grant John as the ministerial representative.
    The report of the ministerial representative proposed establishing new stand-alone federal legislation that would be based on recognition of first nations jurisdiction and respect for aboriginal and treaty rights, while establishing interim federal rules that would apply until the first nation had exercised its jurisdiction and enacted its own laws on MRP.
    The report of the ministerial representative also noted:
    The viability and effectiveness of any legislative framework will also depend on necessary financial resources being made available for implementation of non-legislative measures...Without these kinds of supports from the federal government, matrimonial real property protections will simply not be accessible to the vast majority of First Nation people.
    At the time that report was tabled, the time we were able to see it, everybody who we spoke to said it was imperative that the government of the day not be allowed to cherry-pick this report. Yet cherry-pick the report is exactly what the government has done.
    The government has not provided any additional resources to help first nation governments build the capacity needed to address the underlying issues, meet their new obligations under the bill, or allow their citizens to have access to the legal system or develop new community-specific laws regarding matrimonial real property.
    The provisional federal MRP rules are based on a provincial court system and require first nations and their citizens to take on additional costs to access the court system.
    In many rural and remote communities, the cost of legal access, including transportation, can be prohibitive. Yet there is also no commitment to provide funding for alternatives to the court system, like community-based dispute resolution, which would be more cost effective and culturally appropriate.
    Further, Bill S-2 was tabled without a plan and without resourcing to address the myriad issues that contributed to family breakdown on reserve and the disproportionately high levels of domestic violence against women.


    Witnesses who appeared before the Senate committee mentioned the chronic shortage of housing on reserve, the underfunding of child welfare and the lack of shelters and temporary housing. These are substantive issues that must be addressed as part of the federal government's MRP approach.



    The government has made no commitment to provide resources to help first nations move past the provisional federal rules and develop their own MRP code, other than to promise to create a centre of excellence, subject to further future Treasury Board approval.
    The government's approach to developing the bill has been misguided and the resulting legislation is totally inadequate.
    Mr. Speaker, the bill clearly states that it does not affect the title to reserve lands or change the collective status of reserve lands and it does not allow non-members to make claims of ownership to reserve lands. The provisional federal rules will not lead to non-Indians or non-members acquiring permanent interest in reserve land because exclusive occupation orders and emergency protection orders are temporary.
    Input obtained during the national consultation process indicated that an appropriate balance was needed between the individual rights of on reserve residents and the collective interests of first nations in their reserve lands. The legislation achieves the objective of filling the legislative gap on reserves for first nation members and non-members, while respecting the principle and non-alienation of reserve lands.
    The provisional federal rules also include provisions to ensure that first nation councils can make representations to the courts, for instance, to highlight the collective nature of the land. This does not apply, however, in the case of emergency protection and confidentiality orders.
    I find it insulting that the Liberal member, who voted against establishing the Canada Human Rights Act on reserves, refuses to give women on reserves the same rights she has.
    Why will she not help aboriginal women?
    Mr. Speaker, I will leave that alone. It is totally insulting and inappropriate in the House. Those of us fighting for the rights of aboriginals everyday are on this side of the House and the aboriginal people in Canada know that.
    It is totally ridiculous for that member to stand and read something that was hopefully prepared by someone who does not even understand that the aboriginal affairs committee right now will receive the part of the bill on fee simple that would put in question everything that member just read. She clearly does not understand.
    It is really important that the bill come to the aboriginal affairs committee where somebody, like the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, who at least understands the issues around real property on reserve, can speak to it. That member and her committee can just leave the bill alone.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very clear defence of the rights of aboriginal women. I am particularly interested in her concern regarding the bill going to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. As a five-year member of that committee and a former chair, I too have some very real concerns.
    When I was a member of the committee in 2010-11, we embarked on a study of violence against aboriginal women. We went from community to community and we heard from aboriginal women. At first, they were reticent because they did not trust us, but as time went on they came to believe we would truly help. They believed the women of Parliament would truly help.
     Unfortunately, the report that eventually came out of the Conservative-dominated committee was a travesty. It was an absolute aberration in terms of its glossing over the evidence we had heard and coming up with a report that had absolutely no real remedy.
    Very clearly I share my colleague's concern. Why on earth we would ever trust anyone in the Conservative government?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member and a veteran of the status of women committee who has witnessed the really disappointing reports coming out of that committee, that softly recommend or suggest instead of taking hard lines that would actually defend the status of women in Canada.
    It is because of the complexity of this issue and the failure of that committee to deal seriously with any legislation, other than a couple of clauses in estimates occasionally, that it becomes even more inappropriate that the status of women committee would study a bill of this importance. It is also because that committee and the minister continue to say they cannot deal with anything outside the mandate of the minister and her department.
     When we are fighting for the kinds of things we are in terms of resources on reserve, when we are fighting for more affordable housing and for the things that need to underline the purpose and the objective of the bill, it is even more important. As my colleague from the New Democratic Party has said, this law should be removed from the status of women committee and moved to the aboriginal affairs committee.


    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from my colleague, someone who obviously cares very passionately about our first nations community. I look to her to provide some leadership on the important issue of getting and engaging the different stakeholders throughout Canada that have a vested interest in ensuring this is done properly.
     One of the suggestions she has eloquently spoken about is the importance of the bill going to the right committee. Could the member provide comment on those stakeholders and the valuable role they play in assisting and determining and ultimately maybe even providing leadership for having good sound policy coming out of the House of Commons?
    Mr. Speaker, it is very important, from the research analysts to the membership and the knowledge of the people on the aboriginal affairs committee, to be able to not only receive witnesses here in Ottawa, as perhaps my colleague has suggested, but to go out and listen to the people.
    We need to hear from the chiefs on how difficult this is when there is a situation of domestic violence where, again, someone gets the house and someone has to leave the community. This is very difficult and really goes against the whole collectivity and the self-governing interests of allowing communities to resolve things in an equitable way.
    That means they must have the resources. It means the aboriginal affairs committee is the only place that can push, almost in a pre-budget consultation kind of way, to be fighting for the kinds of resources around housing, child care, legal aid and the kinds of things that would allow people to resolve this is in a fair and just way for first nations in Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, for the average Canadian listening to this debate, we are talking about basic human rights for aboriginal women living on reserve.
    We are not talking about any special rights that any other Canadian man or woman does not enjoy. We are talking about basic human rights.
    My question to the women in the opposition parties, both the Liberal and the NDP, is: When will they stand up to the men in their party, to their male leaders, and say this is the wrong thing to do? We need to support the rights of aboriginal women to have basic property rights.
    This bothers them, but it is a fact. We are talking about a very basic right, and I am just asking when my hon. colleagues will look at their male leaders and say we are on the wrong track here.
    Even the opposition parties have to recognize that it is a basic human right for a woman on a reserve to have access to the property that she should have in the face of a divorce. All women who have gone through divorces in Canada have rights to their property and they have rights to support. Aboriginal women do not have this right.
    When are the opposition women going to stand up for aboriginal women in this country?
    Mr. Speaker, this a completely specious argument. We believe there is a legislative gap.
    I would say to the member that I will take any man on this side to stand up for the rights of aboriginal women, including the brilliant Irwin Cotler who has been standing up for human rights for all his life—


    The member knows it is inappropriate to use the name of a sitting member of this House.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Churchill.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in this House as part of the official opposition to raise our position, which is very much founded on true consultation with partners, aboriginal women, aboriginal organizations and the voices in this country that are seeking real justice and real leadership from the federal government.
    Today we are talking about Bill S-2, but as we know from what we have heard in this chamber, there is a lot involved in this debate and in the debate around standing up with aboriginal women in this country. I am amazed at how the federal government is making so much noise on the issue of the human rights of aboriginal women when, in fact, time and again, it has done nothing but let aboriginal women down.
    We all know the painful history of colonialism and the kinds of situation that aboriginal people have lived with for centuries. We know this has left a mark on the kinds of lives that so many aboriginal people in Canada are living today.
    As the MP for Churchill, I have the honour of representing 33 first nations. All of them have signed historic treaties with the Crown and all of them have seen the treaties and their treaty rights broken and disrespected by government after government, and that has certainly been a hallmark of the present federal government.
    Some years ago, we had an apology from the Prime Minister that so many residential school survivors took very seriously. It was an apology that so many of us were proud of and that our former leader, Jack Layton, was very involved in shaping. However, after that apology, we saw a complete reversal of the very sentiment that the Prime Minister and Parliament shared with aboriginal men and women.
    We saw massive cuts to organizations, some of which deal directly with the healing residential school survivors need. We saw organizations that deal with the intergenerational impacts of residential schools be cut by the current federal government.
    I would like to point out that nowhere is the intergenerational impact of residential schools more evident than in the national tragedy of missing and murdered aboriginal women. It is chilling for every member of the House to know that we are part of a Parliament that could take action on this national tragedy. However, instead, we see a government that not only ignores the problem but actually cuts the very organizations that were there to support a solution.
    The Native Women's Association of Canada put together a world-renowned initiative called Sisters In Spirit, which was cut two years ago.
    The First Nations Statistical Institute, which gathered statistics on aboriginal women, was cut. It was done away with completely in the last budget.
    The National Aboriginal Health Organization, which maintained a particular focus on the health of aboriginal women, was completely eradicated by the present federal government.
    The Aboriginal Healing Foundation offered state-of-the-art community-driven healing programs, many of them run by women who worked with female elders and women who live on the margins of their communities and societies. Every single one of those community-based programs was cut by the current federal government.
    The Women's Health Research Network, a network of academic and grassroots women working in health and security, whether on the streets of Winnipeg or in communities in northern reserves across the country, was completely eliminated by the current federal government.


    There are countless examples of organizations that deal particularly with aboriginal women to establish the kind of statistics we need to know the scope of the problem, not just in terms of murder, but in terms of violence, poverty and health challenges. They are gone. The programs are gone that gave services of healing, counselling and support for learning a language that has been beaten out of generations of aboriginal people. Programs are also gone—thanks to the federal government—that were there to support women, to engage them in research and to engage them in job opportunities, that allowed them to look at their own challenges and their own aboriginal communities.
    When we hear that the federal government cares about the rights of aboriginal women, I say that is wrong, as we look at every single one of the Conservatives' actions including the fact that this weekend in Winnipeg there will be a national provincial-territorial symposium on aboriginal women known as NAWS. My question to Canadians is: I wonder if they know which level of government has refused to play any part. The answer is the federal government.
    The past two historic gatherings of NAWS were recognized at the international level and were co-hosted by the federal Government of Canada. So little is its care for the status of aboriginal women in this country that, in an age where violence against aboriginal women has gripped people, has gripped the imaginations of so many Canadians like those in my home province of Manitoba, it is not even willing to co-host a discussion among levels of government and the grassroots to be able to come to a solution.
    When Conservatives tell us about the equality and rights of aboriginal women, I would like to see their actions, and their actions have spoken for themselves. They are nowhere to be found and they are gutting the very foundations of a system where people have tried to come together and stand with aboriginal women for a better today and a better tomorrow.
    That brings us to Bill S-2, a bill that I and my colleagues have clearly said we cannot support. It has fundamental problems. After decades of work to be able to establish a true partnership with first nations, whether it is recognizing the duty to consult, whether it is recognizing the government-to-government relationship and what the NDP wants to see as the nation-to-nation relationship, one would think the federal government would understand how important the duty to consult is, but it does not.
    Bill S-2 is a bill we have seen in other forms, over five different parliamentary studies conducted on matrimonial property rights. As one Senate report found, women face real challenges when they have to leave their homes, and that is a point that we do not discount at all. It is a fact. I know it from the communities I represent. I hear it from the women with whom I have the honour of working.
    However, the Senate in its conclusions made five key recommendations, and these are the recommendations that are fundamentally disregarded by Bill S-2: that the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations be consulted; that funds be provided to help first nations draft their own matrimonial rights property codes, something that first nations have indicated an interest in working on. Let us hear from those first nations. It recommended that legislation not be applicable to first nations that come up with their own code. One of the recommendations was that there be amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act to apply on reserves. The Senate stressed that all recommendations be Canada's recognition of first nations inherent right to self-government. That reference to the inherent right is a critical one, because the federal government, through its disrespect of treaty rights and aboriginal inherent rights, has built a very dangerous kind of discourse when it comes to engaging Canadians.


    The government makes it sound as though aboriginal peoples' rights are the same as everyone else's rights, but what it disregards is that aboriginal people, being the first people on this land, have what are called inherent rights and have treaty rights.
    None of this is a hidden fact. People in my constituency know very well the writings of Tom Flanagan, one of the Prime Minister's former and maybe even current top advisors, who wrote a book entitled, First Nations? Second Thoughts, which is essentially focused on the concept of assimilation. Obviously, that is an unutterable notion to discuss in Canada in 2012, as it should be, because the concept of assimilation is not only racist but is a dark part of our history. We have moved on.
    However, if we scratch the surface, the ugly head of that notion of assimilation appears and reappears in the current federal government's dealings with aboriginal people. That is a fundamental injustice to aboriginal people and to all Canadians, when we know that our nation was built on the idea of respecting that treaty relationship between first nations and the Crown.
    In 2003, a legislative gap was identified that affects the rights and needs of first nations women. Nearly a decade later, under both Liberal and Conservative governments, Parliament has failed to solve the problem. As I noted, five separate parliamentary studies have consulted first nation organizations and women, and four bills have sought fit to ignore several of their most crucial recommendations.
    Bill S-2 is no exception. That is why we stand opposed to the bill. Until the government understands that it requires aboriginal peoples' full consent to amend the Indian Act, New Democrats will continue to oppose this kind of legislation.
    Let me point to some of the things that are problematic. Bill S-2 would address property shared between spouses, including common law partners. We have heard that it seeks to address gender discrimination. However, we note that the government has failed to do so in previous attempts across a broad range of areas with respect to aboriginal women.
    Bill S-2 lowers the ratification threshold. It has a 12-month transition period, something we believe is too short a period to address issues. It eliminates the requirement for a verification officer to approve a first nation's own laws on matrimonial property rights.
    Based on the kinds of agreements we have come to as Canadians, have we not learned that it is absolutely critical to consult with and allow first nations to decide how they want to address what they know is such a critical issue in their own communities?
    First nations would have to re-ratify their pre-existing processes if Bill S-2 is passed. They would have to notify the minister and the provincial attorney general. The first nation's laws, based on consensus or traditional processes, would not be accepted. It is ridiculous.
    Bill S-2 goes against treaty and inherent rights.
    Finally, I want to note that consultation requires consent. It is quite clear the government does not understand that concept. It is not about having a meeting with a few people or getting a sense of what somebody says. It is about a true consultation process where the people who are consulted provide their consent to do that very same thing. That is nowhere to be found in the process leading up to shaping Bill S-2.
    Bill S-2 connects to the Indian Act, which is firmly rooted in colonialism, racism and misogyny. According to principles of sovereignty and human rights, to negotiate such laws instead of redefining the relationship between Canada and first nations is the wrong path to take.


    Inherent gender discrimination written into the Indian Act is responsible for the problems we now face with matrimonial real property. The worst thing we could do right now is to write new laws that commit the same mistakes as the old. We must not act paternalistically toward aboriginal woman. We are bound ethically and by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to incorporate not some but all of their recommendations. It is not a selective project.
    Bill S-2 unfortunately fails to do that.
    The Assembly of First Nations does not support it. The Native Women's Association of Canada does not support it. The majority of aboriginal women do not support it. We as New Democrats are listening to their voices and we stand in solidarity with them. We do not support it.
    We do not claim to know what is best, but Bill S-2 is not only ethically problematic, it is also logistically impossible to implement for various reasons. Let us go into those reasons. It is all fine and well to talk about legislation, but I know many of the members across the way are familiar, in part because some of them represent first nations, with the very real challenges that first nations face.
    There is a lack of financial resources to support first nation governments to implement law. Let me give an example on a slightly different note that truly indicates the lack of resources first nations have.
    I was visiting Bunibonibee Cree Nation in northern Manitoba, also known as Oxford House, two weeks ago. It is a community that has struggled with young people living on the margins, young people who drop out of school and who engage in activities that involve violence and abuse. Leaders in that community want to provide ways for young people to live healthier lifestyles.
    They wanted to apply for a grant offered by Public Safety Canada to get money for a recreation program for these young people. They heard about this grant quite late because they do not have enough staff in their office to be able to go through all of the messages and memos they receive from the office in Winnipeg. They do not have enough staff to fill out the application and the letter of intent.
    After it was filled out, just because bad things sometimes happen in threes, there was a power outage in Oxford House, Gods River, Gods Lake Narrows and the Island Lake area. The storm that knocked the power out was so bad that the people from Manitoba Hydro could not come in and fix the power. For two and a half days, people were shut out of their offices, the two and a half days prior to when this application was due. A community that needs this grant more than so many others, and along with so many others, was unable to do the very basic task of submitting the application.
    We can blame it on weather when it comes to the power outage, but we cannot discount the fact that the community has said time and time again that it does not have the resources to hire people who can help them get the kind of programming and support it needs.
    There is a lack of funding for lawyers. There is a lack of funding regarding limited geographic access to provincial courts. I represent 22 isolated communities. Bands have barely enough money to make do, as I noted, with basic services, let alone travelling out to access lawyers and provincial courts.
    Fundamentally I would like to end with perhaps the greatest injustice. If we really wanted to address the kinds of violent situations that aboriginal women face in terms of unsafe housing and the kind of marginalization that they face in their communities, we would talk about the lack of on-reserve housing and the land mass that exists today on first nations across this country.
     These are third world conditions, conditions that day in and day out shape the lives of aboriginal women and provide immense challenges to their moving forward and to Canada moving forward.
    I would ask that the government be genuine in its attempt to stand with aboriginal women, look at getting rid of Bill S-2 and truly make a difference for aboriginal women in Canada.


    Mr. Speaker, I have been very surprised and somewhat saddened during this debate. It seems that we are having a discussion about or at least the opposition is putting forward that in order to establish equality in Canada for all Canadians, fundamental human rights and gender equality, which are things we all believe strongly in, we should consult first. They say we cannot have equality without consultation.
    I think that is profoundly wrong. The fact that an aboriginal woman does not have the same matrimonial real property rights as any other woman in this country is something we should all hang our heads in shame about. It is fundamental equality we are talking about.
    We do not need to consult or negotiate or have a summit, or any of the other things that they would propose over there, to simply come to the understanding that equality is the right thing to do and inequality is wrong. That is what they are standing up for. Perhaps the hon. member would like to say why.
    Mr. Speaker, I would venture a guess that the hon. member is not reading from his speaking notes. To even utter the words that consultation is not important when one is working with aboriginal people is an affront to the kind of system that Canada is built on. It is a very dangerous statement to make and it really flies in the face of the kinds of agreements we have committed to.
    Aboriginal women are also aboriginal. That the government does not want to consult with them, with the organizations that represent them, with the bands in which they live and in many cases in which they are councillors and leaders, is frankly shocking. I am sure first nations and all Canadians who hear this will see this as not just shocking but really turning back the clock on the kind of Canada we would like to build.


    Mr. Speaker, it is somewhat insulting to hear the members opposite talk about equity, equality and consultations. I will not go into the details, but all the Conservatives have been doing since the 41st Parliament began is infringing on human rights. As a result, when they talk about basic principles related to human rights, it is really insulting. The members opposite have no respect for equity or equality.
    That being said, I would like to come back to what my colleague was saying in her excellent speech: why are consultations important and why do we want the first nations and the public to be consulted? It is a question of equality. We want to speak with these people as equals. It is only by consulting them and respecting their culture and demands that we will be able to agree on bills that respect the elements and principles of equality. We must build a nation-to-nation relationship.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, who did an excellent job of presenting the NDP's position. The NDP is the only party that really stands in solidarity with first nations. The NDP has a vision of this country where first nations are respected on the basis of a nation-to-nation relationship. We are not simply paying lip service; we truly believe that this is what is right. And this is how we will proceed.
    First nations needs to be recognized as nations and this relationship must be expressed in everything we do. When we talk about the rights of aboriginal women, we in the NDP do not regard these women as the same as every other woman, like the Conservatives do. Aboriginal women have certain rights that are recognized in our laws and in the UN declaration, and we recognize them as such. Let us be clear.
    The Government of Canada apparently already has its own position. Let us proceed based on our vision, if the Conservatives do not wish to present theirs.



