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View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to reply to the Speech from the Throne. I will be sharing my time with the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith.
Today I speak in support of the throne speech, but not without reservations. Speaking frankly, my initial instinct and intention was to vote against the throne speech, given the ethical challenges of the government.
However, I cannot vote against it. This is because I have not heard from one constituent in my riding who says they want an election during a pandemic. I have heard this from not one constituent, regardless of political affiliation.
Despite a growing dissatisfaction with the government's approach to governance and its respect for our institutions, there is a level of support at this time for continuity and non-partisanship in governments as we work together to take all necessary steps to confront the pandemic and its impact on our way of life. Fighting COVID-19 must be non-partisan.
There has been some higher degrees of co-operation and general agreement on programs that have been created to support the fight, and importantly, to support Canadians. We all know that at the appropriate and responsible time there will be an election. For now, let us lead as an effective and impactful minority Parliament.
An election will happen, I presume, sometime after the second wave of COVID, and hopefully only after a vaccine has been widely administered. For now, Canadians want us all, and I mean us all, to remain focused on the job at hand, on public health and immediate economic needs, and to do so without mindless partisanship and unnecessary conflict.
We all need to remain vigilant. Governments can only do so much. Individually, we need to be responsible and we must continue to follow all public health advice. There is little room for error. As are all members, I am guided by the people in my riding. Our constituency office has sought and received feedback on the issues that are most important to people during the pandemic.
The top issue people shared is, not surprisingly, dealing with the immediate impact of COVID. Second are issues around finance and the economy, followed by the environment and housing. One message from my constituents, and in reply to the first part of the Speech from the Throne, is about addressing the immediate needs ahead of us. We must all ensure the programs we have put in place with such haste are in fact working, that the law and policy were right and, where these programs continue, they are sustainable.
This is not a question about austerity. It is a matter of good governance. As well, we need new metrics. If we are not just using debt-to-GDP, we need other fiscal anchors. Some specific issues raised by my constituents include a meaningful discussion and move toward a universal basic income, as well as investing in seniors, child care and pharmacare.
As to the balance of the Speech from the Throne, it was a shopping list of progressive policies and many long repeated and long outstanding promises. In the past, I was part of a government that had many of these same items on its shopping list. Often, as Canadians unfortunately have become used to, actions did not match the words when, ultimately, political expediency got in the way of progress.
Importantly, there are many people in groups talking about what our post-pandemic recovery should or should not look like. There is talk of a green recovery and a just recovery. These are important conversations we all must listen to. For any meaningful recovery to work, especially if it is to be transformative in addressing the broader challenges of our time, we need Parliament and all our institutions of government to be more effective and to work better. This is something the Speech from the Throne does not address.
As we have worked together in the face of the common threat of COVID-19, we have adapted. Parliament has adapted. As we move forward, and if we truly want to build back better, as the throne speech opines, then we need to think about the tools we have to build the nation we want and how our government works. If we can work together and change the way this place operates on the fly because of COVID-19, then surely we can make the deeper changes needed to make this place more effective, more accountable and a place where the voices of members of Parliament matter.
We also know from dealing with the pandemic that there are still deep-seated issues with the provinces concerning division of power, including, as has long been the case, health supports.
In our young country, we have an evolving system of co-operative federalism. There is a role for the government and a role for the provinces and territories. If we truly want to build back better when the immediate threat is over, we must ensure that we have the right foundation to build on, one that includes indigenous nations and governments that are recognized and constituted as indigenous peoples determine. We should, at the very least, be open to a conversation about governance reform, including constitutional reform, the Senate, Quebec, indigenous peoples, the environment and making the federation better.
In addition to parliamentary reform, there is a need for electoral reform. There is also much work to do to address true reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Simply adopting UNDRIP and making some program enhancements, although they are important steps, are not enough. With strong governance, we will be better equipped to tackle the big issues of our day, the issues that will still be with us after COVID-19, such as climate change, the breakdown of the international rules-based order, or wealth and equality.
