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View Val Meredith Profile
Mr. Speaker, I got the impression from my colleague's comments that the government's proposed legislation is not where the priority should be, that there are more important issues in the fishing file that should be addressed.
I would like the member to expound on that, please.
View Val Meredith Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-11 on the Westbank agreement.
I want to comment on some of the heartfelt remarks that my colleague made and the good work that he did for the party. We went into the aboriginal communities and talked to the people who live there to find out the situation and what they thought, rather than just taking the views of representatives of the aboriginal community who make a living out of lobbying the government.
As representatives of the people in this place, we are their only voice when it comes to government legislation. We often forget that role. We get taken in by the government bureaucrats' position. We are presented with a finished product and we either approve it or reject it. We forget that we are here to speak for the people out there who will have to live with the legislation.
I spent 15 years in Canada's north living with the aboriginal community. I have some very real experiences of the differences between the aboriginals who happen to be registered with the government and those who for whatever reason were never registered. The difference in the way they are treated is incredible. Members of one part of the aboriginal community, and many of them share the same bloodline, are given almost everything they require and the others are given nothing.
I was employed by the government of Alberta for a period of time to bring self-government to that aboriginal community that was not registered with the Government of Canada. It was part of my responsibility to prepare that aboriginal community for self-government, how to run its own community, how to handle the ownership of property, because the Alberta government did give ownership to a community that had squatted on Crown land for generations.
There is a lot more to it than just a piece of paper and writing things in a statutory way. There are cultural differences. There are lifestyles. There are expectations and emotions. They all become part of being ready for self-government.
My hon. colleague from Wild Rose mentioned that not all of the aboriginal community agree with the direction in which the government is taking them, but they have lost their ability to express their concerns. We forget that it is our job to represent those concerns here before the bill is passed. We try in whatever way we can to say there are concerns and problems but once it is written in statute, it is very hard to undo, to change.
It is going to be very difficult for the people who find themselves somehow left out of this agreement. They are not going to have the same rights as all Canadians. They are not going to have the ability to own land. Many of the people who live on that reserve are not going to be able to vote for the taxes that they are going to be asked to pay, or for the representation that is going to supposedly represent their interests. How are they going to address some of the outfalls of this legislation? It is very important at the end of the day, whether we win or we lose, that this enter into the debate.
It is unparliamentary for members of any party in this House to think or to accuse that there are other motives when an individual, representing whomever, raises issues. Our job is to bring up all the issues and represent all sides of the question.
I would like to express some concerns that I have. Once again, the federal government, as my colleague from Wild Rose said, is rushing to sign on the dotted line to make something statutory. We are not looking far enough down the road and the what direction we should be taking with all Canadians, aboriginal communities and non-aboriginal communities. We should be looking at the broader, bigger picture of equality of all Canadians. We should be making sure that we do not have communities, whether they are aboriginal or non-aboriginal, living in poverty.
I have hands-on experience of the situations about which the member for Wild Rose spoke. I went to communities that I could only fly into. In the wintertime maybe they could drive, if the ground was frozen thick enough. These communities had a health nurse that came maybe every two or three weeks, if the nurse could get in.
I remember arriving at an airport in one community and a man was waiting for a ride out, if he could hitch one. Up in the north people hitch airplane rides, not car rides. He had a gash on his face that was taped together with Scotch tape. It was a deep gash that required stitches, but the health nurse would not be back for another couple of weeks. These people do without the help that we all assume is our right.
I brought potable water into the communities, and treated the water that they used for drinking and cooking purposes. These communities had high incidences of sickness because people were drinking the water from the lakes. In these communities all the houses are built around the lakes. For years, garbage and sewage and whatnot have been going into the lakes. The people drink the water from the lakes or rivers which is a problem.
In trying to deal with their health issues, we were trying to bring them services which we take for granted. Many of these communities do not have roads to connect one community to another. This is what the people want. They want to be able to contribute their opinions and run their communities.
I think the majority of them really do not care about the statutory framework that is being developed by government to allow them to run their communities. These people want to know that they can vote for their representatives. They want to know that they can own property. They want to know that they can develop their communities, develop a fire response team, develop a recreation board, develop good services. They want to be part of that.
They do not want a statutory document stating the parameters, that they will not be able to own their own homes; that we are not going to protect their charter rights, because for whatever reason we might be leaving them out of the charter; that we are not going to guarantee them a democratic government where they get to vote; that we are not going to guarantee any protection for the non-native people who live on the reserve.
