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View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
I thank the NDP very much for the opportunity to have some time here.
I greet you, Chief Turtle. Thank you for your phone call a couple of nights ago and for our conversation again yesterday. I want to send greetings to the entire Asubpeeschoseewagong community. I want to speak in support of the request the community has made for a trust fund. I think I share that sentiment with my colleagues who have offered me this time.
Chief, when we talked about this, you gave me the reasons you believe it's important. We talked about the moral imperative, about the fact that thousands of people—both in your community and in surrounding communities—have been impacted by the mercury contamination in the English-Wabigoon river system, and about how there is no other group of Canadians who would accept suffering such health consequences and not have appropriate health facilities to treat them.
The commitment was made on behalf of the government, as I know very well. I believe that it's incumbent upon the government to continue with that commitment.
You and others have outlined a clear clinical need. I urge people who haven't read the Mergler report to do so. It does outline not only the effects on adults, but the severe neurological effects on children of mercury contamination.
Chief, you talked to me about the exceptional circumstances that you're under and that is why you have asked for this $89-million trust. My question for you is: What do you think are the reasons it has not come to pass? I have a list of five potential theories; I wonder if any of them are reasons that you have as to why this agreement has not yet been reached.
Earlier, the officials talked about the fact that it was the mechanism of a contribution agreement versus a trust fund that was the debate. I wonder if, in fact, it's not so much the mechanism, but the amount of money because the amount of money in the trust fund is significantly larger—in the order of $89 million. However, I would argue that one can calculate $89 million to be 0.025% of what the federal government is going to spend this year. I think most Canadians would argue that spending 0.025% of this year's money to give 30 years of treatment to the people of Grassy Narrows is a very good investment.
The second possibility I have heard is that it's a question of time. Officials talked about the fact that they didn't have time to prepare the details of the trust fund. I wonder, Chief, whether you think that the thousands of officials who work in Indigenous Services Canada—along with their colleagues, the thousands of officials who work in Finance Canada—could not somehow find the time over the next couple of weeks to write up what would be necessary for a trust fund, knowing that there are examples in Ontario and others that we've heard about this morning that could be seen as a template for this.
The third theory I have is that it's a lack of political will. I don't actually believe that to be the case. I know my colleagues in the Liberal Party and in the government want to do right by indigenous peoples, so it is my sense that this is not the actual problem. I think there is, as others have said here, a shared political will of all members of Parliament to see justice for the people of Asubpeeschoseewagong.
The fourth theory I have is the trust issue. The minister spoke last week about the fact that possibly you weren't trusting the government to be able to come through with the long-term expenses. My theory is that perhaps it's the other way around. Do you think it's possible that the government doesn't trust you and your officials to be able to administer a trust fund appropriately? I'll put that to you as a possibility.
The fifth area that I think may be a stumbling block is that, in my understanding, this would be because of the size of an $89-million trust fund. It would require an off-cycle budget ask from a government that's just tabled its final budget. If that is the case, Chief, I wonder if there's a way that we could support you—and perhaps members of this committee could support you—by collectively asking the Minister of Finance to consider the possibility of an off-cycle budget ask, even at this late stage, in order to find the money necessary for this trust fund.
Imagine the legacy that this government could share with you and your community, Chief, as well as the members of this 42nd Parliament, if in fact this could be put in place before the end of the term.
I'd be interested in your thoughts on whether there are other reasons that I haven't considered and in what ways we could support you to be successful in the coming weeks.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
2019-06-04 12:45
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Sikand, for sharing your time.
It's good to see you again, Stanley, Scott and Patrick.
One of the things that I've always said about Nunavut is that it's an untapped resource. The rest of Canada has been explored, dug into and capitalized on, but Nunavut hasn't. I think one of the things that we need as a country, to be able to tap into that resource and allow Nunavut to create a sustainable and stable economy, is that investment infrastructure. I've always said that national programs like this one, whether they be programs or formulas, don't take into account the uniqueness of the north: the time frame that it takes to get things done and the higher cost of doing stuff up there. I've always said that investment in infrastructure in the north is an investment in the Canadian economy, because everything that we need up north comes from the south.
I guess, having said that—and I'll leave it up to who would like to answer this—what would be the economic benefit to Canada from this project? Do you have any specific numbers that you'd like to share with us on that?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
2019-06-04 12:49
You hit the nail on the head there I think. It's just something like...can we afford not to invest in it?
I think everyone knows there are very limited opportunities in Nunavut to create a stable, sustainable economy, and the numbers you just pointed out make it very clear that here's something that—and you can confirm—would create economic prosperity as far as jobs in the region for individuals, and also the business opportunities in the region and in the south.
Thank you.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Yes, thank you.