    Mr. Speaker, both parties are indicating that they do not think Status of Women Canada should end up with this bill and that Aboriginal Affairs should. I have a report in my hand from 2006, which I would like to share. It is a report from the Standing Committee on Status of Women, which states:
    Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), your committee reviewed matrimonial real property rights on reserves. Your committee heard evidence on this matter, the result of which is contained in this report.
    This was one of the recommendations:
    Whereas immediate solutions, not further study, are required to move this issue forward;
    The member opposite indicated that aboriginal rights are not the same as everyone else's rights and that aboriginal women have rights too. We know that. That is what Bill S-2 is about. We are trying to give aboriginal women the same rights we have. I would like to ask the member opposite, will she give aboriginal women rights?
    Mr. Speaker, I am really disappointed that the government has lowered its standard of debate; although, I am not surprised because we see it everyday on that side of the House.
    I take encouragement from the other side that Conservatives are looking at recommendations that have been made by parliamentary studies. I wish they would look at all of the recommendations made, which are ones that New Democrats have referenced as the reason we cannot support Bill S-2.
    Let me be clear on the concept of consultation. This is not a new concept. It is a concept that is enshrined in our Constitution and our commitment to the UN declaration. It is absolutely shocking that the government wants to discount the commitments we have as Canadians. That is the very problematic point.
    I would really love to hear from the government as to the full extent of the action plan it has to work with aboriginal women, so that they are not the most marginalized people in Canada and they do not face the levels of violence and poverty they are facing. Let us look at the bigger picture. Could the government answer why it has cut aboriginal women's organizations to the point that some of them do not exist? Perhaps it could spend its energy on that.


    Mr. Speaker, my friend, the member for Churchill, was spot on in saying that consultation must lead to consent. When we look at how several groups have reacted to this bill, we see clear opposition, particularly from the Native Women's Association of Canada, which does not agree with this bill, the Assembly of First Nations and the Aboriginal Women’s Summit. Ellen Gabriel, the former president of Quebec Native Women's Association, and Dr. Palmater, a lawyer and professor of aboriginal law at Ryerson University, are also opposed to this bill. These individuals have very prominent voices, and they are very familiar with the housing problems in aboriginal communities.
    With this bill, the way that the government is reacting and the arguments it has presented, I can see that it wants to force an inadequate legislative solution down the throats of the first nations, without actually solving the problems.
    I would like the member for Churchill to comment in more detail on the fact that consultation must lead to consent; otherwise solutions are forced on people, which is a completely inadequate way of addressing the problem.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for sharing the list of organizations, aboriginal women and leaders who oppose Bill S-2.
    This government is perpetuating a colonial and paternal relationship in which it wants to impose its own vision instead of respecting aboriginal women, instead of respecting the fact that they are the ones who must take the lead, and instead of respecting and focusing on the consultations.
    We, and Canadians, I am sure, think that the government is being old-fashioned by trying to introduce a bill without consultation, when we know that aboriginal women and organizations are opposed to the way it is being presented.



    We have moved on. They should move on with the rest of us.


    Mr. Speaker, I will split my speaking time with my colleague, the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.
     As we have heard in a number of speeches delivered today, Canada's aboriginal women are in an extremely tough situation. Statistics show that, compared to the rest of the population, first nations women suffer more spousal violence and are at greater risk of living in poverty.
     The many legal voids with respect to reserves leave aboriginal women even more vulnerable. In family law in non-aboriginal regions, when a married couple divorces, the division of family, real and personal property is determined by provincial legislation, which is not at all the case on the reserves, since they are under federal jurisdiction. In 1986, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the courts may not enforce provincial law on reserves. That decision by the highest court in the land confirmed the legal void, and many reports since then have emphasized the need to find a solution in the interests of first nations peoples.
     A solution to this legal void is very urgently needed. Currently, aboriginal women who get separated or divorced lose everything. They have to leave the home and are often deprived of their children, and if their name does not appear on the title of ownership, judges cannot rule that they may keep the house or retain any part of their matrimonial property.
     Where they are victims of family violence, the court cannot issue an order for exclusive possession of the family home or a restraining order, that is to say an order prohibiting the abusive spouse from approaching or communicating with his spouse. A number of protective mechanisms have been put in place over the years to protect women from spousal violence, but they cannot be enforced on reserves.
     Note that, according to Statistics Canada, aboriginal women suffer violence three times more often than non-aboriginal women. It is therefore really necessary to take action, as everyone will agree.
     In 2003, a Senate committee emphasized that measures previously taken by first nations to resolve this issue had to be acknowledged.
     In 2005, a report by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development underscored the importance of acknowledging first nations' inherent jurisdiction over matrimonial real property and of authorizing aboriginal people to adopt their own regimes, which is not at all recognized in Bill S-2.
     By virtue of the inherent right to self-determination acknowledged by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada has signed, the federal government must obtain the consent of aboriginal peoples before adopting legislation that will alter any matter directly affecting aboriginal lands. Unfortunately, as has been repeated many times today, this is not at all what Bill S-2 contains, any more than previous bills.
     The opinion of the first nations, the main parties concerned here, has not been considered. They may have been consulted, but there has been no consent by the parties concerned, which means this bill is an affront to the principles of self-government and self-determination. What is the problem?
     In 2006, the then Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development held nationwide consultations on the issue of matrimonial property. The goal was to find a solution to the legal vacuum and to ensure that the rights of first nations women were taken into consideration, that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was respected and that there was an acceptable balance between first nations individual and collective rights. The consultation process involved planning, consultation and consensus-building. The parties consulted did not reach a consensus, which means that, in introducing Bill S-2, neither the Senate nor the Conservative government is being respectful of aboriginal peoples. Both are imposing their way of thinking and their way of doing on the first nations.
     The consultations also shed light on substantive problems, such as the lack of access to courts for those living far from major urban centres, the acute shortage of housing on reserve and the lack of financial resources to arrive at fair solutions in divorce cases.
     The Senate bill provides no solution to any of these basic social issues. However, the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development clearly recommended that financial assistance be granted to the first nations so that they could develop their own code for matrimonial real property and that any new piece of legislation would not apply to the first nations who had developed their own code.
     It is worth reminding the government of the deplorable living conditions on the reserves. A study by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada ranks the reserves 63rd among the nations of the world in terms of quality of life, that is, among the third world countries, according to the United Nations human development index.


     According to Health Canada, 12% of first nations communities must boil their water before drinking it, and about one quarter of water systems on the reserves present a high risk for human health. Housing density is twice as high as it is among the general population. Nearly one in four adults lives in an overcrowded home. Approximately 423,000 people live in substandard and overcrowded housing that is deteriorating rapidly.
     Since this government came to power, it has done absolutely nothing to address the lack of social housing. The United Nations have called on Canada to act on a number of occasions, but this government prefers to discredit the UN and its representatives. There is no point in passing a bill that cannot be implemented. Even if matrimonial property is divided up, where will the spouses who leave the family home go to live if there is a shortage of housing?
     Here is a statement that clearly describes the misery experienced by aboriginal women:
    An aboriginal woman committed suicide earlier this year after the authorities apprehended her children. The woman, who had five children, was forced to leave her reserve due to a chronic housing shortage. However, she could not find affordable housing off the reserve. Due to her financial situation she was forced to live in a rundown boarding house with her five children. She sought assistance from the authorities to find affordable housing for her and her children. The authorities responded by apprehending her children. At that point, the woman, sadly, lost all hope and took her life.
    According to the Native Women's Association of Canada:
    The bill will put women who are experiencing family violence at further risk by forcing them to wait long periods for justice without adequate social supports, services or shelters.
    Bill S-2 has other major flaws. Its community approval process does not respect aboriginal traditions of consensus. Bill S-2 does not require a majority of people to participate in the vote; it only requires a participation rate of 25%. This is not very democratic, nor is it representative of all band members.
    The bill constitutes a one-dimensional approach to a very complex problem. The chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, believes that Ottawa is acting unilaterally by introducing this bill, and that aboriginal peoples should solve the problem. Why is this government incapable of listening to and working with first nations? Instead of working with them to solve problems, it prefers to impose trusteeship on aboriginal governments, as it did in Attawapiskat. In 2012, this paternalistic approach should no longer be acceptable. This is not the colonial era.
    The federal government must treat first nations with respect and recognize their right to self-government. Members of the official opposition believe that this bill should not be passed. This is a shoddy bill and it does not respect the rights of aboriginal peoples whatsoever. It should be replaced by another bill, ideally a good bill that addresses the lack of financial resources to help first nations governments apply the law, provides legal aid and better access to courts in remote areas, and provides financial assistance to build housing on reserves.
    A western-style legal approach is not the only solution. In fact, first nations people have their own traditions when it comes to conflict resolution. A good bill should reinforce traditional aboriginal institutions. In order to find lasting solutions to social problems on reserve, aboriginal governments expect the federal government to recognize their right to self-determination. I would like to quote Ellen Gabriel, a former Quebec Native Women's Association president:
    It is reprehensible that the Government of Canada is so eager to pass legislation that seriously impacts the collective human rights of indigenous peoples without adequate consultations which requires the free, prior and informed consent of aboriginal peoples. While it is understood that legislation is not accompanied by commitments to adequate financial and human resources necessary to implement laws, these bills will create further financial hardships on first nations communities.
    Some first nations have adopted a proactive approach and have worked with their communities to develop rules and policies related to matrimonial property. Bill S-2 flies in the face of the values of first nations and only does more harm to first nations families. We simply cannot support such a bill, because it completely disrespects Canada's aboriginal people.



    Mr. Speaker, I have a basic question for my hon. colleague.
    I am not sure if she is married, but I will say that if any married woman in this House went through a divorce, she would have the absolute right to the property and assets she had acquired during the marriage. That is the law, and we all know it. When we go through a divorce, we get to have at least half of the assets that had been acquired during the marriage. Is the member aware that aboriginal women do not have this right at all? I am not exaggerating; this is a fact in Canada.
    All Canadian women have basic rights to the property they acquired during a marriage, and should a divorce occur they would get half of those assets, as it should be, unless she is an aboriginal woman. Then she has zero ability to get any property. She has no right to the assets that had been acquired.
    Can my hon. colleague tell me if she thinks that is fair or right? Is that a just society? Do the women in the NDP caucus support this kind of segregation and prejudice toward aboriginal women?


    Mr. Speaker, it is so insulting that the member is asking me such a question. Clearly, I am aware of the fact that there is discrimination among aboriginal people with regard to certain rights, particularly in the case of divorce. Everyone is aware of this and wants the problem to be resolved. But even representatives of aboriginal women are against this bill because consent was not obtained from the first nations.
    The government held consultations, but it did not take into account the recommendations made by the first nations. Aboriginal people's self-governance is not being respected. Many lawyers are saying that this is not just a matter of discrimination but of giving first nations the resources they need to have decent living conditions.
    We must tackle the problem of affordable housing and housing in general. We must tackle the problems of health and poverty. We must improve access to legal recourse. We must resolve the lack of basic justice. Bill S-2 is a complete botch-up that does not address any of these issues. It is very insulting that this government is not able to recognize that.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her excellent speech on Bill S-2. This is an extremely important perspective that the House must be made aware of. We must take the time to listen to what members are saying in their remarks.
    My colleague said something that is very interesting. Many recommendations were made and many studies were conducted in the parliamentary system, but almost none of those recommendations were included in the reports produced by the Senate and the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
    The government is cutting back on its consultations with the groups involved and is not taking into account the recommendations made. Does my colleague believe that this is becoming too much of a habit for the government when introducing bills?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Alfred-Pellan, who was spot on with her comments. The government has a habit of imposing its way of doing things and its vision without respecting the traditional and cultural rights of aboriginals. The government tries to impose all of its decisions without any consultation or consideration of the opinions of experts and partners.
    Here, the government is forcing a transitional measure spread out over 12 months down our throats. The first nations do not agree with that. They say that 12 months is far too short and that they would need a two-, three- or even ten-year transition period.
    Furthermore, this does not address the underlying issues that are at the source of a lot of the violence. Many issues are being addressed on the surface only, but they would have us believe that they are addressing the problem of violence and are helping women. Women want more financial resources so that this can be done properly.



    Mr. Speaker, I am standing in the House on behalf of my constituents of Kanesatake who have outwardly expressed their opposition to this. I have consulted with the band and spoken with Ellen Gabriel, a member of the band of Kanesatake, and can clearly and without reservation say that first nations do not agree with this legislation.
    Bill S-2 makes changes to the Indian Act that will allow provincial family law to apply on reserves in the event of a matrimonial breakdown or the death of a spouse or a partner. While the intention of the act is to give equal property rights to both spouses in the event of a separation, the problem is that the bill cannot be implemented and that the government completely ignored any consultation when preparing the legislation. Otherwise, it would have known that the bill could not be implemented.
    There is a legal vacuum concerning real property on reserve due to the jurisdictional divide between provinces and territories, who have jurisdiction over property and civil rights within provinces, and the federal government, which has a jurisdiction to legislate regarding “Indians and lands reserved for Indians”.
    The Indian Act does not provide for the division of MRP upon marriage breakdown, and first nation jurisdiction is not explicitly recognized by Canada in this area. This is a problem. However, anyone who is paying attention to the situation and issues facing first nations in Canada knows that it is the Indian Act that is flawed beyond repair.
    New Democrats support the will of the Assembly of First Nations and the many individual nations that have explicitly called on the House to scrap the Indian Act of 1876. We need to begin anew. We need to do this through a broadly consultative process with equal partners. That is key. We need to understand that we are talking about equal partners in Confederation. That is the only way we are going to move forward out of this existing colonial structure.
    We need to write laws for indigenous peoples that are not founded on colonialism and racism, like the Indian Act is. We need to do it while recognizing that first nations have an inherent right to their land and to govern themselves. That would be the way to move forward, through collaboration, consultation and in good faith. I believe that Canada can take effective steps toward de-colonialization of aboriginal peoples in this country. The Indian Act is not the road map toward de-colonialization; it is a template through which Canada colonized indigenous peoples in the first place.
     The legislative gap surrounding matrimonial real property, MRP, is a problem created by the Indian act, which neglects to account for the division of property in the event of a matrimonial breakdown. It is a function of the Indian Act to place all reserve land and care for status Indians under the fiduciary responsibility of the Government of Canada. I do not think it is a matter of opinion at this point in history that Canada has not lived up to its responsibility and that it continues not to provide equality for first nations, as exemplified by the fact that first nations child welfare and schools continue to be grossly underfunded compared to non-first nations children by about 30%, according to the Auditor General.
    When it comes to matrimonial real property, the obvious problem that arises from the jurisdictional gap created by the Indian Act is that an aboriginal woman is often not entitled to the lands or home she once shared with her spouse. Therefore, it would seem logical from a very shallow perspective, like the government has, that we should simply write a law that gives women on reserves the benefits of provincial matrimonial laws, thus neatly filling a legislative gap. However, this simply does not work in reality for the women living on reserve. First nations people do not own the land they are on. They cannot simply sell or divide the land in way that a non-first nations person can own, sell and divide land.


    Even if the band council wanted to give a woman her own property on reserve, it would not be able to do so, as there is not enough land. We are seeing this problem in Kanesatake. The government is constantly causing problems and delays and changing the rules of the game while Kanesatake is trying to move forward. It is trying to have jurisdiction over its land for future generations. The government is not doing that for them; it is just continuing to cause problems.
    We cannot talk about land without actually addressing the problem that first nations do not have jurisdiction over the land, or do not have the ability to control what is going on with their land, and cannot access the lands that are traditionally theirs.
    As I was saying, the trouble with Bill S-2 is that, practically speaking, it is impossible to implement. Therefore, Bill S-2 has become an insincere and overly simplistic attempt to rectify a very complex problem caused by the Indian Act.
    There are obvious gender discrimination problems with MRP on reserve, but the reason we cannot implement it is the lack of financial resources to support first nations governments actually implementing laws, including a lack of funding for lawyers. This is a problem, again, in Kanesatake. It is resulting in more and more debt whenever it has to defend its land from a mining company.
    There is also a lack of funding to address first nations' limited geographic access to provincial courts. First nations, particularly aboriginal peoples living in remote areas, cannot necessarily easily access a provincial court, where they would have to go to defend MRP.
    Moreover, there is a lack of on-reserve housing and land mass, which would be necessary to give both spouses separate homes on reserve. In a sense we would be doubling the amount of land needed for some people. The land just is not there. The housing is not there. There is the difficulty of getting more resources to maintain and build more homes on reserve, let alone the lack of space to put them on.
    The government would know all of this if it actually took the trouble to consult and actually do the consultation required. By the way, consultation does not mean the government receiving a letter from first nations indicating what the latter want and then ignoring it. It means actually having a real discussion and coming to solutions together on equal footing.
    According to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UNDRIP, consultation requires consent. Canada has conducted limited consultation, but no consent was given. Therefore, Bill S-2 is in violation of UNDRIP, something to which we are a signatory, although it was difficult to get us on board. The Government of Canada, in all its previous forms and its current one, does not actually want to address meaningfully the problem of colonialism and racism toward first nations people. UNDRIP requires free, prior and informed consent on any matter relating to the lands and welfare of rights holders—not to mention the fact that we are basically continuing to ignore the Constitution Act, which states that first nations have jurisdiction over their own internal affairs.
    Accordingly, New Democrats are not going to support this legislation. We need to have non-legislative remedies to problems that are occurring in the government's relations with first nations. We need to actually address violence against aboriginal women. What we have been doing up until now has not actually been addressing that. If the government were on the ground, if it had consulted, it would know this. If it had not ignored the testimony given at the status of women committee, it would know this.
    We also need to address the housing crisis. We need to end the systematic underfunding that is perpetuating discrimination across generations.


    The Conservatives just want to put a law on the books and say that they have solved the problem without actually dealing with the underlying problem. They continue to ignore first nations women's voices that are calling for us to have a meaningful discussion, to stop managing first nations like colonial subjects and to truly understand that they are partners in this confederation.
    Mr. Speaker, I share my colleague's concerns for women's issues. We have actually participated in events encouraging women to run for politics. I appreciate her enthusiasm and keen interest to ensure there is equality for women across the country.
    As some of my colleagues have pointed out this morning, aboriginal women lack a fundamental right that the rest of the women and my colleague in the House share today, which is if we are in a relationship that ends, we receive or have the right to receive 50% or more of the property that was part of that relationship. This is a fundamental right. If any of us stood in the House today to share a story where that was not the case, there would be shared outrage and concern for a lack of equality.
    Why does my colleague, who I know shares these concerns with me, refuse aboriginals the same rights that we in the House today have to our property.
    Mr. Speaker, the government is ignoring the rights of aboriginals to have their own ability to control these things.
    Ellen Gabriel is a member of Kanesatake, which is within my riding. She is a former Quebec Native Women's Association president. She said:
    It is reprehensible that the Government of Canada is so eager to pass legislation [that seriously impacts the collective human rights of Indigenous peoples] without adequate consultations which requires the free, prior and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples. While it is understood that legislation is not accompanied by commitments to adequate financial and human resources necessary to implement laws, these Bills will create further financial hardships on First Nations communities.
    While no one will argue against the fact that solutions must be found on the issue of gender discrimination in regards to MRP or that we must work together to find ways to help First Nations communities to have access to safe drinking water. Sharing equal responsibility requires the means to effectively implement measures that do not create further burden upon communities; financial or otherwise.
    The thing with this bill is that it will require more financial resources and actual consultation so we can implement rights for aboriginal peoples, not—
    Order, please. The hon. member for London—Fanshawe.
    Mr. Speaker, as a former member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, my colleague most certainly has some insight into the situation.
    Interestingly enough, as an MP in an area that contains a reserve, the member will also be very aware of the fact that the resources are quite limited in terms of land mass, educational opportunities and of federal investment.
    Regarding the fact that there has, for a number of years, been a 2% cap on investments or financial resources given to first nations, despite the fact that is an exploding population and the fastest population growth in Canada, I am interested in her ideas and comments, as a member with a reservation in her area.


