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View Peter Milliken Profile
Lib. (ON)
Order, please. I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on March 10, 2011, by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development concerning an alleged sit-in at his Parliament Hill office.
I wish to thank the minister for having raised this matter and the members for Churchill and Yukon for their comments.
In raising this question of privilege, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development explained that on Wednesday, March 9, 2011, the member for Churchill arrived at his office, uninvited and accompanied by a group of the Sayisi Dene and media representatives, pressing his staff for an immediate meeting despite his absence. In his view, this constituted a protest and a sit-in. Characterizing the incident as a serious breach of trust and a serious matter from a security standpoint, the minister expressed concern that his employees were made uncomfortable and prevented from doing their work.
The member for Churchill countered that the visit was simply an attempt to obtain a meeting with the minister and not an orchestrated event with the intention of obstructing the work of the minister's office.
As all hon. members will recall, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 108 states:
Speakers have consistently upheld the right of the House to the services of its members free from intimidation, obstruction and interference.
It also notes, on the same page, that:
Over the years, members have regularly brought to the attention of the House instances which they believed were attempts to obstruct, impede, interfere, intimidate or molest them, their staffs or individuals who had some business with them or the House.
In the case before us, the Chair is being asked to determine whether the unauthorized presence in the minister's office of the member for Churchill, a delegation of the Sayisi Dene and the media was tantamount to intimidation or obstruction of the minister's staff. To assist me, I reviewed the report on this matter prepared by House of Commons security, who attended the scene after being called upon for assistance by the minister's staff. It is clear to the Chair from the submissions, as well as the security report, that those occupying the minister's office were uninvited and did not have proper authorization to be there. As well, the Chair believes that the minister's staff was indeed uncomfortable, though they appeared to have handled the situation with aplomb and good grace.
I am troubled that the member for Churchill, without prior warning, took it upon herself to lead a group to another member's office. That media representatives were part of this group makes the situation that much more unfortunate. No matter how well intentioned the member for Churchill was, or how amicable the outcome of this particular incident, it was an unauthorized presence in a minister's office that left ministerial staff uncomfortable enough to warrant the assistance of security. It is a credit to the minister's staff, and it must be said to the unexpected visitors as well, that this incident did not escalate further and that the tone of the exchange was respectful.
It is well understood that members need access to ministers to fulfill their parliamentary functions but it is equally true that there are various well-known, entirely acceptable avenues available to secure such access. Members are expected to avail themselves of these mutually agreed upon opportunities rather than resorting to other unorthodox means that may place colleagues in untenable situations. Because of the actions of the member for Churchill, for almost an hour, her guests occupied the office of the minister without a previously arranged appointment. This is a clear abuse of the usual practices that all members are expected to follow. The Chair is disappointed that the member for Churchill showed a complete disregard for the common courtesies that are to be observed between members. In this case, the situation was well managed, but we may not always be so lucky.
It does not require a great deal of imagination to foresee the kind of circus atmosphere that could result if all members took it upon themselves to escort constituents, delegations or other citizens—however worthy their cause or objective—to whichever other member's office they chose.
That being said, in this particular case, in large part due to the calm, measured approach taken by the minister's staff in handling the situation, there is little evidence to suggest that the staff of the minister were obstructed in the fulfillment of their duties. The minister himself was careful not to overstate the impact of the incident on his staff. In view of the very high threshold required in adjudicating such situations, in this circumstance the Chair cannot find that a prima facie question of privilege has arisen in this matter.
The Chair expects that all members will heed the lesson of this incident in an effort to maintain the integrity of the precinct as a work environment where all members feel secure and respected.
I ask for the active collaboration of all members in this and I thank all members for their attention.
View John Duncan Profile
CPC (BC)
View John Duncan Profile
2011-03-10 15:12 [p.8913]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege in regard to a disturbing event that took place yesterday in my office at the Confederation Building.
The stunt was orchestrated by the NDP member for Churchill. It was what I would call a very serious breach of trust among those of us in the House and a breach of privilege because the employees in my office were prevented from doing their work. It is a cause for concern for even members of the other place.
With a number of media outlets and their cameras in tow, the NDP member of Parliament helped orchestrate a protest and sit-in in my office. While her guests occupied my office, she pressed my staff for an immediate meeting and played up this shocking incident for the cameras.
Not for one minute am I attempting to minimize the concerns of those people who occupied my office. I understand their concerns and my staff has indicated that we will work with them. However, I am truly troubled that a member of this House would orchestrate the takeover of another member's office and make a member's staff uncomfortable as a result of this breach.