This is a fairly straightforward amendment. It was received on the basis of feedback that I heard from indigenous peoples: that they want it to refer not to “a child's well-being is often promoted when”, but to “a child's best interests are often promoted when”. This is because the concept of best interests is a concept that I heard repeatedly, particularly from first nations with regard to the highest goal that they were seeking. It was more inclusive of considering cultural continuity, and we certainly heard that cultural continuity is something that is at risk when children are taken from their homes. I think that it would not take much to change that to say that it is a child's best interests that we are seeking.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
I propose this amendment to clause 12. This and my following two amendments all have to do with the fact that children are often taken from their parents without proper warning to the parents, without proper preventative measures being put in place and without information about what's being done.
This particular amendment in clause 12 has to do with adding some clarity of language so that there's a requirement for the service provider to give information as to exactly what measure is being contemplated for the child, and there would be advance notice of such.
There is also a part of this amendment that speaks to the privacy provisions in here so that there's no personal information about the child in the notice that's given unless it's necessary to convey information about the measure and that there should be a privacy officer to ensure that information is treated in the manner that is respectful. I heard stories of people where their privacy was not protected when children were taken from them. Unfortunately, the privacy of the child and family was not respected.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
I move this amendment to clause 14. I feel very strongly about this amendment. Every single day in this country, a child is taken from the parent in the hospital at the time of birth. A birth alert is put on the chart; there is no requirement currently for the family to be notified about that and there is no obligation on the care providers to show that they have tried to do something else other than to take that child away.
This would put an onus on the service providers to, first of all, make sure there was advance notice given to the family about a potential removal of a child. They would also be required to say that they had tried other measures: they had looked for an aunt or a grandmother or they had tried to solve the economic challenges that the family was facing.
This, in itself, would absolutely save lives. This would prevent children from being apprehended. I put it to my colleagues—find it in your hearts to support this amendment.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Yes, I wanted to speak to this amendment because my amendment following is very similar, and I'm afraid that if it gets voted down I won't be given an opportunity.
Again, I just want to implore colleagues to consider what happens in reality, which is that a child is taken from its family, and the reason given is that the family doesn't have enough money or doesn't have an adequate house. Then somehow we manage to find hundreds of dollars per day, adding up to thousands of dollars per month, to go to a non-indigenous foster family to care for that child. It seems absurd to me that we would take a child away because of socio-economic challenges the family has, but that somehow we can magically—we or the provinces—find enough money to put thousands of dollars into the hands of non-indigenous families to pay for that child.
We have a chance right here at this table to be able to say that is wrong. You cannot take a child away from its family because of poverty. Poverty is not neglect. Poverty is not within people's control. We have a chance, right now, to be able to say that positive measures have to be taken to remediate the inadequate housing, to remediate the economic opportunities and to make sure, for goodness' sake, that the Canada child benefit gets into the hands of the indigenous family, and not into the hands of the province never to see that family benefit.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
I would say that, yes, there was co-development, and in fact I think it was quite good. It's not perfect. I think we have a lot of work to do as a country to figure out what co-development looks like and how you make sure all the voices are heard.
There were changes made after all of the information was gathered, and sometimes things were weakened in that process. After I left the portfolio, I know that there were further changes made.
I would say that PS Vandal has already talked about the fact that, yes, there already are some provisions in there around socio-economics, but they're aspirational. I think the amendment that I have proposed—and that both the Green Party and the NDP have proposed similarly—puts the onus on the positive measures that have to be taken.
What ends up happening is that these laws are then something that, for example, first nations or Inuit families have so that they can go and say, with the help of those around them, “Look, you have a positive obligation to be able to help me in my financial circumstances or with my housing need, and you can't take the child away simply because I am poor.” None of us around the table want children to be taken away from their families simply because they are poor. We want to solve that underlying problem first.
I would say, then, that the co-development led to a piece of legislation that got some of the strength taken out of it in the process. This is trying to add that strength back into it.
I will just say, while I have the floor, that I would prefer to change one word in my amendment. I don't know how it slipped by me, but the word “neglect” is in there.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
As I was saying earlier, I think I've already spoken out for putting the positive obligation on service providers to address the socio-economic challenges the family may be facing.
If this were to be passed, I would like to see if there would be a way to change the word “neglect”. I feel it's a very offensive, pejorative term to say that families are neglecting their children just because they don't have an adequate house, or due to poverty. This is not in the parents' control in most cases. I would simply change my amended clause 15(2) to say, “...being placed on this basis, positive measures must be taken to remediate the conditions related to the lack of financial means of the child's parent or care provider” so as not to make accusations that are unfair.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
I move this motion as a follow-up to the member of Saanich—Gulf Islands in terms of the importance of responding to the TRC call to action 2, so that we will get the kind of information that's required about how many children are in care and how they're doing.