    Mr. Speaker, one thing that has recently happened in Kanesatake is having its NCBR funding cut, unexpectedly. It just did not come in and it normally comes in every year. After attempting to find out what was going on, finally there was a letter from AAND saying that it had cut the funding, it was over and Kanesatake was not getting any, final decision. This is extremely frustrating. It took about six or seven months to get the letter to understand what was happening.
    NCBR funding went toward youth centres where children would go after school if they did not have anywhere else to go, and that had programming. The funding also provided lunch programs at the schools. There are so many kids who cannot afford to have lunch and will not have a meal that day unless the school provides it for them. We are talking about serious problems. Ignoring these problems and implementing bills unilaterally that would cause more financial problems is worse for aboriginal rights than supposedly solving MRP.
    Mr. Speaker, I will proudly be sharing my time with the member for Sudbury.
    I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this bill. I have been listening to the debate this morning, starting off with the Minister for Status of Women, who kicked it off. My analysis of what I have heard so far is that the minister and the Conservative members of the House, who stood to speak to the bill, are being paternalistic. Members may wonder how that can be as they are women. It is still possible for women to be paternalistic. That is what we are hearing in the House.
    The minister made a comment in one of her answers about the opposition saying that we should consult, consult, consult, that we have had enough with consultation and it was time for action. What does it mean if the government consults when it actually does not take those recommendations? Is that actually consultation? I do not think it is. It is bogus consultation to gather everybody in a room together, nod thoughtfully, with the appropriate tasks and yeses, and then totally ignore everything that was said.
     The Conservatives have put together a bill that is not based on consultation. They stand here all sanctimonious saying that the opposition will not stand up for women, aboriginal women and first nations people. We are standing up for women. That is what I am doing right now. I am standing up for human rights in Canada. What the Conservatives did is not consultation. It is disrespectful and paternalistic.
    The intention of the bill is to give equal property rights to both spouses in the event of separation. We know that same sex marriages are legal in Canada, that is something I am really proud of, but in the majority of cases we are talking about on reserve and, in this case, historically that is generally a man and a woman. What the bill tries to do is effect equal property rights distribution. However, we do not believe it can be implemented for lots reasons, many of which have been enumerated by first nations stakeholders.
    Parliament has heard these concerns time and time again, but the Conservatives keep ignoring them. Imposing provincial legislation on first nations without their consent is ethically and practically problematic. It ignores their inherent rights and sovereignty.
    If I were drafting a bill about matrimonial property rights on reserve, who would I consult? I would probably consult widely, but put a lot of weight on any testimony or any opinion that the Native Women's Association had, as well as the Assembly of First Nations.
    The Native Women's Association and the Assembly of First Nations both demand better legislation because the consequences of passing this legislation are so dire. Therefore, we oppose this bill, along with those two key groups and many experts across the country.
    I mentioned that the Conservatives were ignoring that consultation. What exactly are they ignoring? The Assembly of First Nations facilitated a dialogue around matrimonial property rights and found the following three broad principles that would be key to addressing matrimonial property rights on reserve: first, recognition of first nations jurisdiction; second, access to justice, dispute resolution and remedies; and third, addressing underlying issues such as access to housing and economic security. That is what came out of the AFN-facilitated dialogue. Bill S-2 does not deal in a meaningful way with any of those issues.
    What else do we know the Conservatives are ignoring? There is a 2004 Senate report called "Still Waiting”, which highlighted the need for action on matrimonial property rights. It also recommended that the issue be referred to the aboriginal affairs committee.
    We have heard lots of folks in the House talk about the fact that this will go to the status of women committee and not the aboriginal affairs committee. There is another solid recommendation that has been ignored.
    We also had an aboriginal affairs committee report in 2005 called “Walking Arm-in-Arm”. This was the first study to consult with the Native Women's Association and the AFN, along with other first nation stakeholders. That is a positive step.


    These were their recommendations: first, that the Native Women's Association of Canada and Assembly of First Nations be consulted in order to draft legislation, or Indian Act amendments; second, provide funds to help first nations draft their own matrimonial property rights codes; third, legislation should not apply to first nations that draft their own codes; fourth, amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to apply on reserves; and fifth, stress that all recommendations be Canada's recognition of first nations' inherent right of self-governance.
    Not all of these recommendations are being taken into account in Bill S-2. That is what is being ignored. The bill is an insincere and overly simplistic attempt to rectify what is really a complex problem that is brought about by the Indian Act.
    I am not, contrary to the minister's accusation, saying to continue to consult and consult needlessly. I am saying that we should listen to the consultation, take the ideas that came from it and use them, because it would be impossible to implement Bill S-2. It looks nice on paper, but it would be impossible to implement because of a lack of financial resources to support first nations governments to actually implement the law. It would be impossible to implement because of a lack of funding for lawyers and legal advice. It would be impossible to implement because of a lack of funding to account for limited geographic access to provincial courts. It would be impossible to implement the bill because of a lack of on-reserve housing and land mass that would be necessary to give both spouses separate homes on the reserve.
    What does it mean when it is printed on paper and is passed and enacted? What does it mean if we cannot realize these rights in first nations communities?
    We have heard from a number of my colleagues, and I agree with them. The NDP will not support any changes to matrimonial property legislation that are not accompanied by non-legislative remedies to serious problems. That would include ending violence against aboriginal women, addressing the housing crisis on reserves and ending systematic funding discrimination against first nation children. Those are the key things that need to be present if we are to look at the issue of matrimonial property rights.
    I have stood in the House and listened to the debate. I have listened to the heckles from the sideline. I have listened to the member from Portage—Lisgar saying that we should be hanging our heads in shame over here. I have listened to her heckle from the other side saying that it is really important to recognize aboriginal rights and that we should be ashamed of ourselves for standing in the way of that. Well, if she will not listen to opposition members, if she refuses to do that, maybe at the very least she will listen to Ellen Gabriel, former president of the Quebec Native Women's Association and AFN grand chief candidate. She said:
    It is reprehensible that the Government of Canada is so eager to pass legislation [that seriously impacts the collective human rights of Indigenous peoples] without adequate consultations which requires the free, prior and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples. While it is understood that legislation is not accompanied by commitments to adequate financial and human resources necessary to implement laws, these Bills will create further financial hardships on First Nations communities.
    While no one will argue against the fact that solutions must be found on the issue of gender discrimination in regards to MRP or that we must work together to find ways to help First Nations communities to have access to safe drinking water. Sharing equal responsibility requires the means to effectively implement measures that do not create further burden upon communities; financial or otherwise.
    Should Ms. Gabriel hang her head in shame? Should she be ashamed for refusing to acknowledge women's rights?
    Maybe the Conservatives will listen to Dr. Pam Palmater, who is a practising lawyer and professor of aboriginal law at Ryerson and a member of the Mi'kmaq Nation on the east coast. She talked quite a bit in committee about why the legislation was bad, why it should not be brought forward and why it should not be passed. Should Dr. Palmater be hanging her head in shame for not standing up for first nation women's rights? I hardly think so.
    If the Conservatives refuse to listen to the opposition on this, at the very least they should have the respect to listen to the men and women who testified at committee, who have spoken out loud and clear on this issue and who are the real experts about how this will play out in their communities.


    Mr. Speaker, I am shocked that the opposition has had this paternalistic stand, saying that aboriginal women do not deserve the same rights as all Canadian women across this great land of ours.
    I am particularly surprised because, as a member who has worked in the downtown east side of Vancouver, I have seen the ramifications of the fact that women do not have these rights on reserve. I have seen the women and their children on the streets. I have seen the women and their children having no money. I have seen the women suffer because there is this legislative gap that our government wants to correct.
    I have also worked on the other side, with the YWCA in Vancouver to create social housing, to put a roof over heads, to put breakfast programs in place so that those children and those women can have what is a basic right.
    To sit here today and hear that the opposition is saying these women should not have the same rights as every other woman across Canada is shocking. That means the spouses will not be able to have a house; they will not be able to have access to financial supports. I find that shocking.
    Mr. Speaker, it is interesting how shocked she is. I am shocked at how little this member actually knows about this legislation.
    First of all, it applies to on-reserve housing and matrimonial property rights on reserve, not women in downtown Vancouver.
    If the member is so concerned about women having access to housing on reserve, then she should stop for a second and look at this law, look at the fact that it is saying we would create a legal regime here that actually would leave people homeless. There are no resources on many reserves to be able to actually have the housing there for men and women who do separate. This law has been written in a vacuum with absolutely no eye to how it would actually play out on reserve.
    Back to Dr. Palmater, she herself said that if the minister actually listened to the voices of aboriginal women, he would have heard that aboriginal people do not want this bill as it is currently drafted. He would have also heard that what they do want is gender equality addressed in all of Canada's legislative initiatives.


    Mr. Speaker, first I would like to thank the member for Halifax for her excellent speech.
    She also gave an interesting overview of the situation and of what is presented in Bill S-2. She pointed out that the government did not listen at the consultations and did not pay attention to the recommendations in some of the reports tabled in the House.
    I also think she touched on a very interesting point, which is that the first nations currently receive inadequate funding.
    I would like to hear my colleague speak more about the fact that we should have listened to aboriginal women's groups on this subject, and that we should have examined other important issues for the first nations, such as providing adequate funding but also scrapping the Indian Act.



    Mr. Speaker, I will paraphrase the Native Women's Association of Canada's testimony about this bill.
    They talked about holes in the quilt that were going to happen because of the creation of this bill. There actually is not funding in place to enact this legislation. They talked about the fact that they needed more time. They talked about a long-term plan—two years, five years, ten years—and that this sort of twelve-month turnaround is not sufficient for their communities to react.
    This legal regime would be created with absolutely no resources on the ground to implement it or to uphold it. The Native Women's Association actually said these are not the types of plans they need. They need plans that are developed in co-operation with first nations and not just have government design it and then have this patchwork input from first nations.
    My hon. colleague is absolutely bang on in her analysis.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Halifax for a speech that was well said, and as usual, she is bang on.
    Bill S-2 is an act concerning matrimonial real property on first nations reserve land. It makes changes to the Indian Act to allow for provincial family law to apply on reserves in the event of matrimonial breakdown or on the death of a spouse or common-law partner. While the intention of this act is to give equal property rights to both spouses in the event of separation, the bill cannot be implemented for many important reasons enumerated by first nations stakeholders. Parliament has heard these serious concerns again and again. The Conservatives have ignored these concerns in the drafting of Bill S-2. Imposing provincial legislation on first nations without their consent is ethically and practically problematic and ignores their inherent rights and sovereignty.
    The federal Conservatives went to the trouble of consulting with first nations and the Native Women's Association on matrimonial real property, but ignored the results of the consultation when preparing the original legislation. While this iteration of the bill removes some of the most onerous parts of previous legislative attempts, it still refuses to recognize first nations' inherent rights and jurisdictions in this matter.
    The Native Women's Association and the Assembly of First Nations both demand better legislation because the consequence of passing inadequate legislation is so dire. New Democrats oppose this bill along with the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women's Association of Canada and many nations and experts across the country. Bill S-2 is the fourth iteration of similar legislation that the Conservatives have tried to pass since 2008. The NDP has opposed these every time they come up for debate.
    The Assembly of First Nations facilitated dialogue and found three broad principles are key to addressing matrimonial rights and interests on reserves. One is the recognition of first nation jurisdiction; two is the access to justice, dispute resolution and remedies; and three is addressing underlying issues such as access to housing and economic security. Bill S-2 does not deal in a meaningful way with these three key principles.
    There are two kinds of property: real and personal. Real property includes lands and things permanently attached to the land, such as a house. Personal property includes things that can be moved, such as furniture and money. Bill S-2 deals with matrimonial real property on reserves, property shared between spouses in a conjugal relationship or between common-law partners. There is a legal vacuum concerning real property on reserve due to a jurisdictional divide between provinces and territories, which have jurisdiction over property and civil rights within the provinces, and the federal government, which has jurisdiction to legislate Indians and lands reserved for Indians.
    The Indian Act does not provide for the division of MRP upon marriage breakdown, and first nations jurisdiction is not explicitly recognized by Canada. This has led to major legal cases, which were dismissed by provincial courts because the provincial law cannot apply to lands on Indian reserves. Thus, a legislative gap was identified. Five different parliamentary studies have been conducted on MRP.
    In 2003, “A Hard Bed to Lie In” identified the legislative gap and the fact that women have no rights in marriage breakdowns and that resulted in the fact that they have no choice but to leave their homes. It recommended that provincial civil law be applied on reserve.
    In 2004, “Still Waiting” highlighted the need for precipitous action on MRP and recommended that issues be referred to Aboriginal Affairs and that consultation be conducted in a timely manner. It identified the lack of clarity for the rights of women on reserves as a human rights issue that was incurring reprimand from the UN.


    “Walking Arm in Arm”, in 2005, was the first study to consult the Native Women's Association and the Assembly of First Nations, among other first nation stakeholders. Among its recommendations were, one, that the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations be consulted in order to draft legislation or amendments; two, that funds be provided to help first nations draft their own MPR codes; three, that legislation should not apply to first nations that draft their own codes; four, that the Canadian Human Rights Act be amended to apply on reserves; and five, it stressed that all recommendations be Canada's recognition of first nations inherent right of self-governance.
    The Status of Women report, 2006, identified the barriers to the solutions proposed by MPR legislation, including insufficient funding to implement it, chronic housing shortages on reserves and lack of high-level consultation. Again, the need for consultation and funding was a recommendation.
    In her ministerial representative report in 2006, Wendy Grant-John stated that no consensus had been found regarding legislation that could apply to MPR. The report recommended, among other things, that the current jurisdictional model be used where first nations law was paramount and that the government needed to identify the real costs of implementing provincial legislation on reserves.
    All the previous bills, and now Bill S-2, neglect almost all of the recommendations made by all of those reports.
    In this version of the bill, a first nations own matrimonial real property law would have a lower ratification threshold. In the past bill, a majority of band members had to vote in favour of the law, 50% plus one. Now the law must be approved by a simple majority of those who have voted, with set participation of at least 25% of eligible voters.
    The bill would introduce a 12-month transition period. This period would be too short to deal with many issues that need to be addressed, such as lack of housing and lack of funding to access provincial courts and lawyers.
    This version of the bill would eliminate the requirements for a verification officer to approve first nations own laws on matrimonial real property.
    First nations with pre-existing processes would have to re-ratify those processes, if this legislation passes, and notify the minister and the provincial attorney.
    Laws based on consensus or other traditional processes would not be accepted. This goes against the treaty and inherent rights.
    After hearings in the Senate, the bill was amended to extend the period of time for which an exclusive occupancy order could be made to over 90 days.
    Bill S-2 is an insincere and overly simplistic attempt to rectify a complex problem brought about by the Indian Act. While there are obvious gender discrimination problems, the MPR on reserves bill, Bill S-2, would not be possible to implement because of lack of financial resources to support first nations government to actually implement the law, lack of funding for lawyers, lack of funding to account for limited geographic access to provincial courts and lack of on-reserve housing and land mass, which would be necessary to give both spouses separate homes on reserves.
    According to a 2001 press release from the Native Women's Association of Canada, the problem requires a comprehensive response led by first nations and the federal government. This approach must address family support services, more on-reserve housing and shelters, police support services, building first nations capacity to resolve disputes, solutions to land management issues and resolving of matters relating to citizenship, residency and Indian status.
    According to the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Canada is a signatory, consultation requires consent. While Canada has conducted limited consultation, no consent was given by rights holders. Therefore, if we enforced Bill S-2, we would be violating article 32 of the UN declaration, which ensures free, prior and informed consent on any matter relating to the lands and the welfare of rights holders.


    Finally, New Democrats will not support any MRP legislation that is not accompanied by non-legislative remedies to serious problems, including ending violence against aboriginal women, addressing the housing crisis on reserves and ending the systematic funding discrimination against first nation children.
    Mr. Speaker, earlier today we heard someone in the opposition party talk about our party being paternalistic. However, the definition of paternalistic is: behaviour by a person, organization or state that limits some persons' or groups' liberty or autonomy for their own good.
    Aboriginal women do not have the right to access their marital property. That is a right that we should all be standing up for in the House. That truly is what it means to fight against paternalism in the House.
    I listened to my colleague's speech and other speeches this morning about how there is a lack of support for aboriginal funding. In fact, in 2009, our government allocated over half a billion dollars for infrastructure on aboriginal reserves as well as funding in excess, I believe, of $200 million on top of annual funding.
    Do we always have to be talking about what more can be done? Yes, but I simply ask my colleague this. Will he support the right of aboriginal women to have the same rights that I do standing here in the House?
    Mr. Speaker, I think that paternalistic is a perfect description of the Conservative Party.
    We will support native women by not supporting the bill because it would harm them. It would not help them, but it would harm them. The bill certainly would not help native women accomplish what white women have accomplished in Canada. We have to do more for native women and if that includes more funding, then so be it.


    Mr. Speaker, I asked the same question when my colleague from Churchill gave her speech earlier. I think this question warrants another look.
    She talked about the fact that consultations were held with aboriginal groups, or at least that is what this government claims. In a situation that should involve a nation-to-nation relationship and the right to self-determination, those consultations were completely ignored. They did not lead to any recommendations, and the Conservatives did not take any of the priorities set by aboriginal groups themselves into account.
    The Assembly of First Nations, the Aboriginal Women's Summit, the Native Women's Association of Canada and aboriginal women like Ellen Gabriel, a former Quebec Native Women's Association president, have all said they do not agree with the government's approach, which involves shoving inadequate legislative measures down their throats—measures that will not help the overall situation.
    I wonder if my colleague from Nickel Belt would agree that the government's consultations absolutely must culminate in the unanimous consent of first nations in order to move forward?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for this excellent question.
    Consultation is exactly what the Supreme Court said the government must do. It must consult with first nations and reach a consensus.
    The government can consult all it wants, but if it does not listen to what first nations are saying, then what is the point? A consensus cannot be reached if one merely consults, but does not listen. Both of those things need to happen. Clearly, the Conservative Party, and therefore the Government of Canada, did not do this.



