Mr. Chair, I am sorry that we are here tonight. I am sorry to Colten Boushie's family. I am sorry that in a time of deep grieving they had to come to Ottawa to meet with the government. I am grateful for the generosity of their time and for the very strong voice of Colten's sister, in particular. I think she will be a future leader of our country. I am sickened by the racist language in social media and on our radio networks that has been unleashed by this. I am horrified. I see a lot of nodding heads from all parties here.
What we are hearing in our country is sadly summed up by my colleague, friend, and former Snuneymuxw chief in Nanaimo—Ladysmith, where I am honoured to serve. Former Snuneymuxw chief Kwul’a’sul’tun, also known as Doug White III said, on behalf of the B.C. Aboriginal Justice Council in the wake of this ruling:
The reality of this verdict drags Canada's justice system out from behind the window dressing of reconciliation rhetoric and exposes real problems that we must urgently address together.... Today, Canadians across the country are doubting whether this system, that clearly discounts the lives of Indigenous peoples, has anything at all to do with justice....
With my colleagues from all parties at the status of women committee, we have been studying the experience of indigenous women in Canada in the justice system and in the incarceration system. Indigenous women make up 30% of the total incarcerated population in Canada, and of federally sentenced prisoners, 36% are indigenous women. Here is how one witness we have had at committee described her experience. Vicki Chartrand from Bishop's University said:
Indigenous women end up on the deepest end of the system, and continue to be subject to some of the most restrictive levels of penal practices, such as maximum-security classifications, segregation, involuntary transfers, physical restraints, strip searches, lockdowns, use of force, dry cells, institutional charges, lack of medical attention, and also with higher rates of self-harm and suicide. When you end up on the deep end of the system...you often don't come out alive.
Mandatory minimums still exist in our country. The Liberal government promised to end them. It has not taken that power, and indigenous women, because judges can no longer exercise their judicial discretion, are being forced to serve time for a crime they may well be an accessory to, but it is putting their children into foster care, and this country is carrying on its tragic and destructive history of separating indigenous parents from their children. Why this could not have been done on day one of the government's term in office, I have no idea.
We have had recommendations from the United Nations committee to end discrimination against women, in 2016. I have been asking every witness at committee, “Are your recommendations on indigenous women in the justice system being addressed by this government?” They all say no. Seventeen of the 94 calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are specifically focused on indigenous peoples' experience in the justice system. Again, witnesses at our status of women committee are saying there really has been no progress. In two years, with all the goodwill in the world, I do not understand why.
Dr. Ivan Zinger, of the Office of the Correctional Investigator, said:
I will say the practice of taking a women with acute mental illness and putting her into an all-male institution, completed isolated, all alone in a unit, is shameful and a violation of human rights.
There is no room for this in Canada. When do we have bureaucrats saying such appalling and condemning things about our government in Canada? This, again, is not a practice that has been ended by correctional services in Canada. It has not been ordered to be ended by the government.
Forgive me for saying it. This country cannot afford any more just good intentions. To go back to the old food aid concerts, words are not enough. This government has so much goodwill. We have the House with us. We have made promises and commitments on reconciliation, and now with rulings like we had, with the racism that is being unleashed across the country, we must turn these good intentions into actions. We must do better. I cannot even say do better. We must legislate. We must change our rules. We must bring legislation into the House that turns good words into action.