As we come out of this pandemic, we should start with our institutions and make building them better a priority. This will be tough, but Canadians have always been strong and resilient, and able to show governments the way forward. Collectively, we are only as strong and resilient as the institutions that support us, beyond party and politics. I was raised to always seek balance and where everyone in the community had a role to play. Rooted in these teachings is the importance of our interconnectedness, our responsibility to one another and to our environment.
Our collective way of being, indeed, our humanity, is being tested as we respond to COVID-19. We are in a learning moment. There is a reason some groups are being hit harder than others during the pandemic. It is because they are the vulnerable and the marginalized. The disproportionate impacts upon them are, in part, a reflection of endured injustices, and of a legacy of colonialism and systemic racism, which manifest themselves throughout society and our institutions.
More and more, I have been thinking about what it would be like if we had a society in which we truly recognized and supported one another, our fundamental unity and our diversity. This is not a new idea. If we are able to recognize it and do something about it during a pandemic, then why not permanently? If we can see it, but do not act on it now, then when will we?
Moving forward, we need more than a shopping list of policy ideas. We need a vision and we need to establish clear priorities. We need political will and we need resolute action.
We also need a better way to measure our social well-being and our collective health. Today, we typically use GDP to make assumptions about social well-being and our standards of living. The assumption is that the higher per capita amount, the better the standards are. However, as an economic tool, GDP can only make assumptions about the basic standards of living, which can be different across the socio-economic spectrum of a nation.
COVID has highlighted how standards of living are different across communities. Moreover, our welfare is affected by other factors, such as mental well-being, cultural resilience and very importantly, environmental health, which are all things GDP does not consider.
What we need are better and more inclusive socio-economic factors. We need indicators that would help us to develop budgets that aim to increase the social well-being of Canadians, not just the economic bottom line. We need to plan based on what we truly value. When all human potential is maximized, our society will be truly transformed.
This is the core of my teachings, the teachings of my people, the Kwakwala, who have survived for millennia. This is the road to recovery. This is building back better. Gilakas'la.
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
Madam Speaker, I 100% agree that indigenous peoples, families of the murdered and missing indigenous women and girls, and residential school survivors have waited too long for concrete action from the government. The member opened her question with having a level of trust. Trust is incredibly important and it is incredibly hard to rebuild. Probably more than anyone in this place, I can say that the level of trust I have for actually fulfilling promises has significantly wavered. This is an important issue. It is one that cannot be addressed simply by pretty words or tears. We have to take concrete action. We cannot delay action plans. We know what needs to be done when it comes to indigenous peoples, and we have to act now. I look forward to working with all members in this place and would be happy to have further conversations with the member opposite.
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
Madam Chair, I understand the government will be releasing a discussion paper and possible draft UNDRIP legislation mirroring Bill C-262. I trust the government is aware that fundamental to the declaration's articles are the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous peoples.
Accordingly, to demonstrate the government's intent in legislating UNDRIP into Canadian law, and given the unfolding situation in Haida Gwaii and the refusal of the Queen Charlotte fishing lodge to respect the council of the Haida Nation's COVID-19 restrictions, I ask: Does the government recognize and support the right of the nation, i.e. its jurisdiction, to protect its homeland and the safety of its people, and in particular, its elders?
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, reconciliation requires long overdue and urgent work: fundamental legislative and policy changes, new ways of making decisions, meeting the standards of UNDRIP and supporting indigenous nations as they rebuild.
After the immediate crisis is addressed, the need for transformative change will still remain. How will the Prime Minister regain the trust, respect and moral authority to do the true reconciliation work that is so desperately required? Does the Prime Minister have the resolve to do what is right and not what partisan advisers tell him is politically expedient?
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, some two years ago the Prime Minister stood in the House and committed to the recognition and implementation of indigenous title and rights in legislation. That long-overdue work has not happened, and we continue to see the challenges across the country due to that inaction.
As was committed, and speaking of concrete action, will the government introduce legislation that upholds the minimum standards of UNDRIP?