    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this issue today.
    Earlier, when the minister introduced the legislation, we suggested that it would be nice if, as the critic for the Liberal Party said, the minister would have the bill go to the aboriginal committee. Obviously, the minister decided against that.
    Further, in a question for a member from the New Democratic Party I asked about the benefits of taking the issue outside of Ottawa and having it go into different communities.
    I think what we need to acknowledge right at the very beginning is that when the legislation passes the impact will be quite significant.
    With respect to the importance of first nation issues, on a number of occasions I have had the opportunity to stand to speak to many of those issues and how important it is that our first nation communities feel they are directly involved. Many, including me, would suggest that they should be playing a leadership role in the development of the legislation. I am not convinced that the government has done a good job in terms of going into our first nation communities and working in good faith with those communities.
    When we talk about respecting and working with first nations, the government, in this particular case, has failed to meet that marker and as a result I believe that the legislation has some fundamental flaws in it.
    The government has decided to move forward with the legislation and, as has been pointed out by the Liberal Party critic, has made the decision that, after second reading here in the House, the bill would not go to the aboriginal standing committee but to the status of women standing committee.
    I think this is interesting. There was a study brought to that particular committee with respect to women and young girls and the issue of social and economic well-being, and the suggestion was that aboriginal women should be incorporated and taken into consideration. It was actually the Liberal Party's seniors critic from York West, who ultimately, through a minority report, said that the status of women committee did not do the study justice, at least in part, in not recognizing the importance of the needs of aboriginal women. Now we have the minister responsible saying that when the bill passes, it is going to that committee.
    From my perspective, we have nothing against the fine work the members do at that particular committee. However, I do believe, as the critic for the Liberal Party talked about in her speech, that it is not the most appropriate committee for the bill to go to. The most appropriate committee is the aboriginal standing committee.
    We say that because we want to ensure that all the interested stakeholders, and there are good number of stakeholders, have the ability to come forward, provide witnesses and comment on the bill. We ultimately believe that the aboriginal affairs committee is the best committee to ensure that we are doing the best job we can.


    Further, we would suggest that if the government were genuine in its beliefs and recognized the importance of our first nations, it would recognize that given the very nature of this legislation there is merit in taking those committee meetings outside of Ottawa. Many, including me, would suggest that having that committee go into provinces such as Manitoba and others, where I know there would be a great deal of interest in being able to present and attend these committee hearings, would be of great value. It would show that the government is prepared to work with our first nation communities.
    I think the worst thing we can do, and it appears to be the direction we are going, is to say that we know best. Yes, there has been some work done. I have heard a recital of the history of the bill, where it has come from and why it is here before us today. However, I do not believe we have seen the type of engagement with our first nations communities that would empower them to provide good, strong leadership so that there would be more universal support for this important legislation.
    Going into these rural communities would be of great value for us because I think the legislation could be improved upon. Ultimately, it would have that much more credibility if in fact it did reach out into the communities.
    I mentioned Manitoba, but I suspect it could go into a number of different provinces. Obviously I have a bias for the province of Manitoba because I believe there is a huge amount of interest there on this particular issue. That is the reason I am calling upon not only the minister responsible but also the Prime Minister to recognize the importance of this issue.
    As I pointed out, the issue goes beyond splitting up assets and so forth, to the manner in which we treat first nation issues here in the House. That is why I would suggest the Prime Minister would do well to recognize that and to see Bill S-2 as a piece of legislation that could go a long way to assist in that sense of cooperation and empowerment, by at the very least taking the committee and going into these different provinces.
    I would ask that the Prime Minister and the minister responsible take the Liberal Party up on the suggestion that they have the committee meetings outside of Ottawa.
    Over the last few decades we have seen first-hand how laws and norms in society have changed significantly in regard to family breakups. For the most part, one will find that it has been very progressive in its changes and in ensuring there is a sense of fairness. Whenever there is a family breakup, the turmoil that is caused has a huge financial impact on everyone having to endure that breakup. It also has a significant impact, both emotionally and socially, in terms of everything from living conditions to friends who are gained or in most cases lost.


    It is the lead-up to a family breakup that ultimately causes a great deal of harm. In many situations, and this is a point that really has not been emphasized this morning, because of uncertainly, quite often family situations remain intact because of the threat of the unknown or what is going to happen with the house or living conditions. That is, if people were to leave a relationship, what would be the ramifications of that decision?
    That tells me there is a need to provide clarity and for us to look at ways in which we can improve the situation. If we were to work with the first nations and the leadership within first nations, we would find they too have answers and solutions to many of the problems that are caused within family units when a family unit has to break up. We have to be sensitive to the differences, for instance, between reserve property versus property that is outside the reserve.
    From a personal point of view, we have to ensure that women and children are protected to the nth degree when it comes to family breakups. All members of the House support taking measures that ultimately ensure there is a sense of fairness and that ensure people are out of abusive relationships. There is a sense of equality, but there are ways to do it and ways not to do it. I would suggest that the government has missed the mark on it. Therefore, I know the Liberal Party is not going to support the bill, for a number of reasons. The government has not been able to get the type of support for the legislation that one would have expected it to get, in particular from first nations.
    The other point I want to pick up on is the issue of government policies and the types of things government does or does not do that have a significant impact on the family unit. Over the years, I have experienced different types of government policies and their impact. When sufficient resources are not provided for housing, that will have an impact. If we do not provide or encourage sufficient economic development in certain areas, it does have an impact on the family unit. We have to ask what impact government policy is having on keeping families together with regard to the types of policies we develop and programs we provide. Are they helping or are they hurting? Whether it is keeping a family together, or in the case where a family does break up, to what degree is the government supporting families that have to break up?
    I would suggest that the government can do more. One of the more common issues I have had to deal with in the past is an excellent example, and it is the issue of gaming and the profound impact it has had on the province of Manitoba. When gaming first came to Manitoba, which was one of the first provinces to get into the whole gaming industry, the province was totally amazed at the amount of revenue it started to generate.


    Through that revenue, it seemed to get a lot of public support. We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, and the government was more than happy to take in that money. However, what the government did not recognize was the negative impact of gaming policy. The reason I use “gaming policy” is because this is 100% government policy. When we talk about government policy and the way it impacts people in a real and tangible way, this is a great example. The government gets addicted to the revenues but fails to recognize the social costs.
    I had the opportunity to be the critic for lotteries in the province of Manitoba many years ago. We would hear of cases which would ultimately involve families breaking up. We would have people becoming addicted to gaming. As opposed to providing food for their families, they would spend their money in the LT machines. We had young children in the parking lots of large casinos and the parents were inside the casinos spending money. The social costs involve everything from suicides, to breaking up of families to individuals ending up in jail because they steal in order to feed their addiction. One might ask how that relates to this particular bill. I suggest that we would have a lot more family unity if there were a more progressive way of looking at government policy and how that policy affects our communities.
    The aboriginal community, in this situation, has been profoundly affected. I have had the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of how that policy has ultimately led to family breakup. I see governments taking action in what would appear to be an arbitrary fashion, taking it upon themselves because we have not seen the leadership coming from our first nations. We know the first nations want to be engaged, but we do not see the government seeking that engagement. The first nations leadership, even though I am sure it would welcome some of the issues this bill would deal with being resolved, is equally concerned about some of those other issues. That is why there is great value in having more of those stakeholders involved. It is not just one focus.
    This legislation is focused purely on the breaking up of families and how the government is prepared to assist in that. It fails to recognize there are other things the government could be doing that would assist families, whether keeping them together or allowing them to break up. At the end of the day, I am hopeful the Conservatives will recognize that the government has a strong role to play in both situations. This particular piece of legislation does not have the type of support that is necessary to go to committee because the Conservatives do not have support from our aboriginal community. Unfortunately, because they have a majority, I believe the bill will ultimately get to committee, and even though it is the wrong committee, we ask that the Conservatives seriously consider going into the communities so they can hear about the family breakups and some of the government policies that ultimately contribute to that.


    Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the discussion we are having today. I am proud to be part of a government that wants rights for all women, not just some women.
    I am concerned by the comments that were just made by the hon. member opposite. I am concerned he is not aware there was a national consultation process that informed the development of the legislation we are dealing with today. The consultation process involved 103 sessions, in 76 sites, across Canada. Over $8 million was spent on that process and it involved multiple organizations, including Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations, each of which received $2.7 million for their participation in those consultations.
    These consultations were held because this is a government that cares about the rights of all women. The consultations and development of the legislation itself responds to domestic and international studies. I am very concerned that my hon. colleague is not aware of this investment. I think it is very important.
    I want to ask the member whether he is aware that these many organizations have each received $2.7 million as part of the consultation process. We have consulted for 25 years and it is time to act for all women. I want the member's perspective on that.
    Mr. Speaker, what I was hoping to do was to touch on something a little different regarding the concept that government does do many things in terms of policy that has an impact on the family unit.
    I do appreciate what the member is saying. Having said that, we are looking for the government to go to the first nations of our country and empower them, not only to be able to contribute to the debate on this very important issue, but also to challenge them to provide the leadership on this debate. I believe the leadership from within our first nations communities is there, and there is a great deal of good will to deal with the issues this piece of legislation is attempting to deal with.
    The proof is ultimately in the pudding, I would suggest. I would ask for government members to provide us, for example, with letters or correspondence from first nations leaders, in particular chiefs and others, saying this is a piece of legislation that the first nations are behind and they want the House of Commons to support it.
    Even in that sort of a situation, I am sure we would find they would love to see this go into the rural communities outside of Ottawa where they could make a presentation to the committee itself.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from the hon. member.
     When we look at what was just said and the question that was asked by the Conservatives, we can see they are putting a dollar figure on consultation that shows how they are really not in touch with the issues of first nations. They should consider what colonialization has done to the first nations, Métis people and Inuit people.
    I want to bring attention to the fact that Chief Shining Turtle from the Whitefish River First Nation has sent over 11,000 emails and letters to the ministers over the years on this specific issue. He says that Whitefish River First Nation has the inherent right to self-government. All first nations have the inherent right to self-government, as recognized by section 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982, which includes independent jurisdiction with regard to family law and real property for their citizens.
    Then he goes on to say that the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples described the family, in chapter 2, and that the solution is obvious: aboriginal communities should be able to legislate in the area of matrimonial real property, and federal and provincial governments should acknowledge the authority of aboriginal governments to adopt laws with regard to the matrimonial home and to establish family law regimes compatible with their culture and traditions.
    This is a first nation that has implemented a matrimonial real property act. Does the member agree that if provided with the proper tools, first nations could actually take this on and tackle this themselves?


    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question and even the reference to the 1982 constitutional accord. We could talk about other accords of social significance, like the Kelowna accord.
    The bottom line and one of the reasons I challenged the Prime Minister is that we need to recognize this as substantially a first nations issue. As such, we should be looking at ways to empower and enable first nations to demonstrate leadership in dealing with issues of this nature. That means legitimate engagement of first nations. I am not at all convinced that the government was successful at doing that, which is why it does not have the type of support it needs from first nations for this legislation.
    If the government had reached out or attempted to legitimately engage them, the situation would be quite different and we would have seen that strong leadership that I know is there within first nations, but was never allowed to come to the table on this particular bill.
    Mr. Speaker, a couple of speakers ago, one of the members opposite mentioned that the bill would allow provincial laws to be applied on reserve. That is actually false. The legislation would not incorporate provincial and territorial laws relating to matrimonial real property on reserve. The bill only provides that either the provisional federal rules or first nations laws would apply on reserve.
    On another note, I would point out that in January I was honoured and privileged to have been married for 25 years. However, rest assured, the people who know me know that I would certainly go after my assets, or 50% of my house, if anything ever happened to my marriage. It is not fair that aboriginal women do not have that choice and chance to go after their assets.
    Will the member opposite not support aboriginal women so they too will have these rights?
    Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that I really and truly do support women of all ethnicities, including our first nations women, having equal rights. That is important in today's society.
    However, we have to look at this legislation. Again, I challenged the Prime Minister to look at the legislation. If he really wants to make significant progress in this area, the best way to do that is to empower and work with first nations to demonstrate the leadership they have from within to resolve this issue.
    If the Prime Minister really were interested in doing that, we would see a far more effective piece of legislation. The very rights the parliamentary secretary is referring to, women's rights, would then in fact be better protected. If the government tries to do it on its own and just say that it held some consultations and is now ready to move forward without allowing first nations to demonstrate their leadership, it is selling those rights short.
    It is still not too late. There are things the government can do to approach our first nations. If it did that, it could ultimately bring forward legislation that could receive much better and broader support. No doubt, however, there would have to some changes to it.
     At the very least, let us encourage and provide the opportunity for first nations leaders to come to the table and provide the leadership on this very important issue.



    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great pleasure to the speeches by my colleagues here in the House. I am pleased to speak today to Bill S-2 regarding family real property on reserves.
    From a technical point of view, the bill provides that a first nations community is authorized to adopt legislation “respecting the use, occupation and possession of family homes on first nation reserves and the division of the value of any interests or rights held by spouses or common-law partners in or to structures and lands on those reserves”.
    The provisional federal rules set out in the bill would apply until a first nations group brings their own laws into force.
    I acknowledge that the bill is well intentioned: it is meant to fill a legal vacuum in the field of matrimonial law and to grant equal property rights to both spouses in the event of their separation. However, we know what the Conservatives are like. They conducted consultations just to be seen to be doing something; they ignored many serious studies into the matter and they ended up introducing a defective bill that has been rejected by the main first nations spokespersons.
     Earlier in the day in this debate, we heard a Conservative member put a price on the consultations. She told us how much the consultations had cost. However, the Conservatives retained hardly any of the recommendations that were made during the consultations, so they were obviously only a facade. It is an enormous mess as only the Conservatives can create.
     Before going into greater detail about the reasons why we oppose the bill, I would like to tell the people who are listening to us about the problem we are facing.
     Right now, when a couple divorces, the division of family property, such as the house and the couple's personal property, is determined by provincial legislation. Subsection 92(13) of the Constitution Act, 1867 provides that property and civil rights are under provincial jurisdiction. However, under subsection 91(24) of the Constitution, the Parliament of Canada has exclusive legislative jurisdiction over Indians and lands reserved for Indians. Therefore, provincial laws are not applicable to the division of property on the reserves. In 1986, in the Derrickson case, the Supreme Court of Canada created a legal vacuum when it ruled that the courts could not rely on provincial law when determining the division of matrimonial real property on reserves.
     The absence of provisions both at the federal and provincial levels with regard to the division of matrimonial real property on reserves is a problem, because the people who live on reserves cannot appeal to the Canadian legal system to resolve issues relating to the division of property when a marriage has broken down. It is usually our aboriginal sisters who bear the costs of this legal vacuum. As Beverley Jacobs, the president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said so clearly, “the lack of a matrimonial property law regime is a denial of women's equality.”
    Bob Watts of the Assembly of First Nations spoke about the problem that this poses for women. He said:
    While the lack of a legal regime to govern the disposition of matrimonial real property on reserve is a serious human rights issue that must be addressed, this legislative gap merely represents the tip of a much greater iceberg. The legislative gap in matrimonial real property rights on reserve lands is exacerbated by chronic housing shortages that exist on most reserves and difficulties in securing financing to purchase or construct alternative housing on reserve upon marital breakdown, in part due to the restrictions in the Indian Act against mortgaging reserve lands. These factors play an equal if not greater role in imposing hardship on first nation families, and in particular on women and children, who are often forced to relocate to off-reserve locations upon marital breakdown, particularly if domestic violence was a factor contributing to the breakdown in marriage.
    Most stakeholders who expressed their opinions in the various forums agree that the status quo is no longer an option. Yet, Bill S-2 does not meet the needs of the first nations, who are speaking out against the lack of consultation, the lack of recognition of the first nations' inherent jurisdiction over matrimonial law, and the need to improve access to the justice system and to alternative dispute-resolution mechanisms.


    In May 2009, the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations published a joint statement to make known their opposition to the bill. The statement pertained to Bill C-8, Bill S-2's predecessor. However, in the end, nothing has really changed. I would like to cite an excerpt from that statement:
    NWAC and the AFN (including the AFN Women’s Council), all agree that [the bill] ...will do nothing to solve the problems associated with Matrimonial Real Property (MRP) on-reserve; that the federal government failed in its duty to consult and accommodate the views of first nations; and, as a result, the bill is fatally flawed and cannot be fixed. It should not proceed to committee.
    I believe that their point of view is fairly clear. Even though this is the fourth version of this bill and many studies were conducted in this regard, aboriginal people and legal experts who are interested in this issue are concerned that the Conservative government is trying to ram this bill through.
    Pam Palmater, who teaches aboriginal law at Ryerson University, has criticized the government's haste: [Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada] appears to be rushing this legislation through the process by introducing multiple bills in the House and the Senate at the same time. This does not allow sufficient time for most first nation communities to become informed or to determine how best to advocate on their own behalf. It is therefore critical that this committee see the issue in its broader context and why first nations are making their right to be consulted such a priority in their submissions before you.
    I would also like to remind members that, according to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada has agreed to honour, consultation implies the consent of the people consulted. This point is very important. Although Canada did undertake limited consultations, no consent was given by aboriginal representatives. I would like to emphasize this point. In our opinion, if Bill S-2 is passed without the consent of the principal parties, we will be violating article 32 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which requires the free, prior and informed consent of the rights holders.
    Aboriginal women in particular have spoken out against Bill S-2. They believe that it will only force families to resort to the provincial court. That is not a solution because it is too expensive for many families. Seeking remedies in provincial court, when accessible, can place another financial burden on members of first nations who divorce. The fact is that the bill could create additional obstacles for members of first nations who seek justice, and it will not provide effective recourse for people seeking compensation.
    The Conservative members on the other side of the House may claim that they defend women's rights but, as we know, aboriginal women have already condemned this bill. I urge my Conservative colleagues to listen to those who are truly concerned and who will be affected by this bill.
    The president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, Beverley Jacobs, is very worried. She believes that:
    [The Conservatives' bill] will put women who are experiencing family violence at further risk by forcing them to wait long periods for justice without adequate social supports, services or shelters.
     Need I remind the House that, according to Statistics Canada, 35% of aboriginal women have been victims of violence, and first nations women suffer three times as much violence as non-aboriginal women and are overrepresented among homicide victims? Those are very alarming statistics. I would note that the Native Women’s Association of Canada estimates that 510 aboriginal girls and women have disappeared or been murdered since 1980, and this is far too many.


     I find the lack of political will on the part of the Liberals and Conservatives, when it comes to the housing problem facing the first nations, particularly egregious. We have to understand that the shortage of decent, affordable housing on reserves is closely tied to the division of property on divorce.
     At present, because of a legal vacuum, women have no rights when their marriage breaks down. That means they have no choice but to leave their home. There is no vacant, healthy housing on the reserves. As a result, some women are forced to leave their reserve.
     Like the first nations, we will again be opposing this bill. In fact, we will not support any legislation concerning matrimonial real property unless it is accompanied by non-legislative solutions to put an end to violence against aboriginal women, addresses the housing crisis on reserves and ends the systematic discrimination in funding for first nations children.
     In closing, I would like to tell the House about recommendations made by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations. I hope my Conservative colleagues will listen to these recommendations.
     A report entitled “Walking Arm-In-Arm to Resolve the Issue of On-Reserve Matrimonial Real Property” was published in 2005.
     It made five recommendations. It recommended that the NWAC and the AFN be consulted on developing new legislation or amending the Indian Act; that financial aid be provided to first nations to develop their own matrimonial real property codes; that any new legislation not apply to first nations that had developed their own code; that the Canadian Human Rights Act be amended to apply to individuals living on reserves; and that Canada recognize the first nations’ inherent right of self-government.
     Clearly, the Conservatives did not listen to those recommendations and their consultations were a mere passing fancy. That is how the Conservatives do things: they introduce bills on which there has been no consultation whatsoever of the people affected by the measures in the bill.
     I will be very happy to take questions from my hon. colleagues.


    Mr. Speaker, women on reserve are estimated to be five times more likely to be killed than other women in our country. Without this law, judges cannot use emergency protection orders to order the abuser out of the house in situations of domestic violence. This means a woman in an abusive situation on a reserve has to leave her house.
    If this were me in that situation, or any of my female colleagues standing in the House today, we would all take up arms to support this cause.
    We are here to support those without a voice. This law gives them a voice. Why does my colleague refuse to support giving a voice to aboriginal women in this regard?


