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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2015-06-04 17:18 [p.14627]
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Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to support Motion No. 591 of my colleague, the member for Cardigan, regarding the Northumberland Ferry Service, which connects Wood Islands, P.E.I. and Caribou, Nova Scotia. This is very important to the member for Cardigan and for the people of Prince Edward Island.
The motion is quite simple. It seeks to:
—ensure a safe, efficient, and sustainable transportation system for Prince Edward Island by: (a) recognizing the integral economic importance of the ferry service between Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island, and Caribou, Nova Scotia; and (b) committing to stable, long-term, sustainable, and adequate funding, notably by ensuring that all future contracts (i) are for no less than five years, (ii) maintain or exceed current levels of service
The ferry service between Wood Islands and Caribou is run by Northumberland Ferries Limited, or NFL, with headquarters in Charlottetown. Northumberland Ferries Limited has operated the ferry since it was established in 1941 by the Government of Canada. Since it was established, this service has continued to be one of the most important issues for the people of eastern Prince Edward Island, and to a great extent, to our entire province. It provides options in transportation.
Personally I have somewhat of a special connection to the P.E.I. ferry service because my dad was, first, a deckhand then a quartermaster with Marine Atlantic for some 32 years on the run between Borden and Cape Tormentine. That ferry run was replaced by the bridge. However, I remember as a kid being on that ferry run and seeing the trucks and the economic activities that were created on that run. Tourists would go back and forth to Prince Edward Island and the workers on those ferries would gain the economy to look after their families. The run that the member for Cardigan is pushing for is no less important to Prince Edward Island.
The Government of Canada continues to provide financial assistance to Northumberland Ferries Limited under the terms of a contribution agreement, while the company leases two ferry terminals and the vessels from the federal government. Today it is the only ferry service to the mainland.
It is said that the Conservatives have continually refused to fully commit to this ferry service, and I will explain how.
Near the end of the last five year deal, which was put in place by a Liberal government, there was a lot of speculation that the Conservative government would cut the funding and reduce the service to one vessel or eliminate it entirely.
The Council of Atlantic Premiers, which represents New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I., and Newfoundland and Labrador, called upon the government to put in place a 15-year funding agreement. Only a three-year deal was put in place by the Conservative government. That was followed by a one-year extension in 2013. Last year the government extended the service for two more years. The current contract expires in March next year, just about enough time to get through the election.
Prince Edward Islanders, given the track record of the current government, do trust the Conservatives anymore? The press releases call it the Harper government, but we cannot say that in here. I see they are agitated over there, but I looked at press release after press release and that is the name on the literature. Are the Conservatives not proud of using that name in this place? I certainly would not be either.
Beyond the uncertainty surrounding the fate of the Wood Islands-Pictou ferry run, I cannot help but think of the damage the Conservative government has done in my province.
In fact, the very first act of the Prime Minister in 2006 was to cancel a fully federally funded energy cable to New Brunswick that would have given us energy security.
As well, in our seasonal industries of agriculture, fishing, and tourism, the changes to EI alone take $16.5 million out of our economy, right out of workers' pockets.
In agriculture specifically, the government has cut AgriInvest by one-third. It has cut AgriStability and undermined the safety net for farmers, not only in Prince Edward Island, but right across Canada. It has cut the researchers at the agriculture research station. The temporary foreign workers changes it has made have impacted all three seasonal industries. Fish plants are without workers. Processing, especially in the beef processing sector, is short of workers. That is affecting our economy.
In the tourism sector, tour companies are finding it difficult to get foreign interpreters and are understaffed as a result.
Cutbacks to Canada's summer job program are affecting both industry and students. Visitors' GST rebates are gone. Canadian tourism investments are gone. Canada Post is reduced. Literacy funding is cut. Environmental concerns are ignored.
All those things impact my province beyond the Pictou-Wood Islands ferry, so how could we expect Prince Edward Islanders to trust the Conservative government?
Beyond that, federal government offices are closed, immigration is transferred out of the province, the Canadian Coast Guard is cut back, DVA is reduced and its jobs cut, the DVA district office is closed, ACOA funding is cut. That is only a short list, so it is no wonder that islanders do not trust the Conservative government when it comes to the future of the Wood Islands-Pictou ferries.
We cannot trust the government. Short-term contracts are not enough. The operators of the ferries and the people and business people in Prince Edward Island and Pictou County, Nova Scotia, need stability.
This is not only an issue for P.E.I.; it is also important for Nova Scotia. In fact, only a few days ago, the island's evening news political panel commentator, Paula MacNeill, remarked that no one in eastern Prince Edward Island would be disappointed to see the member for Central Nova leaving, as he has:
...not been very helpful in supporting, enhancing or modernizing the Northumberland Ferries, which is an absolutely vital economic link for eastern P.E.I.
Not only is it vital for eastern P.E.I., it is vital for our entire province as well as Nova Scotia. It brings an estimated $27 million of economic benefits to the island every year, as well as $12 million to Nova Scotia. It is critical for the island's tourism, business, and transportation sectors as well as for those same sectors in Nova Scotia.
A document put together by the four Atlantic provinces called “Charting the Course: Atlantic Canada's Transportation Strategy 2008-2018” highlights the ferry services integral to the economy of our Atlantic region. It lists Wood Islands and Caribou as strategic marine ports and service centres for cargo and passenger movement.
Alonside that, we see the lack of trust in the government to provide a five-year contract. That is what the member for Cardigan is calling for. That is what my colleague from Charlottetown called for as well. I would ask members in the House to support the member for Cardigan in this motion, because if there is good economic activity in Atlantic Canada between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, it also rolls into a benefit for all Canadians. I ask for members' support for the motion by the member for Cardigan.
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View Tilly O'Neill Gordon Profile
CPC (NB)
View Tilly O'Neill Gordon Profile
2015-06-04 17:28 [p.14628]
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Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this essential ferry service. First and foremost, I have to emphasize that this private member's motion fails to recognize what this government has accomplished to support this ferry service.
The member for Cardigan is seeking a commitment from this government to ensure long-term, sustainable and adequate funding for the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service. However, this government's track record irrefutably demonstrates a commitment to these objectives, a commitment sustained over a long period of time. Even more so, I do not hesitate to point out that our record is very clear, and that residents of Atlantic Canada have been well served by our continued support for the eastern Canada ferry services.
Our track record warrants being repeated so that no doubt is left in the minds of Canadians regarding our government's commitment to the ferry services operating in Atlantic Canada.
Since 2006, our government invested significantly in eastern Canada ferry services. From a total of approximately $250 million, over $100 million was allocated to the Wood Islands-Caribou service. The remainder of this total went to two other regional ferry services, namely the Saint John, New Brunswick to Digby, Nova Scotia and les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec to Souris, P.E.I. ferry services. I am sure we can agree that $250 million is a significant sum.
Moreover, our government invested $44.6 million to purchase a replacement vessel for the aging MV Princess of Acadia, the recently named MV Fundy Rose. We expect the MV Fundy Rose will be in service in 2015, after completion of some refitting and outfitting work. While the MV Princess of Acadia has provided the service for 44 years, it should be noted that the MV Fundy Rose vessel will offer improvements with respect to comfort and amenities, and has a more positive environmental impact.
As another example of our government's support, in 2013, this government invested almost $13 million to replace the main engines on the MV Holiday Island, an investment that has allowed for a more efficient service while reducing the risk of unanticipated mechanical breakdowns. This funding also went toward improvements to shore-based infrastructure on both sides of the Northumberland Strait.
We have heard the opposition demand that a longer-term deal for at least five years be put in place, which maintains or exceeds the current service that is provided.
I ask members to recall that, coinciding with our July 2014 funding announcement, our government stated its commitment to examining options for a long-term approach for the delivery of eastern Canada ferry services, including the Wood Islands-Caribou service. This work is currently under way and will provide the next steps in ensuring the sustainability of these ferry services.
Ferry operators and the provincial governments are being engaged, and we believe that our collective efforts will lead to a ferry service that best serves local communities and demonstrates this government's great sense of responsibility to Canadian taxpayers. This is the government's focus, and this is an important one if we are to achieve a sustainable ferry service.
A common theme heard from the other speakers was the importance of the Wood Islands-Caribou service to the tourism sector of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. In 2008, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency estimated that the ferry service provided annual benefits of $20.7 million to Prince Edward Island and $12.4 million to Nova Scotia. A significant number of tourists use the Wood Islands-Caribou service as a point of entry to Prince Edward Island, especially during the peak season of July to August tourist season. In July and August, visiting tourists using the ferry as the point of entry to the island represent 19% of total tourist visits.
This is a considerable amount of traffic using this ferry service, and we want to ensure that the local economy continues to be able to leverage tourism to facilitate prosperity in the long term. These are important components to foster sustainable and prosperous communities.
While it is clear the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service plays an important role in supporting tourism in Prince Edward Island, it also creates an important linkage to Cape Breton Island. The existence of the ferry allows tourists to easily move from Prince Edward Island to eastern Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton. The ferry service has a long history of support from local communities. Over the last half century, there have been times when it appeared that the ferry service might no longer receive support. However, the ferry service continued uninterrupted.
Our government understands that marine transportation is a significant part of Canada's history. Our government understands how ferry services allow for greater economic development and the building of stronger and more integrated communities. Our government understands also the benefits that ferry services provide. As we have said before and continue to say, support for the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service will continue under this government. Support for a sustainable economy that meets the diverse transportation needs of the island's businesses will continue, and support for our local communities and economic development will continue as well.
However, our government will not support Motion No. 591. Rather, we will continue to support our ferry services and examine options for a long-term approach for the delivery of eastern Canada ferry services.
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View Joe Comartin Profile
NDP (ON)
View Joe Comartin Profile
2015-06-04 17:35 [p.14629]
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The hon. member for Cardigan will now have his five minutes of reply.
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View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
2015-06-04 17:35 [p.14629]
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Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues from all parties for being involved in this very important debate. It is a very important issue for eastern Prince Edward Island. In fact, it is a very important issue for all of Prince Edward Island.
I want to thank my hon. colleague from Malpeque. I hope he did not annoy the government too much. I think he kind of straightened out a bit of what the facts were. He takes a slightly different path than I do.
I also want to thank my colleague from Dartmouth. She certainly had words to indicate how important the ferry service was, or is. We certainly do not want to use the past tense on the ferry service that is so vitally important to the economy of eastern Prince Edward Island. I just wish she could speak to her colleagues and indicate how important it is so that they could support this motion.
It is disappointing that the government has indicated that it will not support the motion. This vital ferry service needs to have the support of the Government of Canada, and unfortunately, the ferry and the people of Prince Edward Island and eastern Nova Scotia do not seem to have the support of the government.
The government has to support this critical transportation link with action, not empty words. Supporting this motion would be such a positive step forward and a true indication of the government's support. However, it does not seem to see fit to support the motion, and that is a shame.
I am thankful that my colleagues in the Liberal Party and the opposition have indicated that they will support the motion. I certainly want to thank my hon. colleague from Malpeque for stirring up the place and waking everybody up here and indicating how important this Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service is. My hon. colleague from Charlottetown, who spoke in the first hour of this debate, also indicated its importance and gave his full support. That is so heartwarming for us.
Both members spoke passionately, and they understand the issue. They understand how important it is for the economy, not only for the economy of eastern Prince Edward Island but for the economy of Prince Edward Island as a whole and for sure for Pictou County, Nova Scotia. It is vitally important for Pictou County, Nova Scotia.
My motion is a very simple one. I am asking for stable funding by ensuring that all future contracts are for not less than five years. I believe it only makes common sense to provide some stability to the people of Prince Edward Island, and eastern Prince Edward Island in particular, and to Pictou County, Nova Scotia. This is vital for the Pictou County area.
Second, I am asking that the current levels of service be maintained or exceeded. It is absolutely useless to run a ferry service on a part-time basis. The service has to be provided for the public. We have to make sure that we have the vessels there to run the service and to make sure they operate in a timely fashion so that we do not affect the economy of eastern Prince Edward Island.
It is not unreasonable for the people of Cardigan to expect more stable support from the Government of Canada to ensure that the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service has a long-term contract, which would provide stability and hopefully would maintain or exceed the current levels.
As has been said here by everybody, including my hon. colleague from the Miramichi, tourism would be affected drastically if this was not funded, as would agriculture. All members would have to do is ask Tom Carver, Morley Annear, or Red Trainor of M&M trucking just what it means when they are even trucking lime. We have to make sure that we have the proper service.
Once again, I ask my hon. colleagues from across the way to please show some support for eastern Prince Edward Island and Pictou County, Nova Scotia. All we need to know is that the government is committed to this service and is committed to the economy of eastern Prince Edward Island and Pictou County, Nova Scotia. I ask them to look at the words the member for Miramichi said.
It is no good to just say the words. It also has to support it with action and funding. If we do not have the action and funding, it will hurt or have a very negative effect on the economy of eastern Prince Edward Island.
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View Joe Comartin Profile
NDP (ON)
View Joe Comartin Profile
2015-06-04 17:40 [p.14630]
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The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the nays have it.
And five or more members having risen:
The Deputy Speaker: Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 10, 2015, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2015-05-27 17:27 [p.14246]
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It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No. 444 under private members' business.
Call in the members.
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View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2015-05-27 18:10 [p.14247]
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I declare the motion defeated.
It being 6:10 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.
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View Kirsty Duncan Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Kirsty Duncan Profile
2015-05-13 18:13 [p.13863]
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Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Motion No. 444 because we absolutely need a national action plan to end violence against women and we need a public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls immediately. Our party, the Liberal Party, has been pushing very hard for both of these fundamental issues.
I am profoundly saddened that such a motion is even needed in this millennium, in the year 2015, and that such a motion is needed to make the current government act. The motion is indeed needed because the level of violence that women and girls experience in Canada has changed little over the past two decades; that is, the current response to violence against women and girls failed to significantly lower the levels of violence they experience. I thank the member for Churchill for bringing this forward.
Civil society, including the YWCA and the Canadian Network of Women's Shelters & Transition Houses, has been clear. In order to build a Canada where women and girls are not subjected daily to violence simply because of their gender, our governments must take a new approach.
Canada needs a coherent, coordinated, well-resourced national action plan on violence against women. This will require the leadership of the federal government, along with the co-operation of provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, as well as on- and off-reserve first nation and aboriginal governments.
The process of constructing a national action plan will be key in determining the plan's success. There are many individuals, organizations, communities, and researchers working diligently to end violence against women. In my riding of Etobicoke North, I want to recognize the extraordinary life-saving work of Ernestine's Women's Shelter, a touchstone in our community, and all of those who work and volunteer for the organization.
The government must draw upon the diversity and depth of knowledge and experience offered by these communities, organizations, and individuals, and the final national action plan must clearly reflect the findings of those communities, organizations, and individuals.
Canadians should know that the rates of self-reported spousal violence in 2009 are the same as in 2004. We know from our daily lives that gender-based violence remains rampant. The facts support this conclusion: half of women in Canada—half—have suffered physical or sexual violence.
I do want to briefly touch upon sexual violence.
According to a 2013 Statistics Canada report that relied upon police-reported data, women aged 15 to 24 experience the highest rates of sexual violence in the country. Women reported 460,000 incidents of sexual assault to social service providers in 2009, but less than 10% were reported to the police.
I have asked the Minister of Status of Women to put the issue of sexual assault at Canadian post-secondary institutions on her next federal/provincial/territorial meeting agenda, as an estimated nearly one in five women are likely to be sexually assaulted as students.
In our country, on any given night, 4,600 women and their 3,600 children are forced to sleep in emergency shelters as a result of violence. On a single day, 379 women and 215 children were turned away from shelters in Canada, usually because they were stretched to capacity.
Exactly when did we, as a society, become accustomed to violence? Why do some men still respond angrily when the issue of gender-based violence is raised? Why does the government respond to a long-standing serious crisis in our country in a fragmented and piecemeal fashion?
Violence against women and girls is abhorrent. It is a human rights violation, with devastating and serious impacts that may last generations.
Each year in Canada, violence and abuse drive over 100,000 women and children out of their homes and into shelters. Women in Canada continue to outnumber men nine to one as victims of assault by a spouse or partner.
Girls between the ages of 12 and 15 are at the greatest risk of sexual assault by a family member. The human costs of violence are incalculable.
There are also economic costs. According to a study by the Department of Justice, violence against women costs Canadian society $7.4 billion each year, including $21 million in hospitalizations, visits to doctors and emergency rooms, as well as $180 million in related mental health costs.
On August, 2013, the Minister of Health spoke at the meeting of the Canadian Medical Association, or CMA, where she announced she would make ending family violence the theme of her tenure. She repeated a similar message at the most recent meeting of the CMA in April 2014. I know her work in this area, but Canadians are still waiting for a national action plan to end violence.
Under international law every country has an obligation to address violence against women. The United Nations has called on all countries to have a national action plan by 2015. Other countries have developed such a model, such as the U.K. and Australia.
Currently, Canada has no comprehensive national plan or strategy to deal with violence against women. Initiatives at the federal level lack co-ordination, rely too heavily on the criminal justice system, and fail to acknowledge the gender dimension and root causes of violence against women.
Although Status of Women Canada lists ending violence against women as a priority area of their funding program, the rates of violence have yet to change. Does this not lead to questions about the effectiveness of the funding models at Status of Women Canada?
This results in underfunded and inadequate services that do not reflect women's lived realities, or effectively prevent violence and reduce impact. National action plans provide a framework for strengthening the systems that respond to violence against women. They establish national standards and call for collaboration between all levels of government, civil society, survivors and service responders. They put women's knowledge, experiences and needs at the centre.
A national action plan in Canada would help ensure: consistency across and within jurisdictions in policies and legislation; shared understanding of the root causes of violence against women; consistent approaches to prevention of and responses to violence; collective pursuit of the most appropriate solutions; and co-ordinated, clear and effective services, and systems for survivors that respect and respond to diversity.
Other needs include: new commitments and clear targets; effective prevention mechanisms; universal coverage of response mechanisms for survivors; review of all justice mechanisms, including policing, prosecution and offender management practices; efforts to strengthen social policies that affect women's vulnerability to violence; support for reliable data collection; and I could go on.
The time has come that we no longer talk about reducing violence against women, but actually end emotional, financial, physical, psychological and sexual violence. To do this there needs to be a concerted and sustained effort to develop a national action plan to end violence against women and girls, with real consultation with those women who are fleeing violence, with shelters and support services, with the provinces and territories. We need a national public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls immediately.
It is time for all of us to stand up and say that violence against women is not okay and that the time for action is now, so that no women will ever again face violence at the hands of a man.
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View Peggy Nash Profile
NDP (ON)
View Peggy Nash Profile
2015-05-13 18:23 [p.13864]
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Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate this evening on this very important motion, Motion No. 444, to create a national action plan to address violence against women.
I would like to thank my colleague from Churchill who has been tireless in her advocacy for this national plan and who is standing up strongly for an inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women. I would like to salute her and thank her for all of her hard work.
It is really shameful that we even need to have this debate. Clearly, we need a national action plan to address violence against women and girls in this country. It should not be necessary because for so many years this is something that has been urged for, both domestically and internationally. Even the UN has been calling for Canada to adopt this plan.
The rates of violence against women and girls in Canada is persistently and shockingly high, especially for doubly-disadvantaged, indigenous, racialized, LGBTTQ women, and those with disabilities. These calls for a national action plan come from all feminist women's organizations across the country. The government, clearly, needs to respond in creating this plan. It is fundamentally important for women in this country.
Let me just quote a credible, long-time activist organization, one that provides services for women in Canada, which is the YWCA. Ann Decter, who is the director of advocacy and public policy, wrote, “Canada needs a national action plan on violence against women that will set national standards for prevention, support services, legal services and access to justice and crucial social policies, such as access to safe, affordable housing. A National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women needs to be part of the plan. M-444 provides for all of this, and as such, has our full support.”
Therefore, what is called for is clear. Women's organizations are speaking with one voice on this and it is long overdue that our government take action.
I want to give a couple of recent examples of what is happening in my city of Toronto.
On May 8, we had the murder of Suraiya Gangaram who was 31 and a single mom of three daughters. Her alleged murderer had threatened to kill her last year. He was out on bail and required to stay away from her. Nevertheless, he killed her and then threw himself in front of a train, but lived and, of course, will stand trial for this murder. However, she is now deceased and her three daughters are left without anyone to care for them.
Just last year we had another horrible, tragic case of 43-year old Zahra Abdilla who was murdered as were her two sons. They were killed in their home in Toronto. What was particularly tragic was that Mrs. Abdilla had been in a shelter for two weeks. She had been fighting to get custody of her sons, but could not afford a lawyer and had no options. There was no second-stage housing for her to go to with her sons, so she returned to her abusive husband and their home. She was killed and her husband subsequently committed suicide.
These are just a couple of the many examples of murder, but there are all kinds of other horrible situations of sexual violence and abuse.
In my own community of Parkdale—High Park, about a decade ago, a woman, Rosie McGroarty, was bludgeoned to death by her partner. It was a particularly gruesome case. I will not go into details, but it was again a situation that brought home the terrible reality of the kind of violence that far too many women are facing.
These are extreme examples, but the reality is that half of all women have experienced an incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16, and of course, an issue that has been all too prevalent in this House has been the call for an inquiry into the more than 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women in this country and a call for the government, finally, to take action.
Instead, the government has cut many women's programs. We have certainly seen a failure to act in terms of funding for housing, affordable housing, second stage housing. The government cut and abolished the court challenges program. It slashed the budget of the Status of Women Agency by 70%. It took the word “equality” out of the Status of Women Agency's mandate.
It erroded pay equity legislation, blocked the NDP bill on trans rights. In case after case, whether it is failing to create even one child care space in this country, failing to have a national housing strategy, the government has failed women in this country.
I want to salute the many community members across this country who are trying desperately to fill in the gaps and are taking action. I want to salute, for example, in my own community the Redwood Women's Shelter, which is a safe haven for women who are leaving an abusive relationship, which is one of the most difficult things for a woman to do, especially if she has children. However, Redwood and its wonderful staff and volunteers provides emotional, practical and social support for women and their children while they are in that safe haven. It has a very high success rate: 80% of the women who are fortunate enough to find support at Redwood Shelter do not go back to their abusive relationship.
I want to salute the Parkdale anti-violence education group. I have worked with them to create a scholarship in the name of Rosie McGroarty, the woman who was very brutally murdered in our community. I especially want to salute Parkdale Community Legal Services and its community outreach person, Peggy-Gail Dehal-Ramson, who has been a real leader in working with women who have faced violence and are trying to get their lives back on track. She has provided really inspiring community development work with so many women in our community.
These community organizations exist across the country along with a small army of volunteers. Women, primarily, but some women and men who want to try to eliminate this terrible situation of persistent violence against women and girls need government leadershp.
In closing, I want to be very clear what it is that we want. We want the Government of Canada to finally commit to the creation of a national action plan to address violence against women. We want it to do this in consultation and partnership with the provinces, territories, first nations, Inuit and Métis, governments and communities. We want broad consultation in all regions to include these front line service providers, housing advocates, legal advocates, law enforcement personnel, survivors and marginalized women advocates. This is long overdue.
I salute my colleague for bringing this motion forward and I challenge all members in this House to adopt this motion and finally take definitive action to help women and girls across this country.
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View Susan Truppe Profile
CPC (ON)
View Susan Truppe Profile
2015-05-13 18:33 [p.13865]
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Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate on the motion before the House today, put forward by the member for Churchill. It deals with the very important issue of ending violence against women and girls. Our government takes the issue of violence against women and girls very seriously, and we have taken a multi-faceted approach to addressing it. Allow me to take a few moments to discuss some of the actions that we have taken.
We have made communities safer for all Canadians by enacting over 30 measures into law since 2006. For example, amendments to the Criminal Code made under the Safe Streets and Communities Act that came into force in 2012 promote safety and security. They also assist in holding criminals fully accountable for their actions through increased penalties for violent crimes, including child sexual offences, and restrictions on the use of conditional sentences and house arrest for serious and violent crimes.
Another example is Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, which came into force in March. It provides for a new Criminal Code offence, the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, which prohibits the sharing or distribution of nude or sexual images without the consent of the person depicted.
We have supported the needs of victims with Bill C-32, the Victims Bill of Rights Act, which received royal assent on April 23. This bill provides rights for victims of crime, many of which will benefit women who have experienced violence. For example, the bill gives victims the right to have their security and privacy considered, the right to be protected from intimidation and retaliation, the right to request the protection of their identity if they are a complainant or witness in a criminal justice proceeding, and the right to request testimonial aids.
Another recent example is Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act. This bill would address forms of family violence that are predominately perpetrated against women and girls. It contains proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, creating a new form of inadmissibility to Canada for those practising polygamy. It includes proposed amendments to the Civil Marriage Act to codify the requirement for free and enlightened consent to marriage and to introduce a new national absolute minimum age for marriage of 16. The bill would also introduce proposed new offences in the Criminal Code related to forced or underage marriages. It would extend the offence of removing a child from Canada to include removal for the purpose of a forced or underage marriage abroad, introduce a new forced or underage marriage peace bond to prevent these marriages from taking place, and limit the application of the defence of provocation so that it would not be available in honour killings and some spousal homicides.
These examples highlight the leadership role of our government in responding to violence against women and girls by establishing a strong legislative framework to protect victims and hold perpetrators to account. These legislative actions are a critical element of the multi-faceted approach that we have put in place to reduce and prevent violence against women and girls.
I would now like to describe some of the actions that we have taken beyond legislation. The Government of Canada has allocated more than $140 million since 2006 to give victims a more effective voice in the criminal justice system through initiatives delivered by Justice Canada. Last September, we launched the latest phase of the stop hating online campaign to combat cyberbullying. This is a national awareness campaign to protect our children and youth from cyberbullying. On February 20, the Government of Canada announced a 10-year $100-million investment to prevent, detect and combat family violence and child abuse as part of our government's commitment to stand up for victims.
On April 1, the Government of Canada began the implementation of its action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls. We also continued collaborating with aboriginal leaders, aboriginal communities and other levels of government to get the most out of our respective action plans.
Our government also believes in giving communities the tools to help end violence against women and girls. That is why we have increased funding to Status of Women Canada, including the women's program, to record levels. In fact, we have invested over $162 million in more than 780 projects through Status of Women Canada since 2007. This includes over $71 million in projects to specifically address violence against women and girls. These efforts include a number of different calls for proposals for projects in rural and remote communities and in post-secondary campus communities.
Another call for proposals is helping communities respond to cyber and sexual violence. More than $6 million has been invested in these projects through Status of Women Canada so far.
My view is that we must continue taking actions like the ones I have described today, and therefore I will not be supporting this motion. However, we must continue working together because we know that no single individual, organization or government working alone can address the problem of gender-based violence.
We have made this issue such an important priority because we know that helping women and girls live violence-free lives is the right thing to do. However, we also know something else. We know that enabling women and girls to live free of violence removes a barrier to achieving their full potential for themselves, their families and their communities. Doing that will move us closer to equality in our country, which is something we all wish to see.
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View Yvonne Jones Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Yvonne Jones Profile
2015-05-13 18:39 [p.13866]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Churchill for bringing this motion to the floor. I am pleased to speak in support of Motion No. 444 to look at a national action plan to end violence against women in our society. I would think that all Canadians want to see an end to violence because we know what the impact is upon all women, whether it is violence in the home, sexual harassment in the workplace or sexual assault. No matter what the case may be, it does pose many barriers for women to be able to progress and move forward and live a life without fear, stress and restraint. Those things are very important.
In 2015, it is unimaginable that any woman has to endure sexual assault or sexual misconduct in the workplace. It is unbelievable that any woman has to endure violence within the home and feel there is no avenue for escape, and feel that there are no other options available to her. We live in Canada. We live in a society where we look after those who are important to us, those people whom we represent.
In 2015, we should not have women marching in the streets asking for initiatives to end violence against women. However, unfortunately, that is where we are and that is the society that we are living in. It is very saddening that we even have to bring this motion to the floor of the House of Commons for debate, to call upon members of Parliament from across Canada to support a strategy like this. It is a strategy that should already be in place. We should be looking to end violence against women and not just to develop a strategy at this stage.
Unfortunately, this motion is needed. It is needed so that the level of violence against women and girls in Canada can be eliminated, so that what we have seen over the last decades will be no more. That is what all women and children out there want to see. They want to see a civil society where they are free to grow, learn and examine every opportunity that is open to them, and where they are not subjected daily to violence because of their gender.
In a country like Canada, we have the resources to not only develop a national action plan on violence against women, but we have the resources to ensure that the plan works, to ensure that resources are available to all communities, towns, cities and people who need it. However, it cannot happen without leadership. I listened to the member opposite on the government side talk about the initiatives that her government has brought forward to help women in society and the changes the Conservatives have made within the justice system to ensure greater penalties to those who commit the crimes of violence against women and girls.
No one is disputing that. What we are asking for is more, because we know that more can and should be done. There are a lot of communities around Canada where women are violently abused within their homes and have no place to seek refuge. There is no shelter. There are no programs that cater to the violence that they endure. The women do not often see a way out.
Last night, I sat in a session viewing the film Highway of Tears that talked about the many missing women and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
One woman who spoke at the launching of the film talked about 21 years of enduring violence from the person she had married, her spouse. Twenty-one years feeling there was no refuge, that there was nowhere to go and 21 years of enduring violence and feeling she had no way out. Is that we want for the next decade in this country? I do not think so.
What we really want is a coherent, coordinated plan that works, that brings resources to the people who need it. We need women to feel safe and secure in their homes, safe and secure to raise their children and to live their lives. There are so many women who do not have that option and we often fail to recognize that.
When we talk about an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women in this country, it is not talk. There are 1,021 women missing or murdered in this country. Some of them on the Highway of Tears that I have spoken about, some of them in other regions of Canada and some of them from my home. It is not acceptable for the Government of Canada to say it will not do an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. The message we are sending is that it is not that important. That is wrong.
How do we ever end violence against women if we are not prepared to get to the root of where these problems come from? Whether it is in aboriginal communities or non-aboriginal communities, what message do we send to the perpetrators of violence against women when we say we do not want an inquiry into over 1,000 Canadian aboriginal, indigenous, Inuit, Métis, first nations women who have died or gone missing?