I have had first-hand experience where people who had lived on a reserve for 50 years, for two or three generations, automatically overnight were kicked off the reserve for no good reason. No one protected them. It happens. It happened in Musqueam in Vancouver. Situations change overnight and affect the residents.
A statutory declaration or document is not going to protect the people. It may prevent them from developing and growing and running their own community in a natural course of events with people helping them to get to that level without it being a statutory document that encumbers them.
I want to share a story with the House. Senator Walter Twinn represented the area where I spent a good number of my adult years. Walter Twinn's success depended on his finding a loophole in a statutory document that allowed the aboriginal community to get its funds and decision making abilities out from under the control of the federal government. He went on from there to grow his community, to make an income, to hire them to create business and to take his reserve out of poverty. He did it because he found a way to get out of the statutory confinements that were created by the Government of Canada.
I would encourage the government to stop narrowing its thinking by one contract to another and to start looking at the big picture. What do we need to do to free our aboriginal people? I will not make the distinction between registered aboriginals and non-registered aboriginals. To me they all deserve an opportunity to become part of the mainstay of the Canadian population.
I urge the government of the day to think broader, to look longer term and to stop restraining communities through statutory documents.
View Val Meredith Profile
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak tonight in the emergency debate on the avian influenza that is affecting so many in our farm community in the Fraser Valley.
We heard a good number of speakers this evening, a lot of them from the Fraser Valley and elsewhere in British Columbia. This is just one more crisis that our province has had to face. We have had our economic challenges with softwood lumber, with the forest fires in the interior, with BSE on some of our more rural larger farms, and now this. It is the last thing we needed in our province.
Like many others, I just want to put a human face on this. For all of these farmers, there are families involved. They are small entrepreneurs, small business people. They depend on supply management to make sure that they are competitive, that they can stay in business. They depend on government support in times of crisis.
As many of my colleagues have mentioned, some of the programs that are set up for other areas of the agricultural community do not really make sense when transposed into this latest crisis. There has to be a different approach to the influenza crisis in the poultry industry.
It is not good enough to use a program intended for the potato crops in P.E.I. or the cattle in the BSE issue. We need to look at this as an individual case and how it is going to affect Canadian chicken production. It is not just chickens. I do not want to call it an overreaction because I think it is a natural attempt by the people who have been given the responsibility to contain this to get rid of anything that has feathers on it, but that overreaction has made the challenge of compensation even more difficult.
Part of the problem is in treating this like one would treat everything else, by getting rid of all of the stock and everything else with feathers on it. This is going to have a real impact not only in the Fraser Valley and not only in British Columbia but certainly in the whole country. The production that has just been lost in British Columbia will have to be replaced by the production in other provinces. We will have to deal with somehow increasing the production in the other provinces without taking away the production in the Fraser Valley, or in British Columbia. At some point, and hopefully sooner than later, British Columbia will need to retain its position and its percentage of production in the supply management of poultry and of egg producing.
It is a matter of making sure that our farmers and our small business people who are related to the poultry industry are compensated but also that the future production level will be replaced and will be kept. A colleague across the way is making commitments and assuring me that will happen, but we have learned from past experience that sometimes it does not happen. Once something is taken away we never quite get it back. I would want to make sure that the government has made assurances that the percentage of production that is guaranteed or given to the British Columbia producers is secure, that when this crisis is over they can depend on the fact that they have not lost some of their market.
I also want to share with Canadian consumers that it is still okay to eat chicken. For heaven's sake, do not stop using the product simply because of this issue. The Canadian government and the people who are hired to protect our food supply are doing a very good job of making sure that any of the product that reaches our store shelves, restaurants and kitchens is good healthy stock. The last thing we want is Canadians to stop using the product.
I want to personalize this. My area is at the far west end of the Fraser Valley. My area is probably the last one where we would find large production houses in poultry. We thought that this had been isolated to the eastern part of the Fraser Valley. It was with great surprise last week that one of the producers in my area, the Friesen family, found that it had travelled. It had travelled approximately 45 kilometres away, which enlarges the whole issue of how this is being transported.
My colleague who spoke before me raised a good point. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered. It is not good enough to react to a situation. We have to be asking ourselves how did it happen? How did this thing get out of control, when they thought they had it in a controlled hot zone? How do we make sure that what we are doing is effective?