    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question.
    On the contrary, the Conservatives are the ones who refuse to give aboriginal women a voice and who refuse to consider the recommendations made by groups that represent aboriginal women.
    I would like to repeat what Ellen Gabriel said. She is the former president of Quebec Native Women's Association and she is a candidate for the position of grand chief of the AFN. She said that it is reprehensible that the Government of Canada is so eager to pass legislation that seriously impacts the collective rights of indigenous peoples without adequate consultations which require the free, prior and informed consent of aboriginal peoples. She added that, since this legislation will not be accompanied by commitments to adequate financial and human resources necessary to implement this legislation, these bills will create further financial hardships on first nations communities.
    I urge the hon. member to listen to the people involved and to consider the opinion of aboriginal women.


    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her very informative and well-thought-out speech. I would like to talk more about the consultation that did take place.
    One of the flaws in the bill before us is that there is a lack of consultation, particularly consultation of aboriginal communities. I remind the House that in 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada, in Haida Nation v. British Columbia, pointed out there are criteria for effective consultations. There must be a mutual commitment, based on mutual respect, to ensure that the consultation results in sound decisions, and that the consultation process is transparent.
    We have heard aboriginal communities tell us many times that the consultation was insufficient—especially in light of the criteria set out by the Supreme Court of Canada. Could my colleague speak to the ineffectiveness of the consultation?
    Mr. Speaker, we know that this is common practice for the Conservatives. In fact, they often say that they have held consultations but then do not take into account any of the resulting recommendations. They do not listen to Canadians. They do not listen to the first nations or to visible minorities, the people who are often the most marginalized in our society. My colleague raised a very important point.
    I would also like to quote a witness who appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, Jody Wilson-Raybould, the Assembly of First Nations regional chief of British Columbia, who indicated that the Conservatives' approach poses a number of problems. She said:
    The third area identified during our dialogue sessions is the need to address the underlying issues that led to the disputes in the first place. Providing better prevention support as well as adequate emergency and second-stage housing has been identified as a requirement. This reiterates the need for a holistic approach driven by the community to sustain effective remedies. Without attention to the implementation, and supporting safe and strong communities, legislative reform in and of itself cannot significantly improve the lives of our communities and our people.
    I therefore urge the Conservative government to take steps to truly improve the lives of aboriginal people instead of holding consultations that are really just for show.
    The time provided for government orders has expired. The House will now proceed to statements by members.
    The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska.


[Statements by Members]


René Lévesque

    Mr. Speaker, 25 years ago today the person Quebeckers consider to be the greatest premier in the last 50 years, René Lévesque, departed this life.
    He began as a distinguished journalist and war correspondent, and then made an exceptional career in politics, which culminated in the nationalization of electricity while he was a minister under Jean Lesage, the creation of the Mouvement souveraineté-association and the election of the first sovereignist government in the history of Quebec on November 15, 1976.
    René Lévesque’s Parti Québécois government initiated reforms that still have a major impact today: the Charter of the French Language, party finance legislation and legislation on the protection of agricultural land, automobile insurance and consumer protection, and the list goes on.
    The memory of René Lévesque will remain forever etched in our history, and most importantly in our hearts.
    The task of writing René Lévesque’s epigraph fell to another giant, Félix Leclerc: “The first page of the true, beautiful history of Quebec has just ended...From now on, he belongs on the short list of the liberators of people.”




    Mr. Speaker, on October 28, I joined 500 other Canadians to observe Ukrainians voting in their parliamentary elections.
    I would like to applaud everyone from Canada who volunteered their time for the people of Ukraine. With the support of our government, Canadians were deployed through the CANADEM and OSCE missions, and others joined the Ukrainian World Congress mission.
    Ukraine is still a relatively new democracy, and achieving freedom and fairness in elections will not be a simple task.
    For a country that has been marred with political and civil turmoil, it was moving to see Ukrainians exercise their democratic rights in such strong numbers despite an unfair political playing field.
    OSCE international observers concluded that Ukraine's parliamentary elections were characterized by a tilted playing field. Their were abuses of administrative resources, a lack of transparency in campaign financing, imprisonment of opposition leaders and a lack of balanced media coverage.
    Many Ukrainians have unfortunately lost trust in the process. I encourage them not to give up.
    I hope the disappointment expressed will galvanize Ukraine's political stakeholders into delivering the democratic change which Ukrainians clearly seek.

Conservative Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, as another year draws to a close, it is time to take stock. Did Canadians get a government in Ottawa that matches their commitment to building a better community and a better country? The answer is a resounding no.
    Instead of providing leadership on the issues that matter most to Canadians, the Conservatives just keep making life harder.
    The Conservatives raised the retirement age to 67, making Canadians work two years longer to qualify for OAS. They gutted environmental regulations, putting our air, soil and water at risk. They cut employment insurance so the very people who paid for the system cannot get benefits when they need them most. They decimated the food safety system, allowing tainted beef to reach both our dinner tables and our children's lunch bags.
    Alongside my NDP colleagues, I fought these reckless changes. We worked hard to hold the Conservatives to account for their cuts, secrecy and fiscal mismanagement. On behalf of the people of Hamilton Mountain, I will continue that work.
    We must help Canadians build the country they deserve, a Canada where no one is left behind, and that is the country we will keep building together in the year ahead.

3M Canada

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize 3M Canada's plant in my riding of Leeds—Grenville in Brockville, Ontario for meeting two internationally-recognized energy standards.
    The Tape Plant is the first facility in Canada and the second in the world to attain accreditation for the ISO 50001 standard for energy management. It also reached the platinum level under the superior energy performance program.
    The plant has demonstrated an energy performance improvement of more than 15% over the past three years. Improving energy efficiency is one of the fastest, greenest and most cost-effective ways to reduce greenhouse gases, save energy and increase energy security.
    Natural Resources Canada provided support through our government's eco-energy efficiency for industry program.
    Congratulations to the Brockville 3M plant on this achievement.

Vedanta Ashram Society

    Mr. Speaker, this Saturday, the Vedanta Ashram Society of Halifax will celebrate the 150th birthday of Swami Vivekananda. The society works to support the Swami's vision of harmony, goodwill and better understanding among all faiths.
    As members of the society gather at the newly renovated community centre in Halifax, they will celebrate not only his life, but also the hope, love and acceptance they have achieved through the mission he founded.
    I know all members in the House will join me in extending our best wishes to the Vedanta Ashram Society and to the South Asian community.

Community Charitable Events

    Mr. Speaker, this Saturday evening my wife and I will be attending the 18th annual Community Crisis Society dinner and auction in beautiful Strathmore, Alberta. This is a major fundraiser to help end domestic violence.
    We have so much fun at these events. As a guest auctioneer, I can hardly wait because these charity fundraisers are always memorable, inspiring and beneficial to the families we help support.
    The monies raised help the Wheatland Shelter deliver its highly valued services to families in their time of need. The Community Crisis Society of Strathmore provides immediate shelter and protection. It delivers ongoing support and services for anyone affected by family violence. It even extends its services into the surrounding rural areas.
    I encourage all members of Parliament, especially our new members, to get involved and assist their local charities.
    Throughout the year, every year, I am the one who is truly blessed by being included in the efforts of communities in every corner of my constituency. I know all members would be blessed in helping charities in their ridings.




    Mr. Speaker, I cannot say it often enough: there is a housing crisis everywhere. Unlike the other G8 countries, we have no long-term plan. And today, 1.5 million Canadian families are living in substandard housing. The FCM, which represents 2,000 Canadian cities and towns, has asked the government to take action and support Bill C-400, to adopt a national housing strategy. But the Conservatives do not listen to anyone. To force them to listen, the NDP will be tabling petitions in support of the bill every day, starting today, until the vote on November 28. The government will be forced to see that Canadians want housing to be a priority.
    Will this be enough to convince them? Will the government agree to listen to the voice of Canadians, once and for all?


Superstorm Sandy

    Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I stand in the House of Commons today to share news of a tragic nature.
    As Canadians may know, my community of Sarnia—Lambton was very hard hit by the recent passage of superstorm Sandy.
     I stand before the House today to share news that an individual, someone who was a husband, father and grandfather, has tragically lost his life in service to his community. He was working to restore hydro with Bluewater Power in Sarnia—Lambton, which was lost as a result of superstorm Sandy's impact.
    During this time of tragic loss, I extend heartfelt and sincere sympathies on behalf of the House of Commons to his family and his extended family of Bluewater Power, who were his colleagues and friends. Our prayers are with them all.
    I also commend all workers who put their lives at risk in service to their community, as this heroic gentleman did.

Project Red Ribbon

    Mr. Speaker, from November 1 to the first Monday after New Year's Day, Mothers Against Drunk Driving members, volunteers and supporters are handing out red ribbons to raise awareness about the dangers of impaired driving.
    Project Red Ribbon targets the Christmas and New Year holiday season because it is the busiest time of year on most social calendars. With holiday parties and events, toasts being made and glasses being raised in celebration, there is a higher risk for impaired driving.
    The red ribbon is a symbol of the wearer's commitment to sober driving throughout the holiday season and all year round. It also serves as a meaningful tribute to all of the victims who have been killed or injured in impaired driving crashes.
    I encourage all Canadians to wear the red ribbon proudly as a symbol of their commitment to always drive sober. With everyone working together, we can make our roads and communities safe from impaired driving.


Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, more than 2,000 people demonstrated against the changes to employment insurance in Pointe-à-la-Croix and Campbellton. This Saturday, people in the Magdalen Islands will have their turn to speak out against these changes. These people are sending a clear message to the government to stop ravaging their employment insurance. The Conservatives must listen to these people and back down. The changes to EI have serious consequences in my region, where seasonal work represents 80% of the economy. Workers who will not have access to EI will have to leave the region.
    Instead of making cuts to the employment insurance program that workers need, the government should try to boost the economy in the regions, such as the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands. It is simple: we must invest in economic development projects to create permanent jobs in the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands. The economy will not recover if the government is scrapping Canada Economic Development projects.
    The Conservative government must remember that it promised to give power to the regions; not clean them out. It is amazing how the eastern regions stand together. We will not give up.



    Mr. Speaker, this year Diwali, the Festival of Lights, will be celebrated all over the world on November 13. Here in Canada, we will be having the 12th national Diwali celebration on Parliament Hill this evening.
    Tonight, an overflowing crowd of South Asians from all across the country will join the Prime Minister and me to celebrate this festival at the Government Conference Centre, the seventh by the Prime Minister. More than 26 Hindu and Sikh temples and community organizations will be represented at tonight's festival. I am happy also to be joined by my colleagues from this esteemed House.
    Diwali symbolizes victory of good over evil. May I wish you, Mr. Speaker, my colleagues and all Canadians a happy Diwali.



Prostate Cancer

    Mr. Speaker, today I had the immense pleasure of shaving the famous moustache off of my hon. colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore to launch our Movember campaign. The goal of Movember is to raise awareness about prostate cancer and other men's health issues, as well as to raise money for research in the fight against this terrible disease.
    As we know, prostate cancer will afflict one in seven men, making it the most common cancer among men in Canada. However, thanks largely to research, recovery rates are improving. And funding for this research relies heavily on generous donations from Canadians.


    The Movember campaign contributes to raising awareness and providing financial support to researchers. I invite all Canadians and colleagues in the House to put away their razors and shaving cream and proudly wear a moustache for the month of Movember.


    I cannot help but think about our dear friend Jack Layton, who lost his life after a courageous battle with this terrible disease. Like Jack, I believe that, together, we can change the world.



    Mr. Speaker today, November 1, kicks off National Diabetes Awareness Month. We can be proud that Canadians Sir Frederick Banting and Charles Best co-discovered insulin, changing the lives of people living with diabetes.
    Today, nearly nine million Canadians are affected by diabetes. Worldwide, 246 million people are affected, with numbers projected to rise to 366 million by 2030. Every ten seconds, two people develop diabetes. By the end of this statement, that will mean another twelve people will be affected.
    That is why today I am pleased to announce my partnership with the Canadian Diabetes Association as I launch my inspiration unlimited, border-to-border campaign. Over the course of the next three summers, I will circumnavigate the entire border of the Yukon Territory. This 3,000-kilometre quest will help raise awareness and funds, so that one day I can read this statement and have nobody develop diabetes by the time I have finished.


Enterprise Kent

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the remarkable work of local economic development agencies in my riding.
    In particular, I would like to thank Enterprise Kent, its staff, board of directors and especially its executive director, Guy Léger.
    After 24 years of outstanding service, dedication and impressive economic results, Guy Léger will be leaving Enterprise Kent when the agency closes its doors as a result of the very bad decision by the Conservatives to make cuts to all Atlantic regional economic development agencies.


    Guy Léger has contributed to hundreds of economic and community successes over his quarter century of service. He will be missed by entrepreneurs and community leaders and I will miss his advice and support.


    I salute Guy, his spouse, Kathy, and his family, and extend a special thank you to him on behalf of the people of my region.


The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley

    Mr. Speaker, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley made a surprising declaration about our government's statements yesterday. It sounds like the member needs to have his memory refreshed.
    I would like to refer him to page 4 of his party's costing document, which shows plans to generate $20 billion in government revenue through a carbon tax. I would also like to refer him to page 2 of his leader's policy leadership document, which would impose a carbon tax that “would build on” the proposal New Democrats campaigned on during the last election. I would like to refer him to the NDP-backed Broadbent Institute, which issued a report stating, “...a carbon tax and higher taxes on natural resources — need to be considered...”. That was stated by the Broadbent Institute on October 9, 2012.
    Before the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley accuses us of being untrue, he should ask himself why he supports a job-killing carbon tax that would increase the price of everything, including gasoline, groceries and electricity.


The Member for Saint Boniface

    Mr. Speaker, Halloween is not the only day the hon. member for Saint Boniface dressed up in her puppet costume. This fall, she wasted two members' statements blathering away, telling stories made up by employees of the Prime Minister's Office who were hired to put words in the mouths of backbenchers. Like a good servile employee subject to the dictates of these office workers who are paid with our tax dollars to manufacture facts, the hon. member has forgotten that she was elected to serve the people of her riding.
    Since she has failed her constituents, allow me to recognize the anniversary of Pluri-elles, an organization that has been helping Franco-Manitoban women to enter the labour force for 30 years. I would also like to congratulate the band Oh My Darling, whose bilingual folk-western music was extremely successful this summer.
    It is these types of accomplishments that deserve the attention of this House. Canadians across the country deserve the recognition of their elected representatives, and I encourage the next speaker to share with us the achievements of people and organizations in his riding, rather than just parroting the juvenile and deceitful stories made up by the Prime Minister's Office.



New Democratic Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, in case the opposition members are still puzzled, I want to explain to them exactly what job growth and long-term prosperity looks like. Under the leadership of this government, this Prime Minister and this Minister of Finance, Canada has been ranked the best place for business to grow and create jobs.
     KPMG has ranked Canada the most tax competitive economy among mature markets, not to mention the 820,000 net new jobs that have been created since July 2009. But the NDP members have it all wrong. They are on record for supporting a $21 billion carbon tax that would cripple job growth, limit prosperity and increase the cost of living for all Canadians.
    Thankfully, Canadian voters gave this government a strong mandate to show the opposition the error of its ways. I would recommend that the opposition pay attention as we continue to lead by example creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.


[Oral Questions]


Foreign Investment

    Mr. Speaker, two years ago, the Prime Minister promised Canadians clear, transparent rules for evaluating foreign takeovers. Today, we learned from Conservative media leaks that the Nexen takeover decision may have to be delayed for a second time because those new rules are still being made up.
    Could the Prime Minister finally tell Canadians when new foreign takeover rules will be announced, and will these new rules be made public before the Nexen deal is approved?
    Mr. Speaker, the government will make its decision on these matters when it has all the information necessary to evaluate what is in the net benefit of this country. That is the government's policy.
    In terms of the Investment Canada Act, the government has already made several changes to bring in additional criteria on national security, to bring in additional criteria on state-owned enterprises, and to improve transparency.
    The government will continue going forward in the changing investment environment in which we live. The government will continue to evaluate foreign investments and assess whether or not they are in the best interests of this country.


    Mr. Speaker, the agreement with China, which the Prime Minister is prepared to ratify without any debate, study or consultation, will have a huge impact on certain transactions, such as the Nexen deal.
    The Prime Minister is giving the Chinese government the absolute right to purchase and develop Canada's raw natural resources. The Conservatives are not only giving China access to our natural resources, but they are also guaranteeing unlimited expansion. That is what is at stake here.
    Why are these decisions being made in political backrooms, without any debate, study or consultation?
    Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is completely wrong.
    The Investment Canada Act will remain in place under this new agreement. We have been trying to sign this agreement for quite some time, in order to protect Canadians who are trying to create investments and jobs for Canadians in the Chinese market. This is an important step towards protecting the Canadian economy and our jobs.


    Mr. Speaker, under the Prime Minister's new Canada-China investment agreement, the Chinese state would have the right to buy up new oil leases and expand operations in Canada as if it were a Canadian company. Any effort to limit ownership by China could be challenged under the law. Let us be clear. The Prime Minister is exposing Canada to a scenario in which the Government of China could sue us if the Government of Alberta refused to sell off its natural resources.
    Is this how Conservatives stand up for Canada?


    Mr. Speaker, that is just completely and utterly wrong. Under this particular agreement, the government's powers and prerogatives under the Investment Canada Act are protected. We will continue to evaluate whether investments are in the net benefit and best interests of this country.
    At the same time, Canadians who are allowed to make investments in China would have a framework, the rule of law, which would protect them. In that way, they would be able to promote Canadian interests and promote job creation for Canadians in China. It is very important that we have these rights. The Chinese have long had the protection of the rule of law in this country; we need the same thing in China.


Budget Implementation

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives repeatedly refused to allow us to study the 450 pages of the budget bill in committee.
    Yesterday they asked for a second chance. Now they are agreeing to allow committees to examine the budget, but it has to be on their terms. The committees will have only two or three meetings to examine this monstrous bill.
    If the Conservatives are open to amendments, even from the opposition, why does the Minister of Finance continue to block the committees' work?
    Mr. Speaker, as I said last week, the government has said that it would like to see other committees examine this bill.
    Yesterday we moved our motion to refer the bill to 10 other committees for examination. What is really interesting is that the Liberals voted against this measure, which is a record, compared to how bills are usually examined.


Foreign investments

    Mr. Speaker, it is not just the opposition that is being ignored. Business is having a tough time keeping up with the Conservatives' late-night activities, too. Last night's leak was about extending deadlines on foreign takeovers, a move that Conservatives refuse to talk about in public.
    On Tuesday, the finance minister said he was making an important announcement after markets closed and then announced nothing. He was simply ranting about the opposition.
    Why are Conservatives putting markets on edge while they wait for whatever bizarre move the finance minister makes next?
    Mr. Speaker, the only bizarre moves around here occur when the opposition members vote against each measure that we put in place that actually helps Canadians. Our Minister of Finance has been working hard to bring Canadians' taxes down, but every time he puts forward a policy that actually would reduce costs for businesses and Canadians, the New Democrats vote against it. That actually is bizarre.

Correctional Service Canada

    Mr. Speaker, Ashley Smith is the young girl from Moncton who died tragically five years ago in a Kitchener prison. In her last year of life, she was shunted 17 times among 9 different prisons in 5 provinces, with very little treatment for her mental illness. In the coroner's inquest that is now under way, the federal government has consistently taken the position that the jurisdiction of the coroner has to be restricted, that he cannot look at videos. It has consistently taken a position that has been antithetical to the interests of the truth and the interests of the family.
    I would like to ask the Prime Minister, why is this happening?
    Mr. Speaker, the Ashley Smith case is obviously a terrible tragedy, and information has come to light that is completely unacceptable to the way the Correctional Service of Canada is supposed to do business. At the same time, there is a coroner's inquest under way. There are arguments between lawyers on some of the procedural matters and we will let those get resolved in due course. However, we will be looking carefully, as we always have, at what additional investments need to be made in the mental health aspects of our corrections policies.