Security was eventually called to help clear out the office without incident but, frankly, there is no assurance that such a stunt will not happen again in my office or in any other member's office in this place or in the other place.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you to look into this serious matter from a security standpoint, as well as a privilege standpoint for members. It was wrong, it was a violation of my office and my staff, and I do not think the member would think twice about doing it again.
One month ago, the same member asked me for a meeting. She received a one hour meeting within short order. I thought we had established a relationship.
This is the first time in my 15 years in this place that I have ever been subject to such an incident. The behaviour of the NDP member for Churchill is not worthy of an elected member of Parliament.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2011-03-10 15:15 [p.8914]
Mr. Speaker, I do not want to comment on the particular activities, because I was not there, but I want the House to know that the Indian band in question was taken from its town by the federal government and dropped on the shores of Hudson Bay with no place to live. I think they are pretty upset with the government and would like to meet with the minister.
View Peter Milliken Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think we will leave this matter. I will take the incident under advisement. I expect we may be hearing from some other member later and we will deal with that later. I will get back to the House in due course in respect of this one.
View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
View Niki Ashton Profile
2011-03-10 18:38 [p.8936]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to a question of privilege that was raised earlier.
Yesterday, I accompanied the delegation of the Sayisi Dene elders and leaders, who are from Tadoule Lake in northern Manitoba.
The Sayisi Dene have a long-standing claim, based on a forced relocation imposed by the Government of Canada in 1956, a claim that is one of the few imposed based on a forced relocation of aboriginal people that has yet to be resolved.
The Sayisi Dene, who are my constituents, wanted to ask for a meeting with the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, a meeting for which they have asked for quite some time. I helped my constituents in requesting this very meeting. There was no intention to obstruct any work being done. This was not an orchestrated event and to characterize it as such would be incorrect.
I would like to note that the elders were offered to sit in the office, while a response could be given. As the MP, I asked for the meeting and listened to the request of these elders. I then stepped out of the office, shortly after which the chief of staff arrived and offered to meet with myself, the lawyer for the Sayisi Dene and the chief of the Sayisi Dene. We met. Then we returned to the delegation, where the chief of staff committed to a meeting between the minister and the delegation in the near future.
Security were there, outside of the office, reports were filed and I would encourage the Speaker to examine all such security reports.
I would like to point out that the tone of the exchange was respectful throughout. Not only that, but the exchange ended with handshakes and on a respectful note. There seemed to be a clear understanding of the gravity of the situation facing the Sayisi Dene, a people who have suffered immeasurably as a result of the forced relocation imposed by the Government of Canada in 1956.
I would also like to respond to the reference to my meeting with the minister. I would like to clarify for the record that I had been requesting a meeting with him for about three months.
I go back to yesterday. I would like to note and emphasize that the tone throughout was one of utmost respect, a reference that was reiterated by the elders who led this delegation.
Finally, it ended with the meeting being committed to, a commitment made by the chief of staff representing the minister.
I hope the minister will meet with the chief and the elders of the Sayisi Dene at the nearest opportunity. After all, that is what they have asked for. It has been a long time that the Sayisi Dene people have been waiting and, with respect, offering at every step of the way to work with the Government of Canada to begin their journey and our journey of reconciliation.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2011-03-10 18:42 [p.8936]
I thank the hon. member for that statement. I am sure the Speaker will come back to the House with a decision on this matter in due course.
View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
View Niki Ashton Profile
2011-03-08 14:58 [p.8793]
Mr. Speaker, the Sayisi Dene of northern Manitoba are in Ottawa today seeking nothing more than justice.
In 1956 the Government of Canada forced the people to relocate. This relocation caused trauma, suicide and a dark history that this first nation struggles with today. While the government has apologized to others, this first nation still waits. Today is about a chance for leadership and a new beginning.
Will the Minister of Indian Affairs agree to meet with the Sayisi Dene? Will the Government of Canada truly commit to a path of reconciliation?
View John Duncan Profile
CPC (BC)
View John Duncan Profile
2011-03-08 14:58 [p.8793]
Mr. Speaker, in 2009 Dr. Jeremiah Bartram was engaged to explore the prospect of a negotiated settlement with the first nation. Dr. Bartram has submitted his final report and it is currently under review to determine the best way forward.
We recognize the Sayisi Dene First Nation's difficult history. Addressing historical grievances is a complex process that requires significant time and care in order to ensure they are resolved in a manner that will satisfy all parties and stand the test of time.
View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
View Niki Ashton Profile
2011-02-10 11:33 [p.7998]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House and express our party's support for the Bloc opposition day motion before us today.
The motion asks for the House to issue an official apology to the people whose properties were expropriated to create Forillon Park for the unconscionable manner in which they were treated. As well, it asks that the Speaker of the House send their representatives and descendants an official copy of the Journals of the House of Commons indicating the adoption of this motion.