Perhaps those questions are being asked. Maybe there are people who are dealing with it. However, that communication is not getting out to the people who need to know.
The people in the communities need to be part of the dialogue. Right now we are getting repeated stories in the newspapers highlighting the spread of the disease. There has to be better communication from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as to what is happening and what is being done. There needs to be greater discussion on the cooperation that we hope is there between the federal government and the provincial government in dealing with this.
A good communication plan would help the communities better understand what is being done for them. The communities would better understand that the threat to the health of people is being addressed. This would ease the concern of the consumer. This would ease the concern of not only the domestic market, but also the international market, that we do have it under control, that we are looking after it. There needs to be a better communication plan, so that there is a feeling that someone is in control, that it is being dealt with and the health of our food supply is being secured.
The compensation issue certainly has to be addressed. As a small business person myself, often the bottom line is very thin. The margins of profit and loss are very fine. The producers cannot afford to wait. Producers cannot afford to be given a small pittance of money to destroy a few chickens. What about replacing the stock when their barns are clean? What about buying feed? What about paying their suppliers? What about the suppliers? What about all the people who depend on the industry now? How are they going to survive potentially for six months, maybe eight months?
There are many questions about compensation that have to be answered. The questions have to be answered quickly so that people can make plans. If small business people are to be asked to be without income for six or eight months, they have to start making plans now on how they are going to get through that period without a cash flow.
I do not know if people are getting these answers. I do not know that there is even communication in place to explain to people what is available. I do not know if the government has come up with a plan for them. I do know that the producers cannot wait for an indefinite period of time to get some of these answers, so that they can start doing their planning to see that they get through this crisis.
I hope the government is putting its mind to this compensation issue and to a communication plan. I hope the government will make sure that all of the producers are well aware of what their options are and that they are given options. I hope the producers are able to see their way through this crisis and continue the level of production that is guaranteed to them.
In closing, I would like to see the government put in writing that there is protection of the B.C. market in the poultry industry.
View Val Meredith Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure, as one of my last acts here in Parliament, to present a petition on behalf of some of my constituents.
The petitioners call upon Parliament to pass legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being the lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.
View Val Meredith Profile
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak this one last time in the House of Commons. This will probably be my last attempt at effecting change from the government.
It is appropriate that the bill that I should be speaking to is one of democratic principles. I ran in 1988 based on the need to bring democratic principles back to the Canadian electoral system. This bill is a result of the Supreme Court of Canada acknowledging that the legislation that the government had put into place was not democratic.
This bill is addressing the decision of the Supreme Court that it was undemocratic to require a party to run 50 candidates in an election. If two people wanted to represent a party to represent a cause, an idea or an issue, that should be allowed as long as there were some other things they managed to do, and that is to show that they had some following and some people agreed with their position.
The bill that has been introduced to address the Supreme Court's decision allows one individual, if that is what it is, with 250 signatures in support and with at least 4 officers representing that party, to run in an election in order to raise the issues.
This is important because in 1987 the Reform Party talked about the need to form a party in order to raise some of the issues on democratic reform, electoral reform, economic reform and judicial reform, and to be held to a certain standard. Putting those ideas out to the population would have been very restrictive. Under the new legislative guidelines that the Liberal government tried to bring in, it is questionable whether the Reform Party of Canada would ever have gotten off the ground.
As I have said, it is very apropos that in my last speech in the House of Commons I should be defending the principles of democratic reform, in that any Canadian who seeks to put ideas before the electorate of change and moving our country forward should not be stopped by legislation in the House.
If anything, we should be opening up the process and that is what Bill C-3 does. It opens up the process so that Canadians have the freedom to express their concerns through the electoral system.
I would like to take this opportunity, as it is my last time in the House, to thank the constituents of South Surrey—White Rock—Langley for their support over the last 10 and a half years. I have been honoured to represent them. I feel I have done a good job on their behalf in the House and on behalf of the Conservative Party, the Canadian Alliance, and the Reform Party before that, in moving forward legislative changes that would give Canadians a greater voice and that would give my constituents a better life in this country.
I want to take the opportunity to thank them and to acknowledge that I could not have done it without their support. I look forward to the days ahead of me where I will continue to live and work in the community.