The message is not a good one that we send. We do not end violence against women by ignoring these issues and assaults. We end violence against women by acting upon it. We are not going to end violence against women just because we increase the sentences of those who commit the crime. That is one very small part of it.
What about the reoffenders? What about the guy I met in a correctional centre who was serving his sixth sentence for violent assault against his wife? It was his sixth time in the lock-up for violently assaulting his wife. It is okay if we add three or four months more onto his sentence, but have we really ended violence against that woman?
These are the questions that we have to ask ourselves when we look at issues like this. This is not a statistic. It is real and it is happening. I am not the only person who can stand in the House of Commons today and tell the many stories of violence against women that should be prevented, that should be ended, and the need that we have to do that. There are so many other members of Parliament who can do the same.
While I thank my colleague from Churchill for bringing this motion forward and standing up for this issue, I also want to encourage all members of Parliament to support this and do everything they can as a parliamentarian to enact this strategy and ensure it has the resources that work. We must really put our efforts into ending violence against women in Canada.
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View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2015-05-13 18:49 [p.13867]
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Mr. Speaker, it is my absolute privilege to stand in support of the motion by my colleague, the member for Churchill, the official opposition critic for aboriginal peoples. She continues to be a staunch advocate in whatever portfolio she is in. I know she represents many Métis and first nations in her constituency, and she does them proud, not simply in speaking for them but in being a voice here and sharing their stories and desires.
This motion put forward by my colleague, remarkably, does not simply ask for a coordinated national action plan to address violence against women but asks that it be done in direct collaboration with the provinces, the territories, civil society, first nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples and their representatives. This is something we do not see happening under the current government. It is time we brought everyone together who has some power in this country. We need every order of government to come together, including indigenous peoples, to address this inequity, and inequity it is.
When we listen to the speeches that have been given on this important motion, we hear about the vulnerability of the women of this country—elderly women being the poorest of the poor, indigenous women being the poorest of the poor—simply because they are born into an indigenous community. My province and my city have, sadly, experienced a very high proportion of this violence. Between 1980 and 2012, Statistics Canada reports that over 740 of the almost 6,500 female homicides in Canada occurred in Alberta. Almost one-half of those were aboriginal women. This does not include the many aboriginal women and girls who remain missing.
The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, of which I am proud to say I was one of the co-founders, advises that 700 to 900 clients a year come to them. Shockingly, these range from the age of three years and up. This is a matter that affects Canadian women of every age. The centre advises that one in three girls will experience sexual violence in her lifetime. This has to stop.
The Alberta Council of Women's Shelters advised me that despite the pressing need, including on aboriginal reserves, there has been no increase in funding for shelters for women who are victims of violence since 2007. As we are here today, only two of those communities have shelters, despite the violence they face.
It is a national problem. Women's shelters have been under-supported everywhere. In Alberta, as I said, there are only two second-stage shelters for abused women and their children to adjust to a more secure life. The majority of women seeking safe shelter do not fall within the government definition of the chronically homeless, so they do not have access to the shelters that many men do, and there has been no new money committed for housing. The shelter enhancement fund remains, unbelievably, $130,000 a year for all of these women suffering this abuse.
I intend to focus the remainder of my remarks in support of Motion No. 444 on addressing the critical situation faced by aboriginal women in our society who are seeking violence-free lives. I again commend my colleague, the member for Churchill, who has spoken not only for action to address violence against all women but has stood time after time in this place begging the government to listen to the first nations people of this country and initiate a national inquiry, which is long overdue.
Nationally, aboriginal women make up only 4% of our population yet are 16% of those murdered and 11% of those missing. The RCMP has advised that these statistics likely miss many cases. However, it is critical, in understanding the need to take the action set forth in her motion, to recognize that we are not just speaking about mere statistics. We must realize that these more than 1,100 missing and murdered aboriginal women are someone's mother, someone's sister, someone's daughter, and someone's friend and neighbour.
Missing since February of this year in my province is Misty Potts, a 37-year-old mother from the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation. She has her master's in environmental sciences and is an outspoken advocate against environmental degradation and the impact on aboriginal people, yet she is a victim of violence.
Missing is Shelly Dene, from Fort McMurray and Fort McKay, since August 2013. She is a mother and a student.
Cindy Gladue, 36 years old, was a homicide victim. She was a mother of three, and it took first nations people taking to the streets of Edmonton for the government finally to agree to appeal the acquittal in that case.
Because of the rising number of cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women, every aboriginal woman is left feeling vulnerable and at risk.
Katherine Swampy, an aboriginal woman from Alberta, bravely ran for office in Alberta for the New Democrats. This is the story she shared with us. She said that the comment she received in social media that hurt her the most was a Facebook message that said:
I support Katherine Swampy and I support the NDP. It's just too bad she has a higher chance of turning up missing than she does of winning this constituency.
It is a sad state of affairs in our country. She said that really struck a nerve, because a childhood friend had been murdered in Calgary just months before.
Her concern is well founded. The Action Coalition on Human Trafficking, an Alberta-based group addressing human trafficking that has been engaged in a project funded, interestingly, by Public Safety Canada, in 2013 and 2014, identified that aboriginal girls and women are easy prey for human traffickers due to poverty, drug addiction, and mental health problems. It reported that 15% of sex trafficked cases are aboriginal women. It is very, very sad.
The current government says that we do not need special action, but even the public safety department is saying that there is a concern about aboriginal women, so we should be acting on those findings and taking action.
This national inquiry my colleague has called for is supported by the former Treaty 6 Grand Chief Mackinaw; the current Treaty 6 Grand Chief Bernice Martial; the Canadian Human Rights Commission; the Native Women's Association of Canada; the Assembly of First Nations; all 48 Treaty 8 chiefs, by resolution; the Inter-American Commission, which is an affiliate of the Organization of American States; and all of the Canadian premiers. I am pleased to say that the Alberta premier-elect has reversed what Jim Prentice had said. She says that she is joining all the premiers in supporting the call for an inquiry.
What more do we need to show the current Conservative government that this inquiry needs to proceed?
I personally can attest to the many frigid winter evenings that aboriginal elders, leaders, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and cousins have marched in support of the long-desired and long-awaited national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. I have been privileged to join them.
The government complains that most of this violence is happening within families. Well, the aboriginal families understand that they need to do their part, and I am proud to say that I am wearing a piece of moose hide, which was gifted to me by the friendship centres today. It is part of an action the aboriginal men of Canada are taking called “I am a Kind Man” to encourage all first nation men and boys to honour, respect, and protect women and children.
As Tanya Kappo, an Alberta first nation woman, mother, and lawyer has commented, a national inquiry would examine the underlying causes of missing and murdered aboriginal women. It would provide the opportunity to examine the roles played by our justice and police systems and the role of the residential school legacy so as to prevent and reduce these vulnerabilities.
As Ms. Kappo shared two years ago at my public forum, she worked hard to raise her children and to become educated as a lawyer, yet when she left the forum that night, she too would be vulnerable to attack.
What more must be done by aboriginal girls and women in this country for us to finally address this travesty?
In closing, I encourage every member of this place to take the opportunity to view Walking With Our Sisters, the more than 1,100 pairs of moccasin vamps that show us clearly all of those lost souls.
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View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
View Mark Strahl Profile
2015-05-13 18:59 [p.13869]
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Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to take part in the debate on Motion No. 444, presented by the hon. member for Churchill. In my remarks I will be addressing the components of the motion that touch directly on the mandate of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. First, I will address the proposal for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. Second, I will address the proposal for strategies that address the specific needs and vulnerabilities of different communities, with specific attention to aboriginal women.
Let me begin by emphasizing our government's continuing deep concern about missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls in Canada. We regard all acts of violence against aboriginal women and girls as abhorrent and intolerable.
As the House will appreciate, reducing violence requires a collective effort by all sectors of society involved, including government at all levels, aboriginal organizations, the judiciary, the police, and aboriginal communities themselves. We saw just such a gathering on February 27, 2015, when representatives of the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, aboriginal leaders, and affected families met in Ottawa for the national round table on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The objective of this round table, coordinated by the Assembly of First Nations, was to work toward better prevention, safety, policing, and justice measures to address, in a concerted and collaborative way, violence against aboriginal women and girls across the country.
Allow me to reiterate that crucial point. We are all involved, and we all have a role to play in finding a solution to these heinous acts of violence that cause individuals, families, and communities such terrible grief.
Aboriginal organizations and family members have told us that what is needed now on this issue is action rather than inquiries, and that is exactly what this government is providing. Several families and witnesses who appeared before the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women, of which I was a member, expressed the wish that the committee's report include recommendations that would make a real difference in the lives of aboriginal women and girls. In fact, there have already been over 40 studies related to the issue of violence against aboriginal women and girls, and every one of those studies urged action.
As the House is aware, the RCMP national operational overview, released on May 16, 2014, provided critical information on the nature and extent of this issue. The report reaffirmed earlier findings on key vulnerability factors for aboriginal women and girls and common factors among perpetrators. It is the most comprehensive account of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada to date and was compiled with the assistance of Statistics Canada and 300 policing agencies across the country.
The action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls, which our government released on September 15, 2014, builds on the knowledge gathered through our previous investments and the many studies and reports on this issue, including the RCMP's national operational overview. This action plan, therefore, has an extremely solid and well-considered foundation. It thoroughly reflects our government's conviction that strong, concerted action is needed on this issue now. Moreover, it responds to all 16 of the recommendations identified in the report of the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women.
In developing the action plan, the Minister of Status of Women met with leaders of several aboriginal organizations and communities as well as with a number of individual victims and families. These discussions identified the following priority areas: preventing violence by supporting community level solutions, supporting aboriginal victims with appropriate services, and protecting aboriginal women and girls by investing in shelters and continuing to improve Canada's law enforcement and justice systems. The action plan includes a new investment of $25 million to support our work on these three priorities with aboriginal communities and stakeholders and provinces and territories. In total, the range of measures focused on this issue is nearly $200 million.
The investment in shelters through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada's family violence prevention program is an important component of the action plan. This program supports 41 centres throughout the country. These shelters offer women and their children a safe and welcoming environment in times of crisis. Most provide culturally sensitive counselling and programs, such as family violence prevention, parenting and life skills training, traditional healing programs and mental health support.
As of April 1, the budget for the family violence prevention program increased to $31.7 million per year, with an additional $1.3 million available for family violence prevention activities both on and off reserve. In addition, the program allocates funding to the National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence to provide a national coordinating role by supporting shelters and their staff through training forums, gatherings, research and collaboration with key partners.
Specific measures set out in the action plan to prevent violence include the development of more community safety plans on and off reserve across Canada. This initiative allows communities to take ownership of the issues and develop culturally sensitive, local solutions. The action plan also supports projects to break intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse by raising awareness and building healthy relationships.
As I noted earlier, reducing violence is a task that requires the contributions of many committed partners. In that regard, our government's efforts complement equally important work being done by the provinces and territories, police and the justice system, as well as aboriginal families, communities and organizations, to address violence against aboriginal women and girls.
We will continue to work closely with these partners, carrying out concrete measures that will bring about a real difference to aboriginal families and communities. Only concerted action, rather than more studies or public inquiries, will enable us to tackle this intolerable situation.
To conclude my remarks, I would like to focus on the second component of the motion relevant to the mandate of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, mainly the proposal for strategies that address the specific needs and vulnerabilities of different communities, including specific attention to aboriginal women.
I am pleased to remind the House of the range of programs our government has available to help meet the needs of aboriginal women. These include pre-employment support, such as literacy and life skills training. These initiatives will enhance the employability of eligible first nations women.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada also recognizes the needs of aboriginal women who are aspiring entrepreneurs. The department has in fact exceeded the initial commitment of $1 million in funding for aboriginal women in economic development, announced in 2010, in support of the implementation of the federal framework for aboriginal economic development. To date, we have committed to fund 21 projects totalling more than $2.6 million in direct support of aboriginal women in their entrepreneurial careers.
In addition, through the urban aboriginal strategy, the department assists aboriginal women off-reserve to develop the skills they need to join the labour market. Of course, there are aboriginal skills and employment training strategies, the skills and partnership fund and the first nations job fund, all of which aim to increase the participation of aboriginal people, including women and girls, in the job market.
Our government is dedicated to supporting brighter, safe, secure futures for aboriginal women and girls throughout the country. I can assure every member of the House that we will continue to pursue relentlessly, with all our partners, the imperative objective of reducing violence against aboriginal women and girls.
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View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
View Niki Ashton Profile
2015-05-13 19:08 [p.13870]
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Mr. Speaker, I am exceptionally proud to stand here and be part of the movement to bring a national action plan to address violence against women in Canada. I would like to thank my sisters and brothers in the NDP who have joined me in championing this critical issue.
Since the beginning of my time as an MP, in every region of the country I have heard from women who have experienced violence. These women are survivors and they are strong. I am honoured that they took it upon themselves to share their stories with me because they hoped that I and that we could make a difference. I want to thank all the people who placed their trust in me and our team to bring their voices forward in the House. I hope every parliamentarian will recognize that it is in his or her power right now to make a difference for women who have survived violence, women who live with violence, and women who dream of growing up and living in a world free of violence.
Women are strong as hell. All studies, statistics and common sense prove that when women are secure and thriving, so too are their families, their communities and our societies. When women are empowered to advocate for themselves and take up space in politics and business and activism, we see all people everywhere reap the benefits. This is the Canada in which I want to live.
Therefore, with the support of many, I have placed before the House a proposal to create a national action plan to end violence against women. The YWCA, the Canadian Network of Women's Shelters & Transition Houses, DAWN Canada, the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Families of Sisters in Spirit along with quite a few other major national anti-violence organizations have done tireless work to coordinate consensus and awareness around a national action plan, and I want to thank them for their work.
I have travelled across our country to talk to women and to hear from organizations on the ground about what a national action plan could mean to them. Everywhere I went, I heard similar stories about underfunding, lack of coordination and the frustration of not being able to see change at the systemic level.
In Victoria, B.C., we heard from Victoria Pruden at the Bridges for Women Society. She said:
We at Bridges for Women Society wholeheartedly support the call for a national plan of action on violence against women. Every day we see not only the human cost of violence to women and children, but the economic costs of violence and trauma to Canadians...we need a national action plan NOW.
Jenny Wright, the executive director of Marguerite's Place in Newfoundland, who works on the other end of the country bringing justice and safety to women, particularly sex workers, shared a similar message. She said:
Years of funding cuts and closures, and silencing of women's organizations are in themselves a pervasive form of violence against women. Federal policy must act to strengthen women's organizations and to secure sustainable funding, so they do not continue to be casualties of the fluctuations in our economy, political agendas, and our laws.
I am deeply grateful to the movement of like-minded women, to the movement of feminists who are pushing for this change. I would remind the members of the House that a national action plan has been enacted with great success elsewhere in the world, in countries like Australia and the United States. The vote on this motion could be the first among many positive steps toward healing and empowerment.
I have been east, west, north, south. I have been in urban centres and rural communities. I have been to first nations and Métis communities. What is clear is that we must listen to women. We must listen to their stories of intersectional oppression, to indigenous women, disabled women, women of colour, refugee women, queer women and trans women. They are all facing major systemic challenges, which leave them increasingly vulnerable to violence. There is much work we can do to help. All we need to do is listen to their words.
The need for action of this kind is one of the most urgent issues facing our country. I hope we can see past our partisan aspirations to take real action on this front. Let us not waste more time, and let us stand up in support of a national action plan to end violence against women.
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View Joe Comartin Profile
NDP (ON)
View Joe Comartin Profile
2015-05-13 19:13 [p.13871]
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The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the yeas have it.
And five or more members having risen:
The Deputy Speaker: Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 27, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.
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View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
View Niki Ashton Profile
2015-04-28 18:11 [p.13158]
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moved:
Motion No. 444
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should develop, in collaboration with the provinces, territories, civil society and First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and their representatives, a coordinated National Action Plan to Address Violence Against Women which would include: (a) initiatives to address socio-economic factors contributing to violence against women; (b) policies to prevent violence against women and policies to respond to survivors of violence; (c) benchmarks for measuring progress based on the collection of data on levels of violence against women over time; (d) independent research on emerging issues that relate to violence against women; (e) a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls; (f) strategies that address the specific needs and vulnerabilities of different communities including specific attention to Aboriginal women, women with disabilities, women from minority groups and young women; (g) participation by community and other civil society organizations, including support for those organizations to participate in the implementation of the national action plan; and (h) human and financial resources earmarked specifically to carry out the program of action set by the plan.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to rise to support Motion No. 444, a motion to create a national action plan to address violence against women.
It is a privilege to move such a motion in the House.
It is my great privilege to sponsor this motion, which is the only meaningful legislation to address violence against women that Canada has seen in decades. Now the need for action is urgent. The next steps are clearly laid out by feminist anti-violence advocates across our country. They are asking for a national, coordinated, comprehensive action plan that works in partnership with provincial, territorial, and indigenous governments.
It is my sincere hope that, with this motion, we can resolve together to set Canada on the path toward sustained and substantive equality for women and girls, because we know that without freedom from violence, women cannot achieve equality and, without gender equality, women will always remain vulnerable to violence.
I would like to begin my speech by thanking the advocates, front-line workers, survivors, and community members who have taken time out from their extremely busy schedules and busy lives to meet with me as I travelled from region to region over the past three years. These remarkable people have dedicated themselves to confronting the violence women face every single day, and they deserve honour and gratitude from the House and from all Canadians.
It is due to the extraordinary efforts of this chronically underfunded and under-resourced sector that women find safety, support, and justice. While the needs of women vary quite a bit between regions and communities, the majority of people I met with had a very singular message to deliver to their federal government: violence against women is a crisis in Canada and it is getting worse, not better.
This crisis is fed by systemic gender-based discrimination and women's inequality. Likewise, the way forward for our government is to empower women to address that inequality. To do nothing is to perpetuate it. To do too little is to perpetuate it. To ignore the voices of survivors, family members, evidence-based researchers, and front-line service providers who know what Canada can be doing right now is to willfully neglect the safety of women in our country.
What would a national action plan do to change the landscape of anti-violence services for women? Ann Decter, the director of advocacy and public policies for YWCA Canada says:
Canada needs a national action plan on violence against women that will set national standards for prevention, support services, legal services and access to justice and crucial social policies, such as access to safe, affordable housing. A National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women needs to be part of the plan. M-444 provides for all of this, and as such, has our full support.
Not only has the federal government not done enough to recognize, treat, and prevent violence against women, but for the past several decades under the Liberals and the Conservatives, the governments have adopted policy that actively places vulnerable women further at risk.
For example, when the Liberals came to power in 1993, they cut off federal investment in new social housing projects. In 1996, the Liberal government announced the end of the national affordable housing program. By the late nineties, it had created a serious housing shortage that has directly resulted in the increased vulnerability of women who must leave situations of domestic violence. Indeed, a lack of affordable housing is the number one reason why women cannot functionally escape the violence they face.
Needless to say, the Conservatives have continued to abandon their responsibility to deal with housing problems, and it is Canadian women who continue to bear the brunt of this burden.
When the Liberal government downloaded legal aid onto the provinces and cut off all earmarked funding, it created conditions in which women now find it nearly impossible to seek justice and safety through the courts.
When the Conservatives elected to forbid funding to any research or advocacy, Canada fell into a state of having little to no data regarding violence against women. This is a very serious problem, and only a national action plan could begin to solve it.
Kate MacInturff, one of Canada's foremost feminist voices writes:
The difficulty of collecting data about violence against women has been a barrier to progress in ending that violence. However, the data that does exist tells us three things very clearly: this problem is big, it comes at a high cost, and we are making little or no progress in putting a stop to it.
It was the Liberals who were at the helm when poverty conditions on first nations grew worse and worse. Under a majority government, funding for first nations education on reserve was cut. The Conservatives have done nothing to fix this gap. The Auditor General reports that schools on reserve are underfunded by 30% compared with schools off reserve.
We now see indigenous women facing extreme rates of violence that correspond directly to extreme rates of poverty, housing shortages, and a lack of economic opportunities. Make no mistake, the systemic and long-standing underfunding of first nations is a form of racial discrimination against indigenous peoples.
Dr. Dawn Harvard, the interim president of the Native Women's Association of Canada wrote to me and said:
It is crucial that a National Action Plan assess the root causes in order to address Violence Against Women.
The fact that many Aboriginal women were killed by someone who shares their ethnicity is something that holds true for most victims of homicide, regardless of their ethnic origin. Therefore, we cannot write off this issue, by saying it is Aboriginal men killing Aboriginal women, and therefore, is not a federal responsibility or there is not a need for an inquiry or any of these kinds of excuses that seems to be inferred.
We also know that there continues to be non-Aboriginal men that are extremely violent toward Aboriginal women, and that Aboriginal women experience more severe forms of violence by these offenders than non-Aboriginal women so there continues to be racialized hatred and devaluation exhibited against Aboriginal women and this needs to be addressed.
Dr. Harvard went on to say:
A National Action Plan can also create a mechanism for investigations into misconduct and discrimination within the criminal justice system and police forces and needs to establish a mechanism for investigating allegations of misconduct or discrimination within the federal, provincial or territorial components of the criminal justice system, and hold accountable those entities who commit acts of misconduct or discrimination.
M-444 is very clear: a national action plan to address violence against women must include a national public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. Almost every governing body in Canada, along with the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women's Association of Canada, and many indigenous people, are in agreement that a national inquiry, done properly, is necessary to treat the root causes this tragedy. Only the Conservatives disagree, and they alone stand in opposition to real, substantive action.
Meanwhile women continue to disappear and women continue to be killed. Where I'm from, in northern Manitoba, every single community has been affected by the tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women. The tragic cases of women from our riding, including Lorna Blacksmith, Leah Anderson, and Tina Fontaine, who were murdered in the last few years, have led many Manitobans to speak out and organize. The story and bravery of Rinelle Harper inspired action back home and across the country. For me and for our north, this fight is personal to all of us, and we will not stop until there are no more missing and murdered indigenous women in our country.
While denying the call for a national inquiry and litigating against those who seek to correct funding discrimination against first nations children, this Conservative government repeatedly ignores calls from the UN and other international human rights organizations to take action to address the systemic discrimination, racism, and violence endured by indigenous women and their families.
The relationship between Canada and first nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples is now in a state of crisis. My colleagues in the NDP, including our leader, know there is a different way forward. We are committed to a national inquiry. We are committed to a national action plan. We are committed to a housing strategy that includes indigenous communities both on and off reserve, and we are committed to forming a nation-to-nation relationship that will take all of us forward.
For me, as the member of Parliament for Churchill and the aboriginal affairs critic for the NDP, this is not a theoretical pledge but the first steps toward healing and reconciliation. When we speak about violence against women, it is crucial that we understand the intersectionality that can compound the risk of violence, and advocates across the country know this to be the case every day.
Although violence happens to all women, regardless of class, race, sexuality, or gender identity, it is important to recognize that inequality in all its forms can increase violence in the lives of women. The most effective way to end violence against women is to address the root causes of inequality. Canadian women earn 72% of what men earn and work one-third of minimum wage jobs. We need to address the economic inequality and the feminization of poverty that we are seeing across our country.
Racialized women are often the target of discrimination, stereotyping, and harassment. We need to address racism in Canada.
Many immigrant women are facing isolation and lack of access to anti-violence services. Women are made increasingly vulnerable to abuse when their immigration status is tied to their work visas or their marriage status. We must address the violence faced by immigrants, refugees, and temporary foreign workers who are women.
We must confront transphobia. Earlier today, outside on the lawn of Parliament Hill, trans folks and allies gathered to voice their outrage that the current government will allow Bill C-279 to be destroyed by an unelected Senate. Transgender women face some of the highest rates of violence in the country. Of all marginalized peoples, trans folk immediately require the explicit right to live free of discrimination.
I am proud of the work we have done in the NDP. We have repeatedly brought this bill forward and will continue to do so until this vital piece of human rights legislation is enshrined once and for all.
Disabled women face disproportionate rates of violence. Queer women, women who are lesbians, face disproportionate levels of violence. That intersectional understanding of the violence they face is critical in moving forward with a national action plan.
After speaking to hundreds of women and advocates about this motion, I can say that the one point I heard repeatedly was that anti-violence services cannot continue to function with few or no resources.
The Canadian Network of Women's Shelters & Transition Houses recently published its 2015 shelter voices survey. It found that, on a single day, shelters in Canada welcomed 122 new women residents and 81 child residents. However, on that same day shelters were forced—and are forced—to turn away 302 women and 221 children seeking shelter, due to a lack of resources. It is heartbreaking and infuriating for the service providers. I have been told first-hand from multiple sources that most front-line staff are actively subsidizing the government with free labour.
Let us be clear. This is about the money. Governments choose to prioritize funding, and the violence against women sector is simply underfunded and has been for decades. It has not been prioritized by Liberal or Conservative governments. In the meantime, we are the ones giving voice to the need for a national action plan.
This issue is as personal as it is political for me, my colleagues, and my community. We have seen women, feminists, across the country make history to draw attention to the violence they face on campuses, on social media, in the workplace, and on our streets. Parliament must sit up and pay attention to the conversation women are having on the ground, in classrooms, online, and everywhere. It is our right as women to demand action from the government, and it is our responsibility as parliamentarians to respond and take action.
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View Joy Smith Profile
CPC (MB)
View Joy Smith Profile
2015-04-28 18:26 [p.13160]
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Mr. Speaker, I heard over and over again talk about the root causes of inequality. During committee review of Bill C-36, we heard many compelling testimonies from a broad cross-section of people impacted by prostitution and human trafficking, and none more so than aboriginal women and children. There is a clear link between murdered and missing aboriginal women and prostitution and human trafficking.
During its testimony, the Native Women's Association of Canada was clear that it wanted Canada to target the buyers of sexual services, the men who buy sex from vulnerable aboriginal women and youth. In fact, NWAC stated that it wanted the bill to pass to tackle the demand and said that criminalizing pimps and buyers would be a huge step.
When we talk about the root causes of inequality, tackling the demand for prostitution and human trafficking is part of the steps we need to take to end the travesty of murdered and missing women. Why did the members, at every step of the bill, vote against it?
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View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
View Niki Ashton Profile
2015-04-28 18:27 [p.13160]
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Mr. Speaker, I want to bring the focus back to the need for a national action plan. A national action plan is necessary because of the reality that too many women, including indigenous women, in Canada face. It has been appalling to see a government seek to make women, including sex workers in our country, more vulnerable through its dangerous legislation.
If the government really wanted to act to put an end to violence against indigenous women, or any women, it would begin by saying yes to calling for a national inquiry. It would begin by investing in housing and eradicating poverty. It would begin by building respectful relationships with indigenous communities and respectful relationships with those who work so hard to empower women across the country.
Sadly, the government is doing nothing. All the while, more Canadian women are placed in more and more difficult and vulnerable situations. It is time to act.
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2015-04-28 18:28 [p.13161]
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Mr. Speaker, violence against women is a very important issue that we all recognize needs to be given a great deal more attention. I am a bit disappointed in a number of the remarks that portray the Liberals and Conservatives as bad, yet the NDP is on a super high horse. The member needs to get off the super high horse and reflect on the province of Manitoba.
If we look at the serious root causes on a per capita base that lead to violence against women, it is no higher in blame on a political party or a government than the Government of Manitoba. Examples of that would be children unnecessarily being put in jail and issues related to CFS.
If we are to come to grips with the issue of violence against women, we not only need to see a strong federal government, we also need to see a government that is committed to working with provinces and other stakeholders to have that national action plan. Would she not acknowledge the importance of that?
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View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
View Niki Ashton Profile
2015-04-28 18:29 [p.13161]
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Mr. Speaker, if the member had listened to my speech, it was more of a history lesson of the way previous Liberal governments had served to marginalize indigenous communities in our country.
I invite the member to come and visit the northern part of our province and see schools that are mould infested, schools where people do not have enough textbooks to use, where there are not enough specialized teachers to work with the kids. He should visit houses where there are 17 people to a house. This did not just start in the last five, six or seven years. This has gone on for decades and it has been Liberal governments that have failed our indigenous peoples.
Let us bring it back to violence. We know that one of the greatest factors in the vulnerability of women is poverty. Therefore, when there are extreme rates of poverty, in fact, third world living conditions that exist in too many first nations, in Manitoba and across the country, then we have the high rates of violence.
I hope the member and his party learn from the kind of leadership that we have shown in the NDP. We need a national action plan and comprehensive investment. We also need to learn from the history, including the history of the Liberals, that has served us all so poorly.
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View Joy Smith Profile
CPC (MB)
View Joy Smith Profile
2015-04-28 18:31 [p.13161]
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Mr. Speaker, I am so thankful for this opportunity, because I have such good news for the member across the way.
Over and over again, I have heard her say that we have need for an action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls. It just so happens that in my hand is an action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls. It is an excellent action plan. It addresses a lot of the issues that were brought forward not only in her speech, but in speeches in Parliament throughout the duration of this discussion.
When we talk about an action plan to address family violence, there are many factors to it. I want to go over a few aspects of it, because it is here.
All the members opposite have to do is simply support the people who are trying to implement the action plan. In the plan, there is a five-year action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls, and it is under three pillars.
The first is preventing violence by supporting community level solutions. That talks about housing, schools, counselling for victims and supporting aboriginal victims with appropriate services. It talks about the increased shelters that we have across the country for victims of violence. Protecting aboriginal women and girls by investing in shelters and continuing to improve Canada's law enforcement and justice systems is integral to this action plan for which the member opposite has called. All she has to do is read it.
The action plan is the Government of Canada's response to the recommendations of the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. We keep hearing about how we should have a national inquiry. I, too, have visited many reserves and aboriginal communities across the country. I took with me a lot of the reports that had been already been done. Forty reports have been done, examining the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women. There has been study after study done. We know what the problem is. Through this action plan, we have taken action to improve the situation and the violence against women, particularly aboriginal women.