Equally important, will it actually implement those standards domestically, so that indigenous peoples are supported in their self-determination, can rebuild and can exercise their authority in clear and predictable ways for their own people and for all Canadians?
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
Madam Speaker, I would like to applaud the government for ensuring that there will be an introduction of UNDRIP legislation to bring the United Nations declaration into Canadian law.
Beyond that necessary first step, will the government commit to changing its laws, policies and operational practices to ensure that indigenous peoples in this country can be self-determining, including self-governing, at their own pace and based on their own priorities? Can the government ensure that it will go beyond the UNDRIP legislation, and actually change laws and policies?
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand to speak in this emergency debate. I would like to thank the member for Foothills for sharing his time with me.
I want to acknowledge the comments of the Prime Minister earlier today, and certainly acknowledge comments or other remarks from individuals in this place, looking to try to find solutions to this important question and consideration. I agree that good faith, partnership and a non-partisan approach have to take place when it comes to indigenous issues and pursuing true reconciliation.
I think about two basic questions that need to be asked. First, why are we in this situation? Second, what should be done?
Why are we in this situation? Why are we seeing blockades and protests and economic disruption?
The answer is pretty straightforward. It is because Canada, through successive governments, including the current government, has not done the basic work of resetting the foundations for relations with indigenous peoples, despite the rhetoric. We all know what needs to be done. We have known for decades, but we are here, yet again, in a moment of crisis, because this hard work has been punted.
The history of Canada saw indigenous peoples divided into smaller administrative groupings, with systems of government imposed upon them. For Indians, this was through the Indian Act and the creation of the band councils system.
The work of decolonization, of reconciliation, requires supporting nations to rebuild, to come back together and revitalize their own systems of government, to self-determine. Until they do, we will never know who truly speaks for the nations, irrespective of the good work and good intentions of the hundreds of Indian Act chiefs and councils and traditional leaders, who, in many cases, are one and the same.
However, we have not done this work. We have maintained the same legislation and policies for decades that keeps first nations under colonial statute, keeps nations divided, renders negotiations long and nearly impossible and does not support first nations nearly enough in doing the rebuilding work they must inevitably do. There are lots of reasons for this: the historical denial of rights to self-government and the denial to one's land and, so too, paternalism. The result of the perpetual inaction are situations like we see in Wet'suwet'en territory.
The Prime Minister did say today that these problems had roots in a long history. That is true. However, let us be honest, and with respect, the Prime Minister has to learn to take responsibility. Canadians over many years have come to learn our true history and the need for fundamental change. He has been speaking for five years about this most important relationship. He stood in the House of Commons over two years ago and pledged to make transformative, legislative and policy reforms, reforms that would be directly relevant to the situation in Wet'suwet'en territory today, that would have supported the internal governance work of the nation, shifted the consultation processes that took place and provided a framework for better relations.
What have we have seen as a result of this speech, and its transformative words? Honestly, almost nothing. The promise of legislation has not come. I know it is hard, but we cannot keep punting the hard work because of political expediency. If we do, we will have another situation like we have today in five years from now or quite likely sooner.
Therefore, here we are. What should be done? In the spirit of good faith and in the spirit of working together, may I be so bold as to offer four suggestions?
One, governments have to lead. They need to lead. Weeks have passed. If the Prime Minister wants to have dialogue to resolve matters peacefully, de-escalate the situation and show real leadership, in my view he should have gotten on a plane, flown to British Columbia, picked the premier up on his way up to Wet'suwet'en territory and met with the leadership of the Wet'suwet'en and some of the broader indigenous leaders in British Columbia.
The Prime Minister could still do this, having regard for and respect for the wishes and preconditions perhaps of the Wet'suwet'en leaders and recognizing some of the challenges that exist in their community. Honestly, there is a practice of leaders not wanting, in my opinion, to be in meetings where the outcomes and structures are not basically predetermined. We have had enough of that. One cannot script dealing with real issues and challenges. Let us just deal with them.