Perhaps I will be on the other side of the fence putting pressure on the new representative to ensure that change moves forward and that we always strive for what is best for all Canadians and for our country. We should have the courage to look ahead and take the bold steps that are required if we are ever going to deal with some of the most serious problems we have in our country, whether it is on the security issues that we spoke of earlier today or on health care.
I, and a lot of Canadians, have a great fear that 20 years from now we will not have any health care system to speak of. It is essential for the people who sit in the House to have the courage to look at how we can do things differently and in a way that will secure our health care for future generations.
We must also ensure that our country is competitive and that we raise our stature in the international community. We must think big and we must be bold in the steps that we take.
I only hope and wish that the people who replace me here and who move on in the years to come have the courage to do the right thing for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to thank my constituents and to speak to this bill. I believe it is a good move by the government to recognize the democratic principles that are so important to having a free and democratic country.
View Val Meredith Profile
Mr. Speaker, Canadians have long accepted the fact that Bombardier is the favoured child of the Prime Minister and that special treatment is always a factor.
The Auditor General is looking into one of the latest questionable deals: the purchase of two Challenger jets for the Prime Minister. Now we learn that government officials rode on a subsidized Bombardier jet to its plant in St. Louis for this purchase.
Does the Deputy Prime Minister think this is acceptable?
View Val Meredith Profile
Mr. Speaker, some of the bureaucrats involved in the trip to St. Louis on a Bombardier plane knew that it was a conflict of interest. They realized that by using a supplier's plane, it compromised the impartiality that the civil service is required to maintain.
Employees of defence, public works and Transport Canada knew that using Bombardier's plane was unethical.
Does the Deputy Prime Minister admit that the unethical behaviour in cabinet makes it difficult to enforce Treasury Board guidelines in the bureaucracy?
View Val Meredith Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this supply day motion put before the House by the hon. member for Wild Rose. I know he has been trying for quite some time to get this issue on the floor.
I would like to perhaps make this a little more personal. As a mother and a grandmother, it causes me great concern with the way our society is going as far as protecting its children.
When I was a young woman living in Slave Lake, Alberta, the community was putting together a day care to provide a safe place for young children to spend their day. We had a visit from a police officer from Edmonton who spoke to us in general terms about the abuse of young children. I can remember being unable to comprehend what she was telling us. She told us that young children, even those a few months old, had been sexually assaulted by adults. I found it hard to accept that an adult could do that sort of thing to a baby. She assured me that this was in fact a case file, that it was not a made up story and that cases like that did happen.
Over the last 10 years I have been subjected to people coming to my office who are concerned that the laws of the land do not protect younger children, even those 14 years of age. There was such a case in my own constituency. A 27 year old had taken a 14 year old girl out of her home with her consent and they were living together. The parents of that 14 year old child could do nothing about it.
I am not alone in caring about this issue. I will be sharing my time with the member for Crowfoot who also is concerned as are, I would hope, most members in the House.
A number of issues need to be addressed when we talk about the protection of our children. One of those issues is the fact that we as adults have to take responsibility for protecting children. We have to ensure that society takes that responsibility seriously. Not only do we have to ensure that the police and legal people who take these cases to court take this seriously, but we have to ensure that judges and those people who determine sentences take these situations seriously as well.
There has been a lot of debate as to the legal parameters of when child pornography is pornography and when it is artistic merit. We know that children are being hurt either directly or indirectly when we see a picture or anything depicting children in an inappropriate sexual situation.
As a parent and as a grandparent, I am more concerned about the psychological damage done to young people who find themselves being abused and being made the victim of filming or whatever to satisfy an adult's needs. The statistics show the damage done to those young people. Survivors struggle with depression, low self-esteem, self-blame, dissatisfaction with life, anxiety, disassociations, splitting between the mind and the body and difficulties in relationships. The list goes on and on of how young children end up responding to situations that they have no control over goes.
Being used as an instrument in the creation of pornography is something that a young person knows is not acceptable, yet often that material is used to coerce them into keeping quiet and continuing with the process.
Others before me have mentioned how, through the Internet, invasive child pornography has become. There was a case in the Toronto area where a 32 year old man was arrested for taking pictures of young women at different places in society, bus stops, stores, and even in bathrooms. He was using these images to further whatever. He has been charged. The question is what kind of penalty will he receive in the courts?