My amendment includes a number of provisions. One would be that this information-gathering would be performed according to the best practices of established research ethics. The Inuit would like to make sure that when an Inuk child is taken into care there is more detail and that their land claim organization is specified. There's more clarity here on the privacy policy that needs to take place around the gathering of information. It also adds in some of the most important pieces of information that need to be made available, which are the number of placements, the amount of money that's spent and who's spending it on child and family services.
This is taking what is in the bill and expanding it, so that we can actually respond appropriately to call to action 2.
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
I propose an amendment that would add an additional clause 30.1. The initial desire here was from the cries that I heard from indigenous peoples to create an office of the commissioner of indigenous child well-being or a commissioner of the best interest of the child.
I recognize that that would be out of scope and it's unfortunate that it wasn't included in the bill in the first place.
I think the closest that we would get that would not be deemed out of scope would be to include the requirement for the minister to establish an advisory committee to assist the minister and submit reports to the minister on a regular basis about the implementation of this bill. A national advisory committee on indigenous child welfare already exists, but this would put that advisory committee into legislation and would support making sure that the work of this bill would see follow-through.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
The first part of my motion that I move now I gather will not be supported in terms of moving to every three years rather than every five years; but the second part of my amendment I would still like to be considered. It is that when undertaking the review, the minister must specifically study the adequacy and method of funding. This is, again, one of the only tools that we have to get around the issue that was raised most consistently by first nations, Inuit and Métis—the adequacy of funding.
In lieu of the better option of statutory funding, at least this would allow a tool so that we would be able to say that a future government would get the information and there would be a requirement on the minister to report on that.
This is something that I believe is very important and I would seek your support.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
I move this amendment. It follows along on the issues raised by my colleague, the member from Saanich—Gulf Islands, about the need to ensure that these regulations will in fact be put into place and that this will support the implementation of the bill. I have heard what officials have said before about the fact that regulatory-making provisions are already in the bill, but the problem that will arise is that one may be forced to return and amend the bill because the provisions already there are interpreted as being too narrow. This gives us an opportunity to broaden the regulatory-making ability, including such things as the procedures for consultations and what that will look like.
I would argue that this is where we will be able to see the bill have its effect and not be simply a piece of legislation that's passed without having an impact. I urge further clarity around the obligations on regulations, through this amendment.
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
You'll see, as I move this motion, that I'm quite determined to try to find ways to make sure that regulations are actually done. One of the parts of this amendment speaks to a review of what's taken place on amendments every three years and that the minister must, in collaboration with indigenous governing bodies, review regulations to make sure they're adequate and sufficient. One of the provisions says that the Governor in Council must make at least one regulation. They only have to do one, but they have to do a regulation within two years. That will have the effect of revving up the system, as soon as the bill is passed and has royal assent, to get partners working together on making sure there are regulations put in place. If we could just make the requirement of one single regulation within the first two years beyond royal assent, I think that would be a great way to ensure that the work gets done.
I know that our wonderful public servants are always good at getting things done when they are written in law. I think if we put this requirement in law, it would be very helpful in terms of making sure the bill is as effective as it could be.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Thank you so much, MP McLeod, for giving me an opportunity to ask a question.
I want to greet the colleagues who have come today and congratulate you on all of the work you have done on this. I thank the committee for their excellent work on what I think is possibly the most important bill the government is working on, because it will make a difference in the lives of children.
I agree with MP McLeod that the bill is not perfect. One of my questions is particularly in terms of the financing piece on this, which I think is probably one of the strongest critiques. Bobby, I think you raised some really excellent points.
The way I've argued that it would be ideal if this bill had financing is, number one, following Jordan's principle, which requires that children not be discriminated against on the basis of jurisdiction. I think there are ways to get funding for child welfare through the application of Jordan's principle, but it's not the ideal methodology. The second are the commitments that the government made related to the Human Rights Tribunal, obliging the government to pay the actual costs preventing the removal of children. Then, of course, I think there's the very pragmatic argument of the fact that in the end, financing and providing statutory funding for child and family services will save society in both financial and other measures in the future. There's no question that statutory funding is the ultimate goal.
I guess my question is, what do we do in the next seven weeks? What are your recommendations? In terms of getting this bill passed, I have proposed an amendment suggesting that the review should not be not at five years but at three years. I have also proposed that the review should specifically include an analysis as to whether the funding has been adequate, which sets obligations both on governments and agencies to ensure that these services have been appropriately funded, and hopefully will lead us in the direction of the opportunity in three years from now to move towards statutory funding.
Do you have other, better suggestions than that? I suspect that you do in terms of how we can deal with this. Some have suggested that the bill should not pass if the funding isn't there. I think that the bill should be passed, but how can we strengthen it so that we move toward a world in the very near future where statutory funding is a reality?
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