Two, the government should act now on making the fundamental changes that are long overdue. Long ago the government should have tabled comprehensive legislation that implements the minimum standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and upholds the recognition and implementation of indigenous rights, a recognition and implementation of rights framework. Such legislation would include supports, without interfering, for indigenous nations to rebuild their governments. It also would include pathways for moving out beyond the Indian Act. Indian Act chiefs have an important role to play in this process. Once truly self-governing, we will know with certainty who speaks for the indigenous title and rights holders. This is important not only for indigenous peoples to have faith in the legitimacy of their own democratic institutions but ultimately the people will choose and vote on their system of good governance. It is now also important for all Canadians to know.
I will be frank. The government uses language like “co-development” and the need to do it “in partnership” with indigenous peoples a lot, but a lot of the time it uses that language simply as an excuse to delay or justify inaction. For decades, at least since the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples 25 years ago, we have known the foundational legislative change that is needed. UNDRIP is a decade old. The government is five years old and it has been two years since the Prime Minister announced legislation would be tabled within 10 months. Enough is enough. The time for action is now. No more half measures, no more lofty rhetoric, no more setting up interminable negotiations that get nowhere very slowly over years and years.
Three, I believe the government should consider a cooling-off period when construction activity does not take place. That would allow everyone to step back and assess where things are, clear the space for dialogue and de-escalate current tensions. Whether this period is for one month or for a few months, it can be of benefit to all.
In this time, dialogue between the Wet'suwet'en and the government can take place. As well, the Wet'suwet'en, in my respectful view, need to take responsibility in such a period of time to have, in a very inclusive manner, the internal dialogue needed to bring clarity about how they will approach the future of this project collectively. Also, such a period of time may allow for explorations, as there have been in the past, of alternative routing for small portions of the line that can address some concerns, including, if necessary, government roles in accommodating the costs of such changes, should they be adopted with broad support.
Four, as a proud indigenous person in this country, I know that indigenous governments also need to lead. The main request I have heard, including meetings with the Prime Minister and premier, is that the RCMP leave the area where it conducted enforcement activity. My understanding as of today is that the company and the Wet'suwet'en are both in the area and things remain currently peaceful. If the RCMP decides it is appropriate to leave, perhaps as part of a cooling-off period, then I would expect indigenous governments, including the Wet'suwet'en leadership, to take action, to look at reconciliation and to look at how they can move forward collectively.
I want to make one last observation about reconciliation and the things that we have heard about reconciliation being dead.
Reconciliation in its true meaning always involves a reckoning. With our past, we are taking responsibility with changing course in real ways, with making the hard choices for our future. These are the choices that every parliamentarian in this place representing their constituents has to make for the benefit of all Canadians. This is our opportunity to finally finish the unfinished business of Confederation and enable indigenous peoples to be self-determining, embrace the minimum standards of the United Nations declaration and finally ensure that indigenous peoples have their rightful place in this amazing country.
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, as part of a cooling-off period, I believe fundamentally that leaders, the Prime Minister, the Premier of the Province of British Columbia and Canadians need to have reflections around what happens and how we move forward. An agreement between the Prime Minister, the premier and certainly involving the leadership and citizens of the Wet'suwet'en nation is important to determine the best way forward. Cooler heads prevail when there has been an opportunity to reflect and plan a way forward. I certainly would support that happening.
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I have heard the debate all night. Based on my former role, I generally understand the role of the RCMP and police forces and the reality of not having political interference happening. I know that very well.
I am familiar with the authorities in the RCMP Act. I am also familiar with the necessity to ensure the RCMP has the ability to exercise its discretion as appropriate. However, there has been a conversation in the country, and perhaps it might be a result of this debate for this conversation to continue, on the balance between the independence of police forces and the authorities of ministers. We have had inquiries about this, Ipperwash for one. This is a conversation that needs to continue, but appropriately with political action and agreement on all sides. Perhaps that would lead the way for decisions to be made by police and the RCMP.
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