On top of this, which is so important, is the Victims Bill of Rights Act. Often, when an aboriginal woman, or any woman, has become a victim, she goes into a courtroom and she does not get information. She does not get protection. She is not able to participate against her perpetrator or even have a right to restitution. Under our government, this has all changed. Now women have the right to information about the criminal justice system and the available services and programs. They have a right to protection. They have a right to have their security and privacy considered at all stages of the criminal justice process and to have reasonable measures to protect them from intimidation and retaliation.
I have been in courtrooms, watching victims give testimony as their perpetrators were intimidating them with a cold stare, by shaking their head, or with all of this innuendo in front of them. The victims have a right to protection against this kind of thing. They have the right to participation. They have a right to convey their views about decisions to be made by criminal justice professionals and have them considered at various stages of the criminal justice process. They have a right to that. They are the victims, and our government has brought that in.
These women have a right to restitution. They have a right to have the court consider making a restitution order for offences where it is easy to calculate the financial side of it. The financial side of it is only a very small part. It is what happens to them, the post-traumatic stress disorder, the fear and all those things.
Our government has addressed all these things in this action plan.
The is Canada's action plan. Members across the House can embrace it. They can do something about it. They can find out about the victims' fund and protecting aboriginal girls, about supporting shelters on reserve and the DNA-based missing persons index. There are so many things in this action plan that cover virtually all the questions, queries and demands I heard this evening.
On February 20, the government announced a 10-year $100 million investment to prevent, detect and combat family violence and child abuse as part of the Government of Canada's commitment to stand up for victims. It is not only people in the House, but it is people like Sheldon Kennedy, who created the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre. Victims are brought in to his advocacy centre, which is right beside the children's hospital. The police are also housed in that unit, as are the social workers and the support systems for those children.
It does not matter whether they are aboriginal children, Polish children or French children, any child who is abused, as well as victims of human trafficking, can be a part of that service. It is one of the best centres I have ever seen, I would dare say, the best in the world.
Under our government, the investment would support victims of violence through a multifaceted approach to better equip health professionals with the information and training they need to support victims of domestic violence.
Today, in my office, I had a victim tell me about her experience going to a hospital and how terrible it was because the health professionals were not equipped with information and training, which they now will be under our government. The health and well-being of victims of violence as will enhanced access to mental health counselling for victims of violence is included in this plan.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is one issue that we see more and more with victims of violence. Under our government, under this very special action plan to combat violence against women, access to mental health counselling for victims of violence is there. It is very important.
There is also the support and enhancement for organizations and partnerships that provide integrated services to victims of violence.
On April 1 of this same year, our government began implementation of its action plan to address family violence. The action plan takes immediate and concrete action to prevent violence, not only to be a reactionary piece of it or a problem-solving piece of it, and to support victims and protect aboriginal women and girls through new and ongoing commitments, totalling approximately $200 million over five years.
When I hear about a lack of funding, our government has taken giant steps toward stopping human trafficking and violence against women and children. There is new funding of $25 million over five years beginning April 1 this year. That is really strong. There is ongoing funding of $158.7 million over five years, beginning in 2015, for shelters and family violence prevention activities. That is very important. It is something that has not been here. It is written out and implemented so clearly.
We talk about the economic security of women. An allocation of $5 million has been included for dedicated resources through the Status of Women Canada to improve the economic security of aboriginal women and promote their participation in leadership and decision-making.
This is a phenomenal action plan. No longer do members have to call for a national action plan, we have an action plan. It is right here with all the components that can be used, embraced and supported by all members of the House.
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View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
2015-04-28 18:40 [p.13162]
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Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to speak in support of the motion put forward by my colleague from the NDP, the member for Churchill, regarding the critical issue of violence against women.
The motion calls for the development of a national action plan to address violence against women and sets out a series of key components that must be included in such a plan. In hearing from the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, it is quite clear that the Conservative government has no idea what an action plan is supposed to look like. I thank the member from the NDP for actually laying out what some of the things might be, including the essential component of partners that would do this with us, instead of somebody sitting in a den somewhere writing an action plan, like clearly happened with the trafficking action plan that is the joke of the world.
As the chair of the Liberal women's caucus and as the Liberal Party's critic for aboriginal affairs, this is an issue of particular relevance to my parliamentary responsibilities, but also has a huge resonance with my previous life as a family doctor at Women's College Hospital, which set up the first sexual assault care centre, and every year on December 6 honours the lives of the women who have been lost in Ontario at the hands of a spouse or former spouse.
This is an issue that cuts across socio-economic status, cultures and religions, and Liberals believe that all must work together to end it. I truly believe this could and should be an issue that cuts across party lines and I am disappointed that the member for Churchill continues to try to turn this into a partisan issue. It cannot be that.
In August 2013, the Minister of Health spoke at a meeting of the Canadian Medical Association, where she announced she would make ending family violence the theme of her tenure. She repeated a similar message at the recent meeting of the CMA in April 2014. The motion offers the minister and her government an opportunity to match those words with real action.
Every year in Canada, violence and abuse drive over 100,000 women and children out of their homes and into shelters. In Canada, women continue to outnumber men nine to one as victims of assault by spouses or partners and girls between the ages of 12 and 15 are at the greatest risk of sexual assault by a family member.
As appalling as these statistics are, the level of family violence faced by indigenous women and girls is even more shocking. It is really important that the government understand that the rate of indigenous women being killed by a spouse or former spouse is less than in the non-indigenous community. Therefore, I have been particularly appalled by the message being given by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development as though it means that somehow these women who are missing and murdered are less important.
Indigenous women and girls are dramatically more likely to be victims of homicides or to go missing in Canada. Last year's RCMP report identified almost 1,200 indigenous women and girls who have gone missing or been murdered since 1980. Further, while only 4% of women in Canada are indigenous, this demographic accounted for 8% of female homicide victims in 1984 and a staggering 23% by 2012. The crisis for indigenous women has been getting worse and now almost one in four female homicide victims in Canada is indigenous.
As the Liberal Party of Canada's aboriginal affairs critic and a longtime advocate for such a public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, I would like to speak specifically about this part of the motion we are debating today.
I have my own stand-alone motion calling for a national inquiry that will be debated in the House in the coming weeks and I hope the member for Churchill will help me with that. The Prime Minister's insensitive comments last summer that we should not view this as a sociological phenomenon and his shocking admission during one of his year-end interviews that missing and murdered indigenous women and girls are not high on his radar provide a disturbing and disappointing window into how he views this national disgrace.
The truth is that only a national inquiry would have the credibility, scope and resources to address the systemic problems underlying the violence, provide the accountability to ensure implementation of its recommendations, and bring justice and reconciliation to the victims and their families.
The Prime Minister's stubborn refusal to call a national public inquiry is in stark contrast to the overwhelming consensus that one is needed. Grieving families, indigenous leaders, victims' advocates, civil society, the international community, and every provincial and territorial premier have all urged the government to call a national public inquiry. It is time to call that public inquiry now.
What has been the response of the Conservative government to ongoing violence against women? The government consistently dismisses the importance of prevention and refuses to address and adequately resource the programs that are in place to deal with this tragic issue.
The Conservative government campaigns about cracking down on violence against women and girls, citing tough-on-crime measures like eliminating house arrest for sexual assault or toughening penalties for the trafficking of date rape drugs, or as we have heard just now, a DNA databank, which is after the woman is dead. What women and families in this country want to hear is how we are going to prevent and stop this epidemic in both the indigenous and non-indigenous communities. While some of these measures may be positive, they do not replace a comprehensive action plan and amount to little more than tinkering at the margins of a national crisis.
Even more appalling was the government's attempt to hide its inaction by repackaging a laundry list of existing inadequate funding and programs as a new, what the member for Kildonan—St. Paul called “very special”, action plan for family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls last fall.
Unfortunately, the current government has stubbornly refused to work with its partners, the provinces and territories, civil society and aboriginal leaders and communities, to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to deal with violence against women.
In 2008, the United Nations released a UN Framework for Action, which identified five key outcomes as benchmarks for the campaign to be achieved by all countries by this year, 2015. It is reprehensible that the government has rejected the UN recommendation to adopt and implement a multi-sectoral national plan of action that emphasizes prevention and is adequately resourced.
Unlike Canada's federal government, the national Australian government demonstrated the leadership to work with its partners, state governments and local communities, to develop a comprehensive 12-year national plan to reduce violence against women and their children. Released in 2011, this multi-jurisdictional and comprehensive approach is actually four action plans which represent distinct phases, and each builds on each other over 12 years. They are designed so that the Australian government and civil society can look back at what has been achieved and refocus subsequent action plans on what actions will make the most difference in the future.
This is the kind of long-term, properly resourced and co-operative approach that we must adopt here in Canada.
Today's motion offers an opportunity for all the parties in this House to come together and agree on a sensible and effective path forward. The motion clearly outlines what the necessary components of an effective action plan to end violence against women here in Canada must include.
Those elements include initiatives to address socio-economic factors contributing to violence against women; policies to prevent violence against women and policies to respond to survivors of violence; benchmarks for measuring progress based on the collection of data on levels of violence against women over time; independent research on emerging issues that relate to violence against women; a public inquiry; strategies that address the specific needs and vulnerabilities of different communities; participation by community and other organizations; and human and financial resources earmarked specifically to carry out the program of action set by the plan.
It is time for the government to replace the rhetoric about violence against women and girls with an effective and comprehensive action. This epidemic of violence must end and the Conservative government, which claims to be tough on crime and to stand up for victims of crime, cannot continue to ignore the ongoing national disgrace of violence against women.
I urge all members to support the motion.
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View Mylène Freeman Profile
NDP (QC)
View Mylène Freeman Profile
2015-04-28 18:51 [p.13164]
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Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support my colleague from Churchill's Motion No. 444 to develop a national action plan to address violence against women.
I congratulate the member for Churchill on her work and her dedication to fighting violence against women. She and so many others are doing inspiring work to tackle this problem.
The Canadian Network of Women's Shelters & Transition Houses defines violence against women as follows:
Violence against women is a form of gender-based discrimination, a manifestation of historical and systemic inequality between men and women, and the most widespread human rights violation in the world. It refers to any act, intention or threat of physical, sexual or psychological violence that results in the harm or suffering of women and girls, including restrictions on their freedom, safety and full participation in society. It is inflicted by intimate partners, caregivers, family members, guardians, strangers, co-workers, employers...and service providers. It occurs in the home, at work, in institutions and in our communities. [Violence against women affects all of us.] Women’s experiences of violence are shaped by multiple forms of discrimination and [unfair] disadvantage, which intersect with race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigrant and refugee status, age, and disability.
By refusing to address or even recognize the systemic nature of violence against women, the Conservative government's minister is perpetuating the situation. Women are still being subjected to the most violent manifestations of inequality simply because they are women. The federal government could help them, but it does not.
The Conservatives' record on violence against women is simply atrocious. The Conservatives' failure to act is nothing more than negligence, particularly when it comes to the intolerable rates of violence that aboriginal women experience.
Since they have been in power, the Conservatives have been blatantly attacking the equality of women in Canada. They did away with the court challenges program. They cut the budget of Status of Women Canada by 70% and also took the word “equality” out of its mandate. They banned research and advocacy in the programs funded by that organization. They introduced a number of bills and motions against abortion. They passed regressive legislative measures with regard to income equality, measures that even went against the recommendations of experts. They refuse to allocate sufficient funding to combat violence against aboriginal women and conduct a national public inquiry, when everyone in Canada is calling for them to do so. They are blocking the NDP's bill on transgendered rights. They are refusing to allocate funding to development assistance and to abortion and family planning services, even in cases of forced marriage and rape committed as an act of war. They are constantly reducing funding for social programs, which harms all women. They are attacking the unions that protect good paying jobs for women and proposing programs, such as income splitting, that will reduce the number of working women, at the expense of a national child care program that would ensure the financial security of women.
This erosion of equality makes women more vulnerable to violence. Violence against women is systemic and widespread in Canada. It is a sociological phenomenon. The number of violent crimes is decreasing, but the number of rapes and sexual assaults remains stable. Women are 10 times more likely to be victims of sexual crimes and three times more likely to be victims of criminal harassment.
Whether they are at school, at work or at home, this is a reality that all women live with in one way or another, simply because they are women. It is an oppressive and systemic violence that affects half of our population.
Although violence harms all women, those who are dealing with multiple forms of oppression have more obstacles to overcome, and any solutions must recognize and take into account the thousands of oppressive forms that discrimination and marginalization can take.
We are living in a time when many disciplines are recognizing the effects of the inequality created by various systemic problems. The more oppression there is, the more vulnerabilities we see.
Aboriginal women, women from visible minorities, older women, LGBTTQ women, and women with disabilities are the most affected to the extent that we might call them the most targeted populations. The intersectionality of oppression is very clear when we talk about violence against women.
Fully 67% of all Canadians say they personally know at least one woman who was the victim of sexual or physical assault, and in Canada 50% of all women experience at least one incident of physical or sexual violence by age 16.
Canada has no plan to combat violence against women. It is clear that this is a national problem and it is important to point out that most of these crimes are not reported. A national plan of action would provide a framework for consultation and for strengthening the systems that prevent and respond to violence against women. For this plan to work, there will have to be a consultation process with the people, organizations, communities and researchers who have worked tirelessly to put an end to violence against women. The call for a strategy is coming not just from the NDP, but also from women's organizations across the country and even from the UN.
Without a strategy, services are disjointed and lack coordination and consistency. According to the Canadian Network of Women's Shelters & Transition Houses, without a national plan, responses to violence are often fragmented and inaccessible and can even undermine rather than enhance women's safety.
We need to tackle the underlying problem of inequality, which helps perpetuate this violence. That is why we need a national child care plan, because creating accessible and affordable child care spaces, as Quebec did, would help improve gender equality in Canada.
We need a plan for affordable housing and ongoing commitments to invest in a national housing strategy so that women do not have to choose between staying in an abusive relationship and being homeless.
We need to reduce and eliminate the wage gap and take measures such as making EI more accessible, increasing the minimum wage, creating a national strategy to reduce poverty and dropping the age of eligibility for the GIS back down from 67 to 65. All of these things affect women more directly than men.
Budget cuts made by successive Liberal and Conservative governments have only made matters worse for women in Canada. In 1999, Canada ranked first on the UN gender inequality index, but now we are ranked 23rd.
Meanwhile, every night, 4,600 women and their children are forced to sleep in shelters to escape violence. Many are even turned away because the shelters are already at 100% capacity.
Nearly 2,000 aboriginal women, 1,181 to be precise, disappeared or were murdered between 1980 and 2012. 
A national strategy to address violence against women in Canada is absolutely crucial. We need to reduce and eventually eliminate it. This has been an urgent matter for some time now, and we need to deal with it immediately.
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View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
2015-04-28 18:59 [p.13165]
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Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I rise to respond to the motion brought forward by the official opposition regarding missing and murdered aboriginal children.
My riding in eastern Ontario includes the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan and I am proud of the working relationship that I developed with Chief Kirby Whiteduck and his band councillors, Jim Meness, Daniel Kohoko, Ronald Benard, Jerry Lavalley, Cliff Meness, and Sherrylyn Sarazin. It is important to develop positive relations, particularly in areas like economic development, unemployment and the provision of social services.
Rural issues cross all boundaries. Renfrew County residents know how important it is to work together as we share common goals.
Fortunately for our resident aboriginal population, many of the challenges that face urban dwellers, particularly aboriginal women, are not the issues we face in rural Ontario and in rural Renfrew County and the Nipissing District community of South Algonquin in my riding.
The Government of Canada is deeply concerned about the high incidence of violence against aboriginal women and the impact of this violence on families and communities. As a member of the Government of Canada, I share our deep concern about the incidence of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.
I am sure there is not a person here today who could begin to fathom the tragic losses that far too many aboriginal families have experienced in the aftermath of violent crime. All parliamentarians are in full agreement that violent crimes committed against aboriginal women and girls must be strongly denounced. Not only must they be denounced, but we must take concrete action to prevent such violence in the first place. We must protect women and girls from violence. We need to ensure that strong law enforcement and justice systems are in place to support victims and bring those who commit these acts to justice.
These actions are in keeping with the recommendations from the House of Commons Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. I am pleased to confirm it was our Conservative government that established the special committee on missing and murdered aboriginal women in 2013. The committee conducted hearings into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls in Canada. It was mandated to propose solutions to address the root causes of violence against aboriginal women and girls. In March 2014, the special committee released its report, “Invisible Women: A Call to Action”.
I am encouraged to report that this is precisely what we are doing with the September 2014 release of our Conservative government's action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls. The action plan includes a range of measures totalling nearly $200 million over five years to address violence against aboriginal women and girls. It is informed by the many studies and reports on this issue which have increased our knowledge and understanding of the nature and causes of these crimes. This includes the intelligence gathered through the RCMP's recent national operational overview.
There have already been over 40 studies related to missing and murdered aboriginal women. Aboriginal organizations and family members have told us what is needed now is action. That is what the action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls is designed to do. It prevents violence by supporting community level solutions, supports aboriginal victims with appropriate services, and protects aboriginal women and girls by investing in shelters and continuing to improve Canada's law enforcement and justice systems. With this action plan, our government uses the best tools at our disposal to prevent violence, support victims, and protect aboriginal women and girls.
Of course, a plan alone will not achieve all of the results that we need. Reducing violence requires a collective effort from everyone with a stake in this issue. It requires more than just the actions of the federal government. It requires collaboration. It requires leadership from police, the justice system, aboriginal communities, and organizations. It also requires constant engagement with those aboriginal families that have been torn apart by this violence.
At the February 2015 National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, families courageously shared their stories, and the experiences that they shared were both tragic and enlightening. They highlighted the need for better coordination and better communication, and the need for measurable and tangible actions that will demonstrate progress and results. The roundtable proved very useful in this regard, and all of the participants agreed on further actions to be taken jointly, with a commitment to a second roundtable to take place in 2016. Partners collectively committed to work toward better prevention, safety, policing, and justice measures to address violence against aboriginal women and girls across Canada.
The Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada plays an important role in addressing, protecting, and preventing family violence in communities. The department funds a variety of programs and services to support better outcomes for aboriginal women, girls, and families, including family violence prevention activities, child and family services, economic security and prosperity through skills and training and economic development, along with housing and education.
The family violence prevention program is one critical component. With an annual budget of $31.74 million, the program supports the day to day operations of 41 shelters for women and their children, as well as prevention activities, which involve men and boys and women and girls. Approximately 329 communities, or 55% of all first nations, are served by the 41 Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada funded shelters.
In 2013-14, these shelters provided services to over 2,330 children and 2,850 women living on reserve. In areas where there are no shelters on reserve, first nations may access provincial shelters, crisis lines and/or transportation services to nearby shelters. The program also reimburses Alberta and Yukon for shelter services provided to women and children considered ordinary residents on reserve who access provincial shelters.
As of April 1 of this year, an additional $1.34 million is being made available for family violence prevention activities. The kinds of activities receiving funds include public awareness campaigns, conferences, support groups, and community needs assessments. Over 300 such community-based projects were funded by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada in 2012-13. Since 2006, the department has invested $242.6 million in family violence prevention. These investments have provided shelter services for almost 22,000 children and over 25,500 women.
This is money well spent. The family violence prevention program increases the safety and security of women, children and families on reserve by providing a refuge for victims of violence.
I want to assure my hon. colleagues that our commitment extends to women and girls living off reserve. The department supports important investments through urban aboriginal strategy programming, and the strategy is delivered in partnership with the National Association of Friendship Centres.
I have appreciated the opportunity to discuss the many ways that we prevent violence against aboriginal women and children.
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View Barry Devolin Profile
CPC (ON)
View Barry Devolin Profile
2015-04-28 19:10 [p.13166]
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The time provided for the consideration of this item of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
Pursuant to Standing Order 30(7), the House will now proceed to the consideration of Bill C-642, under private members' business.
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2015-04-20 11:58 [p.12727]
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Does the hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
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View Brad Butt Profile
CPC (ON)
View Brad Butt Profile
2015-04-20 11:59 [p.12727]
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Mr. Speaker, this was a complete shock to me. I was not consulted on this motion. I am glad that the NDP, I am assuming, supports the motion. I wanted to have the opportunity to speak to the motion in the House. It is my motion, after all. I would be delighted to work with the opposition parties to get this motion passed, but I feel that today I am completely caught off guard. I was not consulted in any way on this and I would like the opportunity to speak to my own motion.
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2015-04-20 11:59 [p.12727]
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I appreciate the intervention by the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville. The House recognizes consent was not given on the motion that the hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek was seeking.
Hon. members will know that it is somewhat common practice that if members seek the unanimous consent of the House on certain questions, it is absolutely at the House's discretion to consider those motions. As for the opportunity for the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville to speak to his motion, as he mentioned, I am sure that will be taken up in due course in the normal procedures that the House provides.
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View Adam Vaughan Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Adam Vaughan Profile
2015-03-11 18:48 [p.12005]
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Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support the motion in principle. The situation in Hamilton is one all of us should be paying close attention to. As steel mills close and as infrastructure spending, in particular, is not spent in the country, there is a direct correlation between the two.
If the government had not cut infrastructure spending by almost 89%, perhaps some of the companies in our country that are producing steel, and in particular the workers and the communities where that product is manufactured and is so critical to the local economy, those steel mills would not be going quiet.
That is why the integrated approach to our economic development, which includes building cities but using steel to build those cities, is so fundamental to the policies that are central to my reason for being in politics, but also central to the reasons for the motion in front of us.
A deal was struck to try to save Stelco and to put Hamilton back on a path toward a more prosperous future, but apparently it did not work. The details of that deal need to be tabled immediately. That is part of what the motion seeks to do.
The protection of those pensions is tough to do through this motion. In principle, we understand the need to do it. We understand how not only the lives of the people impacted are so critical but we also understand the expectation in Hamilton and in Southern Ontario of how those pensions integrate themselves into the local economy and help with the diversification of the local economy. When all that disappears, it is not simply a steel mill going quiet. It is a town going quiet. We cannot allow that to happen.
The way to preserve and present a better opportunity and future for the City of Hamilton is to work with the workers, with the investors in the plan, and with the cities that want to consume the steel as they build great places to live, work, play and invest. The way to do it is to work together. Instead, what we get is a quiet, secret deal in the back rooms. They throw up their hands and say, “It's the economy. It's the free market speaking”, and then the calamity arrives. We do not get a proactive and integrated approach to solving the economic challenges that confront communities like Hamilton.
Be assured, a Liberal government, the next government, will work very hard not only to protect the rights of workers but to protect the economy in southern Ontario. Having a strong Hamilton feeds into a strong Oakville, feeds into a strong Oshawa, and a strong manufacturing base that deals with the strong economy in this part of the country.
The loss of the steel mill, throwing up its hands and not getting engaged as a government is simply unacceptable, and is not right. Therefore, it is not just the anxiety of pensioners we are measuring in the motion and not just the measurement of a city and a local economy that feels it has been abandoned by the federal government, it is all of southern Ontario. It is the entire manufacturing base of the country.
We cannot just extract minerals. We must also process those minerals. We cannot just process minerals for foreign markets. We need to employ those minerals, particularly steel, in the construction of not just an economy but of southern Ontario's cities and all of Canada's cities.
The approach of the government, which is to pretend that a deal is a deal and therefore it must be a good deal and not to provide follow-up, oversight and discipline to that process, is what is failing the manufacturing sector in southern Ontario. It is what is failing cities in our country.
The cut to infrastructure spending, the abandonment of pensioners in Hamilton, walking away from industry in southern Ontario, none of this is good economic policy. It is why we are now experiencing a trade deficit. It is why youth unemployment is so high. It is why property taxes are rising so quickly, particularly around the Golden Horseshoe. The government claims to be cutting taxes, but in fact is downloading on cities. There is no integrated economic strategy for individuals, for industries or for cities in this part of the country.
Imagine if transit was being supported and built. Where would the steel come from? Imagine if new homes were being built. Imagine where the steel and other resources would be coming from. Imagine that the St. Lawrence River and the St. Lawrence system and the bridges that crisscross it were being rebuilt instead of the debate being deferred and the thumbs being twiddled on the other side of the House. Steel would be used. Hamilton would be happy. The pensioners would feel secure in their retirement.
Instead, what we get offered are things like income splitting. Income splitting does not work if one's pension disappears. In fact, income splitting gets worse if one's pension disappears and the city's economy starts to disappear with it.
It is time for a rethink on how we build this country. Simply building perfect budgets, which the government still has failed to do as it has yet to balance a budget, does not necessarily build a stronger Canada. It certainly does not build stronger cities.
We have to rethink this model. It starts by supporting places like Hamilton and by supporting motions like the one in front of us. However, it will not be finished until we get back to the real job of the government, which is to build a strong country, which takes building better provinces, which is a focus on building strong cities, but when we get down to it, it is actually building strong communities, which we know are comprised of people who can retire in dignity, can work with pride, and can contribute to the construction of a great country.
We have not seen any of that with the approach the government has shown to Hamilton and that is wrong. It is time to change that attitude. Unfortunately, the only real way you can change that attitude is to change the government.
We support this motion in the interim. We support its principles. Most importantly, we stand by the people of Hamilton, the retirees of Stelco included. It is time to protect the investment this country has made in the steel mills in Hamilton and Stelco, in particular. It is time to stand up for Hamilton, stand up for cities, and more importantly, stand up to the government, which has ignored this crisis and is only making it worse by its indifference.
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View Wayne Marston Profile
NDP (ON)
View Wayne Marston Profile
2015-03-11 18:55 [p.12006]
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Mr. Speaker, it is with mixed emotions that I stand today to speak to this particular motion by my good friend from Hamilton Centre.
I want to congratulate the president and executive of USWA 1005 who fought tooth and nail for the last number of years, along with us in the NDP. Both locally and nationally, the NDP have spoken out on this since the deal was initiated in 2007. I was elected to this House in 2006, and for that many years, from 2007, we have been trying to get the essence of that deal put before the public.
The motion that comes from my friend calls for the government to apologize to the Hamilton community and to our country for approving the U.S. Steel takeover of Stelco because it failed to provide a net benefit.
Members will know that any foreign takeover bid requires a review that looks to a net benefit for Canada. It also calls for that particular deal to be made public. With respect to the acquisition of Stelco in 2007 and the 2011 out-of-court settlement, both of these documents and materials, the evidence that supports them, should be made public.
What is the possible reason for so much secretiveness in this particular arrangement? The tidbits of information that USWA was able to get came from the United States, of all places. There was a court action in the United States where some of it was made public. We turned to the United States to get information our own government would not provide.
The final part of the member's motion would ensure that employee pensions are protected, including amending the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act.
A number of years ago, around 2008-11, I was our party's critic who dealt with pensions. I proposed a piece of legislation to the government at that time. I did not table it in the House, but I went to Ted Menzies, the parliamentary secretary of the day, and said to him that I had a bill that would put the pensioners at the head of the line as secured debt in cases of bankruptcy and insolvency. These are deferred wages, very clearly the property of the workers.
At that time, in fairness to Mr. Menzies, he said he would take it to others in the cabinet and see what he could do. Ultimately, the government said no, it was not prepared to do it because it had some concerns.
Let us imagine today, in the situation that Stelco is in, if that had been passed. It was also proposed to the government prior to Nortel's debacle. As we know, it had somewhere in the area of $6 billion of assets, and the pensioners' pensions were cut 37%. Not only that, 450 people, who were on benefits, who were not employable, lost everything. There was certainly room for a change.
There is so much to talk about in this particular circumstance. This particular company, under the name of Stelco, in 2004, already went through CCAA protection. At that time, there was a tremendous push-back from the people of Hamilton and the USWA, in particular, against the move. There was $545 million in long-term debt and a $1.3 billion deficit in the pension fund obligations at that time.
When we moved forward from that, Stelco came out of that, and millions of dollars went to the person who represented the company, who went back to the United States. It was somewhere in the area of $50 million when there was a debt of this nature.
Then we had several suitors for the company. I recall meeting with the vice-president of a company in Russia at that time. It was a mining company 800 miles north of Moscow. It built hospitals for the workers. It paid their taxes for them.
In that part of the world they were having trouble with abuse of vodka. Circuses were still part of that culture at the time, so they started a circus training school. In other words, they had a commitment to the workers and they offered to come to Hamilton. As I recall, they offered a $350-million investment in the plant in Hamilton. They offered to assume the debt and pay off the pension debt.
The powers that be took the decision to go to U.S. Steel instead. The end result is the workers of Hamilton are paying a terrible penalty for that decision. It is certainly not a net benefit to the 8,000 retirees who are looking at losing somewhere in the area of 20% of their pension, if not more, depending on where the market is, if that were to be shut down. Clearly, the outlook they are facing is that the company wants to sell so it wants to divest itself of those obligations to make the company saleable.
We have to sit back and wonder, where was the government when it had an obligation to protect the workers and the investors in Canada when this deal was put together? Where was the government when it was supposed to be standing up for the workers of Hamilton? Is this a model of what other companies can expect, to be sold down the river because the government is not prepared to stand up for its own workers in its own country? It is shocking when we consider that the government will not share the information with its own citizens. It is beyond comprehension.
In 2008-09, U.S. Steel laid off 700 workers in Hamilton. It had made a commitment that it was going to sustain and maintain employment. In 2009, it shut down most of its Canadian operations and locked out workers in a labour dispute in Hamilton. It shut down the blast furnace in 2009. If one understands the workings of a blast furnace, if it is shut down for any length of time it is ruined. It cannot be used again. By shutting it down, officials were signalling to the people of Hamilton that they were walking away from Hamilton.
At one point the Canadian government looked at the deal, whatever it says, and said that U.S. Steel did not live up to it, so it was taken to court. For a moment in Hamilton we started to say maybe the government is starting to consider supporting the workers in this community. As the court proceedings went on and we were led to understand we were going to be successful, there was an arrangement between the company and the government to end the lawsuit.
For the people who were out of work, they would have received past wages for the time they would have been off the job because it violated the agreement. Instead of going to court, getting that resolution, there was a private deal made that did nothing for the workers in Hamilton. There was a token payment made to some people in Hamilton. Monies that were paid were a very small portion of the obligation of over $1.2 billion to the pension plan.