Canadians are concerned about that. Statistics will show that Canadians are concerned that the courts are not dealing with this in a proper manner. One source from the Ottawa Citizen says that in 1999 the Ontario Provincial Police pornography investigation unit executed 59 search warrants, laid 110 charges, arrested 28 people and performed 134 investigations. Unfortunately, what happens is these cases do not manage to get through the courts with any meaningful sentencing.
Therefore, Canadians are left with the feeling that not enough is being done, that the laws are not specific enough, that the courts can convict but that they not be taking this as seriously as Canadians do.
A Pollara poll taken last year found that 76 respondents agreed that passing a stronger child pornography law should be a high priority for the federal government. I do not think the government has even dealt with this. I know Bill C-20 is before the House, but most people are saying that it does not come anywhere close to dealing with the issue of child pornography.
Some 86% of Canadians disagree with the recent B.C. decision acquitting John Robin Sharpe of possession and distribution of child pornography. It is quite clear to me, and it should be clear to the House, that Canadians do not feel this government or the courts are doing enough to protect our children.
As was said before me, our most valuable asset is our children. We in the House have a duty to them to do everything possible to ensure that they are protected, and I include 14 year olds. I do not know how many members have 14 year old children or grandchildren, but let me say, they are not very mature. They may think they know what is good for them and they may think they know what they should be doing, but I can assure everyone, they do not.
One place for us to start is to recognize that a 14 year old is a child and that, as a child, they are not in a position of giving their consent to an adult relationship. I am not talking about a teenage to teenage relationship. Other countries have shown, as we have in the past, that close to age consent is something quite different. However, we owe it to our children to ensure that we do not have children in adult relationships that are inappropriate. We owe it to our children to ensure that they are not used as victims to create pornography that is used for purposes, which none of us here can possibly support. We owe it to our children to ensure that we do everything possible to protect them in the future.
I speak with an impassioned plea to those across the way to support this motion and to support the fact that the House broadly condemns the use of child pornography in Canadian society and that we ask the government and the courts to take it seriously because that is what Canadians want.
View Val Meredith Profile
Mr. Speaker, it sounds like a reasonable approach. As the hon. member said, a lot of children now are using the Internet.
It is also the responsibility of the parents to ensure they know what their children are watching or doing on the Internet. It is also incumbent upon the parents to put those kinds of things into the system which blocks out that kind of material.
However, I think we will have to expand our imagination as to how we control the use of cyberspace, as my hon. colleague called it. We have been able to do some of it. We have been able to control the promotion of hate material, so I certainly think the same can be done for promoting child pornography.
View Val Meredith Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his questions and comments.
It does not take too much to realize that someone can be crawling along the ground and still be leading. I do not think the government can take any credit for leading anybody in issues such as this.
If the government feels that what it is doing is leading, then I would hate to think what it would do if it was following. My response to that is one is judged by their actions, not by their words.
View Val Meredith Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear to us that the minister is waffling on answering this very direct question. The question is very clear.
What the minister has said is that perhaps it is the regulations that do not allow all widows to be covered under this program. My question to the minister is, will he see that the regulations are changed by order in council to include all widows, so that all widows, regardless of the timing of their husbands' deaths, will qualify for this program?
View Val Meredith Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to the bill brought forward by my colleague and neighbour, Bill C-338, on street racing.
I will not duplicate what others before me have said but I will talk about what street racing is. I do not think it is a new phenomenon. It is not something that is just here now. Movies like Grease and others show that it has been around. What is really different about street racing today is the cars and the attitudes. In today's world we have young people who perhaps have a little bit too much money, a little bit too much time on their hands and very little regard for the people outside their own circle of friends.
The situation calls for much more than this legislation. However what I think my colleague is attempting to say is that where it is happening and where the courts and police are able to convict the perpetrators, the courts must deal with it in a more serious way.
We must send a message to our young people that if they want to race their cars they should go to an area that has been set aside for racing vehicles and which has safety measures in place in case something goes wrong. That would take them out of a situation where innocent people could be hurt or killed.
Vancouver has had more than its fair share of incidents where young people, usually in the evening, have prearranged locations where they race each other down city streets with regular traffic. Young people, generally, do not have the experience to handle the situations in which they find themselves and sometimes they lose control of their cars. These situations are dangerous, not only for themselves and their passengers, but also for people who happen to be crossing the street, walking down the sidewalk or who are driving their own vehicles and just happen to get in the way.