    Mr. Speaker, there are no arguments between lawyers. There is the federal government's position, which completely restricts the Ontario coroner's ability to do his job and conduct his inquest. That is the problem.
    I will make it clear for the Prime Minister: if the federal government is not prepared to give full authority to the person responsible in Ontario, will he have the decency to authorize a federal inquiry to investigate this matter?


    Mr. Speaker, once again, we are not in a position to interfere in legal disputes. What I can say is that this is a great tragedy.
    Some actions are obviously unacceptable, and the government will continue to invest in mental health programs in our prisons in order to prevent such tragedies.


Budget Implementation Legislation

    Mr. Speaker, in the discussion on the omnibus legislation, it is now clear that because of the short week next week and the break week thereafter, the committees to which all of these bills and measures have been referred will have very little time to deal with the substantive matters before them. Would the Prime Minister agree that it would be a much better idea if the House were to direct the committees to meet during the break week so that these substantive measures could be dealt with?
    Mr. Speaker, traditionally I do not get involved in procedural matters, as committees traditionally are the masters of their own business. As is very well known, the government tabled the budget in March of this year, with a range of very important measures for the strength of the Canadian economy. We are in a period once again of some global slowdown and we need to be doing everything we can to keep our economy moving forward. I know that these things have been before Parliament for a very long time, so I would obviously encourage all members to continue their study of them and to act expeditiously in a way that is in the interests of jobs and growth.

Service Canada

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives promised that their cuts would not affect front-line services. However, apparently they do not consider answering the phone a front-line service. Only one in three calls about EI is being answered within the minister's own guidelines, and fewer than half of the calls about the CPP and OAS. Canadians in precarious situations are calling to ask about much-needed support but instead of getting help they are getting Muzak. When will the Conservatives admit that their reckless cuts are hurting Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, as the economic recovery continues, we are fortunately seeing a decline in the number of EI applications submitted. That is helping Service Canada to devote resources to reducing the backlog, and it has made some progress there. We will continue to monitor and add resources as needed, as we did in the spring when there was a surge in demand, as there is at various times in the year. Service Canada will continue to work toward providing efficient and effective service to all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, the reality is that when people go to their local service counter to get help, they are asked to call Service Canada instead, but the phone lines are jammed already. Now they are cutting staff even further. Seniors and unemployed Canadians are being put on hold and not getting even the most basic service from their government.
    Why will the Minister of Human Resources not take responsibility for the mess that she created and fix her department so that Canadians can get the help they need?
    Mr. Speaker, we do want to make sure that Canadians get the benefits to which they are entitled in a swift, effective and efficient manner, and that is why we have put extra resources toward delivering these services.
    I am pleased to say that Service Canada's performance has improved since the spring. In fact, in terms of the CPP and OAS, it has an over 90% performance rate. That is encouraging. Service Canada has a ways to go, and we will keep working with them to make sure that they do deliver to Canadians.


    Mr. Speaker, Service Canada is also having difficulty handling employment insurance claims. One claimant in four must wait more than 28 days to obtain a reply from Service Canada. Bills continue to pile up and Canadians cannot just wait for the minister to solve problems at Service Canada before paying those bills. Time is of the essence.
    Will the minister cancel the harmful cuts and give Service Canada the resources it needs?
    Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what Service Canada did in the spring. The number of claims fluctuates throughout the year. From time to time, the number of claims increases and Service Canada adds resources, as necessary, to handle the claims in an effective and efficient manner. Service Canada will continue to improve its services to Canadians.


    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are wreaking havoc at Service Canada. And yet they promised that front-line services would not be compromised. Unemployed workers have to wait for increasingly long periods of time for their first employment insurance cheque. If Service Canada does not get more resources immediately, we are headed straight for disaster.
    Will the minister acknowledge that these changes are not working? Will she rectify the situation and stop this slow and steady destruction of Service Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, as I said in the spring, we are modernizing the employment insurance system in order to make decisions and deliver benefits to Canadians in a more efficient and effective manner.
    We are putting additional resources in place where there is a major increase in claims for benefit. Service Canada will continue improving the services it provides to Canadians.


Foreign Investment

    Mr. Speaker, we found out yesterday that the Minister of Natural Resources admitted that he did “not know very much about” energy projects.
    What cheered me was that he was willing to admit it and asked questions to get facts. This is novel and unparalleled for a Conservative minister. He actually asked for facts rather than using the mind-numbing fact-free PMO talking points.
    Given this newfound openness to understanding both sides of an issue, will the minister support open and transparent hearings on the Nexen takeover bid?
    Mr. Speaker, as I said, this transaction will be scrutinized very closely.
    Let me quote Professor Ian Lee from Carleton University, who said that the NDP proposal “will politicize the process enormously.... They're trying to transform these [approval processes] into kangaroo courts”.
    As I said, the role of this government is to review the transaction and to see if it will provide a net benefit to Canada. This is what we are doing, and we will do it in the best interests of Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, that was another fact-free answer. Smart public policy actually involves finding the facts. The Minister of Natural Resources did it once, and I am sure the government can do it again.
    Why will the minister not take the advice of the former Conservative minister and take action before other countries start, as Jim Prentice says, to “dictate our environmental policies”. Instead they have gutted Canadian environmental protections, and from FIPA to the Nexen bid, the government ignores the facts.
    Why are Conservative ministers only open to other opinions in secret conversations, and why will they not do the right thing on the Nexen takeover bid?
    Mr. Speaker, there are thousands of resource projects across the country, with 600 projects monitored by the Major Projects Management Office. I will continue to request briefings to stay current with current developments.
    On the other hand, the only thing the anti-development NDP knows is how to oppose, delay and obstruct projects across Canada. If that does not work, it will just tax them to death with its $21 billion carbon tax.

41st General Election

    Mr. Speaker, Michael Sona has finally come forward. He said that the Conservative Party's director of communications sent him to the University of Guelph, where he stole a ballot box. He also called the central campaign about how untraceable voter suppression calls were made and he talked about how easy it would be for the Conservatives to identify who pulled non-supporter lists from their database.
    When will Conservatives come clean and take responsibility for any involvement in dirty tricks by their central campaign?
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative Party of Canada ran a clean and ethical campaign and condemns in the strongest of terms any active voter suppression. That is why our party is working with Elections Canada to get to the bottom of the serious allegations in Guelph.
    If only the NDP members had been so forthcoming after they accepted $340,000 in illegal union money. If instead of trying to cover it up for so long they had stepped forward and fessed up for their law-breaking, perhaps Canadians would have more faith in them today.



    Mr. Speaker, I too tell fantastic stories to my children before they go to bed at night.
    The revelations from Michael Sona's testimony are truly fascinating. The Conservatives have tried to put the blame on him for their electoral fraud. However, the truth is that Pierre Poutine had access to the Conservative database to make his fraudulent calls, not Michael Sona. We have also learned that the Conservatives know who downloaded the data, but they are still hiding behind a 24-year-old kid and imposing their code of silence.
    When will the Conservatives stop covering for a criminal? When will they tell Elections Canada who had access to the data, who was responsible for the fraud and who made all those fraudulent calls?
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative Party conducted a clean and ethical election campaign. We followed all the rules. Our employees are working with Elections Canada to shed light on what happened in Guelph.


    The hon. member across the way made only 14 donations to the NDP, but twice as many donations to the separatist Quebec Solidaire. Maybe if he were as generous with his own party as he is with the separatists, it would not have had to go seeking illegal union money to finance its operations.


    Mr. Speaker, my colleague will do fine in 2015, if he is ever re-elected. For the moment, all he is doing is evading questions and mocking Parliament. Trivializing electoral fraud is quite simply indecent.
    Fraudulent calls were made and citizens were stripped of their right to vote. That is a major problem. That criminal act would never have been possible without access to the Conservative database. Never. The Conservatives know who had access to the data and they are protecting that person. The time for a code of silence is now over; they must be clear and sincere with Canadians.
    Who is Pierre Poutine? Who made the fraudulent calls? They must answer the questions.


    Mr. Speaker, I just did respond to the question. I pointed out that the Conservative Party did run a clean and ethical campaign in the last election, and is working with Elections Canada to address any problems that occurred in Guelph.
    However, the member across the way continues to refuse to answer the question. In fact, he has been asked the question about his donations to the separatists almost as many times as he gave money to the separatists.
    I give him the occasion one more time, to create a magic moment on the floor of the House and declare that after all those donations he has changed his way and he is now a federalist. Will he please stand and do that right now?

Fisheries and Oceans

    Mr. Speaker, the government has spent three years and $26 million on the Cohen report, yet it will not commit to implementing any of the report's recommendations. Along with Justice Cohen's 75 recommendations, he also expressed serious concern with the government's reckless changes to the Fisheries Act.
    This is unacceptable. Will the government come to its senses, reverse the changes to the Fisheries Act and commit to implementing the recommendations of the Cohen report?
    Mr. Speaker, obviously the previous system needed improving. Under the new act, the government will actually be better able to protect fisheries from real threats as we have expanded the act to protect more than just the fish habitat, but also to protect fish from aquatic invasive species and local stressors as well.
    The new act also strengthens the government's ability to crack down on individuals who break the rules and endanger sensitive species and areas.
    These changes provide common sense for our stakeholders.


    Mr. Speaker, even though Nathan Jacobson broke bail conditions in the U.S., the government sent lawyers to plead a bail bargain for his release. It has been public since July that there was an international arrest warrant for him and that he was a fugitive wanted by the U.S., yet the government apparently did nothing.
    The Conservatives like to pretend they are tough on crime. Lord knows they cannot deport two Nigerian students fast enough for an honest mistake.
    Did the government take any action to proactively locate and apprehend Mr. Jacobson before October 24 and if not, why not?


    Mr. Speaker, the member knows full well that the government does not interfere with police investigations. Nor does it interfere with the court process.
    The prosecutors in this case acted completely independently, without unfettered discretion. The bail that was posed was $600,000. Both his Canadian and Israeli passports were surrendered. This is a matter that was acted upon immediately upon the American's request that he be arrested on October 24. On October 25, the very next day, he was arrested.
    The case is now before the courts. It would be inappropriate to interfere with it. We have the best judicial system in Canada. Let them go for it.


41st General Election

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform knows that honesty in elections is crucial in any democracy and that in the 2011 election, thousands of misleading calls led voters to the wrong polling stations.
    The political staffer fingered by the Conservatives has said that he is being used as a scapegoat and that he never could have orchestrated such a massive scam on his own.
    Will the minister assume his responsibilities and get to the bottom of this organized deceit? Is he the minister for democratic reform or the minister of Conservative cover-ups?
    Mr. Speaker, I have already answered this question. The Conservative Party ran an ethical campaign in the last election. We will continue to work with Elections Canada to shed light on what happened in Guelph.
    Now, we know that only one party has been found guilty of breaking the law by making robocalls, and that was the Liberal candidate for Guelph.


    If the member wants to find out what happened in Guelph, perhaps he should walk just a few rows back and ask his Guelph colleague about all of the law breaking that they did.

Fisheries and Oceans

    Mr. Speaker, the final report of the Cohen commission should be a wake-up call for the government. It reveals the staggering scope of the Conservatives' mismanagement of the fisheries, including the drastic changes in budget 2012, such as gutting laws on habitat protection, slashing fisheries science capacity and cutting $75 million from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
    Will the minister finally agree that the government is heading in the wrong direction, end the cuts in budget 2012 and enact the recommendations of Justice Cohen?
    Mr. Speaker, this is a very expansive report that has serious implications on a very important resource in British Columbia. We will carefully review the recommendations and work with our stakeholders and partners to take steps to ensure the salmon fishery in British Columbia is sustainable and prosperous for years to come.
    We have increased science in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Recently, the Council of Canadian Academies presented a report which said that fisheries research in Canada was ranked first in the world by top science researchers.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister does not seem to understand what is at stake. Wild salmon are at the heart of B.C.'s culture and economy. The Conservatives misled Canadians when they said that gutting habitat protection would in fact strengthen it. The Cohen report is clear that these reckless Conservative policies are putting salmon at risk.
     Will the minister stop the double speak, stop stalling and commit today to implementing the recommendations to protect B.C. salmon?
    Mr. Speaker, obviously we know the importance of B.C. salmon. That is why we commissioned the report in the first place.
    Justice Cohen spent nearly 36 months drafting this report. It would be a disservice not to consider it carefully. We must do our due diligence, read the report carefully and speak with our stakeholders and partners about the next step.
    I can assure the member opposite that we have been supporting, building and conserving B.C. salmon over the last number of years.


The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, according to the Cohen report, the Conservatives are already mismanaging fish stocks. Things will be worse—except for the Conservative elite—if the Navigable Waters Protection Act is weakened.
    It is scandalous that over 99% of lakes will no longer be protected, but it is even worse that 9 out of every 10 protected lakes will be in Conservative ridings.
    Why protect the lakes of friends of the Conservative party and not of others?


    Mr. Speaker, it is unbelievable that the New Democrats are misleading people in this way by conflating navigation with fish habitats and fish.
    Navigation has to do with boats floating on water and not fish in water. It is ridiculous. It is completely nonsensical. It is an attempt to mislead Canadians.
    We are going to continue to manage navigation. The officials at Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to manage fish stocks and officials at Environment Canada will manage the environment.


    Mr. Speaker, they say that they made the decisions based on science, but Conservatives have never used science to base any of their decisions on before. What makes them think we would believe they are doing it now?
    People can see through this science-based smoke screen. Ninety per cent of all lakes in Canada fall in Conservative ridings. It makes me wonder if next they are going to protect fake lakes in downtown Toronto.
    Why are million dollar cottages in Muskoka being protected from pipelines, while lakes for the rest of us are not?
    Mr. Speaker, let me be clear. Ninety-eight per cent of applications received never pose a threat to navigation. This is not a responsible use of taxpayer dollars and shows just how much change is needed. This is why we have reformed the act. Now resources can focus on where navigation is and not waste valuable tax dollars by delaying projects that have no impact on navigation.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court stood up for fair elections in my riding, including the importance of every vote.
     I recently returned from Ukraine as an election observer. International observers there noted abuses of administrative resources, lack of transparency in campaign financing, imprisonment of opposition leaders and an absence of balanced media coverage, causing mistrust of the process by Ukrainian voters.
    Would the Minister of International Co-operation deliver our government's formal response to what my observer mission witnessed?
    Mr. Speaker, when the pre-electoral environment is unfairly tilted in favour of one political group over another, this interferes with the ability of citizens to freely express their electoral will. It is disheartening that this year's parliamentary elections do not appear to have measured up to Ukraine's past democratic performance. This is of great concern to Canada, as we continue to advocate for freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law for all Ukrainians.
    We look forward to the report and will deal with it when it is forthcoming.

Correctional Service Canada

    Mr. Speaker, during the coroner's inquiry into Ashley Smith's death, video evidence, evidence the Conservatives did not want released, depicted Ashley's horrific experiences. Ashley Smith was transferred 17 times between 9 prisons in 5 provinces in just over a year.
    This young woman was suffering with mental illness, but the system treated her self-harm as misbehaviour. The federal correctional investigator has been very clear. When it comes to self-harm in prison, the system must change. When will the minister act on the correctional investigator's recommendations?
    Mr. Speaker, this is a very sad case. Our hearts and our thoughts go out to Ms. Smith's family. We cannot imagine the sadness that they are continuing to experience.
    As the Prime Minister said, the actions of some individuals in this video are clearly and completely unacceptable. The Correctional Service of Canada has taken action to change this so that it does not happen again. What this clearly shows is that not only is the federal government working, as the Prime Minister said, to address mental health in prison, but that the provinces also need to help us. We need to work together so that individuals who are dealing with mental health issues are addressed before they reach the correctional system.


    Mr. Speaker, Ashley Smith's family deserves real answers.
    Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. In 10 years, the number of offenders with mental health problems has doubled. Moreover, 50% of offenders have engaged in self-mutilation, which is what Ashley Smith did before taking her own life.
    In his recent report, the Correctional Investigator of Canada outlined clear recommendations to address these serious problems. Will the minister implement these recommendations?



    Mr. Speaker, our government has taken action to address mental health in prison. We have initiated a mandatory 90-day review so that individuals can have a plan and mental health assessment within 90 days of entering the correctional system. Clearly, prisons are not the place to address mental health issues.
    In the case of Ashley Smith, the actions by specific Correctional Service of Canada staff were clearly unacceptable. We want to see changes. We want to see individuals who are mentally ill dealt with before they reach the correctional system.


    Mr. Speaker, the government has done nothing to investigate reports that people have suffered adverse drug reactions to prescription medications. Sadly some have even died. It seems astounding that Health Canada is not following up on these critical issues of life and death, nor giving grieving families the answers they need.
    These families deserve an explanation and accountability from the minister. What is her response and what will she do to ensure no further deaths occur?
    Mr. Speaker, our hearts go out to patients who have had adverse drug reactions. Our government has taken a leadership role in working with the provinces and territories to develop ways that we can work with them to address this issue. We do see it as a very significant part of the Canadian health care system.


    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' inaction puts many Canadians at risk.
    The Conservatives have failed to respond to hundreds of reports revealing serious side effects associated with drugs commonly sold in pharmacies. Over 600 cases have been identified of children suffering from serious, and even fatal, side effects. Hundreds of families are worried and they deserve information about this troubling situation.
    Will the Minister of Health conduct an investigation?


    Mr. Speaker, the member should know that in Canada drugs are not allowed to be sold until scientists working with Health Canada have verified that they are safe when used as directed. Once approved, these drugs are subject to regular scientific review based on the latest information available. Canadian families should always speak to their family physician before taking any prescriptions or providing one to any children.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, today in Winnipeg, provincial cabinet ministers joined Canada's aboriginal leaders for a two-day meeting on missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. Three federal cabinet ministers were invited. None are attending.
    AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo has said:
    Striking an independent and inclusive National Public Commission of Inquiry would demonstrate a clear and focused commitment to achieve positive change for and with Indigenous peoples.
    Will the government commit today to calling a public inquiry on the tragedy of over 600 missing and murdered aboriginal women?
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety were in Regina to meet with their provincial and territorial counterparts where this matter was a major topic of discussion. Our government attaches great importance to the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women. We are working with those counterparts to further develop strategies, coordinate efforts and share expertise on the issue.
    In January 2012, a comprehensive missing woman report was released providing 52 recommendations. The province has recently acknowledged that our government has already implemented most of those recommendations at the federal level. We are taking this seriously and we are taking action.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, media reports describe Sub-Lieutenant Delisle's responsibilities as, “I prepare all the threat assessments for the ships when they deploy overseas, to any port”. That means that a Russian spy was communicating some of our most important military intelligence to his masters.
    Instead of letting this spy scandal leak out article by article, why does the minister not convene a judicial inquiry so that Canadians and our allies can have their confidence restored in our security system?
    As the member knows, this matter is before the courts and it would be improper to comment on it at this time.



    Mr. Speaker, people from Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are suffering through some of the longest and worst commute times in North America. Residents are either dodging falling concrete from Toronto's Gardiner Expressway or a giant sinkhole in Ottawa, and water quality is at risk in hundreds—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. member for Trinity—Spadina has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, water quality is also at risk in hundreds of towns.
    At a time when cities are desperately in need of investment in transit, roads and water systems, the Conservative government removed $2 billion from the infrastructure budget.
    How do the Conservatives justify these nasty cuts?
    Mr. Speaker, the member should know, just as the FCM does, that this is a case of responsible accounting and only that. It does not indicate a cut to any infrastructure program. The federal government does not grant funds to proponents until projects are completed.