Going back to the original motion, at the very least the government should be apologizing to the people of Hamilton and to the workers at U.S. Steel, formerly Stelco. Conservatives need to make public those undertakings. Even with the bad taste that people have in their mouth about all of this, they are still are trying to somehow understand what has happened. They should be given the opportunity to look at the undertakings between U.S. Steel and the government with regard to employment, steel production and the ongoing funding of the pension plan, which was not done.
I am saddened that we find ourselves at this place in time. Again, I want to commend the member for Hamilton Centre. We have been in the House probably 40 or 50 times over the last eight years speaking out on this. The government has not been listening and it is very evident.
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View John Barlow Profile
CPC (AB)
View John Barlow Profile
2015-03-11 19:05 [p.12007]
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Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise to address the concerns raised by the member for Hamilton Centre regarding U.S. Steel's acquisition of Stelco in 2007, a transaction that was reviewed under the provisions of the Investment Canada Act.
In debating the motion today, it is important to bear in mind the actual application of this investment regime and review process set out in the ICA. We should also acknowledge the important amendments our government has made to the ICA to ensure that it continues to effectively attract investment that is beneficial to all Canadians.
In the first section of the Investment Canada Act, the law explicitly recognizes that foreign investment results in increased capital and technological benefits for Canada, which in turn encourages economic growth and employment opportunities in Canada. It mandates that investments be reviewed for their likely net benefit to Canada when they exceed certain monetary thresholds. For a reviewable investment to proceed, the Minister of Industry must be satisfied that the proposed investment is likely to be a net benefit to Canada.
The act focuses on those investments that are likely to be most influential on the economy, usually in the order of 10 to 20 transactions per year. These transactions, although they are all significant, can vary in size. They vary by sector, from natural resources to utilities, from wholesale to retail. They each present their own merits that warrant careful consideration and scrutiny. Therefore, the minister must examine each proposal on a case-by-case basis.
In coming to a decision, the minister must consider the six net benefit factors that are clearly articulated in the act: first, the effect of the investment on the level and nature of economic activity in Canada, including the effect on employment, resource processing and the utilization of parts, components and services produced here in Canada; second, the degree and significance of participation by Canadians in Canadian business; third, the minister must consider the effect of the investment on productivity, industrial efficiency, technological advancement and development, product innovation and product variety in Canada; fourth, the effect of the investment on competition within any industry or industries in Canada is considered; fifth, the compatibility of the investment with national, provincial, industrial, economic and cultural policies must be weighted; and sixth, the contribution of the investment to Canada's ability to compete in world markets.
Potential investors provide business plans which can be supplemented with undertakings to support their contention that their investment represents a net benefit to Canada. The minister then carefully considers the application in light of the net benefit factors I have just described.
It is worth recalling that the present investment review framework under the ICA has evolved over time, as Canada has responded to changing sources of foreign investment in the world economy.
The Foreign Investment Review Act was passed by Parliament in 1973 and its broad scope reflected an ambivalence toward the presence of foreign investment in the Canadian economy. In clear recognition of the importance of foreign investment, Parliament replaced the FIRA with the ICA in 1985.
The ICA explicitly welcomed foreign investment by increasing the threshold for review, removing the minister's investigative powers and reducing the time it took to review applications. This has made the process more predictable and more welcoming for business.
Since that time, both the global investment landscape and the policy framework to respond to it have evolved. The capital and technology needed to spur economic growth comes from an increasingly wide group of investors, and it is important for Canada to maintain its attractiveness to a wide range of foreign investment from around the world.
At the same time, our government has been vigilant in ensuring that foreign investment in Canada actually benefits the Canadian economy and hard-working Canadians. To ensure the act remains effective in a globalized world, the government has introduced several targeted reforms to the act to keep Canada's investment review regime up to date in the face of new and evolving economic realities.
First, in 2007, our government introduced guidelines on investments by state-owned enterprises in recognition of the reality that investments by foreign state-owned entities were unique in nature. A policy statement in 2012 provided added clarification to those guidelines.
In 2009, our government introduced national security review provisions into the ICA. We also made changes to increase the threshold for net benefit reviews from $330 million to $1 billion and to adjust the basis for calculating the review threshold from asset value to enterprise value. This change will more accurately capture the value of businesses operating in the modern economy.
Finally, economic action plan 2014 introduced amendments that will, among other things, give government greater flexibility to provide information on key decision points in the national security review process.
The ICA is just part of our broader economic agenda. Indeed, since day one, we have been cutting taxes for job-creating businesses. In the past five years alone, we have delivered tax reductions to businesses totalling more than $60 billion. We have reduced the federal general corporate tax from 22% to 15% and lowered the small business tax rate to 11%. We have also extended the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment through 2015.
I can tell everyone that Canada now offers the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the entire G7. The competitiveness of Canada's business tax system was lauded by KPMG, which concluded that Canada's total business taxes were the lowest in the G7, more than 40% lower than the United States. Importantly, where the ICA is concerned, growth and foreign direct investment in Canada has been the strongest among the G7 countries over the course of this recovery.
Canada's economic success is due in no small measure to a framework our government has put into place. This framework improves access to capital, technology and global expertise. With that framework in place, we are confident Canada will continue to attract foreign investment that will benefit all Canadians.
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View François Lapointe Profile
NDP (QC)
Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to Motion No. 537, which has to do with the takeover of Stelco by U.S. Steel.
Before I begin, I would like to commend the hard work done by the member for Hamilton Centre, for whom I have a great deal of respect. He has a lot of experience and served as minister of correctional services in the Ontario legislature. He is also very passionate about defending the rights of workers, so I was not surprised to see him move such a motion in the House. He believes in it. It is very important to him.
Motion No. 537 by my colleague from Hamilton Centre urges the government to do three things: first of all, to apologize for approving the U.S. Steel takeover of Stelco on the grounds that it has failed to provide a net benefit; second, to make public the commitments U.S. Steel agreed to under the Investment Canada Act in respect of the acquisition of Stelco Inc. in 2007, and the 2011 out-of-court settlement, concerning employment and production guarantees and maintenance of the employee pension system—and I will come back to this part later—and third, to take action to ensure employee pensions are protected, including amending the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.
I would like to take a moment to explain the first point of the motion moved by my NDP colleague. I will then talk about the third part of the motion, because it applies to a similar situation, one just as upsetting, that happened in my riding over five years ago.
Let us look at what the first point is all about. Why ask the government to apologize for approving the takeover of Stelco by U.S. Steel because there was no net benefit? Let me give a little background on what motivated us to do that. Before it was called U.S. Steel, the company was called Stelco. It was a company that specialized in steel manufacturing that operated in southwestern Ontario.
In 2004, Stelco declared that it had $545 million in long-term debt and a $1.3 billion deficit in pension funding obligations. Therefore, Stelco applied for bankruptcy protection under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.
In March 2006, Stelco came out of Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act protection after selling off different production units. In 2007, in a transaction that was subject to review for approval under the Investment Canada Act, U.S. Steel purchased Stelco for $1.9 billion—$1.1 billion in cash and $800 million in assumed debt.
U.S. Steel undertook to maintain jobs and production and honour pension obligations by making $70 million in annual payments to the employee pension funds to return them to solvency by 2015. Based on that information, the federal government approved the takeover with the understanding that it would be a “net benefit” to Canada.
This is where the story takes a terrible turn. In 2008-09, 700 workers were laid off in Hamilton. That is certainly not a net benefit. There was also the shutdown of the majority of operations in Canada, which is certainly not a net benefit, and the 11-month lockout of the workers in Hamilton and Nanticoke. Then the federal government took U.S. Steel to Federal Court for failing to meet its undertakings on production and pensions. They settled out of court in 2011.
The company undertook to continue producing steel in Canada and make at least $50 million in capital investments to maintain its Canadian facilities. Then it started all over again. In 2013, almost 1,000 workers were locked out for four months. In 2014, U.S. Steel filed for bankruptcy protection, claiming an $800 million shortfall with respect to pensions, of course. Pensioners are still facing the possibility of having their pensions reduced by 30%.
My colleague from Hamilton Centre is right: workers and Canadians deserve an apology from the government for approving the takeover by U.S. Steel. It is obvious that what happened was not a net benefit to Canada. When we see such situations, it is also clear that the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act need a complete overhaul.
Only the NDP, with the decades of work that it has done in defence of the rights of workers and the middle class in Canada, will have the political courage to address these issues. We will begin in eight months.
Unfortunately, what the U.S. Steel workers are going through all too closely resembles what happened to F.F. Soucy workers in my riding. F.F. Soucy was bought out by the American company White Birch Paper in 2007. From 2010 until just recently, retirees were living under the threat of having their pensions cut dramatically. Workers aged 55 and under stood to lose up to 70% of their pension. That is huge.
The retirees had to wait until January 2015 for a judge to rule that they would receive the amounts they had been owed since December 2012. It is shameful that these retirees have been waiting since December 2012 to get what they are owed. The judge also decided that they would be paid 90% of their original pension. That was five years of stress and lost income for these retired men and women who were not guilty of anything more than earning an honest living under a legally negotiated agreement.
The representatives of the F.F. Soucy retirees are right. This case shows why the laws need to be strengthened to ensure that pension plans are given preferred creditor status in Canada.
I will support the motion by my colleague from Hamilton Centre, since too many events in recent history have proven that this motion is appropriate and necessary.
In southeastern Ontario, as in Rivière-du-Loup and all across Canada, there are too many transactions that provide no net benefit to Canadians and too many retirees who have seen their pensions suffer. This needs to change. I am proud to rise with my colleagues in the NDP who are showing, with Motion No. 537, that they do not just talk about their values, but they are also prepared to act on those values right now. Some colleagues are telling me that there are other cases, like Nortel. I would like all my colleagues to have a chance to speak. There are a lot of examples.
In the minute I have left, I would like to put this all in perspective. There seems to be this complete obsession on the right, which can be found across the country, but you hear it a lot on right-wing radio in Quebec, with denigrating unionized workers, and it has gotten completely out of hand.
We need to remind the public that these agreements came out of a completely legal negotiation process. When workers say that they are entitled to something, it is because they have a completely legal agreement. We need to remind the public of what happens in the communities affected. Take, for example, the 200 or so F.F. Soucy retirees who spent years worrying about losing 70% of their retirement income. Just imagine the stress of being in your sixties, having worked for 30 or 35 years and no longer being sure that you will get 70% of your income for your remaining years. Imagine that stress.
Communities and people who are not unionized—such as restaurant owners—have to understand that when hundreds of retirees suddenly see their income collapse because one party did not hold up its end of the pension payment agreement, that is bad for everyone. If, year after year, a retiree is afraid of losing 70% of his income or actually does lose 30% of it, will he still have discretionary funds to spend at cafés and restaurants every weekend? This has a direct impact on the whole community.
When right wingers go on and on about how unions are useless, that has a negative impact on workers and working conditions in the industrial sector. Ultimately, communities suffer. That is what people need to be reminded of. The right has a tendency to get completely hysterical when it comes to the basic rights of workers.
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View John Carmichael Profile
CPC (ON)
View John Carmichael Profile
2015-03-11 19:22 [p.12010]
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Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to join in this debate today in response to the motion from my colleague regarding the acquisition of Stelco by U.S. Steel in 2007 under the Investment Canada Act or the ICA.
The motion calls for three things: (a) for the government to apologize to the people of Hamilton for approving the deal with U.S. Steel; (b) to release publicly the ICA commitments with U.S. Steel; and, (c) take action to ensure the pension benefits are protected.
My colleagues have clearly addressed, in both first reading and again today, why the government is against this motion. Therefore, I am not going to repeat a lot of the points that were raised by my colleagues. Rather, I rise today to speak to the importance of foreign investments to Canada's continued economic growth.
The motion suggests that U.S. Steel's current situation reflects a flaw in Canada's foreign investment policy, a suggestion that is simply not supported by the facts. Foreign investment is vital to sustaining Canada's strong record on economic growth and job creation. By introducing a competitive tax system and reducing red tape, our government has created an attractive economic climate for both domestic and foreign investment.
More competition means Canadians get goods and services at lower prices, workers can find higher-paying jobs, and Canadian businesses find themselves better equipped for success in global markets. Key to this strong business environment is Canada's foreign investment framework, promoting investments that are in Canada's interests. Indeed, the positive benefits of foreign investment are well-established. Let me outline a few.
First and foremost, foreign investment increases productivity. This is reflected in higher-paying jobs for Canadians.
Second, foreign investment provides new capital that Canadian firms need to grow and excel. New technologies and innovative business practices allow Canadian enterprises to compete on the world stage. Foreign investment is particularly critical for unlocking the full value of Canada's natural resources. It is also important for helping the manufacturing sector, which accounts for half of business research and development in Canada.
Third, foreign investment allows Canadian businesses to access the knowledge, capabilities and management expertise of world-leading businesses. This exposure can increase the productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of Canadian firms. Foreign investment also provides Canadian businesses with access to new markets. Foreign investment can provide an unparalleled opportunity for our exporters to diversify their sales by accessing the world's most rapidly growing economies. It is critical for integrating Canadian firms into global value chains. Many Canadian suppliers were initially selected for their proximity to larger firms. Over time, these Canadian companies have since developed their own leading-edge specialized skills and technologies.
To continue to realize the full benefits of foreign investment, Canada must maintain the economic conditions necessary to attract foreign investment. Canada's economic performance under this government has been very strong relative to other industrialized countries coming out of the 2008 global economic downturn. Canada has been widely applauded for having weathered and recovered quickly from the global economic downturn and foreign investors have taken notice.
Since that time, Canada has achieved one of the best job creation and economic growth rates in the G7. This achievement is all the more remarkable when taking into account the global economic uncertainty that we have witnessed over recent years.
According to Statistics Canada, Canada's economy was the first among G7 nations to recoup the employment losses recorded during the downturn. The ICA framework rewards initiative and innovation, and makes Canada an investment destination of choice for international investors.
Our government has kept taxes low for Canadians and for Canadian businesses, supporting job creation, growth and investment. We have introduced a successful formula for foreign investment by leveraging abundant energy resources with a capacity for innovation, a fiscally stable and predictable economy, and a competitive business environment. Our plan for jobs and growth has resulted in significant investments to promote innovation, foster research and development, and ensure that Canadians are equipped with the skills and training they need to succeed in a globalized economy.
Businesses operating in Canada also benefit from the advantages provided by our sound financial institutions, our highly skilled labour force, and our world-leading capabilities in science and technology. In short, we have put in place the foundation to make Canada a world leader today and for future generations.
In addition to these measures, our government is committed to open borders and free trade. History has shown that trade is the best way to create jobs and growth, and boost our standard of living.
Our government has worked diligently to secure access to new markets and increase exports of Canadian goods and services to global markets, providing new and diverse opportunities for Canadian companies.
In fact, when our government took office in 2006, Canada had free trade agreements with five countries. That was not good enough for a country where 60% of GDP and one in five jobs were tied to trade. We now have free trade deals with 43 countries, a record that includes the two largest markets in the world, Europe and the United States. We are pursuing trade and investment agreements with many more, including large markets such as China, India and Japan, and also as part of the trans-Pacific partnership.
Our government will continue to attract the benefits of foreign investment to Canada by maintaining policies that support economic growth. Foreign investment review as part of the Investment Canada Act is a key part of Canada's economic framework. Our balanced approach ensures that foreign investment transactions are reviewed on their merits based on the long-term interests of the Canadian economy. Foreign investment has boosted Canada's productivity, created jobs, and enhanced research and development undertaken in Canada. These investments have also clearly demonstrated to the world that Canada is open for business.
In conclusion, our government has demonstrated its commitment to ensuring that Canadian businesses can compete in both domestic and international markets.
In order to prosper, create jobs, and maintain a high standard of living for Canadians, it is important to have modern policies in place that encourage trade and investment. Under our government, we will continue to attract world-class companies with high-paying jobs, leading to strong, sustainable economic growth and prosperity for all Canadians.
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View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
View David Christopherson Profile
2015-03-11 19:31 [p.12011]
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Mr. Speaker, may I first thank all of my colleagues from all parties, across the aisle and on this side, for their participation and for taking this matter seriously. It is very important to the people of Hamilton, so I thank everyone for that.
Having said that, I have to say that there was not a government member who got up and said anything that was of any real value, other than a lot of rhetoric and reading out Conservative talking points about what they have done. Nowhere did anyone stand up and address the key issues we have placed before Parliament. Once again, it shows that these workers, employees, potential pensioners and those already on a pension are just not a priority for the Conservative government. Anyone who wants to question that should read the Hansard. Read Hansard and see what was not said as opposed to what was said.
On the other side of the spectrum, let me also thank my two Hamilton colleagues, the member for Hamilton Mountain and the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek. They both spoke very passionately and knowledgeably on the issue in front of us and on the harm and damage being done to these U.S. Steel workers, formerly Stelco workers, and members of Local 1005 USW.
If people are interested, a lot of the rhetoric came up about what happened with the pensions at Stelco back in the 1990s provincially. I urge anyone who wants to know the truth and the facts about that to visit the remarks of my colleague from Hamilton Mountain on December 4, 2014, when we first debated this. She went into great detail, spelling out exactly what is the truth and what is just a lot of myth, politics, and spin. I thank her so much for that.
I also want to thank my colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup so much for his passionate remarks. We can certainly tell that he gets this issue.
My motion asks for three very simple things. It is not that complicated. Number one, we asked for an apology, and we feel that we are owed an apology, because it is the government that makes a decision, under the Investment Canada Act, as to whether a foreign takeover can take place. That is a judgement call, and it is supposed to be based on whether there is a net benefit to Canada. There was no net benefit to Canada. There sure as heck was no net benefit to those pensioners whose pensions are on the line right now. Their whole quality of life is on the line right now. There was no net benefit for them.
This was a terrible decision at best. It is not unreasonable for the people of Hamilton to ask for an apology from the government for making this really awful, horrid decision that has led to this crisis in all of these hundreds and thousands of Canadians' lives. It is nothing less than that.
We asked the government to make public its secret deal that got us to this point. The Hamilton city council has asked for the documents. It has taken this so seriously that it has struck a special steel subcommittee. I believe it was today that Councillor Scott Duvall was re-elected as the chair of that committee. Councillor Sam Merulla is the vice-chair. That is how seriously the people of Hamilton take this issue.
We asked that the government make amendments to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the CCAA, to ensure that in the future, pensioners go to the top of the list, not the bottom.
Here is the crime of this. One cannot relive the years it takes to build up a pension. To deny people the right to the pension they worked for is unacceptable in this country. It is immoral to do that to people, yet that is exactly what is happening here. It is not just the union workers. It is also the salaried non-union workers. Their pensions are on the line just as much.
This is unacceptable. We need to turn around and elect a government that is going to care about the people of this country by doubling the CPP, for example, rather than throwing people off pension lines in terms of the amounts they are entitled to receive.
This action by the government has caused countless heartaches and stress for all those people affected, and the government to this minute, has still not given Hamiltonians the justice and decent attention that they are entitled to.
Until the government does, we in the NDP and those of us from Hamilton will stand up and holler from the rooftops that this is wrong, and we want pensioners and Hamiltonians to attack it the way it deserves.
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View Joe Comartin Profile
NDP (ON)
View Joe Comartin Profile
2015-03-11 19:36 [p.12012]
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Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members: Question.
The Deputy Speaker: The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the nays have it.
And five or more members having risen:
The Deputy Speaker: Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 25, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.
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View Joe Comartin Profile
NDP (ON)
View Joe Comartin Profile
2014-11-06 17:11 [p.9315]
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The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River is not present in the House to move the order as announced in today's notice paper. Therefore, the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 5:11 p.m.)
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View Barry Devolin Profile
CPC (ON)
Order. The member has been warned twice that he has worn out his introduction to this matter and that he ought to be addressing the substance. He has failed to do so on three occasions. Consequently, we will resume debate.
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View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
View Joe Preston Profile
2013-03-28 12:55 [p.15361]
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Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 104 and 114, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 46th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding membership of committees of the House. If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 46th report later this day.
I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 47th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Pursuant to Standing Order 92(3)(a) the committee reports that it has concurred in the report of the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business arising that the M-408 item of private members' business should be designated non-votable.
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View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2013-03-28 12:56 [p.15361]
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Members will recall that Standing Order 92(4) allows the member for Langley to appeal the decision of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs within five sitting days of the presentation of the report we have just received.
Given that Motion No. 408 will come up for debate in the House prior to the end of the appeal period, I would ask the table officers to drop this item of business to the bottom of the order of precedence. The hon. member for Langley has been so advised.
On Monday, April 15, 2013, private members' hour will thus be cancelled and consideration of government orders will start at 11 a.m.
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-03-18 11:04 [p.14811]
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Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to address this issue today, knowing full well how important it is that all homes across our country have the ability to deal with this very important issue, which affects water quality. This is an opportunity for governments to work together to resolve these issues, which are of national importance. I would argue that many rural communities that need water or sanitation systems require financial resources to achieve success, and the federal government needs to play some role in that.
The motion brought forward requesting financial support to bring homes connected to septic systems up to a standard should be debated. I would have thought the motion would have received support from all sides. The Liberal Party previously indicated that it supports the motion and would like to see it pass, thereby obligating the government to do something that we believe is very important. One of the substantial differences between the Liberal Party and the Conservative Reform Party is that we see value in investing capital in infrastructure across this country.
The Chrétien government discussed infrastructure from coast to coast to coast and how the federal government needed to play a role. If we are to build our country, we need to build upon our infrastructure. Former Prime Minister Chrétien was quite keen on the three levels of government getting together and coming up with agreements on investments.
I had the opportunity the other day to talk about infrastructure programs. I made reference to an overpass on Kenaston in the city of Winnipeg that would never have been done had the federal government not come to the table. This is because the federal government has a much larger purse than any municipality. Many municipalities have low population bases. They do not have the resources necessary to invest in water or septic systems. If the money does not flow, if they do not get co-operation from Ottawa and in good part from the provinces, it will never exist or it will be very difficult for it to exist.
Speaking of numbers, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25% of homes, a significant percentage, are connected to septic systems that are not up to a what we would classify as a good quality standard. I would ultimately argue that we need to improve that overall percentage. The only way that can be done is for Ottawa to play a leading role.
The motion needs to be supported, at the very least in principle. I recognize the government is having a difficult time with the motion. However, if the government recognizes that there is a need to improve the standard across this country, that is a step forward. Then, recognizing that need, how do we best address it?
The best way to address the need is through strong leadership from Ottawa. Many would suggest, particularly government members, that it is a municipal responsibility and that municipalities are ultimately responsible for the bulk of that 25%. However, it does not matter where we go in Canada. From coast to coast to coast, we find that the need is there, and the reason there is this need all over our country is that the municipalities do not have the tax base necessary to bring these homes up to an acceptable standard.
If the municipalities do not have the resources, where do we look to get the job done? It may be argued that some provinces are in a better financial position than others to deal with these communities. Some provinces may have the necessary internal wealth and resources to enter into agreements with their local municipalities and provide additional funding for their rural municipalities. There is no doubt that some provinces are in a better position to deal with this issue. However, I would argue that this is a national interest and it should be a national concern, which is why we need to see leadership come from Ottawa.
We are suggesting that at the very least Ottawa should sit down with the different stakeholders to paint a much broader picture of the issue at hand. With that picture, we would get a better idea of what it would take to get the job done. However, without Ottawa's participation, this is not going to happen. It is as simple as that. We might see a little bit here and there, scattered throughout the country, but at the end of the day, if Ottawa is not prepared to come to the table, then it is not going to happen.
To that degree, this is the difference between the Conservative government and what the former Liberal government demonstrated, and what we see within the leadership of the Liberal Party today. We recognize the value of bringing people to the table to work on agreements that would make a difference. We demonstrated that first-hand through infrastructure programs when we were in government. We had all three levels of government sitting at the table and participating. Moneys were allocated and projects that would not have been possible were made possible because Ottawa at the time made the decision to get directly involved, which is something that is not being realized today. Until the government recognizes the important role it has to play, this issue will ultimately cause problems in many of our rural communities, if not all of them.
If we think of the environment and septic systems, we will find that there are many shortcomings. For parliamentarians and concerned Canadians who want to deal with this issue, which has a fairly profound impact on our environment and the lifestyles of thousands of people, I would suggest, and I refer mostly to the Conservative members of Parliament, that they reconsider their position and how they vote on this particular motion.
The principle of the motion is good. We are going to be supporting it and we challenge the government members to do the same. Many government members like to say that they represent rural Manitoba. A good way to demonstrate their support for rural Canadians would be to support the motion.
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View Marc-André Morin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Marc-André Morin Profile
2013-03-18 11:14 [p.14812]
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Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel's motion to correct an injustice done to rural Canadians.
One would expect a party that campaigned on the slogan "Our region in power" to support this important official opposition motion.
As in all rural regions of Canada, thousands of people in my riding of Laurentides—Labelle live close to lakes and waterways. Maintaining the quality of these regions' sanitation systems is vital to people and environmental protection.
The safety of communities' drinking water depends on the state of their septic systems. The same is true of the survival of the tourism and recreation industry, a major development focus in my riding. These communities are responsible for maintaining water quality by maintaining their sanitation facilities. However, infrastructure programs are not being given adequate financial support to bring septic systems up to new environmental standards.
Everyone pays the same taxes whether they live in an urban or rural area, so everyone should be able to benefit equally from those tax dollars.
As an MP who represents a rural riding, I am very proud to defend this motion, which seeks to ensure fairness among people living in urban and rural areas.
Supporting my colleague's motion would be a good opportunity for the Conservatives to take action and show Canadians that the federal government is implementing practical measures to help the regions.
Motion No. 400 seeks to make the waste water services that are currently available to people in urban areas accessible to people in rural areas as well.
Although the federal government is investing in bringing municipal waste water systems up to standard, over 25% of Canadians are not connected to these urban systems and are therefore not receiving any subsidies.
As is often the case in my riding, many homeowners depend on residential septic tanks. Right now, 25% of Canadians have to pay out of their own pockets to maintain and upgrade their septic systems.
If the Conservatives were really listening to people in the regions, they would quickly realize that the municipalities support this motion.
Many municipalities in Laurentides—Labelle have openly expressed their support for my colleague's proposal. Ten of them—the RCM of Antoine-Labelle, Sainte-Adèle, La Macaza, Ivry-sur-le-Lac, Lac-Saguay, Rivière-Rouge, La Minerve, Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson, Val-David and La Conception—have demonstrated their support for the motion by adopting a city council resolution.
I will not read the resolutions sent to my office, but I would like to mention some important points included in the preamble to the resolution adopted by the City of Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson. It states:
...in peri-urban areas, a number of septic systems of isolated dwellings are outdated and need to be brought up to standard, work that is both important and urgent;
...this situation poses a significant potential risk to the water quality of our waterways, lakes and rivers;
...because of the high cost of the work, some residents are delaying bringing their system up to standard, which means an increased risk to water quality and public health;
...the federal government [must support] the municipalities that need to build or repair their waste water systems.
These points expressed by the City of Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson very clearly indicate the problem and the needs facing the municipalities in my riding.
The septic system issue is problematic for many other groups in the riding of Laurentides—Labelle, besides the municipalities I just mentioned. For instance, the Regroupement des associations pour la protection des lacs et cours d'eau des Hautes-Laurentides, which represents 19 associations and municipalities, is working on this priority issue. In fact, one of its key active projects is the search for funding to renovate individual septic systems.
Therefore, by moving this motion, my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel has really identified a key problem facing our municipalities. By following through on a resolution from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the member has proven that she really is listening to Canadians.
I am truly grateful to her for moving a motion that is so in tune with the actual needs of our fellow Canadians.
This motion would definitely get us much closer to equality among Canada's various regions. More importantly, this motion would help protect the environment, which is another issue the Conservative government has mostly been ignoring.
Outdated septic systems in some rural regions threaten water quality and public health. As the Pays-d'en-Haut RCM points out, the health of a waterway or lake depends heavily on whether surrounding septic systems comply with current regulations. Septic systems can leak water contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria and nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen. When contaminated water enters the water table and flows into our lakes and waterways, algae and aquatic plants proliferate. We know that fecal coliform bacteria contain a number of pathogens that threaten human health.
Maintaining high waste water treatment standards is critical, but that comes at a cost. Individuals simply cannot afford it. As we all know, the current government often leaves people in the regions out in the cold. Recent cuts to employment insurance are a harsh example of how, in many respects, the Conservatives could not care less about people in the regions. Maintaining existing infrastructure programs will only perpetuate the unfair treatment of people in rural areas.
Motion No. 400 is a preventive measure. Helping create programs that provide financial support for upgrading residential septic systems will help us avoid the enormous cost of decontaminating lakes and rivers.
It is time for the federal government to come up with a long-term vision. By expecting the provinces and municipalities to deal with this by themselves, the Conservatives are just putting off confronting an issue that affects all Canadians. I think they are trying to shirk their responsibility by turning a blind eye and pretending the problem does not exist.
I hope that the government will stop ignoring the problem and try to understand that the need is great. The people in my riding need the measures proposed by my colleague. We must take steps to protect water and public health by studying the possibility of establishing financial support programs to bring up to standard septic systems not connected to sanitation systems.
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View Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Profile
NDP (QC)
View Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Profile
2013-03-18 11:22 [p.14813]
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Mr. Speaker, in keeping with my typical approach to parliamentary speeches, I will be speaking about financial support for septic systems by presenting the basic elements of the issue at hand, specifically the effect that waterfront activities have on the integrity of our country's waterways. I will also describe how public involvement is an enabler of change in the country and how industrial development is a key driver of economic growth in Canada. As I have done many times before, I will critique every aspect, and I will show that big industry is also responsible for phosphate emissions.
In the past, the public has demonstrated that involvement and awareness ultimately drive an industry's action, particularly when that industry produces consumer goods. We have witnessed the public's ability to put issues such as sustainable development and social acceptance front and centre, to the point where these concepts have been taken up and are now practically trademarked. In fact, there has been green washing. Companies have picked up on these concepts, knowing full well that people pushed them to the forefront and that they are particularly important issues for consumers. These concepts have been hijacked.