I am also a little concerned that in some situations, although the cars are being impounded and therefore there is a financial cost to street racing, what has not been said is that those impounded cars generally go back to the family, usually the parents because they own the car. Therefore the cars are not being taken away and impounded for long periods of time.
The actual penalty these young people are receiving is having to stay home for a couple of months or receiving probation and having to talk to a probation officer. From incidents that have been recited earlier, a lot of these young people, who have the attitude that causes the problem in the first place, totally disregard the fact that they do not have a driver's licence any more and are on probation, go out and are caught speeding again without a licence. There have to be tougher penalties for those who have a reckless attitude and who think they can flaunt the law and the court orders given to them.
A stronger message has to be sent to these young people but it cannot be done through the police. The police are doing all they can. They have increased the unmarked police vehicles which have video systems so that they can record the activity for evidence in court appearances. All the detachments in the area have new radar units, at least in British Columbia. They are getting more equipment like spiked belts so that speeding cars can be stopped. However unless the courts follow up on activities in which the police are involved, how on earth are we to send a lasting message to these young people?
I have read articles where places are being created for these races in Ontario. There is a place in Mission, B.C., where they can race in a safe environment. It is not that they cannot get it out of their system somewhere. It is that they have a reckless disregard for the safety not only of themselves, but of other people by racing on city streets. It will take a lot more effort than what the government has seemingly been willing to do.
My colleague from Surrey North gave a very logical reason of why he is doing it. He gave a dissertation of the support that he has received from all provinces across the country. Yet the response from the government was that because it was not a government bill and because it did not come up with the idea, it will find some reason not to support it.
Frankly, I am becoming tired with that kind of attitude from the Liberals across the way. Not all good ideas come from the Liberal Party and it is about time that it accepted that.
When Liberals deliberately take an issue such as this and find some small, irrelevant reason not to support the concept, then they should present a better form. If there are problems with the fact that they do not like the minimum sentences and that they do not like this or that, then why do they not come up with some amendments or some way that it can be advanced in a better form?
I think Canadians want minimum sentences. Canadians are tired of seeing the courts disregarding the feelings that Canadians have toward their laws and where their laws should be going. I do not think Canadians want to see young people who are caught racing convicted of reckless driving. Causing bodily harm or death is another thing.
With reckless driving, Canadians do not want young people locked away and the key thrown away. However, Canadians want to have a serious enough penalty that young people are not going to be reoffending. Canadians want them to see that this is not a fun and cool thing to be doing. This is a criminal act and there is a criminal price to pay.
I am sorry that the Liberals do not seem to think that Canadians have the right to care. However, Canadians do care. Canadians understand that the next time they are on a city street they may be the ones ending up in a wrecked vehicle with a loved one dead beside them at the side of a road caused by young people racing in cars with a total disregard for other people on the road.
Canadians are concerned about this issue and the Liberal government should also be concerned.
If the Liberals have some concerns about the way this legislation is put together they should not just defeat it for the sake of defeating it because it is not their idea. The government should help put it in a form that will be acceptable to all. I think I am right in assuming that the government would find that most of the opposition parties would support the bill. Instead of turning it down point blank, let us get it in a form that would be acceptable to the government.
Let us ensure that the reason that we are doing this is to protect Canadians. We are not only protecting Canadians but protecting the young people who are becoming involved in this reckless activity. Let us ensure that the message that is given to them is a very strong message in order to discourage that kind of behaviour.
View Val Meredith Profile
Madam Speaker, I have listened with interest and I do not disagree with some of the comments that have identified. There is a higher population of aboriginals in our corrections systems. I really find it amazing that their logic would say it will solve everything by giving them special sentences after they have committed crimes. I do not buy that.
I spent 15 years in Canada's north. I lived in a community that was 50% aboriginal. The aboriginal community got high offices on our local council because we treated them as equals. They ran businesses and were treated with respect in the business community because we treated them as equals. They rose to significant influence in our community because the community treated them as equals.
To have this philosophy that the only way aboriginal people will rise from oppression is by treating them differently is false. Our justice system is based on all people will be treated fairly and equally under the law. The fact that aboriginals have horrible living conditions on reserves will not be resolved by giving them special consideration under law.
What they need is substantial support from the federal government. The federal government has to stop treating them like children and stop denying them their proper place in society. The government does not give them good health care, which is its responsibility and it does not give them good education, which is also the government's responsibility.