Given the speeches here today, it is clear of what happened to the people who used to live where Forillon Park is today. They went through a very traumatic event. It was truly a tragedy. It is unconscionable that the people in the communities that were impacted were not consulted, their views were not heard and their wishes regarding their land were not respected, the land being one of the most fundamental connections to their roots. Unfortunately, this is a pattern we have seen time and time again in Canadian history, a history marred by forced relocations, a failure to consult and work with people and communities and to listen to what they have to say regarding how they want to live and contribute to their communities and to our country.
It is critical for me to support this motion, not just because of what the people in the region of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine have gone through, but also what it means in terms of setting a precedent for other peoples who have been forcibly relocated, as well as others whose voices have been silenced by the present government and preceding governments, such as Liberal governments of the past.
I have the honour of representing Churchill riding in northern Manitoba. Northern Manitoba has a very tragic history regarding the federal government's treatment of First Nations people. Unfortunately, there is also a history of forced relocations as well as relocations which, in many ways, while not said to be forced, if we look at the patterns that had taken place was in fact forced.
While some of that history has been recognized, there still remains a denial for other historical claims put forth by people who had been most adversely affected. One of those peoples are the Sayisi Dene who today live in Tadoule Lake, which is one of the most northern communities in the constituency I represent. It close to the border of north of 60.
Tadoule Lake is a Dene community and the people have shared their stories with Canada for some decades now. They spoke of a forced relocation from a nomadic lifestyle in northern Manitoba where they followed the caribou herds and lived and thrived off the land. Because of a decision made by officials of the Government of Canada, a decision that was approved by the political leaders of the day, the Dene people were forced into some of the most egregious living conditions in what is Churchill today. They were forced into a life of poverty and a life to which they were not accustomed. They had depended on the hunting and trapping seasons and being able to move and fend for themselves. Those patterns were crushed by the Government of Canada when it refused to listen to the cries for help from the Sayisi Dene people. Even when the lifestyle in which they were forced brought about alcoholism, drug addiction and the kinds of abuse that many Canadians cannot even imagine, they still were not heard. It took decades for them to fight for access to reserve land on which they could relocate to, which is now called Tadoule Lake.
The Sayisi Dene people of Tadoule Lake have said that they want true recognition from the Government of Canada when it comes to the tragedy that they faced. It was a tragedy in whose path they still live with some of the highest suicide rates and addiction rates and a real sense of trauma exacerbated by the fact that the Government of Canada is continuing to fail to recognize their wishes, which is not just an apology but also compensation for what they have lost.
When we look at monetary figures, it is impossible to put down in numbers the cost of the lives that have been lost, the cost of the futures that have been lost and the continued impact on future generations. However, the Sayisi Dene people have said that this relocation needs to be recognized, and not just in terms of monetary compensation, but a commitment to healing on behalf of the Government of Canada.
Still, in the year 2011, they have been denied that wish. There have been movements on the part of the government that have been seen as very positive from the community but the continued failure to deal with the relocation and bring closure to the community's wishes is something we are still waiting for.
We do not need to keep living with this kind of history. We need to respect the wishes of the people who have gone through this trauma. It is not the government, it is the people on the ground, the communities that make up our country. That is why we should be looking at today's motion and supporting it unanimously. We should be listening to the wishes of the people whose history and wishes has been ignored.
I find it interesting that the motion asks for something as fundamental as an apology from the House. It certainly speaks to a recognition that we all ought to have regarding this issue. It is also very much in line with Canada's increased consideration of the method of apologizing as a way of moving forward.
One of the moments I will never forget in my life was the historic apology made toward residential school survivors by the Government of Canada and supported by the House. It was an honour to share in that moment with so many survivors in my home community of Thompson, Manitoba. It was powerful to hear the government, the House of Commons, apologize to people whose lives were so negatively impacted and whose lives were destroyed during of a shameful part of our history.
However, in that moment of apology, people saw hope that would allow them to move forward, to heal and to work with communities and say, “They have heard us and they know what this has meant to us. Now we can begin to move forward”.
In light of that apology, there was also hope that we would not stop there, that we would continue in the spirit of that apology and move forward with tangible pieces that would contribute to the well-being of survivors and their communities. I believe that a critical consideration for us as members of Parliament and representatives of the Canadian people is to hear those voices.
In the context of our debate here today, we in the NDP hope that the wishes of the people of the Gaspé region, with which many of us across Canada re familiar , will be heard, and not just today in this House but that moving forward, they, their families and the people who will come later will know that we care and that we are sorry for what was done to them.
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