I will also be speaking about certification bodies, such as ISO standards, which came about when I first began practising, while I was still at university. It was a new topic at the time. People supported the changes. Companies and industry simply followed suit and decided to make a commitment in order to meet the public's expectations.
Issues surrounding aquatic reserves, water and the integrity of our water are hot topics for debate lately. Thanks to the experience I have gained during my nearly two years in the House, I can state that nothing is left to chance in Canada's Parliament. There is a reason we have studied these issues. If memory serves me correctly, I have spoken to this topic at least three times over the past two years.
The last time I checked, the government opposed profiting from or commercializing water and bulk water exports. However, we have observed something else: when there is very little clarity and transparency, it is very likely that discussions are being held at another level and out of sight of the people. At present, there is foot-dragging and pussyfooting around, and people are backpedalling. That is why this government was forced to say that water was not for sale. This paranoia spread across the country, however, because of the lack of transparency and clarity of the government's actions at present. That is why I will speak briefly to this issue.
Although the motion before us puts Canadians at the centre of the debate around waste water from rural residences as a significant source of pollution and eutrophication of bodies of water, public involvement must go hand in hand with heightened social and environmental responsibility on the part of our society's corporate sector. I mentioned that ISO standards were being studied at universities about a dozen years ago. In fact, if my memory serves me well, when I studied corporate law in 2004 in graduate school, corporate social responsibility was already an emerging issue and the so-called intellectual circles were beginning to discuss it.
This issue has now been taken up by the general public and debated in the mass media. A few years ago, it was still rather obscure. That is why I examined ISO standards during my studies. At the time, industry voluntarily subscribed to these standards because the public expected it to. The commitment to meet ISO 14001 and 9001 standards lent an air of trustworthiness to companies. About a dozen years have passed and this has now become mainstream in the sense that Canadians are embracing it.
When I started my speech in the House about my colleague's motion, I wanted to show that public opinion will often dictate the direction industry will take. In this case, if people want to upgrade their septic systems and are also concerned about phosphate emissions, there is a very strong chance that a large segment of industry will simply follow their lead. We have seen it happen. As everyone knows, when the public mobilizes, it can have a big impact. Industry and the manufacturers that produce consumer goods will follow their lead.
I mentioned sustainable development. We now have access to fair trade and organic products. It was no accident that manufacturers came out with these products. The demand is there. Market studies showed that the public was evolving. All across Canada attitudes had been progressing, whether people liked it or not. Industry has always adapted. In this case, industry's direction in the near future will probably be dictated by this mobilization and by the public's interest in this important issue.
The public's interest in inadequate, outdated, plugged or substandard septic systems will help considerably reduce inputs of phosphorus, the primary cause of eutrophication of waterways and lakes. It is now well known that these inputs of phosphorus can stimulate the development of large blooms of cyanobacteria.
My colleagues probably agree that what we need now is action and meaningful support from the federal government for initiatives to upgrade sanitation and septic systems.
I spoke about the advantages earlier. This is a step in the right direction. There is a very strong chance that this could encourage an entire segment of society to change. Major producers of phosphate, phosphorus and other contaminants will simply follow suit and decide to upgrade their systems.
We must not fool ourselves. Industry is largely responsible for this pollution. Canadians will have to take a stand individually. My colleagues have said that many people who live along rivers are in financial difficulty. Therefore, it is essential that the Canadian government implement a program to ensure that an unfair burden is not placed on people who want to be in compliance or who simply want to improve their quality of life and their environment. The immediate neighbours will be able to see the positive impact and benefit from it. It is highly likely that this initiative will grow exponentially and that Canadian society as a whole will benefit greatly from it.
I submit this respectfully.
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View Marie-Claude Morin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Marie-Claude Morin Profile
2013-03-18 11:31 [p.14814]
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Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support Motion No. 400 moved by the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.
In my opinion, this motion, which aims to protect the water and public health of our communities, is very important and vital. I will read the motion because I think it is worthwhile to go over it again:
…the government should study the possibility of establishing, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, one or more financial support programs, inspired by the one proposed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, that would bring up to standard the septic systems of homes not connected to a sanitation system, in an effort to ensure urban/rural balance, lake protection, water quality and public health.
First of all, I congratulate my colleague on her motion. It proves that she truly is a practical MP who listens to her constituents. I find a number of aspects of this motion very interesting.
Ninety per cent of my riding is rural. We have a number of rivers, including the Yamaska River. Moreover, the Organisme de bassin versant de la Yamaska, an organization I work with in the riding, supports my colleague's motion. Environmental groups are vital in our ridings.
I am also worried about the Yamaska River, which runs through my riding. It is one of the most—if not the most—polluted rivers in Quebec. A motion like this one is definitely very important to my riding, and many environmental organizations support it.
It is also interesting that the motion addresses the notion of fairness among urban and rural areas. As we know, the government invests millions of dollars every year to help municipalities upgrade their sewer systems. The municipalities are often tapped-out and need a little help from the federal government.
At present, 25% of Canadians do not have access to municipal sewer systems. This means that they have to maintain a septic tank on their property, at their own expense. One-quarter of Canadians have to pay for this themselves—and it can cost $5,000, $10,000, $15,000 or even $20,000.
Not everyone can afford these upgrades, so they simply ignore the issue, which is harmful for the environment. These people need a little help. The federal government needs to show some leadership when it comes to the environment for once.
In rural areas, many septic systems are outdated and some need significant or urgent work. The clock is ticking and something needs to be done.
Again, fairness for rural areas is very important. People who live in isolated communities also deserve proper services and should not be penalized. They should not have to pay just because they live in a rural area.
We are simply asking the government to help these people meet environmental standards. These standards are crucial; we are talking about our water. Water is a vital resource that is very plentiful in Quebec and Canada. However, it seems to me that we sometimes take it for granted, since it is so abundant.
This reminds me of a personal story. A few years ago, I went to visit some friends in Belgium and we started talking about water. They told me that, basically, people who live in Quebec and Canada have so much water that they do not care about it; they do not look after it or take care of it. They said that we do not pay any attention to it, that we waste it and pollute it. I said that that was not true.
However, it made me stop and think. I thought that perhaps, deep down, Canadians do have that attitude. Perhaps we should be doing more to clean up our rivers and lakes and to help people who want to meet the standards but are financially unable to do so. I cannot imagine that many families in rural Canada want to go $20,000 into debt for a septic tank.
It would be good if the government stepped in, especially if you consider the fact that people in urban areas have access to sewage systems and do not have to pay for them. Can we all agree that this is a basic necessity?
Obviously, this is also a matter of public health. We are talking about drinking water. If the water is unfit, we cannot simply stop drinking it. There are also fish, shellfish and so on. It will be a problem if we cannot fish and eat them. There is also the issue of ecosystems. It is a serious problem when an ecosystem is transformed because of pollution. We cannot allow that to happen in Canada or anywhere else in the world. There are many problems related to this issue. We are suggesting a solution that would put a halt to these kinds of problems. The marine and earth ecosystems are interconnected and interdependent. We cannot allow this to go on any longer because sewers and drinking water are both matters of public health.
Earlier, I spoke about urban-rural balance. The municipalities do not necessarily have the means to enforce these standards. People are therefore being asked to upgrade their own septic tanks, which could cost $20,000. Yes, the municipality is responsible for enforcing this law. However, if we put ourselves in the shoes of the people living in small rural municipalities that may have only 1,000 residents, we realize that the person who may be required to take on $20,000 in debt is a brother-in-law, neighbour or friend. These are not costs that the municipality can cover. What is more, it becomes very difficult to enforce the law.
For example, the mayor of Saint-Barnabé-Sud in my riding, unlike the mayor of Montreal, is not a full-time mayor. Elected officials in small rural communities have a difficult time enforcing such things and finding the necessary funding. It is hard enough for them to find funding to deal with sewer systems, so members can imagine how difficult it would be to find money for septic tanks. We are talking about communities that have very few residents but that cover very large areas. People live on this land and farm it. They need help and so we must give it to them. In my opinion, it is the government's responsibility to help them.
Speaking of municipalities, it is interesting to note that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities supports this motion. In fact, the motion is largely inspired by the resolution adopted by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in 2009. The resolution confirms that it is relevant and urgent that the federal government provide funding to help bring septic systems up to standard. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities considered this issue in 2009 and asked the government to take action. The federation is a large organization made up of over 2,000 Canadian municipalities. These people know their business. They asked the government to take action, but the government did nothing. Now, my colleague is addressing the situation, and I thank her for that.
I urge the government to vote in favour of the motion. For once, it would be nice to see that the government cares about our water, our environment and Canadians' quality of life.
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View Mylène Freeman Profile
NDP (QC)
View Mylène Freeman Profile
2013-03-18 11:40 [p.14815]
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Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to close the debate by stating the facts and the truth. The government's response to the motion was to try very hard to ignore the issues raised.
First, according to the Conservatives, the matter falls under provincial jurisdiction and the federal government should not intervene. However, it is the regulation of individual septic systems that falls under provincial jurisdiction.
In response to a petition signed by Canadians who supported my motion, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development said:
In Canada, all levels of government share responsibility for managing waste water collection, treatment and disposal.
Therefore, nothing prevents us from working with the provinces and territories to find an effective and responsible way to help Canadians living in rural areas.
Waste water management is a shared responsibility, and that is why my motion specifically calls on the government to work with provinces and territories and municipalities.
The federal and provincial governments already provide up to 85% of the funds requested by municipalities to build or upgrade their waste water management infrastructures. However, in rural areas, it is impossible to do so. Therefore, while rural Canadians pay the same taxes as everybody else, they are left to fend for themselves.
At the same time, we are polluting our waters, our lakes and rivers, and harming our public health and our economy.
According to Environment Canada, the effects of waste water and these pollutants on ecosystems and human health include: causing the death of fish and damaging the habitat of certain species, leading to their decline; creating an environment that is toxic to invertebrates, algae and fish; polluting beaches and restricting human recreation, which is problematic for our regions' economies; and threatening human health, aquatic life and wildlife.
For 30 years now, waste water from isolated dwellings has been identified as a significant source of pollution and eutrophication of our waterways. Inadequate, outdated, clogged or non-compliant septic systems increase loadings of phosphorus, the main source of eutrophication, in rivers and lakes.
It is now well known that this increase in loadings in phosphorus can promote the development of excessive cyanobacteria, well known as blue-green algae.
The Conservatives were saying that the federal government already has invested in this area, which completely contradicts the argument of the provincial jurisdictions. Unfortunately, this claim is far from true. The CMHC program they referred to has no relevance to the issue in question.
That said, I appreciate that the minister and parliamentary secretary admitted that the federal government could implement support measures like the ones proposed in Motion No. 400.
As I mentioned during the first hour of debate, Gore Township, in my riding, has said:
...the CMHC and Société d'habitation du Québec programs...do not address the socio-economic issue being described and...the funds allocated for the region...are laughable compared to potential demand;
Applications for upgrading septic systems are not eligible under the program's criteria.
Meanwhile, rural homeowners living on small or fixed incomes are often forced to ignore the inadequacy of their septic systems and the environmental impact because they just do not have the means to invest in upgrading them.
Finally, because this motion only proposes that we study the possibilities for financial support, I want to remind my colleagues that there is no cost to voting for this motion. It is also worth noting that programs such as guaranteed loans would mean we could be helping Canadians at no long-term cost. Especially when we consider how much we would save in the cleanup of our lakes and rivers, I would say it is definitely a motion worth supporting.
In conclusion, I want to thank all of my colleagues who will support this motion on Wednesday.
I also want to thank all the municipalities and watershed groups for supporting and helping with this motion. I thank the FCM, which initiated this idea.
I also want to thank Scott Pearce, the mayor of Gore Township, in my riding, who has worked hard on this issue for many years.
I sincerely hope that my colleagues from all parties realize that what the Conservatives are saying is false and that they will vote for what their constituents want.
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View Barry Devolin Profile
CPC (ON)
View Barry Devolin Profile
2013-03-18 11:45 [p.14816]
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The time provided for debate has expired. The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): In my opinion the nays have it.
And five or more members having risen:
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 30, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.
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View Jay Aspin Profile
CPC (ON)
View Jay Aspin Profile
2013-01-31 17:16 [p.13545]
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moved:
That, in the opinion of the House, a government loan guarantee to the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project is: (a) an important part of a clean energy agenda; (b) an economically viable project that will create thousands of jobs and billions in economic growth; (c) regionally significant for the Atlantic region, which will benefit from a stable and sustainable electricity source for decades to come; and (d) environmentally-friendly, with substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions through the displacement of power from coal-fired and oil electricity sources.
He said: Mr. Speaker, in the 2011 Speech from the Throne, our Conservative government committed to developing Canada's extraordinary resource wealth for the benefit of all Canadians. Our desire to foster the development of major new clean energy projects of national or regional significance and to create long-term economic growth and energy security for all Canadians was outlined at the outset of our majority Conservative mandate.
With these goals in mind, we are very pleased to see that the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia are moving forward with the lower Churchill River projects, which are being undertaken by Newfoundland and Labrador's Crown-owned energy corporation, Nalcor Energy, and by Emera Inc. of Nova Scotia.
As members know, the lower Churchill River projects comprise the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric generating station and three transmission lines: one between Muskrat Falls and Churchill Falls, another between Labrador and the Island of Newfoundland, and a sub-sea transmission line connecting Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
These projects offer substantial economic and environmental benefits to the entire Atlantic region. The clean, renewable hydroelectricity that will be generated by the Muskrat Falls could reduce carbon emissions by up to 4.5 megatonnes every year. In fact, once the projects are fully operational, the Newfoundland and Labrador electricity supply will be 98% emissions-free.
This will further contribute to Canada's already impressive supply of non-emitting electricity. As all members know, three-quarters of our current electricity supply is produced by non-emitting sources, and much of it comes from hydroelectric projects. Indeed, the projects will allow Newfoundland and Labrador to achieve complete energy independence using a clean and renewable source.
As well, the power generated from Muskrat Falls will contribute to Nova Scotia meeting its renewable energy targets and displace coal-fired electricity generation in that province.
In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 4.5 million tonnes annually, which according to estimates is the equivalent of approximately 1 million cars off the road, the lower Churchill project will also generate $1.9 billion in revenue for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
This brings me to the motion that we are debating today. Clean energy is an important issue to my constituents, as it is to all Canadians across the country. In my role as the chair of the all-party clean tech caucus, I feel that a motion affirming our government's support for these renewable projects is appropriate.
Private member's Motion No. 412 offers all members of the House an opportunity to express their support for the lower Churchill River projects, both in terms of what they mean for greenhouse gas reductions in the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, and in terms of their enormous economic potential.
The benefits of these specific projects include energy self-sufficiency; a clean, renewable and reliable source of electricity that will lead to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as coal- and oil-fired power generation are displaced; stable electricity rates for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia; thousands of jobs created during the construction phase; economic spinoffs for other industrial sectors; and a maritime transmission link that will provide stable, sustainable energy throughout the region.
The Government of Canada has agreed on the terms and conditions for a federal loan guarantee, giving these vital energy projects a solid endorsement, and today we stand by this endorsement. Muskrat Falls will help meet the energy needs of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and the electricity needs of many Nova Scotians.
The Government of Canada believes that the lower Churchill River projects are fully justified for the following fundamental reasons. They will provide enormous economic and environmental benefits as they are truly in the best interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Nova Scotians and in fact all Canadians.
Unfortunately, in yet another attempt by the opposition to stop development of any kind, the leader of the Green Party has spoken out against this project saying that it should be reconsidered because renewable forms of energy other than a large hydroelectric plant should be pursued.
The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador has looked at other options for new sources of energy. They carefully considered the potential for wind power and they looked at the possibility of natural gas generation. However, every analysis of these options favoured the development of hydro power. It is reliable. It is a steady and secure source of clean energy and is available at an affordable cost, which is exactly what the lower Churchill River projects will deliver.
Furthermore, the member should know that her statements have been contradicted by the findings of several independent third-party analyses commissioned by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and by Nalcor. Numerous analyses indicated that the projects are economically viable, even with the increased cost estimates, that they will substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that they will create jobs across Atlantic Canada. Specifically, the lower Churchill project will result in an average of 1,500 jobs during each year of construction, with a peak employment during construction of approximately 3,100 people.
For these reasons, on November 30, 2012, the Government of Canada announced an agreement with the governments of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia, on the terms and conditions for a federal loan guarantee for the lower Churchill River projects. This project will further benefit all of Atlantic Canada.
Nalcor intends to use 2 million megawatt hours of renewable energy from Muskrat Falls to replace the 490 megawatt Holyrood oil-fired plant. In addition, the connection to the North American grid, coupled with the increased backup capacity resulting from the projects could strengthen opportunities to further develop other renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar. These projects will certainly contribute to the Government of Canada's objective to reduce Canada's greenhouse gases by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, comparable to U.S. efforts.
It is well-known that Canada is halfway to meeting our goal due to the measures and regulations implemented by our Conservative government. The project will also bolster Canada's good standing internationally as a world leader when it comes to energy. In fact, the International Energy Agency recently called for a doubling of the world's hydro power by 2050 in order to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Canada, with operations such as the lower Churchill River projects and other hydro developments in Manitoba, Quebec and B.C., is in a very strong position to help support this ambitious environmental goal.
In conclusion, there is no question that renewable energy is a large part of Canada's economic advantage in the global economy. There is no question that Canada's status as the world's third largest producer of hydroelectricity puts us in a position to continue to lead in the development of hydroelectricity. With this in mind, and with the many benefits that it will bring to Canadians, I strongly support private member's Motion No. 412 and our government's commitment to these projects. I look forward to the day when the ribbon is cut on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric power generating station and I look forward to all members of the House supporting Motion No. 412.
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View Pierre Jacob Profile
NDP (QC)
View Pierre Jacob Profile
2013-01-31 17:25 [p.13546]
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Mr. Speaker, I agree that Canada could become a world leader in renewable energy. The NDP believes that the federal government must make this transition a fair one for all of the provinces, including Quebec.
I would like to ask my colleague the following question. Why is it that the governments of this Prime Minister and his Liberal predecessors ignored the economic opportunities of a green transition for too long?
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View Jay Aspin Profile
CPC (ON)
View Jay Aspin Profile
2013-01-31 17:26 [p.13546]
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Mr. Speaker, our government is all about jobs and growth in the economy. This opportunity is not only about jobs and the economy, but about a cleaner environment as well. It is a win-win situation.
This particular opportunity is regional development. It is accorded to all provinces to work hand in hand. This development would have regional significance for power in the region. We invite all provinces and regions to get together to create similar opportunities.
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View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2013-01-31 17:27 [p.13546]
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Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians currently pay the highest electricity rate in Canada. High electricity rates are a job killer. They hurt our competitiveness and make it difficult for many Nova Scotian families struggling to make ends meet.
As the Utility and Review Board conducts its review in Nova Scotia and considers various options for hydroelectric power, if it is determined, for example, that there are also opportunities to access Hydro-Québec power through an upgrade of the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick connector, which we are told would be about $200 million, would the federal government provide a similar loan guarantee to that connection?
It is absolutely fundamental that Nova Scotians have access to the most competitive hydroelectric power. We certainly want access to hydroelectric power and we want the best deal for Nova Scotian ratepayers. Will the federal government, in the same spirit as this private member's motion, also potentially upgrade the connection between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to access Hydro-Québec power as part of this?
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View Jay Aspin Profile
CPC (ON)
View Jay Aspin Profile
2013-01-31 17:28 [p.13546]
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Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my previous answer, our role as government is to create jobs and economic development. If we can further environmental concerns in the process, that is great. We are providing this regional development in a way that all provinces and regions are welcome to produce whatever proposals they have. Hydroelectric power is the most affordable, greenest and cleanest power. That is why we want to move in this direction.
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View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
View Bob Zimmer Profile
2013-01-31 17:29 [p.13546]
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Mr. Speaker, as the member has said already, this project is important to all Canadians, especially those in Atlantic Canada.
Also, as the member mentioned, from the first Speech from the Throne on our majority Conservative mandate, we will support any clean energy project that is economically viable, substantially lowers GHG emissions and is of regional or national significance, and certainly this project is that.
Can the member please share with the House the expected benefits of this particular project?
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View Jay Aspin Profile
CPC (ON)
View Jay Aspin Profile
2013-01-31 17:30 [p.13546]
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Mr. Speaker, as I have mentioned in my speech, the lower Churchill project will provide significant economic benefit for the whole Atlantic region. At peak employment, we are talking in the order of an estimated 3,100 jobs for the Atlantic region, which is a region that certainly needs employment. In addition, this project will substantially help reduce greenhouse gases by 4.5 million megatonnes, which is the equivalent of over one million cars.
Our government is signing the term sheet for this loan guarantee. This shows our government's support for Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and indeed the entire Atlantic region.
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View Ryan Cleary Profile
NDP (NL)
View Ryan Cleary Profile
2013-01-31 17:31 [p.13547]
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Mr. Speaker, I also look forward to the day when the ribbon is cut on the Muskrat Falls project. This project means a lot to my province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The member spoke about how hydro is reliable, affordable and clean. What is the government prepared to do to advance the cause of a national power grid while, of course, respecting the rights of provincial governments? I would see this as a first step toward a national power grid. What is the next step?
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View Jay Aspin Profile
CPC (ON)
View Jay Aspin Profile
2013-01-31 17:32 [p.13547]
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Mr. Speaker, the member is right that this could be the first step toward that particular arrangement. I would like to give particular credit to the member for Labrador for his advocacy on behalf of this particular project with the government. It will certainly create a lot of jobs in the Atlantic region and he deserves a lot of credit for his support.
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View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
View Jack Harris Profile
2013-01-31 17:32 [p.13547]
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Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming for presenting the motion to the House. As he pointed out, it does give members an opportunity to offer their comments and make speeches, and also to show their support for what is a proper and helpful federal role in supporting the kind of project identified in the lower Churchill hydroelectric development.
I noticed in his speech that he mentioned projects in the plural. I do not know whether that is advance notice that they are prepared to support other projects on the lower Churchill River, but the Muskrat Falls project is, as he says, an important part of the clean energy agenda.
I first want to make sure that he and those paying attention to this know that the New Democratic Party has been on record, going back as far as 2005, as supporting a federal role in providing a loan guarantee for the development of the lower Churchill as an alternative energy project.
As the member pointed out, one of the results of this in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador would be to change Newfoundland's large dependence on an oil fired generating plant to a situation where it would be using 98% alternative energy instead. That would obviously be a first for Newfoundland and Labrador. It is very important to cutting out greenhouse gases—I think a million tonnes alone in the case of the Holyrood generating station. I spent a lot of time criticizing it in my years as a member of the provincial legislature in Newfoundland, not only for its greenhouse gas emissions but also for its other significant pollutants, including sulphur dioxide, dioxins, furans and other chemical emissions into the air. It is a terrible example of industrial pollution. It will be taken out of the mix to the tune of a million tonnes of greenhouse gases and all these other pollutants I mentioned.
The project has terrific benefits as well in terms of co-operation between provinces. We will see the makings of a regional power grid in the Atlantic involving the partners, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, as well as a flow through to the power grid through New Brunswick and accessibility to Prince Edward Island, which is very interested in the Muskrat Falls power as part of its power needs. Therefore, we see that degree of interprovincial co-operation, which is a very important feature of this project.
This project is not without controversy, both in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. There are debates about alternatives, power costs and any number of aspects of the project. That is right and proper. We live in a democratic society and we are going to have these agreements and disagreements. However, at the end of the day, if those provinces decide that this is a project they want to proceed with, then it is a proper and appropriate role for the federal government to support that through the loan guarantee.
What does that guarantee do? A loan guarantee in this case allows this project to have the benefit of the credit rating of the Government of Canada. I believe it is AAA, and maybe plus, plus, plus. I am not sure, but it is up there. It is certainly a lot higher than Nalcor or Emera could get on their own, or the Newfoundland and Labrador or Nova Scotia governments could get on their own. That is the advantage. It allows access to markets where they can get cheaper interest rates to the tune of a $1 billion over the life of the project. That reduces the cost of the project and the cost of electricity to consumers as a result.
As all of the decision processes go through, if at the end of the day this is a project the provinces want to do, the obligation is there for the federal government to help.
I want to agree on the record and to confirm our party's very clear position that we not only support the role of the Government of Canada in providing a loan guarantee in this particular circumstance, but also that this is something we would support and encourage other jurisdictions and provinces to develop.
We need to have a greener economy. We need to have alternate energy. We need to have opportunities for the east-west north-south national power grid so we work together for a greener future. That is a very important step for Canada and I would like to see greater federal government involvement. Our party is certainly committed to not only a green economy, but the positives of that in terms of economic clout.
The member spoke of the benefits to Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, but there benefits throughout Canada for this. The power generating plant in Muskrat Falls will not be made in Newfoundland and Labrador. There is already an engineering design contract awarded to the well known SNC Lavalin in Quebec to design the power project. The transmission towers will not be built in Newfoundland and Labrador. They will be manufactured probably in Ontario. The steel for the cables and so on are part of a industrial plant that we do not have the capability for in our province because that is the centre in other provinces where this happens. The money that is spent is part of the industrial benefit to Canada therefore it is right and proper that the Government of Canada should support this. That is an important point to make.
We are very proud of what our government has done in Nova Scotia in setting targets for renewable energy. That is one of the reasons why this project is attractive to it. It has set hard targets for the reduction of fossil fuel electricity production and this is one way of helping to meet that. It would take coal-fired power out of production in Nova Scotia. That is a significant benefit, again not only in greenhouse gas production, but also in terms of pollution and the greater dependence on fossil fuels.
It is not certain this electricity will be any cheaper, in fact it will probably be more expensive. However, as electricity costs go up, the greater the dependence on fossil fuels, the greater the likelihood of electricity going out of control without control over it. One of the things that hydroelectricity brings to the mix is a long-term stable price for electricity. That is important in this mix.
For Newfoundland and Labrador, the participation for the island for the first time in a power grid that is not limited is a very positive thing for the opportunities for other forms of renewable energy. Wind energy, for example, and I am no expert on this, but I am told by people who know that an isolated grid has only a certain amount of wind power it can handle. When the wind blows, electricity can be produced and sent across the grid to places that need it and the hydroelectricity can be built up in dams so that when the wind stops blowing that can be used. Hydro and wind power go hand in hand. They fit like a glove, so that is another advantage from our point of view as an island, not so much for Labrador. I am looking at my friend, the member for Labrador, who shall remain nameless because we are not allowed to mention his name, not because we want to insult him. It is an issue for the island of Newfoundland because we have an isolated grid right now.
The more opportunities there are for wind power, the more chance there will be wind power put into that grid. We also see that in the case of tidal power in New Brunswick, so we will have a grid that works. That kind of interprovincial co-operation is also a technological advantage.
On balance, the idea of the Government of Canada being a backer of this as the loan guarantor is extremely positive. We hope to see the Government of Canada playing a strong role in this and other jurisdictions, whether it be Quebec, Manitoba or British Columbia, which are doing projects like this. There should be federal leadership and there should be federal support. We are pleased to see that in this project. Our party will be supporting this motion.
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View Gerry Byrne Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Gerry Byrne Profile
2013-01-31 17:42 [p.13548]
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Mr. Speaker, it is a valuable exercise to provide some input into the Conservative government's recent decisions in terms of providing a loan guarantee to the lower Churchill project. I will note, though, that this is a 40-year endeavour. This is a project that transcends many decades. The ambition and the dream of having the Churchill River provide hydroelectricity has been a dream for over 40 years.
I will note for the drafter of this particular motion, there are four key points contained within it. The fact that the lower Churchill project provides clean energy. It is economically viable because of the amount of energy and the vast value of that natural resource, the water resources there. It is indeed economically viable and has been for about a 40-year period.
It is regionally significant to Atlantic Canada. That is absolutely true. What would actually be even more true is to extend that to all of Canada, because as the member just mentioned, the value of goods and services going elsewhere beyond Atlantic Canada is indeed quite significant. Finally, it is, of course, environmentally friendly. With no greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the production of hydroelectricity, it is obviously a key component of any future energy strategy.
However, there is something missing, which the mover may have intended, and that is any reference to the project as defined by the December 17, 2012 sanctioning. What he is referring to in the motion, as we all understand to be true in Newfoundland and Labrador, is the 40-year project, the ambition of developing the lower Churchill.
This is why it is very easy to support the motion because it is the right thing to do. For all those reasons, for those four points outlined by the mover, this project is worthwhile. The motion does not reflect, and I can only assume is not meant to reflect, the actual project as defined by the December 17, 2012 sanctioning, which is a very in-depth project indeed. This is about what the lower Churchill could provide us. That said, I think it will be very easy for all members, hopefully with unanimous consent, to pass the motion.
I will speak a little bit about what the motion does not intend. It could be argued, and I do not mean to be too critical here, that this might have been meant as a self-congratulatory message. It might be argued that this was meant as, “Now that we have provided the loan guarantee, this is what the government has been done all along”.
This is a 40-year project, and while many may not agree with the current project as defined by the sanctioning document that was inked on December 17, I would hope that everyone could agree that the development of hydroelectric resources for Canada and for our particular region of Atlantic Canada and particularly for Newfoundland, and most particularly for Labrador, is always a beneficial thing.
Here is what the motion does not talk about: how the government can advance the cause even further. Because while there is Muskrat Falls, which is being developed, there is also Gull Island in the future. There are other hydroelectric resources that are encompassed within the lower Churchill hydroelectric project that are not a part of the motion. The lower Churchill is a much larger entity. It is a much larger project.
What does the government not have in the motion? It does not speak about its future ambition to provide, under the general agreement on internal trade, a completion of the energy chapter. I have often wondered why there has been little to no attention paid by the government to completing the provisions of the general agreement on internal trade, which actually has a specific chapter on the internal trade, the province-to-province trade, in energy resources.
Some work has been done. A proposed agreement was near completion a few years back, but apparently one province did not want to sign on. Therefore, without a unanimous consensus, the general agreement on internal trade regarding energy, the energy chapter as it is known, could not proceed.