Yes, there is a high suicide rate among young people on reserves. Yes, there are poor living conditions on reserves. We should be dealing with those kinds of issues.
To in law assume that it is only aboriginals who live in poverty is not true. Many non-aboriginal people live in poverty. Many non-aboriginal people are uneducated, do not have jobs and incomes and are on welfare and social assistance. To say that the way to solve all problems is to treat them differently in law will not resolve those issues.
To take our legal system and break it down on special conditions for this and special considerations for that, that has already happened. It is not codified. It is not written down in law. When a judge looks at all the circumstances and deals with anyone who appears before the court who has committed a crime, all these circumstances that have a place in the crime which was committed are taken into consideration by the judge when a sentence comes down, and so it should be.
We have argued that much of this does not need to be codified because it is already in practice. However, when we start codifying stuff, then we are starting to say that the law is not equal and is not fair. When we go down that slippery slope, we start breaking down what law is and what the justice system is to Canadians.
I do not argue with my colleagues that something is wrong and that a higher percentage of aboriginals are in our prisons and system. I do not argue that it is because of deplorable circumstances and living conditions. However, I do argue that codifying that a judge has to take that into special consideration and treat that person differently than they would treat a non-aboriginal is wrong. This is not the way to go.
When we look at the circumstances, I know the federal government spends a lot more money on different programs, restorative justice programs for the aboriginal people, and that is good. However that does not deal with the inherent problem that causes the higher number of aboriginal people to be in the court system.
We have to break down some of the prejudices that we see in perhaps our policing community that will throw an aboriginal in the drunk tank but take a non-aboriginal home. We have to change that attitude because it is not right. We have to change the attitude of some people who might say that these people do not have any better place to go so we should incarcerate them.
I know of a personal case in the community in which I was raised. A person who did not have a place to live was left alone during the summertime, but come fall he would be incarcerated because some people decided he would at least have a roof over his head and three meals a day.
Those are the wrong reasons for putting a person behind bars, but it was done for compassionate reasons. This guy would end up spending his time locked away during the winter months because people were concerned about his health and well-being, There has to be a better way for society to handle that sort of thing.
We have to deal with those kinds of issues that may skew some of these numbers. This comes down to root causes such as poverty, poor living conditions, poor health conditions or poor education. This does not happen just on reserves. A large community of aboriginals in Canada are not treaty Indians and do not get the protection of the federal government, albeit it is not much protection. That aboriginal community needs something.
Those aboriginals need economic development in their communities so that they can get jobs and have pride in having work and having income. We can restore their sense of pride because they do not have to depend on federal government largesse and, in essence, the federal government treating them like children.
We need to do something substantial, but treating them separately and differently is not the way to do it. The aboriginal community will only become accepted in our society as equals when we as a society start treating them as equals. By always separating them, making special conditions for them and treating them as different, we will never reach a point where we are treating them as equals. I know this from my own experience in the community where we have a large native population. Only when they are treated as equals, will we be able to meet them face to face as equals.
My colleague who presented the amendment in Bill C-416 is only trying to get down to the basic point of the law, which is to treat all Canadians with fairness and with equality.
I rest my case. That is the essence of this issue. There are problems with our aboriginal people, but let us deal with those problems. Let us not get mixed up in corrupting a legal system to deal with problems that do not belong there.
View Val Meredith Profile
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon to speak on Bill C-49, which is hopefully going to make certain the parameters under which we go into the next federal election.
I would like to support my colleague from North Vancouver who brought his concern about the uncertainty that we were facing with the new boundary redistribution. He tried to find some way to make it easier for all constituencies across the country to deal with this issue.
In my riding, we have a particular situation where for the first time in a long time--more time than we would have liked--Langley will have its own constituency when the election is called. It is hard to organize a brand new riding unless there is some certainty in the process. I would commend my colleague for seeing some of the problems and coming up with suggestions on how to deal with them.
This bill would allow constituency associations to get organized in preparation for the new boundaries after January. Considering that there will probably be a spring election, I think it is imperative that the new boundaries come into effect in order to bring at least some attempt to equalize representation in this country. I do not know if Canadians are aware of the discrepancy that we have in representation.
I wish to criticize Elections Canada for having only numbers based on the 1991 census on its website. It is abhorrent that Canada's election organization is at least 10 years behind the times with its numbers. However, even using those numbers, I want Canadians to know why British Columbians have a concern with their representation in the House of Commons.