    Mr. Speaker, we will make another attempt at getting an intelligible answer.
    Canada's infrastructure is in bad shape. In Quebec, outdated water mains are exploding under pressure, overpasses are falling apart and collapsing, and ports, like the one in Trois-Rivières, are waiting for funding for development projects.
    While stakeholders are being told to wait until 2014 because there is no more money to fund current programs, we have learned that $2 billion from the 2011 budget—which was supposed to be allocated to infrastructure—has not been spent.
    How can the minister justify this situation?
    The provinces and cities fund projects because roads and highways have always been a provincial area of jurisdiction. The NDP has it all wrong.
    The bills are being paid for as they come in. The provinces and organizations look after this. The bills are paid when the work is complete. Projects have been well managed over the years. That is a fact. There have been no cutbacks to infrastructure programs.



    Mr. Speaker, today marks the beginning of Financial Literacy Month in Canada. With the recent global financial turbulence and the introduction of more financial products and services, financial literacy has become more important than ever for Canadian families. It means more money in their pockets and not in those of the banks and others.
    Could the Minister of State (Finance) share the actions that our government is taking to promote financial literacy right here in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, indeed, financial literacy is very important to Canadians. That is why we have chosen November as the month to highlight the importance of being able to provide to Canadians a source of information so that they can make informed decisions for themselves. Unfortunately, much of the consumer protection legislation that we have put forward, the NDP has actually voted against.
     Our initiative is giving Canadians better tools and more transparency when dealing with banks. We have also put in place credit card reforms to ensure that Canadians are better protected. However, as I have said, unfortunately, the NDP seems to like to vote against all of these protections.

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, two former high-ranking Afghan officials have been invited to Canada to speak at a university conference in Ottawa. Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials told them they had to travel to Pakistan to get their visas, which could be akin to imposing a death sentence on them.
    Can the minister explain why this would not be qualified as a special circumstance and authorize visas to be issued in Kabul so that their lives would not be put in jeopardy? Why is the government effectively denying entry to Afghans who some years and months ago were allies of Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, the article upon which the question is based is inaccurate.
    We issue visas very frequently to visiting Afghan officials who, if they have permission from their own foreign ministry or ours, can drop off their application directly at our mission in Kabul. Those who do not, typically courier their applications to our processing centre in Islamabad. No one has to travel there unless they are called in for an interview, which is not the case with respect to applications like these.
    One of the individuals who was mentioned in the article has not applied for a visa, either at Kabul or Islamabad, and I understand the visa application of the other individual is before decision makers at Islamabad as we speak.


Foreign Investment

    Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday the Minister of Industry insulted the people of my riding.
    When I asked him about Vale's “more bad news” announcement for Thompson, Manitoba, all he did was regurgitate talking points about cutting red tape and the Conservative carbon farce.
    This one-sided foreign ownership deal with Vale highlights the failure of the government's net benefit policy. What kind of takeover policy means the loss of hundreds of Canadian jobs?
    When will the Conservatives admit that their foreign takeover policies are a failure, and will they work with stakeholders to bring Vale to the table to protect Canadian jobs?
    On the contrary, Mr. Speaker, we believe in foreign investment that provides a net benefit for Canada. We have our businesses in the global supply chain and we have a solid environment for business here. We have low taxes. We are opening market opportunities.
    It is the total opposite of what the NDP is proposing: a global and job-killing carbon tax of $21 billion on the shoulders of Canadians. That would kill the economy, every single region of this country, and we will not go down—
    The hon. member for Dufferin—Caledon.

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, Canadians across the country will take time to remember the sacrifices made by those who selflessly served our country in defence of our core values and freedoms. Canadians from coast to coast to coast will visit war memorials on November 11 and pay their respects to Canada's fallen soldiers. These war memorials are sacred ground and should be treated with the utmost respect.
    Could the Minister of Veterans Affairs update the House on the government's support for our war memorials?
    Mr. Speaker, our Canadian war memorials should be treated with the utmost respect. That is why yesterday our government's members supported Bill C-217, an act to protect war memorials and cenotaphs in Canada, rightly brought forward by the member for Dufferin—Caledon.


    I would have liked the New Democrat members to set aside their ideology out of respect for our fallen soldiers.


    Unfortunately, the NDP voted against the bill. They voted against penalties for those who intentionally defile permanent tributes to Canada's fallen heroes.
    Veterans and the fallen deserve better from elected members.


Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, as we all know, the railroad has played a key role in Canada's history.
    Yet, as the country's 150th birthday approaches, the Conservatives are refusing to recognize Exporail as a national museum, despite the fact that a report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recommended that the House recognize it as such in 2007.
    Exporail is a source of pride for my riding, the entire region and railroad enthusiasts throughout Canada.
    Why are the Conservatives refusing to give this museum the status it deserves?


    Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague knows, the committee did bring forward a 150 report, which will be somewhat of a road map to help celebrate the best country in the world, Canada, on our 150th birthday.
    Unfortunately, when we brought forward to the House the creation of two new national museums, one in Winnipeg and the Pier 21 Museum of Immigration, the NDP voted against it. We recently brought forward a new $25 million investment for the new Museum of Canadian History. The NDP members, without even seeing the legislation, have already said they will be voting against that as well.
    When it comes to cultural spending and funding for artists—
    The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

Foreign Investment

    Mr. Speaker, now that the Canada-China investment treaty can be legally ratified as soon as tomorrow, I wish to make one more plea to the Prime Minister to reconsider.
    He should examine the Australian experience. There is a much larger volume of trade between Australia and China, in fact, six times as much. There is $60 billion in Chinese investment in Australia, and $7 billion in Australian investments in China.
    Why do I mention it? Because the Australians did an independent risk-benefit analysis of this kind of investment treaty and decided the risks outweighed the benefits to their sovereignty and to their economy.
    Please do not ratify.


    Once again, Mr. Speaker, as we have known for some 20 years now, Canada has been trying to secure protection for job-creating Canadian investments in the Chinese marketplace. This is something that those who create jobs in this country have long wanted. We have been pleased we have been able to take this step forward, and I notice there has been universal good reception to this agreement from those who are creating jobs for Canadians. Obviously, this government is going to move ahead and make sure we are able to access that important market and build jobs throughout this country.


Presence in Gallery

    I wish to draw the attention of members to the presence in our gallery of His Excellency Hansjörg Walter, President of the National Council of Switzerland.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise on behalf of the official opposition to ask the government what it has planned for the House for the remainder of this week and for next week.
    Today, I will ask questions about Bill C-45, a monster bill from the government, which does not seem to understand the situation at all. The 450-page bill combines issues such as reducing funding for research and development, or protecting lakes in Muskoka, but nowhere else in the country. All of that is found in and among budgetary measures.
    What makes even less sense than the bill itself is the lacklustre effort the government made to be transparent about its plan to have the bill studied in committee.


    Let us recap where we have come to so far with the government and how its plan, if we can call it that, is going ahead.
    Two weeks ago, the government announced a deal to have the committee study the bill, apparently giving it powers for amendments. Since then, motions to conduct these studies at individual committees have been introduced and then suddenly disappeared.
    Yesterday, in question period, the Conservative committee chairs refused to answer questions; they did not know or they did not understand them. Just one hour after question period, the finance minister made a commitment that something else would actually happen to perhaps amend the bill.
    Now committees can recommend to the FINA committee, but those amendments have no more precedence than motions moved at the committee itself. It only looks like it was a plan written on the back of a napkin, but that would be insulting to plans written on the back of a napkin.
    This is the budget of Canada we are talking about. I know relationships take a lot of work, but perhaps the House leader, maybe the whip and the finance minister, could actually get together to organize a conversation to proceed in some logical manner that would allow the bright light of sunshine—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please.
    The hon. member for Bourassa is rising on a point of order.


    Mr. Speaker, this charade of Thursday statements between leaders is shameful; this is not a debate. The House Leader of the Official Opposition must ask a simple question to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, who must respond to inform us on what is on the agenda for the week. That is all. What is going on now is abuse and is a matter for debate.


    There have been previous speakers who have urged members who are speaking to the Thursday question to do so as succinctly as possible.
    I will give the floor back to the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, with that in mind.
    Absolutely, Mr. Speaker, and my friend will get to his campaign soon enough.
    Communication is the key in all of these relationships, so perhaps the House leader can update the House. What is the actual plan with respect to their enormous budget implementation act, and, number two, will they allow committees to finally, not only study the bill in a realistic timeline, but also make amendments so Canadians can know that legislation that moves through this place actually helps this country?
    Mr. Speaker, while I do not know anything about a so-called deal that the NDP House leader talked about, I do know the Conservative Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance announced a process she was going to recommend to the finance committee to allow study of the bill, which I understand was adopted yesterday. It is a large bill, but it is not as large, of course, as the one that the Leader of the Opposition had when he was part of the cabinet in Quebec.
    However, that being said, it is important that it be studied.


    Consequently, as our government proposed, next week, 11 committees, including the finance committee, will study the important and necessary economic measures proposed in Bill C-45, the Jobs and Growth Act, 2012.
    Yesterday, the finance committee got to work on this bill, not even 24 hours after the House passed it at second reading. This bill will implement key measures, like an extension of the small business hiring tax credit; and let me assure the House, it will definitely not implement the New Democrats' $21.5 billion, job-killing carbon tax.
    Turning to business in the chamber, we will start second reading of Bill S-8, the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, momentarily. I think it will be today.
    Tomorrow, we will start report stage—and, ideally, third reading—of Bill C-24, the Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act.
    As a former trade minister, I can tell you that the NDP is opposed to free trade. They have made that clear numerous times by dragging out debate, delaying and voting against free trade agreements here in the House. In fact, the hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior outlined his party's position when he stated that “trade agreements threaten the very existence of our nation.” That is the NDP position.
    We will continue debating free trade with Panama next week, on Tuesday and Wednesday. This bill will finally put into law our free trade agreement—an agreement which was signed here in Ottawa almost two-and-a-half years ago.
    On Monday, we will resume the second reading debate on Bill S-9, the Nuclear Terrorism Act, before question period. Based on the speeches we heard the last time it was before the House, I hope that these two extra hours of debate will be sufficient for it to proceed to committee.
    After question period on Monday, we will see Bill C-36, the Protecting Canada's Seniors Act to combat elder abuse, considered at report stage and, hopefully, third reading.
    Also Monday will be the day designated, pursuant to Standing Order 66(2)(a), for resuming the adjourned debate on the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.
    Finally, next Thursday, we will consider Bill C-44, the Helping Families in Need Act, which I understand was considered clause by clause at the human resources committee this morning. Given the unanimous endorsement the bill received at second reading, I hope it could pass and be sent to the other place before we rise for the constituency week.



    Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I seek unanimous consent for the following motion, that, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of this House that the Standing Committee on Finance meet during the week of November 12 to 16 for the purpose of hearing from witnesses in pursuance of its examination of Bill C-45, and that the following standing committees meet during the week of November 12 to 16 for the purpose of hearing from witnesses in pursuance of their consideration of the subject matter of Bill C-45: the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the Standing Committee on Health, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security and, finally, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
    Does the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Yes.
     Some hon. members: No.

Royal Assent

[Royal Assent]


     Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
Rideau Hall
October 31, 2012
Mr. Speaker:
    I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 31st day of October, 2012, at 6:01 p.m.
    Yours sincerely,
Stephen Wallace
Secretary to the Governor General and Herald Chancellor
    The schedule indicates that the bills assented to were:
     Bill S-206, An Act respecting World Autism Awareness Day--Chapter 21, 2012; and


[Government Orders]



Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, today I am proud to speak in support Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act. This proposed legislation is an essential part of a larger collaborative strategy to ensure that residents of first nation communities can reliably access clean, safe drinking water, like all other Canadians.
    Provinces and territories each have their own legally binding safe drinking water standards. These laws assign responsibility for the specific tasks and standards that protect the safety of drinking water, such as treatment and quality testing protocols. Under these laws, provincial, territorial and municipal authorities collaborate to ensure that residents have access to safe, clean and reliable drinking water. Regulations differ based on local circumstances, but the overall impact is the same, as regulations help establish a chain of accountability and quality control.
    In contrast, there are currently no legally enforceable protections governing drinking water and waste water on first nation lands. With the exception of a small number of self-governing first nations that have established laws in this area, most residents of first nation communities do not benefit from the legal protections for safe drinking water that all Canadians expect and deserve.
    Bill S-8 would directly address this gap by enabling the federal government to work with first nations on a region by region basis to create regulatory regimes to govern drinking water in first nation communities.
    It is important to note that Bill S-8 is enabling legislation. Following passage of Bill S-8, the Government of Canada would work in close partnership with first nations and other stakeholders to develop federal regulations tailored to their unique regional circumstances.
    The underlying principle of Bill S-8 is simple: all Canadians, regardless of where they live, should have access to safe drinking water. In other words, when it comes to drinking water, the law should offer the same level of protection to Canadians, whether they live on or off reserve.
    I want to speak to the long and collaborative effort leading up to this bill, which our government initiated six years ago to correct this serious issue. In 2008 we introduced the first nation water and waste water action plan, which provided $330 million in water and waste water funding over two years for treatment facility construction and renovation, the operation and maintenance of facilities, and training of operators on reserve. We have since renewed this program twice, most recently in economic action plan 2012.
    Between 2006 and 2014, our government will have invested approximately $3 billion in water and waste water infrastructure and related public health activities to support first nation communities in managing their water and waste water systems. Throughout the same time period, we have invested in over 130 major projects and funded maintenance and operating costs of over 1,200 water and waste water treatment projects. We also invest $10 million a year to support the training and certification of first nation water systems.
    However, we do recognize that funding is not the only solution to ensuring safe drinking water and health and safety. That is why in 2009 we initiated a national assessment of first nations' water and waste water systems. This was the most rigorous, comprehensive and independent study of its kind ever conducted in Canada, surveying 97% of drinking water and waste water systems on first nation lands. Site visits to the 571 participating first nations began in September 2009 and concluded in November 2010. The assessment took more than 18 months and involved the inspection of approximately 4,000 drinking water and waste water systems. The results, released last year, provide a comprehensive summary of the situation, including the amount of investment required to address deficiencies and reduce risk. They provide Canada with an unprecedented reference tool that will inform future water and waste water initiatives. This is for priority setting, appropriately done.


    One of the main problems identified by the assessment was the lack of crucial regulations pertaining to operations, maintenance and operator qualifications when it comes to drinking water on reserve. This is consistent with the message conveyed in 2011 in the report by the Auditor General, which identified the lack of a legislative framework for first nations drinking water as a major impediment to ensuring clean drinking water for first nation communities.
    Over the course of the past six years, we have also heard from countless other organizations and from first nations members, as well as other key stakeholders, about their concerns related to safe drinking water on reserve.
    In 2006, an independent panel, consisting of experts jointly appointed by our government and the Assembly of First Nations, travelled across Canada for a series of public meetings. It listened to more than 110 presentations and received and considered more than two dozen written submissions. The independent panel heard from a wide range of people, representatives of first nations, provincial, territorial and municipal authorities, as well as private sector organizations.
    The panel's final report stands as a valuable contribution to the effort to improve drinking water quality in first nation communities. A key recommendation was the development of appropriate regulations.
    The following year, the Senate standing committee held a separate series of hearings to investigate the matter. In May of 2007, it released a report that called similarly on the government to undertake a comprehensive consultation process with first nation communities and organizations to develop regulatory options.
    Our government responded to these calls for action and at the beginning of 2009, after significant consultation with first nations technical experts and leaders across the country, we released a discussion paper that outlined a proposed solution that would allow for regional differences to be reflected in the development of future regulations to be developed in partnership with first nations following the passage of enabling legislation. This discussion paper served as the basis to develop the approach outlined in Bill S-8, namely legislation that provides for the establishment of regulations that reflect the diverse needs and realities of first nations across the country.
    In early 2009, a series of 13 engagement sessions were held across Canada. During these sessions, representatives of first nations, provinces and territories discussed the proposed legislative framework and identified potential improvements. Our government also provided funding to first nation organizations so they could conduct regional impact analyses of the proposed legislative framework. To discuss specific regional issues, further meetings were held with first nation chiefs and organizations. The government maintained an open dialogue with first nations throughout this time, explaining the purpose of the legislation and responding to concerns.
    After the 2011 federal election, government officials and representatives from my office met on a without prejudice basis with representatives of first nations to discuss issues of concern and to explore potential solutions, in particular with first nation organizations from Alberta and the Atlantic region.
    I have personally met with chiefs at several key crossroads in the negotiations to maintain forward momentum. The direction given to ministerial and departmental staff involved in these discussions was based on establishing and maintaining a respectful and credible relationship.


    The progress made during these sessions is reflected in the legislation now before us. The commitment and leadership demonstrated by first nation leaders to improve the legislation should be commended.
    There are several key differences between Bill S-8 and its predecessor. First and foremost, Bill S-8 includes a non-derogation clause, developed in collaboration with the Alberta Assembly of Treaty Chiefs, that specifically addresses the relationship between the legislation and aboriginal and treaty rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
    A preamble has also been added to describe this government's intention to develop regulations working with first nations. The proposed legislation also features new language to clarify several key points. In particular, the legislation would not automatically apply to first nations that are signatories to self-government agreements; regulations would not include the power to allocate water supplies or license users of water for any purpose other than for accessing drinking water; regulations on source water protection on first nation lands would be restricted so as to protect it from contamination; only the powers necessary to effectively regulate drinking water and waste water systems would be conferred on any person or body; and first nations would not be held liable for systems owned by third parties that are on first nations lands.
    Bill S-8 was first introduced in the Senate in February of 2012, where it was subject to further scrutiny and review by the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. During my testimony to the committee, I reiterated our government's intention to collaborate with first nations on the development of regulatory regimes.
    As I described to committee members, we will work with first nations to ensure that the proposed regulatory regime will be rolled out in a phased approach over several years. Our government will work with first nations to develop regulations that would establish standards comparable to those that safeguard drinking water elsewhere in Canada. These regulations would come into force once communities have the capacity to adhere to them.
    I also expressed the same commitment in a letter I sent to every first nation in Canada that would be subject to the legislation. A similar letter was sent to the chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. This government's intentions are clear. We want to ensure all Canadians have access to safe drinking water. This is a matter of health and safety.
    Clearly, the passage of Bill S-8 would extend the collaborative effort that was launched more than six years ago. This effort has inspired steady progress on drinking water issues. It has followed a strategic step-by-step approach that has addressed all of the main factors that conspire to undermine access to safe drinking water in many first nation communities.
    Training and certification programs have increased the number of qualified operators. Protocols and procedure manuals have been published and disseminated. Investments in infrastructure have upgraded dozens of treatment facilities. Plans are in place to strategically address the specific needs of other facilities.
    Bill S-8 also serves as a clear demonstration of our government's commitment to strengthening the relationship between Canada and first nations through working in partnership to address issues of mutual concern. It proposes a process that would see first nations and government officials work together to design and implement appropriate regulations. Some first nations have already expressed their eagerness to work with the government to develop these regulations.
    Back in November of 2011, the Liberal member for Toronto Centre put forward a motion calling on the government to improve first nations access to safe drinking water.