In terms of delivering on the full lower Churchill project, it would be helpful if the government completed that necessary chapter to have unanimous consent, by all provinces, in the wheeling rights and wheeling tariffs for hydroelectricity. What I mean by “wheeling rights” is the ability for provinces to take electrical energy across provincial borders under a rules-based system that outlines the tariff system, which can then be arbitrated and judged to ensure it is fair. This is one of the big things we are missing in Canada, encouraging and promoting a true electrical strategy and true energy strategy for our country.
We are often considered an energy-rich country. Yet, we still have tremendous barriers to export from one province to either an international client or an entity within the country in a distant province: an east-west grid. We still have no free trade in energy products. While the government has said those who want to propose an energy strategy for our country are looking backward, it is the Conservative government itself that has said it would be helpful if we had an agreement on the trade of energy across provincial boundaries as part of a national energy strategy. However, we do not. We do not because not enough attention has been placed by the government on this critical key component of promoting investment, development, and economic benefits from our energy resources.
To be clear, those who think the lower Churchill project is Muskrat Falls are wrong. The lower Churchill project is a very large project that is not yet compete.
I wish the motion were a little more in-depth in providing a full and complete picture of what is required, but it is not. However, I applaud the mover for presenting it to us. It does allow us an opportunity to affirm that we support, not only the elements of the project that are currently proceeding, but the 40-year vision for developing this project. That is really what the motion speaks to, and it is worth our support.
I hope there is an opportunity for the government in the future to provide further clarification instead of an arguably self-congratulatory message, which it may not have thought through because it did not understand the full context of what the project represents. If there is an opportunity for the government to come forward again, I hope it would be to update the House on the general agreement on internal trade, chapter 11, the chapter on energy. How far along are we? When can we see a signed agreement that would create a rules-based approach to the wheeling of hydroelectric resources across provincial boundaries with full unanimous provincial consent? That is an element that is still missing. I wish the government would fulfill its commitments.
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View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
View David Anderson Profile
2013-01-31 17:52 [p.13549]
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Mr. Speaker, I think one of the things we can be proud of with this motion is that we are fulfilling our commitment. It is good to see, today, the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming bring this forward and to see it is supported so strongly by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the member for Labrador, as well.
I have been the parliamentary secretary for natural resources now for a number of years. It is good to be able to come into the House and to be able to work on an initiative like this that has the support of the major parties. Hopefully, as the Liberal member opposite indicated, we can get unanimous support for this motion.
Our government's support for the Lower Churchill River projects demonstrates our strong desire to work with the provinces and territories. That is all about Canada's sustainable energy resources being used to create jobs, being used to create long-term economic growth and being used to create energy security for Canadians.
On November 30, 2012, the governments of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia announced that they had reached an agreement on the terms for a federal loan guarantee for the lower Churchill River projects. This agreement is a clear indication of the Government of Canada's strong support for vital, renewable energy projects. The signed term sheet will position the proponents to engage capital markets for arranging the financing for the lower Churchill River projects.
The Government of Canada has agreed to guarantee the loan for a period of 35 to 40 years from the time project debt is raised, which will apply to the construction and operating phases of the projects. By backing the lower Churchill River projects with Canada's strong credit rating, the loan guarantee will significantly reduce borrowing costs. My colleague in the NDP noted that. It is estimated that the loan guarantee will save over $1 billion for the projects and, in turn, for ratepayers in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.
Private member's Motion No. 412 offers all members of this House an opportunity to show their support for an important renewable energy project. Our government stands behind the lower Churchill River projects on their merits: a significant source of clean, renewable energy, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and economic benefits for all Atlantic Canada.
In addition, it should be pointed out, and just in the context of our discussion today, that this important energy initiative fits well with the broader plans for growth of Canada's economy.
The Conservative government knows full well that Canada's economic growth requires innovation, and it requires investment and education, as well as skill development, all of which have been the focus of our economic action plan 2012, a plan for job creation that is working out.
Since July 2009, employment in Canada has increased by more than 900,000 jobs. Members here would be familiar with the numbers. This is the strongest job growth among G7 countries. While the parties opposite often refuse to support our job-creating policies, we are going to continue to get the job done for Canadians.
In addition, both the IMF and the OECD forecast that Canada will continue to have among the strongest economic growth in the G7 in the next year.
While we are focusing on growing Canada's economy and jobs, we would suggest that the Liberals have no economic plan and the NDP continues to push dangerous high tax schemes, like its $21 billion carbon tax. I understand if we add all of its tax proposals together, it comes closer to $54 billion. That is quite a different perspective than we have.
Over the last several years, a large part of Canada's economic success has been due to our resource industries. In 2011, these industries contributed 20%, and employment is close to 1.6 million Canadian jobs.
With the potential, over the next decade, for more than $650 billion to be invested in more than 600 major resource projects in Canada, our government is moving forward with our plan for responsible resource development, which is a plan that would allow us to develop our resources, bring them to market and bolster investment and job creation, all while protecting Canada's environment.
Newfoundland and Labrador has certainly seen the benefits of resource development. Offshore development has made enormous economic contributions and completely transformed the province's economy. Not long ago, it was receiving the highest per capita equalization payments in the country. Today, the province is among our strongest provincial economies. Offshore energy development has supported Newfoundland and Labrador jobs, lowered taxes and created new investments in services and infrastructure, all while contributing to stronger local communities.
There is no doubt that these benefits from the energy sector will continue to grow. There is no doubt, also, that the lower Churchill River projects will make significant and lasting contributions to the economies of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.
I wish I could say that I was surprised that the leader of the Green Party has spoken out against these projects, but it is clear that she is insistent on opposing development in all forms.
The Green Party says the project should be reconsidered because renewable forms of energy other than a large hydroelectric plant should be pursued. I suggest that is a strange position and I would ask the member and those who share that position to review the independent third-party analyses commissioned by Nalcor and by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. These analyses strongly support these projects for the reasons that we mentioned earlier.
The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador strongly considered alternatives to the projects, including wind power and the possibility of natural gas generation. However, every consideration favoured hydro power. It is safe to say that for Newfoundland and Labrador, the Green Party is wrong and that hydro generation is as good as it gets and provides a source of electricity that will be steady, reliable, clean, renewable and affordable.
The same can be said of Canada as a whole. As the members of the House are aware, hydro power plays a tremendous role in our nation's economy, not only generating electric power but also in job creation, economic prosperity and supporting our quality of life. Canada is the third-largest hydro power producer in the world. We are blessed in the quality of our power as well as in its quantity. Canada's electricity supply is one of the cleanest in the world with 75% of our electrical supply coming from non-emitting sources, including about 60% from hydroelectricity.
As I indicated in my earlier remarks, Canadians are very fortunate to have a wealth of natural resources. Our hydro power industry is a key part of our energy sector. It is destined to grow even more and provide even greater contributions to our economic and environmental goals. The lower Churchill River projects are a significant part of this expansion, as are several other large hydro projects already in various stages of development in British Columbia, Quebec and Manitoba. With these advances, Canada will continue to contribute significantly to the world supply of clean energy.
The International Energy Agency has called for a doubling of the world's hydro power by 2050 to limit emissions of greenhouse gases and contain global warming. The IEA says that hydro currently provides only 16% of electricity worldwide, with oil, gas and coal-fired generation contributing 67% of all electricity.
Today's debate is about ensuring a more prosperous future for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. That is exactly why our government's endorsement of the lower Churchill River projects is as strong today as it was when we first indicated our support. For these reasons we are supporting these projects: a clean, renewable and reliable source of energy; electrical self-sufficiency for Newfoundland and Labrador; stable electricity rates for families, businesses and communities in the region; thousands of jobs during construction and millions of dollars in economic spinoffs. It is for these reason that the Government of Canada is very proud to support this important clean energy initiative, and we remain fully committed to the success of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia's lower Churchill River projects.
With this in mind, I reaffirm our support for the lower Churchill River hydro projects by proposing the following amendments to the motion. I move that the motion be amended by:
1. replacing the words “government loan guarantee to the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project is: (a) an important part of a clean energy agenda; (b) an economically viable project that will create thousands of jobs and billions in economic growth; (c) regionally significant”
with the words
“loan guarantee provided by the federal government for the Lower Churchill hydroelectric projects—consisting of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric generation facility, the Labrador Transmission Assets, the Labrador-Island Link, and the Maritime Link—will be an important and valuable step in advancing Canada's clean energy agenda, as it will support an economically viable, regional energy project that will (a) provide economic benefits”;
2. replacing the words “and (d) environmentally-friendly,” with the words “(b) create environmentally-friendly electricity,”; and
3. adding after the words “oil electricity sources” the words “; and (c) create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic growth”.
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View Robert Aubin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Robert Aubin Profile
2013-01-31 18:03 [p.13551]
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Mr. Speaker, the motion we are discussing today, Motion No. 412, is of the utmost importance to Canada if it wishes to become a world leader in sustainable development. Sustainable development implies that there has to be a balance between the economic, social and environmental aspects of a project for it to be given the green light. It also means that a project supported by a government that believes in sustainable development should offer the same benefits for future generations as it does for this generation.
I have a hard time believing that the Conservative government, which has repeatedly turned its back on our international commitments—most notably by pulling out of the Kyoto protocol—and that went so far as to distort reality by creating green oil, has this view of development.
If we look into the story behind this loan guarantee—which represents the federal government's participation in the Muskrat Falls project—it quickly becomes clear that it was likely a bit of electioneering and was in no way a reflection of the federal government's desire to become a leader in renewable energy. If that had been the case, we would not be discussing this motion, but rather an actual bill that would set out specific criteria for all the partners in the federation to ensure that each one contributes to achieving a common, global environmental goal.
However, it is no secret that climate change knows no borders. We must work together to introduce measures to ensure that the two degree increase in global temperature is not reached. Some scientists say that it is practically too late already, but I continue to be optimistic and maintain that, if we quickly work together, we can do it.
Other than the two degree temperature increase, it is quite difficult for climatologists to suggest models that would allow us to anticipate the consequences of this warming on our lifestyle and our economy. Nevertheless, I would like to point out the interesting aspects of the motion in order to inform all parliamentarians, my colleagues and my fellow citizens of the work we still have to do to move into the 21st century and face the challenges.
The NDP believes that consistency must prevail. The leader of the NDP is defending the position of his predecessor, the late Jack Layton, on how important it is for the federal government to take a leadership role in the fight against climate change and in the development of green energy. It goes without saying that this loan guarantee should meet specific criteria that could result in all provinces and territories submitting their own applications. The unique and somewhat improvised nature of the loan guarantee has led to some confusion in Quebec. I will take a few minutes to try to clear this up.
First of all, Quebec objects to the project because it believes that the federal government is competing with Quebec's own taxes. Let us be clear. This is a loan guarantee and therefore Quebec taxes or any other province's taxes sent to Ottawa, will not be used to finance a Newfoundland project. Newfoundland is leveraging Canada's economic strength to lower its borrowing costs, but the province will be covering the full cost of the project, if it chooses to go ahead with it.
The second source of confusion we often heard about has to do with the federal government's interference in provincial jurisdictions. We heard that again this afternoon during question period from our Bloc Québécois friends. I must say, when an application for a loan guarantee comes from the province itself, I would hardly call that interference. I know that comparisons are always clumsy, but this is like the youngest child in a family asking his father to co-sign a car loan, while his older brother, who never thought of asking, accuses the father of being unfair. Furthermore, I would repeat, it is clear that the provincial government will remain the one in charge of the project.
The third source of confusion has to do with unfair competition on foreign markets. If the federal government had directly funded one project at the expense of another, we probably could have been talking about unfair competition.
As long as we ensure that all provinces and territories can obtain the same loan guarantees for green energy projects, I think this is a step in the right direction. Nothing is stopping the other partners in the federation from submitting similar applications, and the NDP will be there to ensure that all of these applications are processed equitably.
Regarding one final source of confusion, Hydro-Québec appears to be the biggest loser with this agreement. As the expression goes, “what is good for the goose is good for the gander”. Hydro-Québec has every right to apply for the same loan guarantees, and once again, the NDP will be there if any rights are trampled on.
Besides, when it comes to energy development, there is a history of collaboration between the federal government and Hydro-Québec, which we often forget. For example, consider the federal funding provided to help build Gentilly-1 at a time when people strongly believed that developing nuclear energy was a form of green energy despite the radioactive waste produced because thermonuclear plants do not emit any greenhouse gases.
In short, Quebeckers' concerns may have been understandable but I hope that I have shown that they were not justified, especially since the Muskrat Falls project offers the potential for significant economic spinoffs for Quebec. Over the years and through the projects that have been implemented, a solid expertise in hydroelectric infrastructure and distribution networks has been developed in Quebec.
In keeping with the way that the NDP looks at these major development projects, we cannot talk about big money or even loan guarantees unless serious environmental studies have shown that these projects are environmentally responsible. In the case of Muskrat Falls, the project passed the test. In March 2012, it received the green light based on the results of a federal-provincial environmental assessment.
What can we say about how this project will help our fight against climate change? If Newfoundland chooses to go ahead with its project, the following improvements will result. I will address them quickly since the previous speakers have mentioned them already. There would be a huge reduction in carbon dioxide gas emissions. We are talking about 16 megatonnes a year. It is difficult to measure megatonnes on a scale but it is equivalent to taking about three million cars off the road. Three million cars in a population of 34 million who do not all own vehicles constitutes significant progress.
The closure of a thermal generating station constitutes even more progress, as does the increase in renewable energy to over 90% of all Newfoundland's total energy. This would be another contribution that is just as significant as the progress Nova Scotia has made in terms of renewable energy. These are other things that deserve recognition.
Sharing income from natural resource development must improve the quality of life of all Canadians, from one generation to the next, first nations included. As such, the Quebec model for sharing the economic spinoffs generated by such projects could be an approach worth looking at.
Many economists believe that investing in our infrastructure is an effective way to put people to work and stimulate the economy, and at the same time provide an equal—if not better—quality of life for future generations. What kind of jobs could such a project generate? We are talking about 8,600 person-years of direct employment for Newfoundland and Labrador, 18,400 person-years of indirect employment, multiple engineering contracts that can and will extend beyond Newfoundland's borders, as well as multiple industrial manufacturing contracts. Take, for example, SNC-Lavalin, which has already signed a technical design contract for the Muskrat Falls project.
I have been going on for 10 minutes now about a sustainable development policy that balances the economy, the environment and an increased quality of life for Canadians, while the Conservative motion unfortunately mentions only a loan guarantee. Experience has shown us that we obviously cannot expect the Conservative government to develop such a vision for the future. However, 2015 is not far away, and now is the time to start preparing.
That is why I am proud to belong to this political party that will form the next government for the greater good of Canadians. Our leader, the member for Outremont, has demonstrated again and again his ability to balance economic development and environmental issues. Canadians will identify with the style of governance we are proposing for the next election and they will be respected, since Canadians clearly deserve more than half-measures.
The NDP always steps up when measures proposed by this government are pragmatic and will benefit all generations. We must act responsibly today to ensure that our country is a good place to live for our children and grandchildren.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
View Chris Warkentin Profile
2012-11-30 13:20 [p.12726]
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Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to stand in the House again and speak about an issue and a motion that is important. Today, I will speak in opposition to the motion brought to the House by the member from Toronto Centre.
The beginning of the motion is pretty straightforward. It expresses views that are shared by many in the House, including myself, and many first nations throughout the country. The beginning of the motion states:
That, in the opinion of the House, the Indian Act is the embodiment of failed colonial and paternalistic policies which have denied First Nations their rights, fair share in resources; fostered mistrust and created systematic barriers to self-determination and success of First Nations...
After that is where I and the member for Toronto Centre begin to part ways. In the part of the motion that follows he says that the House, should: first, undertake a process to eliminate these barriers; second, take two years to complete this process of discussion; and third, take two years to present a series of concrete deliverables for the government to act upon. Therefore, what the member proposes is two years of talking and no action. That is why I so strenuously oppose the motion.
It has been 136 years since the Indian Act was first brought into force. I wonder how many more years need to pass before we begin to build a process to replace it? The motion is nothing more than flowery rhetoric that we have come to expect from the Liberal Party and it is entirely consistent with the Liberals' track record of inaction when it comes to first nations' issues.
Instead of proposing concrete action to enable first nations to move forward and finally begin to escape the shackles of this paternalistic and colonial legislation, the member opposite has suggested that we further delay any concrete action and take two more years to simply talk about the devastating impacts of the legislation.
When the member opposite brought forward the motion, did he not consider that 136 years was long enough for first nations people to wait? Maybe he should listen to first nation leaders who have said that they have waited long enough. Having listened to the speeches at the Assembly of First Nations elections in July of this past year, I heard all the candidates state unilaterally that the Indian Act must go.
Clearly, everyone agrees that changes must be made to replace and to modernize the sets of laws that provide first nations with the same rights and opportunities that every Canadian enjoys.
I urge all parties in the House to reject the motion and instead support the private member's bill that has been brought forward by my colleague and my friend, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River. Bill C-428 is an act to amend the Indian Act and provide for its replacement. What my colleague proposes is real action and tangible results that would make a difference for first nations people.
The bill would do a number of things. First, it would provide greater autonomy for first nations people. Second, it would lessen the role of ministerial involvement in the day-to-day lives of first nations citizens. Third, it would give back the responsibility for key areas, such as bylaw making powers and the administration of wills and estates over to the first nation, where it rightly belongs.
I wonder what the members opposite have against providing greater autonomy for first nations and lessening the federal government's paternalistic role in the day-to-day lives of first nations citizens.
About a month ago I had the privilege of speaking in support of that private member's bill during the first hour of debate. Second reading of my friend's bill concluded this past Wednesday evening, and we are now waiting for the bill to be referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. I am really disappointed that the Liberals did not even bother to stand in the House and speak to the bill during the second hour of debate last week, particularly when it has to do with some of the same material they suggest needs to be discussed in the bill they brought before the House now.
An hon. member: We already spoke to the bill.
Mr. Chris Warkentin: I hear calls from the opposite side suggesting that they did speak to the bill. They did at one point but not when it came to the House the last time. I am not going to suggest if the members were even here or not in the House when the bill was brought forward, but I wonder if members opposite really do have the same passion they suggest they have if in fact they did not bother to contribute to the debate when the bill came back to the House.
The heckling from the other side continues to demonstrate that they want to talk and not act.
I am certain that anyone familiar with the Liberals' track record of inaction on first nation issues will recognize this familiar pattern. The Liberals believe that they need more talk, more plans, more proposals and reports, more suggestions but no action. We on this side of the House disagree. There is heavy lifting to do but action must be taken, and the time to act is now, not two years from now.
Even members of the Liberal leader's own party disagree with the motion. When the member for Papineau was asked about the Liberal leader's motion in Victoria last week, it was reported that he denied that the Liberal leader had even brought this motion to the House. He said that he opposed this type of motion and that it would be a “bad idea”. That is interesting. The future or wannabe future leader of the Liberal Party denied this motion had even been brought forward and said that a motion like it would be a bad idea.
It is also interesting to note that even last month the hon. member for St. Paul's clearly stated her disapproval of the introduction of private members' motions and bills addressing first nation issues. She said, “This kind of change must be undertaken by the Prime Minister in a government-to-government way”. Now today the leader of her own party introduced a private member's motion. I wonder if there are members in the Liberal Party who find this completely ironic.
I will conclude today by quoting the member for Toronto Centre. In speaking to a group in Regina last month, he said:
I think there's a lot of agreement in the country—including among the aboriginal leadership—that the current Indian Act is a relic of our colonial past. It was originally introduced in 1876 and some of the language is very paternalistic and, frankly, completely out of date.
I agree with the Liberal member and the Liberal leader that it is important to begin to act and not simply talk, like his motion suggests. As members of Parliament we need to consider if it is time for us to simply talk like the Liberals suggest, or is it time to begin to act like members of the Conservative caucus have done in bringing forward legislation to undertake exactly that?
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View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2012-11-30 13:30 [p.12727]
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Mr. Speaker, it is also my pleasure to rise and speak to Motion No. 386 by the member for Toronto Centre.
Contrary to the submission by the previous member, I have quite a different understanding of what the member for Toronto Centre is proposing. Regardless of the details therein, he is pretty straightforward. What he does say, as have first nations and the government itself, is that the Indian Act embodies failed colonial, paternalistic policies. Individual members of the House have said that.
What this motion calls for is the opposite of what the government has been doing, despite what Conservative members are saying. What the government has been doing, including through private members' bills, is unilaterally bringing new legislation to the House, including rescinding the Indian Act, before it has delivered on its constitutional responsibility for advance consultation with the very first nations who will be impacted.
Indeed, I support the intent of this motion, as does my party. The motion is essentially not to move forward on significant changes to the Indian Act. Frankly, I would hope that this would include any legislation impacting first nations' lands and peoples, until there has been a formal process of direct engagement with first nations. That is precisely what the Prime Minister promised almost a year ago.
I could not agree more that the most important action, which seems to be the one that the government fails to comprehend, is to reach out and finally initiate this process of direct consultation. Sadly, one thing that seems to be missing is any commitment of dollars to realize that. I will speak to that in a moment.
We have witnessed a number of initiatives by the government, including legislation on safe drinking water, financial accountability and land management. We have had private members' bills proposing to rescind various provisions of the Indian Act.
In all of those cases, there was no intensive advance consultation and consideration of the views of the impacted first nations and peoples, and the effects on their lands. That is a break from the very promise made by the Prime Minister at the summit he held this January between the Crown and first nations. At that summit, as well, the Prime Minister stated:
To be sure, our government has no grand scheme to repeal or unilaterally rewrite the Indian Act. After 136 years that treaty has deep roots, blowing up the stump would just leave a big hole.
He then said that there were a number of creative, collaborative ways to go forward.
We have witnessed in the House what their so-called creative, collaborative ways are. They are incredibly paternalistic or they are incredibly shallow, for example, the safe drinking water bill with its great promises but zero content and no dollars committed in the budget this year to actually moving forward on the substantive regulations.
I took the time in my job at committee to review Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development's supplementary estimates (B). In looking at the plans and priorities for 2012, I was delighted to see the department actually claim to be moving forward with developing the very promises of the Crown-first nations summit. However, regrettably, when one looks at the department's main estimates and supplementary estimates (A) and (B), there are zero dollars committed to delivering on this promise. In committee, the response to me by the deputy was that this was actually being done between the lines as the department moved forward with the specific initiatives. However, I am hearing back from the first nations that they do not think that approach is very satisfactory.
The first thing I would certainly recommend to the member who tabled the motion and the government is that it is time to step up to the plate and put some dollars on the table to deliver on the actual promises made. That is what action is; that is what putting money where one's mouth is.
I concur with the member that the list is mounting of the commitments and obligations of government to move forward on this new, touted more respectful nation-to-nation relationship.
We have the obligations under section 35 of the constitution, the historic and modern treaties, the fiduciary duties under law, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Again, as I raised yesterday, article 18 requires Canada, because it has endorsed this declaration, to recognize that:
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 decision-making institutions.
Article 19 says that:
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.
Clearly the motion is recommending to the government and to this place that we finally step up to the plate and adhere to the very declaration that the government signed on to.
What is the key to a respectful process? As I mentioned, the string of laws that have been tabled in this place, frankly, according to the first nations, has not followed that new protocol.
In closing, I would like to share the words of the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, who has spoken out very clearly about his perspective on whether the government is in fact delivering on its promises at the Crown-first nations summit. In the words of National Chief Atleo:
Recognizing and implementing Aboriginal and Treaty rights takes us back to the very founding of this country—a country founded on our lands and politically on peaceful agreements based on respect, recognition, sharing and partnership.
Since 1982, successive governments have shown little interest in the real and hard work of reconciliation. There has been talk, but we know the equation of empty initiatives: talk minus action equals zero....
We’re taking action. For decades now we’ve been putting forward positive plans for progress and change, plans aimed at breathing life into the promises we made to one another and plans that will ensure a better future for our children.
Government’s response has often been limited, narrow, piecemeal and unilateral.
In the absence of the honour of the Crown, much of the ground that’s been broken has been through the courts.
The national chief goes through a long litany of litigation that he regrets first nations are forced to take because of the failure of the government to live up to these commitments and obligations.
The national chief then goes on to say:
But clearly change does not come easily and all of these efforts are hampered by what First Nations see as ongoing unilateral attempts to affect our rights and intensified pressures on our lands and resources.
Current policies and approaches too often only serve to stall negotiations. It prevents First Nations from benefiting from their collective rights. It impedes the economic and political development that would take us forward to become fully self-governing nations....
It’s clear that the current federal policies, fiscal arrangements and negotiation processes are not up to the task.
The chief of the Assembly of First Nations said very clearly he would disagree with what the government is saying to us today. He is saying that the processes right now for developing these new laws and policies are not up to task.
Shawn Atleo continues:
We can find a path forward—a path that starts with our earliest relations—the Royal Proclamation, the Treaties of Peace and friendship, the pre-confederation and numbered Treaties—the absolute foundation of Canada’s growth and progress as a Nation to section 35 and to the standards set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples....
First and foremost, First Nations need to be directly and fully involved in any process of change. This is consistent with our historic relationship as partners in Confederation and as Treaty partners, and it is consistent with the spirit of section 35. It is high time that the government stops trying to do things for us and starts doing things with us.
In closing, I think the first nations have been clear. We have heard the responses of the first nation leaders and peoples to the string of legislation the government has brought forward. If we have heard one consistent response, it is that they have not been properly consulted, and that is what the Prime Minister promised at the summit.
It is time to move forward to support the motion, begin the consultation and commit the dollars to make it happen.
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View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
2012-11-30 13:40 [p.12729]
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Mr. Speaker, it is my great honour to speak to the important motion of our leader today. It proposes a path forward to move the Crown–first nations relationship beyond an outdated and fundamentally flawed piece of legislation. Unlike my Conservative colleague suggested, this is not a prescription and it is not top-down. This is a blueprint of a process that the Prime Minister needs to undertake about how this would get done and actually defines what real leadership would look like.
First nations have rightfully objected to the inherent paternalism of the Indian Act, which is an instrument of assimilation and external control by the federal government on the rights of first nations peoples. Today, and despite a number of legislative changes, the original framework of the act remains largely intact, as the principal vehicle for federal jurisdiction over first nations in areas not covered by treaties, agreements or parallel legislation.
Furthermore, the Indian Act defines who is considered first nations. It also governs band membership, band governance, taxation, the definition of reserves and the management of funds and resources.
There is broad consensus that we need to move away from the Indian Act, which is the embodiment of failed colonial and paternalistic policies that have denied first nations their rights and fair share in resources, fostered mistrust and created systemic barriers to the self-determination and success of first nations. However, first nations have been unequivocal that any plan to move away from the Indian Act must be led by first nations, must be pursued in ways that work for first nations and their communities, and must respect and fully adhere to first nations' rights as well as the outstanding promises and historic commitments of the Crown to first nations.
The Liberals fully agree. We believe that the relationship with first nations must return to the path of mutual respect, true partnership and co-operation, which was established in the original treaty relationships between first nations and the Crown.
That is precisely the approach taken by the Liberals during the nation-to-nation negotiations that led to the Kelowna accords in 2005. That is the same approach we are taking with the motion before us here today on how to replace the Indian Act.
The Conservatives have promised to consult with and work with first nations in a more genuine partnership. This was the basis for the Crown–first nations gathering in January, yet little has been delivered by the Prime Minister or his government. In fact, the Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo has recently noted that the anticipated progress report due this January will not contain anything of substance reflective of the opportunity and commitment to change.
Instead, the Conservatives continue to pursue unilateral changes to the Indian Act and other legislation, for example, on water, education, environment and accountability, which affect the rights of first nations and their traditional territories, without meaningful consultation or accommodation. As National Chief Shawn Atleo said earlier this month, “Yes—the Indian Act and the Indian Act bureaucracy must be fundamentally and finally eliminated. But here too any attempt to tinker or impose will not work”.
Yet, we have a government MP currently moving legislation through Parliament, with the support of the government, to unilaterally change various portions of the Indian Act with no prior consultation. The member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River has introduced legislation that would repeal or amend sections addressing wills, education and band bylaws. This was the legislation that was opposed by the member for Papineau.
This ill-advised approach only repeats some of the unsuccessful attempts made in the past, which caused only anger and frustration instead of allowing room for respect and partnership.
I repeat that first nation leaders have been unequivocal in stating that any plan to move away from the Indian Act must be led by first nations and done in ways that work for first nations and their communities, and that respect and fully adhere to the inherent constitutional and treaty rights of first nations.
Motion No. 386 would establish this precise process.
The motion calls on the federal government to work directly with first nations to create a formal nation-to-nation process of engagement that focuses on replacing the Indian Act with new agreements between the Crown and first nations across Canada.
The motion makes it clear that these new agreements must be based on the constitutional, treaty and inherent rights of all first nations; the historical and fiduciary responsibilities of the Crown to first nations; the standards established in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, including the principle of free, prior and informed consent; respect, recognition, reconciliation and support for first nations; partnership and mutual accountability between the Crown and first nations; and the stability and safety of first nations as defined and prioritized by first nations.
The motion calls on the government to begin this process within three months of being passed by Parliament. It also calls for a mutual accord to be reached in order to examine how to go about replacing the Indian Act within two years of being passed by Parliament.
Implementing such a process has the potential to truly reset the relationship and move us beyond the unrealized promise of the Crown-first nations gathering that too many chiefs are now referring to as a photo-op.
The government's current handling of the relationship is not going well. Just yesterday, Manitoba's three grand chiefs expressed exasperation that the first nations have had little or no say in any of the legislation being rained down upon them, despite constitutional guarantees to consult and accommodate them. Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs stated, “I'm tired of seeing our people run over by all of this”.
The Conservative government has not been accountable to first nations on the transfer of deeply discriminatory funding for things such as health care, child welfare, housing and education. The education gap is widening in terms of both funding and outcomes. Housing shortages are becoming more acute. Water and waste water systems are in crisis. The tragic gaps in terms of first nations health outcomes are continuing unabated.