I want to share with them that, as of 1991, in Prince Edward Island one member of Parliament represented 32,441 people. And we all know how populations have grown, particularly in my home province of British Columbia. In British Columbia, at that time, one member of Parliament represented 93,773 people.
Considering that our democratic system, and particularly the House of Commons, is based on the concept of one person-one vote, it is hard to convince my constituents that 93,000-plus equals the 32,000-plus in Prince Edward Island.
There is a concern in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario that this discrepancy would not really be looked after by these boundary redistributions and things would not change very much. I am at a loss to explain to my constituents, many of whom are concerned about the growth of this place, that Parliament would not be able to maintain the number of seats and just increase the representation, nor would it be able to reduce the number of seats.
The United States, over the last 90 years, has maintained the number of seats in congress. The population distribution is within half a per cent as far as one congressman representing X number of constituents. So we have this example of this very close representation on the concept of one person-one vote. Then we have Canada with the discrepancy I mentioned, with 32,400 in Prince Edward Island and 93,700 in British Columbia.
It gets worse. Alberta has the greatest discrepancy. It has 97,900-plus people. This, again, is using 1991 figures. It does not take too much to suggest that Alberta and B.C. were probably two of the faster growing provinces over that period of time.
Keeping that in mind, it does bring to light some of the problems that we have with equal representation in the House of Commons.
The bill at least allows for the next election to be fought with an increase in a number of seats in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. My concern is that this is just a drop in the bucket as far as bringing equity into our parliamentary system.
I do not think Canadians are aware that Alberta and British Columbia have been allocated six senators and New Brunswick, which is a considerably smaller province, has ten senators; that the western provinces of Alberta, B.C., Manitoba and Saskatchewan have 24 senators and the Atlantic provinces have 30 senators.
Some of it is historic. Some of it is covered under the Constitution, but I think it is time that all Canadians put their heads around the issue of equal representation in the House.
I know that there was an amendment in 1985 to our Constitution that froze representation. It said that no province could lose representation regardless of population distribution. How do we think that makes people feel in some of the larger provinces like British Columbia, which is the third largest province in the country, when they know that, forever basically, unless we get our heads around it and change it, they will never have the representation in Parliament that their population justifies?
I must bring forward these issues because they are of great importance to our citizens. However, the proposed legislation does at least allow some semblance of trying to even the playing field, although it falls far short of coming anywhere close to it.
The Bloc members have raised some concerns. I do not really understand what their concerns are. I do not know why they would feel that Canadians should not be more represented based on population. It is not undermining the representation that they have in their province. I fail to see why they would not want to have some certainty in allowing the future to play a part in the next election.
As I mentioned earlier in my comments, this legislation is there just to bring certainty to support constituencies in their effort to organize before April 1 when the bill becomes a done deal.
I want to add my comments to those of other colleagues who are in support of bringing certainty to the process of making it easier for candidates who wish to run in the next election and have the opportunity to organize and be prepared. The legislation would also recognize communities like Langley city and Langley township which have for a great number of years been tag-alongs with other parts of other communities and never having one voice, one person to attend to their needs.
I am sorry I will not be representing Langley city. I have in the past represented part of Langley township and I will miss representing it. I am very happy that in the next election Langley will be able to vote for its own member of Parliament who will be able to give full attention to that one constituency. Therefore, it is very important that the proposed legislation make it through the process and be proclaimed before the next federal election is called.
I wish to thank the House for the opportunity of putting in my two cents' worth and wish that the Bloc members would support the bill because it is important for those parts of Canada which are terribly under-represented and will be for many years.
View Val Meredith Profile
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister wrapped up a two day summit with the 21 Pacific rim leaders at the APEC summit. These included the Malaysian prime minister who last week said:
The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy.
They get others to fight and die for them.
World leaders from Australia, Germany, Italy, Spain and the European Union condemned his comments. President Bush took the opportunity at the APEC summit to pull him aside and tell him his comments were wrong and divisive.
The Prime Minister has once again failed to voice Canadian values and looked weak and unconcerned. Why did the other world leaders recognize the need to criticize Mahathir's comments?
Canada's Prime Minister should represent Canadian values and have condemned the Malaysian prime minister's statements.
The Prime Minister's legacy has been not to offend any world leader's comments except, of course, those of our traditional allies, the British and the Americans.
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