     The House fully endorsed this motion. I hope that now my hon. colleagues opposite will honour their noble commitment to improving access to safe drinking water and back this very important legislation, which would go far beyond the words of that motion. On this side of the House, we are interested in more than passing motions. We are interested in concrete action. I hope the opposition will stand with the government as we move forward to take concrete action for first nation peoples.
    Thousands of Canadians currently lack the legislative protection needed to safeguard the quality of their drinking water. Bill S-8 would not only ensure that this gap is closed but that it is done in close partnership with our first nations partners. I urge my hon. colleagues to endorse Bill S-8.
    Mr. Speaker, clearly the minister has indicated that when the original Bill S-11 was tabled, the government heard, loudly and clearly, that there were some deficiencies in the bill. Now Bill S-8 has come as a revised form, but there are still some gaps in that piece of legislation.
    I have two specific questions for the minister. In the preamble, as he pointed out, the bill indicates that the departments have committed to working with first nations to develop proposals for regulations to be made under this act. There is nothing in the act that outlines what those working relationships might look like. In the past there has developed a level of mistrust because under the specific claims legislation, for example, there was a protocol agreement signed where there was a commitment to work with first nations. However, when one of the assistant deputy ministers came before the aboriginal affairs committee, she indicated that the commitment to working did not actually mean that they were going to engage in a process.
    So would the minister make a commitment in this House today to define exactly what working with first nations, in the preamble, would look like? Could he also comment on the fact that what this act does is propose a process to develop regulations, which have no oversight in Parliament? How he would see Parliament having oversight of that regulatory process?
    Mr. Speaker, in my speech I outlined a long process to get to where we are today, and that process was loaded with consultation. When we had the committee hearings in the Senate, we had representation there that indicated very strongly that some of the first nations that were involved saw this as a model for how to develop first nations legislation. I intervened at a personal level when we had some difficulties with the original bill and we were trying to get to the current format of the bill, because this is a very loaded issue from the standpoint that it gets tied in with water allocation and with provincial issues. It becomes a very broad conversation, so we had to find a way to address all those concerns, and I believe we have achieved that.
    Ongoing, I have made commitments in writing, at the committee and in every other way that the consultation process on the regulations will continue and that we will not move faster than the capacity development of the first nations in terms of operator certification and their ability to have things in place prior to any enforcement of the regulations.


    Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank the minister for his leadership on this file and acknowledging that we needed to do a thorough engagement process, one that had never been done before, not in the size or scope of any legislation, certainly not from my perspective after almost two decades of living in the north and seeing the extent to which we performed our consultations to develop the framework he was explaining.
    I would like to ask him if he could explain a little more the thorough engagement process that has occurred between the Government of Canada and first nations. Are there technical experts involved? Did community members get a chance to speak about these really important issues before our framework or pathway was established?
    Mr. Speaker, we have had a long period of consultation on this bill. There has been much input from technical experts, community members, people who inform the leadership and their legal counsel. This was unprecedented consultation, in my view. I am not aware of any other piece of legislation in this place that has taken that length of time in a collaborative fashion to get to final form. I believe we are currently looking at a bill that is about as good as it can get.
    Mr. Speaker, the Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water for First Nations said it is clear that it is not credible to go forward with any regulatory regime without adequate capacity to satisfy the regulatory requirements. The government's own estimates identify a $5.8 billion shortfall to deal with the first nations waste and waste water capacity gap.
    We thank the minister and his government for voting for the opposition day motion by the member for Toronto Centre, but I would like to ask the minister whether we can anticipate in the upcoming 2013 budget the amount of money that would be required to meet the objectives of this bill. When, in a long-term strategy, could 100% of first nations homes in 100% of first nations communities be expected to have safe drinking water?
    Mr. Speaker, it is our intent to move as quickly as possible on all of this infrastructure, certification and operator training question, because this is a health and safety issue. We have discovered, with our serious investments to date, that the national assessment set some pretty good priorities. I can say that when I was here for 13 years in opposition, we used to hear horror stories about water systems on first nation reserves over and over again, and now we have addressed many of those.
    We have also moved forward from the standpoint that, because we have made those investments, we have learned a lot and there are new and more cost-effective technologies. We have a circuit rider training program in place; we have increased the percentage of the systems that have fully certified operators, both for water and waste water systems; and we have told the communities that we do not expect full compliance on anything until such time as the infrastructure and all the certifications are in place. That is all very positive.


    Mr. Speaker, I have great concerns about the water quality on reserves in British Columbia. I know there are a number of pipeline projects that are slated to go through reserves in B.C. In particular, the Kinder Morgan company wants to run a new pipeline through 15 first nations reserves. When asked, the head of the National Energy Board said it would expropriate land on these reserves and put these pipelines through without the consent of first nations.
    I am wondering if the minister can say whether he would allow that to happen in these reserves in British Columbia.
    Mr. Speaker, I certainly was not expecting that question on this bill. I am not aware of those statements. This is part of an environmental assessment process we have not even come to yet with Kinder Morgan. Therefore, that is an inappropriate question and it would be inappropriate for me to respond at this time.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill S-8, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands. I am going to start differently than I planned because I want to respond to something that both the minister and the parliamentary secretary addressed in their speeches or their questions.
     I want to start with a quote from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Article 18 says:
    Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decisionmaking institutions.
    Article 19 says:
    States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.
    It was interesting to hear people describe the consultation process as engagement. It is an interesting twist of words, because when we talk about full, prior and informed consent, I am sure that many nations would argue that engagement does not equal full, prior and informed consent. I want to turn for a moment to some comments about the engagement or so-called consultation process.
    The Safe Drinking Water Foundation, in a position statement it issued on April 14, 2009, talked about this engagement process. It said that few first nations voices were heard at the engagement sessions, but enough were present that INAC was able to claim that they were engaged. It said that many first nations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta did not receive their engagement session invitation packages in sufficient time for people to attend the sessions. For example, George Gordon First Nation received its package on January 25 at noon when the engagement session was taking place the following day in Saskatoon, three hours away. Of course, we know what winter road conditions can be like in Canada at that time of year, so it adds an additional stress.
    In addition, the Safe Drinking Water Foundation said that civil servants dominated conversations in each discussion group, offered incomplete and inaccurate information and failed to relay first nations' concerns to the larger audience. The INAC official report omitted all of that.
    Consultation is all in the eye of the beholder. There are some guidelines that first nations have proposed in terms of what meaningful consultation would look like. I have been hearing from people who do not feel this process fulfilled that responsibility to consult.
    I want to turn to the legislative summary of the safe drinking water first nations act that was put out by the Parliamentary Library so that people understand what it is we are talking about today. In the legislative summary it says:
    The bill provides for the development of federal regulations governing the provision of drinking water, water quality standards and the disposal of waste water in First Nations communities...the bill also establishes that federal regulations developed in this regard may incorporate, by reference, provincial regulations governing drinking water and waste water in First Nations communities.
    It goes on to say:
    The delivery of safe drinking water to on-reserve First Nations communities is critical to the health and safety of the communities’ residents. Access to safe, clean, potable water is also closely tied to the economic viability of individual communities. For more than a decade, research has indicated that many First Nations communities lack adequate access to safe drinking water. A 2001–2002 assessment found that the quality of almost three quarters of drinking water systems in First Nations’ communities were at significant risk.
    I know some of those numbers have changed since then and I will talk about the waste water and drinking water assessments that the government commissioned.
     Later on in the legislative summary it indicated some key challenges. It says:
     In addition to the absence of a regulatory framework and the lack of clarity regarding roles and responsibilities...core issues relating to the provision of safe drinking water on reserves include the high costs of equipment for, and construction and maintenance of, facilities in remote locations; infrastructure that is either obsolete, entirely absent or of low quality; limited local capacity and ability to retain qualified or certified operators; and the lack of resources to properly fund water and waste water system operation and maintenance.
    All of us in the House would agree that there are significant challenges on first nation reserves about access to safe quality drinking water and to the functioning of the waste water treatment systems.


    In my own riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan there is the St'át'imc reserve which butts up against the municipality of Nanaimo. We literally have a reserve that is in an urban area and there has just recently been an agreement to allow the extension of the water system, but the reserve has been there for decades.
     The ability of the residents to engage in economic development on their recognized traditional lands has been hampered by the fact that they do not have access to clean water. In fact, on one of the reserves they are trekking in water. This is a reserve right beside the city of Nanaimo. We are not talking about some remote reserve hundreds of miles away that is accessible by air only, or ice road, or sealift.
    Therefore, this is not just a rural and remote community problem. There are reserves close to urban areas that do not have the infrastructure to not only supply safe drinking water, but to enable them to engage in the economy in a more meaningful way.
    Back in 2005, the report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development also highlighted the problem of drinking water for first nation communities. I want to touch on a couple of points here.
    The report noted that when it came to the safety of drinking water:
—residents of First Nations communities do not benefit from a level of protection comparable to that of people who live off reserves.
    It goes on to say that:
    Despite the hundreds of millions in federal funds invested, a significant proportion of drinking water systems in first nation communities continue to deliver drinking water whose quality or safety is at risk. Although access to drinking water has improved, the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of many water systems is still deficient. Moreover, to a significant extent, the success of the First Nations Water Management Strategy depends on INAC and Health Canada addressing the management weaknesses we have noted.
    The report talks about a number of management weaknesses between the departments. It goes on to say:
    The technical help available to First Nations to support and develop their capacity to deliver safe drinking water is fragmented. Given that most First Nations communities have fewer than 500 residents, and that providing drinking water has become more complex, the development of institutions that can provide ongoing technical support is critical to a continuing supply of safe drinking water for these communities.
    In part, many first nation communities have relied on tribal councils to help them with technical advice and organizational administration. In the last round of budget cuts, we saw tribal councils had their funding cut. That is going to significantly impact on some of these smaller communities' ability to deal with some of these very complex issues.
    The report, “Drinking Water on First Nations Communities” also highlighted some challenges . It is important to state this because it is a very complex problem. It says about location:
    Many First Nations are located on the Canadian Shield, or other difficult terrain, making it technically difficult and costly to provide water services. Some reserves are isolated and can be accessed by roads only in winter; some have limited access to electricity or other forms of energy. Water sources are often located off reserves, and it is difficult for First Nations to protect them.
    Interestingly, on the difficulty of protecting water, we have just seen a number of waterways no longer included in the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Many of those waterways on first nation reserves are no longer protected. Did the department do an analysis of what this change in the Navigable Waters Protection Act would have in the context of this legislation? I understand from a briefing from government officials that it has not been done.
    It is a very important question. If first nations cannot protect their waters by whatever means available to them, one questions how they would improve the quality of the drinking water.
    Other challenges include accountability. The report says:
    Federal departments set requirements that make First Nations responsible for providing day-to-day drinking water. It is not clear who is ultimately accountable for the safety of drinking water.
     Costs and financing...It is difficult to find and retain operators.
    Technical standards. It is not clear which standards are applicable. Provincial guidelines and regulations on drinking water are to be applied except when less stringent than federal standards.
    The population growth on reserves has been noted in report after report. This report says that:
    On-reserve population is estimated to increase by 230,000 people between 2004 and 2021. It is difficult to estimate population growth and economic development in each community to plan water systems that can meet drinking water needs for 10 to 20 years.


    It is a very challenging environment that we are operating in.
    In the Report of the Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water for First Nations, there was a number of matters that it highlighted.
    First, it states:
    Pursuing “laws of general application” is too uncertain
     If it could be established that provincial laws of general application applied to Indian reserves, legal frameworks would be instantly in place and a great deal of consultative and Parliamentary process avoided. However, in the view of legal counsel to the panel, applying provincial drinking water and wastewater law as a law of general application is “fraught with such uncertainty that it is neither a viable nor effective option.”
    We know that provincial laws differ from province to province so there will be a very uneven level of water quality standards from province to province, depending on which province the first nation resides.
    It report says that before there is any legislation that there are preconditions that must be in place before legislation moves forward. The first is, “Provide resources, discuss and deal with high risks”. It says:
    The federal government must close the resource gap
    First, and most critically, it is not credible to go forward with any regulatory regime without adequate capacity to satisfy the regulatory requirements. While it is tempting to assume that putting a regulatory regime in place would reduce the dangers associated with water systems, exactly the opposite might happen. This is because creating and enforcing a regulatory regime would take time, attention and money that might be better invested in systems, operators, management and governance.
    But the problem is more fundamental than the resources that would be lost to creating a regulatory regime. The underlying issue is that the federal government has never provided adequate funding to meet the 1977 policy commitment of comparable facilities on reserve....If funding were supplemented to cover only the costs of a regulatory regime, the gap would continue.
    We therefore see it as a precondition to moving forward on any of the viable options that the federal government must finally close the resource gap. It must provide, over a reasonable period, the funding needed to ensure that the quality of First Nations water and wastewater is at least as good as that in similar communities and that systems are properly run and maintained.
    That is a precondition.
    It also goes on to say that discussion with first nations is essential. It says:
    The second precondition is the need for the federal government to assess whether it has a legal duty to consult with First Nations affected by any of the three options. This duty, according to the Supreme Court arises “when the Crown has knowledge, real or constructive, of the potential existence of the aboriginal right or title and contemplates conduct that might adversely affect it.”
    As the minister pointed out, it indicates in the preamble that it will work with first nations, but nowhere is that working relationship defined. Because of the ongoing mistrust with the government, that relationship needs to be clearly spelled out about how first nations will be consulted, not just engaged, in the development of these regulations, as we saw from other consultative processes.
    I spoke this morning to Bill S-2 about the so-called consultative process that was conducted with matrimonial real property. Wendy Grant-John tabled a very thorough report and many of the critical recommendations were disregarded when Bill S-2 was brought forward. Therefore, not only must the consultation process be outlined and resources attached to it, but there must be a commitment that when that consultation process is completed, the recommendations that come forward be actually incorporated into the regulations.
    Finally, one of the other preconditions was, “Deal with high-risk communities immediately”. It says:
—any of the options would take time – probably several years – to reach the ultimate goal of safer drinking water for all First Nations. In the meantime, however, many reserve residents face serious risks from the drinking water available to them, sometimes from collective systems but...often from individual wells or other water sources.
    It talks about the fact that we cannot just wait for the regulations to be developed or legislation to move forward. Rather we have to actually deal with the high-risk systems.
    I want to touch briefly on the National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems. As I indicated earlier, in early 2000 a significant number of wastewater systems and water quality systems were at risk. That number has come down. I will give the government credit to the extent to which it has invested money over the years, so the numbers have reduced, but we know it has not been enough.
    To provide a couple of really important numbers on this, nationally 571 of the 587 first nations, 97%, participated in the National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems study. That is important.


    It says that “12 First Nations have no active infrastructure on reserve lands, in some cases [this was] as a result of recent or ongoing land claim settlements”.
    Under the heading “Individual Systems”, the document states that “[a]n assessment was completed for approximately 5% of the individual well and septic systems”. Some of these numbers are still staggering. It goes on to say:
36% of the individual wells sampled did not meet the requirements of the GCDWQ for a health related parameter (i.e. arsenic, barium, bacteriological, etc.) and 75% did not meet the GCDWQ for an aesthetic parameter (i.e. hardness, sodium, iron, manganese, etc.). Approximately 47% of the septic systems assessed had operational concerns identified, which were usually attributed to limited maintenance (not pumping out septic tank regularly), leaching beds installed in inappropriate soils and age....
    It then states, “A risk assessment has been completed for each water and wastewater system according to the INAC Risk Level Evaluation Guidelines”. Overall, of the 807 water systems inspected, 39% were categorized as high overall risk, 34% were categorized as medium overall risk and 27% were categorized as low overall risk. Therefore, 73% of the systems have some level of risk.
    There have been some improvements. We know the number of boil-water advisories has decreased. However, there are still significant problems with the water systems.
    That leads me to a comment that I made earlier around the need to invest in the capacity for these water systems for first nations. Later on in the report, it did indicate:
    Small water systems are generally found to have a higher risk rating than larger water systems. In many cases, these small facilities were not designed to meet current protocols and do not have the same level of resources available for operation as larger systems. In addition, the overall risk of a system appears to increase with remoteness.
    Of the high risk systems, 150 systems serving 16% of the on-reserve population are flagged as high risk as a result of a bacteriological exceedance.
    Of the 532 waste water systems inspected, 14% were categorized as high overall risk and 51% were categorized as medium overall risk. Again, what we are seeing is that there continues to be significant risk attached to both the water quality and to the waste water systems.
    The report also made an estimate about what was required to upgrade to meet the protocol. The report said, “The total estimated construction cost to meet protocol is $1.08 billion”. That is a lot of money. However, we are talking about people's health and safety. It says:
    [These] requirements...are considered to be related to health and safety, providing minimum levels of treatment, providing firm capacity, standby power and best management practices.
    Members can see that the scope and the magnitude of the problem are very serious.
    Groundwater is an important source and in a paper that was put forward by Sarah Morales, a submission to Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water, she pointed out that it is estimated that 750,000 people in British Columbia, and this is not just first nations, rely on groundwater as their drinking source. She said that protection of this drinking water source had become a major issue in British Columbia where the aquifers, underground sources of water, and so on, were at risk. She also said that the bacteriological contamination of private domestic wells was an issue across the province.
    Members can see how important it is for whatever regulation or legislation we put in place to be effective in terms of dealing with water quality. It is also important that first nations have the resources they require to construct and maintain, and to train their operators, and that there is a meaningful consultation in the development of these regulations.
    Based on what we have before us, unless there is some serious amendment to this piece of legislation, New Democrats will not be able to support it.


    Mr. Speaker, during the member's speech she referred to the capacity on first nations with regard to water and waste water. There was some inference that depending on the size of the capacity of the water or waste water system, it would determine how well that water or waste water could be treated.
    The member is well aware that the capacity of water and waste water is not based upon how good the system is, but upon how good the system was that was put in. Would she agree that most waste water systems that are put in first nations communities today are to the same standard as anywhere else in Canada and that not one is substandard?
    Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting question. There has been a great deal of discussion about the systems that have been installed in various communities. I am sorry if the member thought I was implying there were substandard systems installed. I was not implying that. The challenge is that sometimes systems are installed that are not actually appropriate for the size of the community. There are different kinds of systems.
    In one community I visited, a very sophisticated system had been installed that was inappropriate for the size of the community. There was a huge cost to the community to operate that system in terms of chemicals, the operator training that was required and whatnot. It was not that it was a substandard system. It was a system that was inappropriate for that community.
    The bigger challenge is that there are significant numbers of communities at risk, either because they do not have the training that is required or there is not appropriate monitoring. Sometimes there are well systems, whether community wells or individual wells, and there are some questions about the kinds of monitoring that goes on. If some of these wells fail, communities cannot afford to replace them.
    In one of the communities I visited, the wells were all contaminated and the community is currently having to truck in water. It is more about whether the resources are available to operate, maintain and construct new facilities as appropriate.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague on an excellent speech this afternoon. She has much more expertise in this area than I do and I hope she will forgive me.
     I have a hard time believing the minister because he has such a long record of broken promises. Members will know that water is an internationally recognized human right. We have also made commitments to the rights of indigenous people, but the Conservative government still continues to ignore the rights of Canada's first nation communities.
    A study commissioned by this very government found that an investment of $5 billion over 10 years is needed with an immediate investment of $1.2 billion. However, we are seeing in the bill that the government has ignored the recommendation from the Assembly of First Nations dealing with safe drinking water and is still advocating for incorporation by reference of provincial laws, effectively placing much of the responsibility with the provinces.
    I have to ask myself what we are doing here. How much is this going to cost the provinces? We know the federal government is not coming to the table to pony up. I wonder if my colleague would elaborate on what this means for provinces such as hers, British Columbia, and provinces right across the country.


    Mr. Speaker, an analysis done by Koch Thornton on March 27, 2012, made a couple of observations about the problems with Bill S-8. One of them, of course, was that there is no new funding. It said:
    The implementation of a complex source-to-tap water regulation regime, as contemplated by Bill S-8, is an enormous undertaking.
    Then it went on to talk about how much money that would cost. It does acknowledge that Bill S-8 cannot provide for new government spending, but it indicates that what should have happened was that an appropriation bill should have also been tabled in order to indicate the government's commitment to the funding