The national chief has written the Prime Minister expressing the frustration of first nations leadership with the lack of progress on the commitments made at the Crown-first nations gathering as well as with the government's broader legislative agenda. It is a legislative agenda that could have detrimental effects on first nations in terms of environmental regulation, fisheries policy, criminal justice and a host of bills directed specifically at first nations, without prior consultation.
Canada's aboriginal people are the youngest and the fastest growing segment of our population. However, the Conservative government has effectively turned its back on this tremendous resource and a potential source of future prosperity for all Canadians.
National Chief Atleo recently noted the upcoming 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, in October 2013. He also noted that renewing the relationship must be the basis of our work today to achieve fundamental change for first nations in Canada.
Today's motion would create a process for replacing the Indian Act that would be led by first nations and done as partners with first nations, not for first nations. The royal proclamation articulated how the Crown and first nations would share this magnificent land together, government-to-government, and move forward in a respectful way, as articulated in the motion. I urge all members of the House to support the motion as a way to truly reset the relationship with first nations in Canada.
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View Cathy McLeod Profile
CPC (BC)
View Cathy McLeod Profile
2012-11-30 13:49 [p.12730]
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Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the motion brought forward by the member for Toronto Centre. Our government certainly recognizes the Indian Act as an outdated colonial statute and that its application results in first nations people being subjected to deferential treatment. We recognize that it does not provide an adequate legislative framework for the development of self-sufficient and prosperous first nations communities.
The Indian Act was originally enacted in 1876, more than 136 years ago. Clearly, this is not modern legislation. Despite some changes over the years, the act still includes archaic, outdated and colonial provisions that continue to prevent first nations communities from participating equally in and contributing fully to Canada's economic, social and cultural development.
Everyone in the House would agree that the Indian Act stands in the way of the success of first nations communities and continues to prevent first nations communities from becoming full participants in Canada's economy. However, this motion proposes an ill-conceived process to get rid of the Indian Act that would jeopardize current progress being made by the government and its first nations partners.
The motion introduced by the member for Toronto Centre also ignores the fact that the government has been engaging directly with many first nations communities and organizations for the past six years to conclude agreements and develop legislation that provides tangible, workable alternatives to the Indian Act. These agreements and legislation respond to the goals and reflect shared priorities that we have set with our first nations partners.
At the historic Crown-first nations gathering, held at the beginning of this year, the Prime Minister reiterated our commitment to working together with first nations communities and encapsulated our approach in this quote:
Our government has no grand scheme to repeal or to unilaterally rewrite the Indian Act: After 136 years, that tree has deep roots; blowing up the stump would just leave a big hole. However, there are ways, creative ways, collaborative ways, ways that involve consultation between our government, the provinces and First Nations leadership and communities, ways that provide options within the act, or outside of it, for practical, incremental and real change.
The historic Crown-First Nations Gathering was the result of a shared desire to see a Canada where all first nations people would participate fully in a social, economic and cultural prosperity, a Canada where strong, healthy, self-sufficient first nations communities would be full participants in Canada's economy and benefit all of us.
We acknowledge the many challenges still before us and we are actively working to move past these barriers by finding solutions to specific obstacles, working together with first nations. This approach is practical, realistic and effective.
One thing we know for certain from past experience is that proposals to significantly overhaul the act do not work. Our government's approach is to bring about incremental change in our consultation with first nations through new measures, investment and legislation that provide alternatives to the Indian Act. This approach will lead to the development of strong accountable and prosperous first nations communities, where first nations citizens have access to the same rights as all other Canadians.
Regarding health care, I would like to give an example from my own background. Back in the eighties, as a new nurse, one of my first employment opportunities was a band employed nurse. I was the first band employed nurse in Canada. Prior to that, the federal government put nurses into communities and the communities had no choice. It was truly rewarding to be the first band employed nurse where I was part of that team with the first nations communities.
I look with pride to British Columbia and see what a long way we have come. As the communities are ready, as the provinces have the conversations and, just recently, the signing of the tripartite agreement, the creation of the First Nations Health Authority, the First Nations Health Council, it shows how we can move forward through incremental changes in a very positive way to create new structures and new governance models that are really truly going to be effective. As of 2012, I believe we are looking at full transfer to this new governance structure for health care services.
Members will notice that the motion fails to acknowledge the important work currently being done by the government in collaboration with first nation people. I just gave a prime example in the area of health care, which is one that has and continues to produce significant results. Instead, this motion is calling upon the government to start over with a new process.
For the past six years, our government has been taking concrete steps to provide first nations with the tools they need to get out of the Indian Act. We have taken concrete action to address specific issues, such as education, economic development and drinking water.
In recent years, this government has negotiated and implemented initiatives in collaboration with first nations and other parties, such as provinces and aboriginal organizations. These initiatives have led to progress in a number of areas to address the barriers to social and economic participation currently faced by first nation people. Again, I would like to look to the First Nations Land Management Act in building a stronger first nations land management regime.
I am privileged that the First Nations Tax Commission is located in the riding of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo. I am particularly proud of the work that Manny Jules has done as a leader for many years in moving forward and taking the opportunity to leverage the value of the land.
The finance committee met with Manny Jules and a number of chiefs two years ago. He talked about his vision, the opportunities, and the specific concrete steps that we needed to take to get out of the way of the opportunities for economic development. It is a pleasure to see the phenomenal movement forward in economic development in Kamloops. They have an award-winning Sun Rivers resort community, golf courses, industrial land development, and a huge portion of the income of the Tk’emlúps Indian Band is now derived from own-source revenue. I know that Mr. Jules has practical ideas. We need to get out of the way and remove those barriers. I know there are a number of specific things around leveraging land that we still need to move forward on to ensure an equal playing field.
As members can see, the government's strategy has been to focus on finding solutions to the specific obstacles and on working together with first nations. This incremental approach to reform is practical, realistic and effective. It is part of a larger strategy that includes targeted investments and partnerships, enhancements to programs and legislative initiatives.
The government continues to identify, develop and implement solutions to help unlock barriers to first nations' participation in the economic, social and political development of Canada. We are achieving this by working with first nations and other stakeholders. The strategy is making steady progress. It would be misguided to abandon the strategy in favour of a vaguely defined process with a seemingly impossible deadline.
I encourage my hon. colleagues to join me in opposing the motion before us.
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View Manon Perreault Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Manon Perreault Profile
2012-11-30 13:58 [p.12731]
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Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Motion No. 386, which asks for the House's support in initiating a formal process of direct engagement with the first nations that would replace the Indian Act with a series of new agreements.
These consultations would begin and end according to a precise schedule. They would lead to the writing of a report that would establish specific, meaningful elements on which the government could take action once the consultations are complete.
The repeal of the Indian Act will not be a sad occasion. It is a completely outdated, irrelevant, heavily bureaucratic tool for oppressing the first nations.
We are nowhere near having an act that meets their needs. In fact, the opposite is true. This issue deserves to be treated seriously. It is a call for action to eliminate the government's trusteeship over the first nations.
We must put an end to their status as wards of the federal government. This is one of the most pressing problems facing Canada. It is time to change things once and for all. It is time to put an end to the old habit of settling each dispute on a piecemeal basis. According to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the act not only includes discriminatory elements, it is discriminatory in itself.
The Indian Act is full of paternalistic and discriminatory policies with regard to the first nations. I will not go into details and enumerate its many provisions, but we must recognize the incalculable consequences of this interventionist and controlling attitude on the lives of all first nations.
The act is typical of all the government's attempts to maintain the marginal status of the first nations. Now we must think in terms of renewal. We believe that the Indian Act must be replaced with new legislation, in an equal partnership with the first nations, a real nation-to-nation collaboration.
The fact is that the current legislation is completely outdated, discriminatory and must be replaced by modern legislation. This government has never tried to do that. We in the NDP want the first nations to be able to prosper, and this involves replacing the current legislation with modern legislation.
It is important to understand that the very existence of this legislation hinders progress for first nations communities and is not viable on every level, especially in terms of the relationship between the first nations and the government. This is precisely what the first nations have been saying for years now.
Why is the government so stubbornly refusing to listen to those who are most affected and to really respond to their interests? By governing practically every single aspect of the lives of people living on reserves, this legislation has adverse effects on progress by first nations.
The government claims it is overflowing with goodwill, but its claims are false and misleading. It sees amendments to the legislation as the answer, even though it is clear that the legislation is outdated.
How can they claim to be modernizing an act that they know is completely out of date and has only been used to marginalize first nations for the past 136 years? The process has to be led by the first nations, in keeping with the principles set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the concept of their free, prior and informed consent.
The process must protect treaty rights and inherent aboriginal rights. The first nations do not have the legislation they need for health, education and funding at their disposal. This is a vacuum that must be taken into account in drafting modern legislation and setting up a timeline for the process. Modern legislation could then guarantee an improvement in the first nations’ economic and social circumstances.
This legislation undermines the efforts made by first nations to improve their living conditions. On this, we have the support of the Assembly of First Nations, which is entirely in agreement with us. The National Chief called on the government to take action months ago, but the government chose to drag its feet. It is not as though there is a shortage of cases.
I am thinking of economic development, self-government and the sustainability of communities. There is every indication that we have cause for concern. What will spur the government to action?
The NDP would not amend the Indian Act by replacing certain elements. We believe that this would be futile and unwise. However, everything leads us to believe that that is the government's intention. Just think of the declarations that came out of the Crown-first nations gathering last January. The government said that it wanted to work with the first nations to change things, but that did not last very long.
Private member's Bill C-428 sparked shock waves. It includes amendments to several sections of the Indian Act, but first nations were not consulted about this bill. This unilateral action makes no sense. It shows contempt for the first nations. And this is not the first time that the Conservative government's contempt has surfaced, which indicates that it is deeply rooted.
For example, if we go back to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Canada used all kinds of poor excuses to delay adopting the text and then it voted against its adoption, in 2007. It was not until 2010 that Canada ratified the declaration, after being so damaging to the work done by the UN to adopt the text.
What is surprising in all this, to say the least, is that the Liberals are responsible for a large part of this legislation, of its irritants and of the lack of consultation when attempts were made to impose changes. Remember the infamous 1969 white paper, whose author was none other than Jean Chrétien. This was a pure and simple attempt to assimilate first nations.
Motion No. 386 also does not mention the absence of distinction as to sex. Yet, it is crucial to deal with this issue in the context of gender equality, and it should be part of the basis for future consultations. The rights of aboriginal women were violated, particularly when they would marry outside their first nation reserve.
Despite the fact that the law was amended in 1985 with regard to women's rights, discrimination against women continues unabated. That was the finding of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which pointed out in its 2003 report on Canada that aboriginal women continue to be the victims of systematic acts of discrimination in all aspects of their lives. The consultation process would thus give us the opportunity to harmonize the individual rights of aboriginal women with their collective rights as members of first nations.
I am asking all my colleagues to think carefully about this issue, which is of the utmost importance to first nations and Canada as a whole. This is a basic issue that involves guaranteeing real respect for the rights, needs and priorities of first nations, which are too often overlooked in this country. This is also an opportunity to make Canadians aware of the discrimination faced by first nations people. This is not a matter of making changes to the Indian Act but of replacing it with new, modern legislation. Consequently, the first nations communities that worked with the government will be able to help to determine what the next steps will be in promoting the development and well-being of their communities.
This co-operation is part of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the purpose of which is to get the states to consult and co-operate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned. Any commitment in this regard must be based on real co-operation among equals. We must implement a real consultation process and establish a real partnership. By so doing, we will finally be able to focus on reconciliation and harmonious relations between nations.
Unilateralism can lead only to failure, as it has always done in the past. So, let us revoke the Indian Act and scrap this 19th century law that has led to so many problems and discontent once and for all. Let us start fresh with new legislation.
The NDP wants to work with the first nations to develop modern legislation that will help these communities to prosper.
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View Barry Devolin Profile
CPC (ON)
View Barry Devolin Profile
2012-11-30 14:08 [p.12733]
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Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members: Question.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): In my opinion the nays have it.
And five or more members having risen:
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): Pursuant to Standing Order 45 the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, December 5, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.
It being 2:10 p.m., the House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 2:10 p.m.)
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View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2012-11-21 18:42 [p.12312]
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I declare the motion defeated.
It being 6:42 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.
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View Bob Rae Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bob Rae Profile
2012-10-22 11:03 [p.11257]
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moved:
Motion No. 386
That, in the opinion of the House, the Indian Act is the embodiment of failed colonial and paternalistic policies which have denied First Nations their rights, fair share in resources; fostered mistrust and created systemic barriers to the self-determination and success of First Nations, and that elimination of these barriers requires the government to initiate a formal process of direct engagement with First Nations within three months of passage of this motion, on a nation-to-nation basis, which focuses on replacing the Indian Act with new agreements based on: (a) the constitutional, treaty, and inherent rights of all First Nations; (b) the historical and fiduciary responsibilities of the Crown to First Nations; (c) the standards established in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the principle of free, prior, and informed consent; (d) respect, recognition, reconciliation and support for First Nations; (e) partnership and mutual accountability between the Crown and First Nations; and (f) stability and safety of First Nations; and that this process be completed within two years before reporting with a series of concrete deliverables for the government to act upon.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the chance to move the motion and to participate in the discussion on it.
I hope there is a general consensus in the House that a piece of legislation that was first passed in 1876, which reflected the power relationships and the values of that particular time in our history, is hardly the basis upon which we need to go forward in the 21st century in this critical question of the relationship between first nations, Inuit and Métis people of this country and the governments of Canada, including the provinces.
The motion requires the government to start a process of discussion and negotiation with respect to replacing the Indian Act with a new set of laws, treaties and understandings that would establish a new relationship on a basis of genuine equality, not on the basis of paternalism, not on the basis of a colonial relationship that stems from the past, not on the basis of a severe power imbalance between the governments of Canada and the aboriginal people of the country, but on a basis of true equality.
Like everyone in the House, I was genuinely moved by the Prime Minister's speech, which he gave on the unforgettable moment when the government and the Prime Minster in person delivered an apology to those who had been forced to go to residential schools. We all recognize that the Prime Minister's apology went well beyond the issue of residential schools, as significant and important as that issue is. What I think the Prime Minister was doing was stating on behalf of all Canadians that this is a relationship that has somehow gone wrong historically and that it is important for us to get it right.
Since the first Europeans landed on the shores of what we call Canada today, there has been a great deal of tension—let us face it—between those who arrived as immigrants, that is, representatives of a colony, and those who had been living in Canada for centuries. These people have known illness, death, war, discrimination and racism. Relationships have been difficult.
If you read the debates of the House of Commons from the 19th century, when the Indian Act was first passed, it becomes clear that people at the time thought that aboriginal people would probably not survive very long as a population.
Now the reality is quite different: over 1 million aboriginal people live in Canada. Young aboriginal people are studying at college and university and have professional careers or are business people.
Quite a change has taken place. We must recognize that their communities are no longer isolated, even if they are geographically remote and without resources. At two or three years old, aboriginal children watch the same television programs. They see the possibilities that exist in the world.
However, they do not have the same opportunities to access those possibilities.
I continue to believe that, although this issue may well not be top of mind among a great majority of Canadians, according to the polls we see, and it may not be a subject that people think is the most important question we need to deal with, when the House considers the question we have to show some leadership to the people of Canada. We need to say it is time for the country to wake up and realize there are steps that need to be taken, barriers that need to be broken and bridges that need to be built so we and all Canadians can look at ourselves in the mirror and say we are one as a country, we are one as a family, we are one people.
Throughout my political and public life, I have found it difficult to somehow square the discrimination and inequality that we see around us all the time with this notion that we are one country providing the same level of opportunity. The statistics are there. We can recite all the statistics with respect to the incomes, the outcomes, the tragedies of suicide or the appalling and difficult conditions that exist on many reserves and in many communities, as well as the sense of bafflement and loss we can see in any major city just walking down the street and encountering those who are lost, those who are marginalized and those who will say, “This is where I come from. Can you help me out?” All of us have faced that, and all of us know that something is not quite right.
In a way we often say this and then turn back away from it, but I say to my colleagues on the other side of the House that this is not a partisan question. If anyone on the other side of the House wants to stand up and say we did not do enough, our party did not do enough when it was in power, we did not do enough when we were in government, we did not take the steps they have made and they are better than us, I will not enter into that argument because I do not regard this as a partisan question. It is not something any of us can look at and say all governments have done something and we have seen some important progress.
At the same time, we have to recognize that we simply have not done enough. I am convinced that part of the problem is that there is a key tension in the legislative and legal framework that surrounds this relationship. We should think of what we have done. In adopting the Constitution in 1981, we accepted the fact that treaty and existing aboriginal rights were in fact protected. We then had a process of negotiation, which did not go anywhere under Prime Minister Mulroney. He tried hard. He believed in it. He created a royal commission to point out the problems and inequalities to Canadians. We had negotiations at Charlottetown. We made great progress on self-government in the Charlottetown accord, but it was voted down by Canadians in a referendum.
The courts have made great progress in recognizing self-government and the duty to consult, but we still have real tensions. We have a relationship of inequality. We have a government and governments that decide what budgets will be and allocate funding, and frequently that funding is allocated on a discriminatory basis. It has taken the first nations people three years to get the issue of discriminatory funding on social welfare in front of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal because it was fought all the way by the lawyers on the other side.
The minister says he wants to do the best he can for education, and I am prepared to accept him at his word. However, there are a lot of arguments about what resources have actually been provided and are being provided.
Just last week I was in a northern community in Nunavik in northern Quebec. There is a housing shortage of as many as a thousand units in one community in Kuujjuaq. We see this situation every day. The most touching situation we have seen is that in that very same community three kids committed suicide in the space of a week, and on the wall in the school was a big agreement signed by the students saying, “I promise to live”. They all signed it because they wanted to make that commitment.
I wonder if internationally we can really hold our heads up high when we recognize the discrepancy between the conditions that exist for the majority of Canadians and the conditions that exist for those who are first nations and aboriginal people. I do not think we can. Therefore, how do we deal with this?
The way we need to deal with this is to get back to the fundamental fact that people and communities were here before the Europeans arrived. Treaties and laws existed before the Europeans arrived. Contrary to the orthodoxy of European-based law, this was not terra nullius, no one's land. This land belonged to people who had laws, customs, religions and a way of life.
Since coming here, yes, some treaties have been signed, but many have been broken or not lived up to in spirit. We need to get back to a relationship of equality, a relationship of genuine respect. As long as there is fundamental, paternalistic and colonial legislation that drives the power of the government, the minister and the powerlessness of others, then something is wrong. It has been said that power corrupts, and that is true, but it has also been said that powerlessness corrupts, and that is true as well.
We have allowed something in this relationship to fester, not just over a few years or through one administration or another, but over centuries. Something has been deeply corrupting in this relationship and to make it better, to go beyond words of reconciliation, we need to take action with genuine negotiation and a changed relationship. We need a different relationship in terms governance, authority and power. We need mutual accountability so that aboriginal communities and their leaders are accountable and transparent but governments must also be accountable for what they do.
As we talk about this new relationship in terms of governance, we also need to talk about new relationships in terms of resources. Canada's vast resources and wealth are not being appropriately shared with those whose lands of this great country first was. No one should have a begging bowl to go to the governments of Canada to ask for a share of the resource revenue. Governments of Canada need to wake up and understand that it is not just the power imbalance but it is also the financial and fiscal imbalance that must be met.
These will not be easy discussions and negotiations but they are discussions and negotiations that need to happen. However, unless the House has a sense of the timetable to be followed to get us to where we need to get to, we will not make the progress that we need to make.
As a country, I believe that we genuinely have a rendezvous with who we are, with our past as well as with our future. I believe more strongly than anything in politics that this is an issue whose time has really come.
We cannot put it off. We cannot pretend that simply tinkering around the sides of the issue will work. We need to address these questions of this relationship. The respect and dignity that we owe each other must be put at the heart of this relationship.
We need to return to a world of respect, a world of dignity and a world of equality. Frankly, it is everyone's duty, not just that of parliamentarians, but of all Canadians, to see this country as a great country not only because of its resources and wealth, but also because of its values and our commitment to ensuring that those values are implemented and that they become a reality, since this has not been the case so far.
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View Rob Clarke Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, I was proud to open the first hour of debate on my private member's bill last Thursday, which proposes amendments to the Indian Act that would take concrete steps to help first nations escape from the shackles of this outdated, colonial and archaic act. My bill would provide greater autonomy for first nations people and lessen the role of the federal government's involvement in the day-to-day lives of first nations citizens. It would give back key decisions and powers to the first nations people and would repeal provisions that allow for the establishing of residential schools.
Why is the hon. member opposed to repealing sections of the act that would prevent residential schools from being established or that would hand over more power to first nations people?
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View Bob Rae Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bob Rae Profile
2012-10-22 11:19 [p.11259]
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Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to look at the private member's bill that stands in his name and I congratulate the hon. member for taking an initiative, for the spirit in which he posed the question and for the spirit of his amendments.
My concern about his particular measure is twofold. One is that I do not think it goes far enough and, in a sense, lets everyone off the hook a little too much. The second is that, to my knowledge, the amendments have not been thoroughly discussed and negotiated with the people who would be affected by them. I think that is the only criticism that has been raised by people on our side. I would be quite happy to sit down and talk with the hon. member about his legislation if he would be willing to talk about my motion.
It is not a matter of competing motions and bills. If there is a common objective that is shared with the people of the first nations leadership, then, by all means, let us proceed. I have spent a lot of time discussing my measure with the leadership of the first nations and I think there is substantial support for what we are proposing.
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View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2012-10-22 11:21 [p.11259]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for tabling this motion on a very important matter for which my party is also very concerned.
As the member has pointed out, which is something that the House needs to be reminded of daily, it is the unilateral powers and responsibility of the federal government to implement the measures to provide for the government to government and nation to nation relationship with first nations, which it promised to do as recently as this past January. We have seen case after case where first nations have had to go to court to force the government to live up to the Supreme Court Mikisew decision on the duty to consult and accommodate. Superceding that, we now have the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
I wonder if the member could speak to what particular measures he thinks should be first and foremost in order to move this agenda ahead so that we can start moving forward with treating the first nations as an order of government and allowing for and facilitating self-governance.
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View Bob Rae Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bob Rae Profile
2012-10-22 11:22 [p.11259]
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I genuinely hope, Mr. Speaker, that we in the House can commit to making progress in this field. I am certainly not one who is opposed to making some progress as opposed to none at all.
However, we need to recognize that we have international obligations as a country. The government, for example, in the case of the social welfare case, continued to fight it for three years in terms of getting access to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. The minister is still able to exercise very arbitrary powers with respect to whether an aboriginal government even exists, as in the case of Attawapiskat.
The government needs to tell us what it is prepared to do in order to show good faith as we go forward, but a negotiated process needs to be set out. We tried to set it out in Charlottetown with a timetable but that was not successful in a referendum. It has now been 20 years since the adoption of the Charlottetown accord by all of the premiers, leaders of the first nations and the Government of Canada. I would have thought that governments themselves could go back to that agreement and say that they agreed to that in the past and that they will move forward, particularly given the strength of the court decisions that have been taken and the fact that Canada is now a signatory to the UN convention.
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View Rob Clarke Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today against the motion brought forward by the member for Toronto Centre. This motion is nothing more than an empty promise that contains nothing concrete or deliverable for first nations people. I am convinced that anyone who examines this motion closely will arrive at the same conclusion.
The first part of the motion before the House today states:
That, in the opinion of the House, the Indian Act is the embodiment of failed colonial and paternalistic policies which have denied First Nations their rights, fair share in resources; fostered mistrust and created systemic barriers to the self-determination and success of First Nations....
It is for those exact reasons I introduced Bill C-428, the Indian Act amendment and replacement act. The preamble to my private member's bill acknowledges the following important points:
...the Indian Act is an outdated colonial statute, the application of which results in the people of Canada’s First Nations being subjected to differential treatment;
...the Indian Act does not provide an adequate legislative framework for the development of self-sufficient and prosperous First Nations’ communities;
...the Government of Canada is committed to the development of new legislation to replace the Indian Act that better reflects the modern relationship between it and the people of Canada’s First Nations;
...the Government of Canada is committed to continuing its work in exploring creative options for the development of this new legislation in collaboration with the First Nations organizations that have demonstrated an interest in this work;
The preamble in my private member's bill would more than adequately accomplish what the member for Toronto Centre is trying to say in the first part of his motion, though my bill would go much further to actually take concrete action for first nations people.
The second part of the motion calls on the government to eliminate these barriers by initiating “a formal process of direct engagement with First Nations...on a nation-to-nation basis, which focuses on replacing the Indian Act with new agreements...and that this process be completed within two years before reporting with a series of concrete deliverables for the government to act upon”.
The Liberals had 13 years to begin such a process but they did not get it done. First nations people do not need more talk about failed colonial paternalistic policies. They need concrete actions. First nations should not have to wait another two years before the government starts a process that would enable the first nations to get out of the Indian Act. I believe the time is now to start correcting the injustices that have been done to my people and begin equipping them with the tools to get out from underneath the colonial and paternalistic legislation that is holding my people back from achieving their full potential and becoming full participants in Canada's economy.
I had the pleasure of opening my debate on my private member's bill this past Thursday. The goal of my bill is to: eliminate the minister's role in the administration of estates and the approval and voiding of wills; remove the minister's bylaws disallowance powers and, in doing so, hand over greater control and accountability to first nations; remove outdated and archaic provisions of the Indian Act, such as the requirement for permission to sell produce; repeal all references to residential schools; and, most important, require the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to report annually to the parliamentary committee on action taken in partnership with first nations and other interested parties to develop new legislation to replace the Indian Act.
Anyone can see that this is not an attempt to completely overhaul the Indian Act. Rather, these amendments would bring about concrete, practical changes that would lead to real results for first nations people and enable them to achieve greater self-sufficiency and prosperity. I also emphasize that this is not an attempt to unilaterally impose changes to the Indian Act on first nations people. Rather, it would provide for greater communication and collaboration in a way that is respectful and modern as we work together toward our shared objective of healthier, more self-sufficient first nations communities.
As members know, a private member of the House of Commons has limited resources to conduct extensive consultation. However, I have made significant efforts to consult with first nations on this bill.
My riding has 23 first nation communities and the second largest first nation population in Canada. I have also spoken to chiefs, tribal councils and grassroots members over the past four and a half years about the importance of moving forward with the scrutiny of the Indian Act. I have served in the House, written all 636 first nation communities on four separate occasions and spoken in a number of public forums on the substance of my bill. I have also encouraged and invited feedback from first nation chiefs, members and other interested parties on the bill, including through my website and direct communication with my constituents.
I am also looking forward to the study of my bill in committee, which will provide yet another venue to hear first-hand from first nations and other interested parties on the content of the bill.
As we can see, I have not arrived at the current set of changes in the bill on my own, but rather through consultation with other first nation members within my own constituency as well as around the country. One important point is that I have revised my bill four times based on feedback that first nations have provided to me. In fact, I am also open to amendments that may come forward through this important dialogue.
It is my hope that one day the changes proposed in my private member's bill will help lead us closer to a more modern, respectful relationship between the federal government and first nations, and will continue—
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View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
View Carol Hughes Profile
2012-10-22 11:30 [p.11260]
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Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member is talking about his private member's bill and not the motion. Could he please focus his thoughts on the motion?
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View Rob Clarke Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, this is the same paternalistic approach that the opposition always takes regarding first nations, that we are not good enough to be able to present speeches in the House of Commons.
The government and first nations continue on a path to repeal and replace the Indian Act in its entirety. A yearly report by the aboriginal affairs minister on the progress made in this regard will be invaluable in gauging the development of new legislation to replace the Indian Act. It will establish a collaborative approach to work our way out of the Indian Act in a manner consistent with a renewed relationship between first nations and the Crown.
The government, under the leadership of our Prime Minister, has made significant strides toward improving the health and well-being of our first nation communities in collaboration with first nations.
I am very excited about the prospect of working with first nations to create a more contemporary and beneficial piece of legislation to replace the Indian Act. As I stated Thursday, this is not a partisan effort. I am bringing forward the bill as a proud representative of my riding, as a proud first nations man and a proud Canadian who wants to see a better life for all first nations and all Canadians.
I urge my colleagues to oppose this motion and support my bill. The motion does nothing to improve the lives of first nations, while my bill would take incremental and concrete steps that would pave the way for first nations people to get out of the Indian Act entirely.
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View Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Profile
NDP (QC)
View Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Profile
2012-10-22 11:33 [p.11261]
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Mr. Speaker, since the issues we are studying in this rather odd bill are quite philosophical in nature, the arguments I will make in this House will be very much inspired by the clan dynamic of my community of origin.
For the past year or so, members of Parliament—especially the Conservatives—have told me a number of times that they have a hard time understanding my reasoning and that they have tried to see where I was going with my arguments and speeches. I will say the following: I come from Uashat, a community not far from the 52nd parallel in northern Quebec. When people come to visit my community for the first time, I tell them that it is a whole other galaxy and that the way the rest of the country thinks does not necessarily apply in isolated communities. That is why my speech today will seem similar to many others I have made, in that it will be a bit outside the box and will be empirical.
There is obviously a reason why the communities seem galaxies apart. Even their cosmogonic concepts are different, their views on creation and relationships between individuals, nature, animals—are all different. There is no comparison between European concepts and concepts that can be found around the country and around the planet. That is why, sometimes, it is good to be empirical and philosophical, which I will do today.
Right now, aboriginals across the country are questioning the very idea of community management organizations—band councils. The fact that members of these communities are rejecting a number of management institutions has resulted in individuals disassociating from the measures endorsed by band councils.
We are seeing aboriginal communities becoming more politically, economically and culturally assertive. This is first and foremost an individual affirmation. I do not want to generalize, but I am going to base my remarks on the experiences of the Mamit Innuat and the people in my riding. There are approximately 15,000 Indians in my riding. The members of these communities are using their personal strengths to assert their rights, and sometimes this assertiveness goes against the band councils' agenda.
It is important to understand that the band councils were a joint creation. We like to think that they were created jointly with the Government of Canada back in the days when the legislation referred to aboriginal people as savages. The band councils were created because the Canadian government needed a designated spokesperson within the communities. That is why a very similar regime, namely a chief and a certain number of councillors depending on the size of the population, was imposed on each community. In my riding, the Innu Takuaikan Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam nation has nine councillors and a band chief. This model was imposed almost universally; however, it was inconsistent with the existence and traditional way of life of the Innu people living in the forest. They lived in small families made up of a maximum of 10 people and met just twice a year when they gathered near the river in the summer to get away from the mosquitoes or on other very specific occasions.
The decisions that are made and implemented by the band councils in 2012 are sometimes coloured by the agendas of individuals outside the communities. It is important to understand that anything to do with the development of natural resources in the territories generates hundreds of millions of dollars. That is a huge amount and it can be enticing for individuals outside the communities with different agendas. These individuals may want to interfere in the band councils' administrative decisions. Thus, there is interference.
The fairly low level of literacy in aboriginal communities can also affect our decision-makers. Often, they lack the wherewithal and do not necessarily have the training to manage files worth hundreds of millions of dollars. For that reason, they call upon external experts and, too often, blindly delegate the management of these files, which results in interference and a wait-and-see approach. Then, people outside the community take control. That is why, in 2012, many members of aboriginal communities are disavowing and dissociating themselves from the decisions made by the band councils.
I will now make the connection and talk about the matter before us today: replacing the Indian Act with new agreements, which I think is desirable. However, any innovation must arise from and effect change within the communities first. I know that, ultimately, the Canadian government will be involved in writing the legislation, obtaining royal assent and so on, but change must begin within the communities.
There is a troubled history, and we must revive the process of emulation traditionally used within bands, when people spoke candidly to one another. This approach must prevail in 2012 if we truly seek to change and improve the lives of first nations people. If we want to help communities achieve more intellectually, economically and socially, these truths must be spoken, but they must be spoken first within the communities. The Canadian government's role is therefore limited in that regard.
Beyond that, I feel it is important to point out to the House that initiatives intended to modernize the Indian Act must be set in motion by individual first nations members themselves. Given the tremendous burden that would fall on the government as a result of the proposal before us today—that is, change driven primarily by the Canadian Parliament—that burden would be better left to the communities, which will be responsible for managing it in the end. One member mentioned that there are millions of Indians in Canada. I could never pass judgment on actual compliance rates with each band council's policies. However, with respect to my community, the Canadian government would be wise to allow aboriginal peoples and individuals to take responsibility for change to ensure that it comes from within.
According to traditional conflict resolution models, members of aboriginal communities in Canada should tackle problems within their own clan structures directly, which means bringing to light financial wrongdoing—which does occur—and abuses of power committed by prominent individuals who have benefited personally from social dysfunction fomented by the unhealthy relationship between the Canadian government and their communities. I am not necessarily talking about our leaders, but about the individuals who wield significant power in our communities.
I will now introduce a concept that will be quite new here, after 500 years of cohabitation. In the Innu language, we say menashtau when referring to individuals who mainly live in our own communities and who have adopted a self-centred lifestyle. We use the term menashtau. This can apply to individuals who, more often than not, have access to financial resources and who establish businesses. They carry the burden of ensuring the economic development of each of the communities. They have key positions.
The problem is that, in 2012, many of these people are menashtau. They put their own well-being first because they know that their term of office or political life may not last long, because it tends to be short-lived in these communities. They definitely know that they have about two, three or four years. So they decide to raid the kitty when the opportunity presents itself.
I would say that the first step in effecting change is to ensure that we raise the bar. These issues must be dealt with directly. The communities themselves will have to air their dirty laundry. Menashtau individuals will have to be held accountable for their actions, by the communities, Indian to Indian, and then they will be able to find common ground.
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2012-10-22 11:42 [p.11262]
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Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in favour of the motion. It is critically important that all members reflect on what the motion attempts to do and vote accordingly.
I listened the Conservative member's speech, as we all did. I tried to understand what he was trying to share with members. I think, in good part, many members would acknowledge that what he spoke about was very important. I am sure, upon reflecting on the motion before us, that he, along with the government members, would see the merit in supporting it. It is imperative we recognize that any sort of movement on the Indian Act has to be led by our first nations people.
Over the years, there has been a great deal of discussion and dialogue with regard to the need for change. I can recall, shortly after being first elected in 1988, meeting with individuals like Phil Fontaine, Ovide Mercredi and many other aboriginal leaders, who are still there today. They wanted to see this file move forward.
For the last couple of decades, a great number of leaders from within our first nation communities have recognized how outdated the 1867 Indian Act. It is important that we also recognize that. The legislation needs to be changed and modernized. To that extent, we want to see the government respond to that.
I applaud the fact that we have a Conservative backbencher who has taken it upon himself to bring forward a private member's bill. We respect that, but we want to see action from the Prime Minister's Office.
This issue dictates that we need a government that is prepared to work with our first nations and the different stakeholders to address the critical issue of getting rid of the Indian Act and modernizing it so it fits the present. Failing that, we will continue to see the many different stakeholders frustrated. In this heightened sense of frustration, there are many different types of problems that are created.
Back in 2011, there was an interesting Winnipeg Free Press article, and I want to quote from it because it touched me. I believe, ultimately, through this report, it sends a very strong message of which we all need to be aware.
In fact, a committee was established by the Senate. The committee chairman, Gerry St. Germain, who is a Conservative senator from British Columbia, said in the conclusion that we needed to recognize the fact that first nations education was in a crisis. The report found that seven in ten aboriginal children living on reserves would never graduate from high school. In many communities, children who attended school would never enjoy things such as libraries, science labs or athletic facilities and some would never set foot in a real school at all.
This is just one report of many reports over the years that have tried to highlight these issues that are very real, that are very tangible and, I would ultimately argue, that destroy lives. There are thousands of children's lives and future prospects at stake.
If the federal government does not recognize the need to overhaul or get rid of the Indian Act, we will destroy the potential of so many children going forward. The leadership and our first nation people want the government to come to the table in good faith and work with them on ways in which we can improve the system.
There are many different ideas and thoughts out there. We all have a responsibility to get a better understanding of the issue and then to encourage the leadership, whether from our first nations, or on the Hill in Ottawa, or inside our legislatures across Canada, working with our municipal leaders and bringing them together with the leadership of first nations, recognizing the role they have to play in replacing the Indian Act. If we fail at doing this, we will let down the generations of children, who will be lost or disadvantaged because we chose not to act.
What I like about this resolution is the fact that it has a very responsible approach to try to deal with what is the core of the motion, and that is a formal process of direct engagement with first nations within three months of the passage of the motion and with the idea of replacing the Indian Act with new agreements. It is based on things such as our constitutional agreement and other points.
That is the heart of the motion. That is why I was concerned when the Conservative member recommended that members might want to vote against it. The motion is not a reflection on an individual's private member's bill. We want to get a better understanding of the member's bill referred to, but the motion is for the House to take some responsibility for what the aboriginal leadership, in particular, first nation leadership, has talked about for years.
The motion is really all about that. It asks members of the House to take note of this. There is nothing new, in the sense of anything I could say, or the leader of the Liberal Party said in his speech, in terms of huge policy announcements. We are saying that we have to recognize that our aboriginal peoples, in particular first nations and their leaders, have been talking for years about how important to redefine the Indian Act and replace it. Our aboriginal community, in particularly our first nation leadership, will have to drive this. It is looking forward to a government that is going to respond to that need. That is what we are asking the House to do, and there is a timeline. There is nothing wrong with that.
My challenge to members, as they decide to either vote for or against the motion, is to reflect on two things: first, the stakeholders, in particular first nations, that have demanded the importance of this issue; and second, how important it is for future generations that this issue be dealt with. I ask all members to vote in favour of the motion.
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View Greg Rickford Profile
CPC (ON)
View Greg Rickford Profile
2012-10-22 11:52 [p.11263]
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Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity. I want to talk today about a couple of observations I have made so far in the debate. First, the spirit of both the leader of the third party and the member from this side have some kind of common objective or goal. I think everyone in the House agrees that the Indian Act does stand in the way of successes of first nations communities and continues to prevent first nations from becoming more autonomous, self-sufficient and full participants in a Canadian economy. The question is the pathway.
The motion today, in my respectful view, proposes an ill-conceived process to get rid of the Indian Act and would jeopardize current progress made by this government and first nations. Indeed, whether we talk about the Indian Act or the legislation that has been produced, going back the past couple of decades but particularly in the last six years, the motion says that we should undo all of that and recreate something in three months.
It seems a little unusual, and probably not achievable, given the number of communities across the country that are implicated in this, which raises my final point in this observation with respect to the debate so far. It appears as though the leader of the third party was using a frame of reference for a number of Inuit communities that actually are not under the Indian Act.
I hope, when the member says that he had consultations with first nations leaders or aboriginal Canadians, they were people who had a thoughtful reflection on the Indian Act.
This motion ignores the fact that the government has been engaging directly with first nations communities and organizations to conclude a number of agreements and develop legislation, tangible options that go outside of the Indian Act. There are some examples. The First Nations Land Management Act brings a community out of more than 25% of the act, read together, for example, with the substantive proposals in my colleague's private member's bill.
We are dealing with a number of important things: removing once and for all any legislative reference to the Indian residential school; dealing with the powers of bylaws at the community level; and dealing with wills and testaments. These are substantive changes that are overdue, not to mention the fact that the Conservative member who has brought the private member's bill is a first nations Canadian. He falls under the Indian Act for the purposes of his status. He brings, in the context of a private member's bill, and as I understand as a person who is generationally tied to the Indian residential school, a particularly meaningful and thoughtful perspective to incremental changes that need to be made.
At the historic Crown-First Nations Gathering held this past January, the Prime Minister reiterated our commitment to working together with first nations. He said:
—there are ways, creative ways, collaborative ways, ways that involve consultation between our government, the provinces and First Nations leadership and communities. Ways that provide options within the Act, or outside of it, for practical, incremental and real change.
The good news is that the Prime Minister has seen to it that this is already in process and we continue to bring legislation before this place that is substantive and dynamic to the extent that it incrementally chips away at the scope of the Indian Act and certainly attempts, in best efforts and good faith, to deal with those parts of that legislation that are no longer useful and that no longer apply and hold us all back as Canadians, not just first nations for the purpose of the Indian Act.
We know from past experience that proposals to significantly overhaul the Indian Act did not work and many of them came from that side of the House, from that third party. The Liberals passed attempts to overhaul the Indian Act, all of which were met with complete and utter failure and failed substantively to develop modern legislation and meaningfully dismantle the Indian Act.
In 1969, for example, Jean Chrétien published a white paper that sought to introduce measures to assimilate first nations people. That paper was overwhelmingly rejected by first nations people.
In 1996, the same party introduced the 1996 Indian Act optional modification act that attempted to introduce major changes to a number of areas, such as band governance, bylaw authority and legal capacity and the regulation of reserve lands and resources. It was also met with significant opposition and died on the order paper.
Most recently, in 2002, Bob Nault, the former MP for Kenora, from where I hail, introduced the first nations governance act, which would have involved significant changes to aspects of band governance. Many of those proposed changes were quite positive, but the bill died on the order paper.
For the past six years, in stark contrast, this government has been taking real action to provide first nations with alternatives to the Indian Act. Here I would like to expand on a series of targeted incremental initiatives that demonstrate the government's firm resolve to addressing the challenges the Indian Act presents to the political, social and economic dynamic and development of first nations communities that fall under the Indian Act. Our approach is to bring incremental change in consultation with first nations through new measures, investments and legislation that would provide alternatives to the Indian Act.
Earlier this year, we welcomed 18 new first nations to the first nations land management regime, which I referred to earlier. The regime enables first nations to opt out of more than 34 land-related sections of the Indian Act and, in the process, assume greater control over their reserve lands, resources and governance.
There are now 56 first nations operating or developing land laws under enabling legislation known as the First Nations Land Management Act. Participating first nations are better able to pursue economic activities, create jobs and have more self-sufficient communities. To improve the regime, we collaborated with the First Nations Land Advisory Board, removing legislative barriers that prevent or delay first nations from taking advantage of the benefits of assuring land management responsibility. Yet the opposition voted against these amendments.
At committee we are doing some hard work around land management and land use planning and I appreciate the collective efforts of many of my colleagues, if not all, on the standing committee for their substantive contributions to this important work. The modernization of lands management regimes helps unlock the potential of reserve lands and natural resources and frees first nations from some of the economic limitations imposed by the Indian Act.
Another example of legislative change that would unlock the potential of first nations is Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act, presently awaiting second reading in the House. The objective of this proposed legislation is to ensure that first nations have the same health and safety protections for drinking water in their communities as other Canadians. It focuses on capacity, reporting, monitoring and maintenance of state-of-the-art facilities that often involve intensive management given the lands that many of the first nations communities live on in isolated and remote parts of this country. It deals with an ongoing commitment to water infrastructure. Finally, Bill S-8 is a mechanism for both governments to develop in partnership enforceable regulations to ensure for the first time that there is access to clean and reliable drinking water, the effective treatment of waste water and the protection of sources of water on first nations land.
This is about working together on a process that has led to the development of these and many other pieces of legislation. As someone who has invested the greater part of his professional life to areas where the Indian Act applies, including health for first nations communities and water and waste water treatment, for example, I would say that we are seeing across this county a collective effort and the need to continue the consultation process for legislative tools outside of the Indian Act so that communities can thrive. These are in areas of infrastructure and economic development. Here we look forward to studying my colleague's private member's bill at committee, hearing from witnesses and, as always, moving on to bigger and better things.
The motion before us now calls for a new approach, one that we cannot support, as it would jeopardize the progress being made. I encourage my hon. colleagues to reject the motion.
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View Barry Devolin Profile
CPC (ON)
View Barry Devolin Profile
2012-10-22 12:03 [p.11264]
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The time provided for consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
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View Dany Morin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Dany Morin Profile
2012-10-15 11:04 [p.10945]
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moved:
That, given that bullying is a serious problem affecting Canadian communities, a special committee of the House be appointed and directed to develop a National Bullying Prevention Strategy to: (a) study the prevalence and impact of different types of bullying, including physical, verbal, indirect and cyber bullying; (b) identify and adopt a range of evidence-based anti-bullying best practices; (c) promote and disseminate anti-bullying information to Canadian families through a variety of mediums; (d) provide support for organizations that work with young people to promote positive and safe environments; (e) focus on prevention rather than criminalization; and that the committee consist of 12 members which shall include seven members from the government party, four members from the Official Opposition and one member from the Liberal Party, provided that the Chair shall be from the government party; that in addition to the Chair, there be one Vice-Chair from each of the opposition parties; that the committee have all of the powers of a Standing Committee as provided in the Standing Orders; that the members to serve on the said committee be appointed by the Whip of each party depositing with the Clerk of the House a list of his or her party’s members of the committee no later than five sitting days following the adoption of this motion; that the quorum of the special committee be seven members for any proceedings, provided that at least a member of the opposition and of the government party be present; that membership substitutions be permitted to be made from time to time, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2); and that the committee report its recommendations to this House within one year of the adoption of this motion.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am moving a motion to develop a national bullying prevention strategy. This is an issue that is very important to me. When I was elected a year and a half ago, I decided that my first bill or motion would be on bullying prevention. I rose in the House of Commons last winter to talk about the suicides of Jamie Hubley and Marjorie Raymond. Each time, I asked the Conservative government what it was going to do to protect our young people. The government responded with fine words, but a year later, there are still no concrete measures in place. That is why in June, I moved my own motion to create a special non-partisan committee of the House of Commons. I say non-partisan because we must put partisanship aside in order to truly address the problem of bullying here in Canada. It is a national problem that is getting worse, unfortunately.
I was bullied when I was young, but back then we did not have Facebook or social media. Unfortunately, social media has only made the problem worse. It is why we are seeing more tragic stories in the news about young Canadians who decide to take their own lives after being bullied. This is the perfect opportunity for all parties in the House of Commons to put partisanship aside and work together to develop a national bullying prevention strategy as outlined in my motion.
The first part of the motion seeks to study the prevalence and impact of different types of bullying in Canada's communities, including physical, verbal, indirect, such as rumours, and cyberbullying. Every type of bullying is different and comes with its own set of problems.
Once we have collected the research on bullying and determined whether or not more research is required, we can address the second part of the motion, which consists of examining international anti-bullying best practices and the measures that have been implemented across Canada. Some provinces have implemented good initiatives. We must see how the House of Commons and the Canadian government can support them. Other countries such as Finland, the United States and Sweden have also come up with interesting initiatives. The special committee should examine these international initiatives and determine which ones could be implemented in Canada. In 2012, bullying is a problem that exists not just in Canada, but in other countries as well.
In seeking solutions, we do not have to reinvent the wheel. Moreover, my motion is not a miracle solution to this problem. The provinces have introduced good initiatives. School boards and teachers are doing good work in our schools. But what is the federal government doing about cyberbullying? Bullying in schools comes under provincial jurisdiction, and the federal government must help the provinces and school boards to adequately protect our youth. However, cyberbullying comes under federal jurisdiction because it involves telecommunications. The government has various laws and regulations at its disposal to help it be proactive and lead the way. In my motion, leadership is key. In fact, it is important for all parties in the House of Commons to put partisanship aside and to work together for the well-being of our young people.
The third part involves giving Canadian families all of the good information that is found, since at the end of the day, they are the ones who have to deal with bullying. They may worry that their child could be the victim of bullying, or they may know that he or she is but not know what to do. Changing schools is not an ideal solution, but as I mentioned, there is no perfect solution. I think that it could be very helpful to give good information to Canadian families. The federal government must play a role in coordinating all this. It must support people who are working on the ground. It must help the provinces, school boards and parents. It can be a leader and engage people on this issue.
The fourth part involves supporting organizations, which are doing a good job and have experience on the ground. Their realities vary from one province to the next. A number of stakeholders, organizations and foundations have different expertise. I look forward to hearing what they have to say in committee. They will help flesh out my motion, which aims to create a national bullying prevention strategy. It is important to listen to them.
Furthermore, we must focus on prevention rather than criminalization. When a young person is bullied over a period of months and years, the damage is done. I am not saying that bullying should not be criminalized in some cases. It will be up to the non-partisan committee made up of Conservative, NDP and Liberal members to look at all of the possible options.
I was bullied from the age of 10 to the age of 15, so I know that punishing the bully or bullies—I had more than one—does not heal young people's scars. Over the past year, I was very sad to learn through the media of young victims of bullying who committed suicide. However, their deaths were not completely in vain since they made Canadians more aware of the fact that bullying must not be tolerated. This is not a normal stage in an adolescent's life. We also must not tell children that they just have to develop a thicker skin. That is not the solution.
I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the families and friends of the young Canadians who committed suicide this past year as a result of bullying. I have been working on this issue for a year, and I have felt sad about every case that has been covered by the national media; however, at the same time, I have also taken comfort from the fact that I am on the right path. The federal government must play a leadership role in this issue in order to save lives.
Mitchell Wilson was a young man from Ontario who had muscular dystrophy. He was 11 years old and he was being bullied. Unfortunately, he committed suicide at the age of 11 by tying a bag around his head. I am deeply shocked by these cases. The intent is not to point the finger at anyone. However, the federal and provincial governments, school boards and parents need to work together. We need to take action in order to resolve this problem or, at the very least, mitigate its effects.
Nova Scotian Jenna Bowers-Bryanton also committed suicide. She was being bullied on Facebook. She liked to sing, and bullies attacked her by posting on her YouTube account that she should kill herself because she did not have any talent. This was one of the factors in her suicide. The anniversary of Jamie Hubley's death is also approaching. He was a young man from Ottawa, Ontario. I remember that the Minister of Foreign Affairs was empathetic when I raised this issue in the House last year. This truly shows that all of Canada's communities and ridings—whether they be Conservative, Liberal, Bloc Québécois, Green Party or NDP—are affected by this problem.
Over the years, several members of the Conservative Party have used their time during statements by members to stand up for children who are being bullied. Both sides of the House of Commons feel a great deal of empathy regarding this issue. It is important to work together and put partisanship aside for the well-being of Canadian children. The highly publicized, high-profile cases have involved suicide, but most young Canadians who are being bullied do not get national media coverage. This is what concerns me the most.
Their everyday lives are a nightmare, while they suffer in silence. Their stories are never told, since many young people manage to get through this difficult stage.
I do not wish to dwell on my own personal experience, but it could provide some context. I started being bullied when I was 10 years old, but thank goodness, it only lasted until I was 15. I cannot take any credit, for I have no idea why the bullying stopped. I can only guess that the bullies finally grew up—and thank goodness they did.
Most mornings I went to school knowing that I could be bullied at any time between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. However, when I took the bus home in the afternoon, I knew I would be safe with my loving family. I knew I would have a break from the bullying over the weekend.
Nowadays, social media have both good and bad aspects. Young people bullied in cyberspace have to live 24/7 with the pressure, stress and suffering.
We have to do something, because these young people cannot get away from the bullying. It is relentless. I believe that is the reason why this type of bullying results in more suicides.
Establishing this non-partisan committee is a gesture of goodwill. I could have introduced the NDP anti-bullying strategy, but I know how this House works. It is important to me that we put partisanship aside. I do not want to wait three years to implement a national bullying prevention strategy. I believe that this gives us the perfect opportunity to take action.
I sincerely hope that we will be able to establish this special non-partisan committee and that its members will work together to develop a strategy that includes all of the good ideas presented.
I am convinced that my colleagues opposite have some good ideas that I have not thought of on how to protect youth. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, who will speak after me, has her heart in the right place.
This is not the end of the story. We will continue to fight for our young people.
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View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
View Candice Bergen Profile
2012-10-15 11:17 [p.10947]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for bringing this forward, for his very thoughtful and important comments and for sharing his personal story. I think all of us in this House can certainly relate, whether it is because we were bullied, our family was bullied or we saw others around us bullied.
I have a specific question with regard to Mr. Hubley, father of Jamie, who was on CTV's Question Period yesterday. He appreciated that the hon. member would be bringing this forward but he talked about needing immediate action as opposed to more study.
I wonder if my colleague could just speak, even from his own personal experience, to some of the things that could be done immediately at the local level, whether we are talking about schools, parents or other young people who are seeing bullying happening. What are some of the very specific things that can be done as a society to combat this?
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View Dany Morin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Dany Morin Profile
2012-10-15 11:18 [p.10947]
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Mr. Speaker, I fully agree with Mr. Hubley. We do need more concrete action, which is why my motion would create a national strategy.
The fourth pillar of my motion is for the federal government to give more support to local organizations that are doing fantastic work.
It is good to talk about it in the media and in the House of Commons to bring awareness but we also need to talk about it with our own families and throughout Canada. I ask all those kids who are being bullied and who might not have spoken about it yet to please do. They should find a parent, a member of their family, a teacher or someone they trust because they will listen and ensure the bullying stops.
I would ask all parents to talk with their kids to find out what they are experiencing. Sometimes there are symptoms that indicate kids might be being bullied.
The federal government can do more.
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View Massimo Pacetti Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Massimo Pacetti Profile
2012-10-15 11:19 [p.10947]
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Mr. Speaker, I am in favour of my colleague's motion.
My colleague represents a rather nationalist region. We know that schools in Quebec are working hard to address this type of crime or bullying, as my colleague just said.
How do the people in his region feel about the fact that he is asking the federal government for help?
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View Dany Morin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Dany Morin Profile
2012-10-15 11:20 [p.10947]
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Mr. Speaker, I believe this is very well received. As I was saying, the bullying that occurs in the schools is subject to provincial legislation. There is no question that the Province of Quebec, the school boards and the teachers are the best equipped to handle these situations locally. However, the federal government has access to studies on best practices and could pass on that knowledge and information to the provinces. This could help them.
I do not think there is anything wrong with having too much information. However, the NDP believes there should not be any interference in Quebec's jurisdictions. The people I talk to about this in my riding are very supportive.
I want to thank the hon. member for raising this question. The NDP will certainly respect the provincial legislation in Quebec.
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2012-10-15 11:21 [p.10947]
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Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. He has my support for this motion.
In his opinion, would it be a good idea to include on this committee representatives of the other parties in the House, such as the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party?
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View Dany Morin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Dany Morin Profile
2012-10-15 11:21 [p.10947]
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Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the Green Party raises a good point.
The membership of the special committee is based on the usual membership of all the other committees. I wanted to make sure that this motion was adopted, so I kept the membership the same as that of a regular committee.
However, if a special committee is set up, I can assure the hon. members who are not represented on that committee that I will contact them so that their opinions are heard. The point is for the entire House of Commons to be non-partisan.
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View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
View Randall Garrison Profile
2012-10-15 11:22 [p.10947]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord for bringing this to the attention of the House. He has been asking questions since he arrived here to find out where the federal government will go on this issue and I commend him for bringing a motion forward that calls for action.
I know some people have said that this is just another study but I know the member's focus is really on the outputs of the committee. What kinds of things does he perceive will come from the committee?
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View Dany Morin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Dany Morin Profile
2012-10-15 11:22 [p.10947]
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Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my NDP colleague for his excellent question.
The first thing we need is for the federal government to play a leadership role with regard to cyberbullying, something that it is not really doing right now.
The first step that needs to be taken before jumping into this initiative or going into proactive mode is to gain a clearer understanding of bullying in Canada. Then, we can gather anti-bullying best practices from the various provinces and other places throughout the world in order to apply them in Canada. Finally, we can disseminate the information to families and help local organizations. This is meaningful action that would help a lot.
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View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
View Candice Bergen Profile
2012-10-15 11:23 [p.10948]
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Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the motion that is before the House. I commend my hon. colleague, the member from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, for caring about this issue and bringing it forward today for discussion.
The issue of bullying should always be a non-partisan issue. It is too easy for us as politicians to take certain topics and use them as ways to attack each other. However, I can sense very strongly from my hon. colleague that is not his intent with this motion. It is to truly find ways to resolve and find solutions to the very real and very heartbreaking issue of bullying. For that, I recognize, acknowledge and commend him.
I will talk frankly for a moment about what bullying is, what it is not and the devastating effects and consequences it has, first and foremost, for the victims but also for their families, friends, school teachers and classmates.
Bullying is harassment. It is assault. It is threats as well as intimidation. It is violent and harmful. Bullying is always wrong and should never be tolerated. It is not merely childish behaviour. It is not boys being boys. It is not mean girls. It is not a rite of passage. Terms like these are attempts to lessen the severity and numb us to the impacts of bullying. Put simply, bullying should never be tolerated by any adult, teacher or parent, especially when it comes to our children.
Whether in classrooms, on the playground, during sporting or extracurricular activities, in our community centres or in our homes through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, our children should always be protected from bullying and they should always know that there is someone who they can turn to for help.
Sadly, this past week we have seen yet another example of a young person who has taken her life believing that she had no way out of the torment of being bullied. All of us, whether as parents, educators or concerned citizens, share in the sadness and grief that Amanda Todd's family must be going through. We all ask ourselves how something like this could have happened and how we can stop it from ever happening again. All of us need to ask ourselves as adults and individuals if we are doing all that we can to stop bullying at its roots and to show by example that we truly believe that it needs to end.
It is also important to talk about what the government can do and where it can lead and show support. Therefore, I want to take a moment to talk about what our government is doing to help stop bullying.
Our belief is that this problem is best dealt with at the most local level, by the people who are in the core and closest to it, those who are in our schools, communities, health, education and law-enforcement professionals.
Communities and schools at the local level are in the best position to identify the risk factors in their local community. As well, they are in the best position to identify what their vulnerable children and teens have to deal with and what the solutions are, again at the local level. That is where our support is focused and where we believe funding can do the most good.
I will provide the House with some concrete examples of what our government is doing.
First, we are taking action to address bullying through the Public Health Agency of Canada, which, in conjunction with Health Canada, invests in a number of initiatives to help promote awareness and advanced action to address bullying. The Healthy Canadian website provides information on bullying and tips for bullying prevention and intervention. The WITS program, which stands for walk away, ignore, talk it out and seek help, teaches children in kindergarten to grade six to make safe and positive choices when faced with bullying, cyberbullying, peer victimization and conflict.
As well, the RCMP is very active in outreach and information dissemination on bullying related issues. For example, the force operates a website built by youth for youth called DEAL.org, which is a web-based program that offers resources to youth, parents and educators on issues such as bullying and cyberbullying.
Another way that our government is working to address bullying is through the national crime prevention strategy. Through the strategy, Public Safety Canada provides funding to organizations, including schools, to implement crime prevention projects and initiatives targeted to helping children, youth and young adults at risk.
I want to highlight that the prevention of bullying and violence in schools was recently included as a priority under the strategy in the current call for project proposals. It is concrete action such as this that demonstrates that our government is determined to work with our partners to continue developing new and innovative ways to address bullying.
We are moving forward through the concerted efforts of these organizations federally, as well as with our provincial and territorial partners. We are consulting with the provinces and territories as they develop and implement new initiatives in schools and classroom settings. We are unified in our efforts to stop bullying.
The motion before us suggests that we should establish a special parliamentary committee to examine various aspects of bullying and develop a national prevention strategy. Members will know that the other place adopted a motion last November authorizing the Senate Committee on Human Rights to examine and report on the issue of cyberbullying in Canada with specific regard to Canada's obligations under Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The committee plans to present its findings this fall and will also produce targeted publications for distribution to children, parents and teachers.
As well, the House is currently considering private member's Bill C-273, which seeks to address the issue of cyberbullying by amending three of several existing Criminal Code offences that can apply to bullying.
Yesterday,Ottawa city councillor, Allan Hubley, who sadly knows first-hand the impact of bullying, had this to say:
There is a time for action now instead of another study or anything like that.
I agree that it is time for action.
This Parliament currently has not one but two committees looking into the issue of bullying. What we would like to see is more information on how the committee that would be created by today's motion would interact with the work that is already under way.
All Canadians can be assured that we as a government and all hon. members are taking concrete action to prevent and reduce bullying. Bullying is not a part of growing up. It is not a rite of passage and it should not be treated as such.
We look forward to examining the recommendations from the two parliamentary committees already studying this issue. We also look forward to being further informed on the proposed committee and how it would interact with the recommendations and the conclusions of the committees under way.