Parliamentary Wrap-Up For The Week Of June 15 - 19, 2015

Updates on Key Legislation pertaining to First Nations

Please note: LEGISinfo, a website maintained by the Library of Parliament, provides comprehensive information on all legislation: http://www.parl.gc.ca/LegisInfo/Home.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&ParliamentSession=41-2

Bill C-33: First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act

  • Passed 2nd reading on May 5, 2014.  The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development announced that the bill will be held pending clarification of the position of First Nations. The pre-study initiated by the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples has also been put on hold.
  • Now that a new Parliament will be in place when the House of Commons reconvenes, this Bill cannot proceed.

 

Bill C-46: Pipelines Safety Act

  • Received Royal Assent on June 18, 2015.  Regional Chief Cameron Alexis presented to the Committee on June 2, 2015.  AFN’s submission can be found on www.afn.ca.
    • The Bill introduces absolute liability for all NEB-regulated pipelines, meaning that companies will be liable for costs and damages irrespective of fault — up to $1 billion for major oil pipelines; companies continue to have unlimited liability when at fault or negligent; provides the NEB authority to order reimbursement of any cleanup costs incurred by governments, communities or individuals; and provides the NEB authority and resources to assume control of incident response if a company is unable or unwilling to do so (i.e., in exceptional circumstances).

 

Bill C-51: Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015

  • Received Royal Assent on June 18, 2015. 
  • National Chief Bellegarde presented to the committee on March 12, 2015 and a written submission has been provided to the House of Commons and Senate committees.  These are available on www.afn.ca.
  • Under Part 1 of the ATA 2015, an “activity that undermines the security of Canada” includes: (a) interference with the capability of the Government of Canada in relation to intelligence, defence, border operations, public safety, the administration of justice, diplomatic or consular relations, or the economic or financial stability of Canada; (b) changing or unduly influencing a government in Canada by force or unlawful means; (d) terrorism; (f) interference with critical infrastructure. This definition could be problematic for First Nations who have marched across or set up blockades at the border of the United States and Canada, First Nations who have called for action on a specific file by setting up a blockade along a major highway, or who block access to a road or railway.
  • There is also a concern that that Bill C-51 would criminalize speech and intent, not just action; lower the requirement to detain people without due process; and allow security agencies unrestricted access to Canadians’ tax records, online communication, and travel plans.

 

Bill C-59: Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 

  • Omnibus bill to implement provisions of Budget 2015; currently at 3rd reading in the Senate.
  • Division 16 amends the First Nations Fiscal Management Act – these amendments have been proposed by the First Nations Financial Management Board, the First Nations Tax Commission and the First Nations Finance Authority to enable greater efficiency for First Nations.

 

Bill S-6: Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act.

  • Received Royal Assent on June 18, 2015.
  • Amends the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act to provide that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 does not apply in Yukon, to allow for the coordination of reviews of transboundary projects, to establish time limits for environmental assessments and to establish a cost recovery regime.
  • Yukon First Nations have assessed that the Bill infringes their Treaty rights and has been imposed without Crown consultation and accommodation.

 

Highlights in the House of Commons

June 16, 2015
Abenaki Museum 

Mr. Louis Plamondon (Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, BQ):  

Mr. Speaker, 50 years ago, the Abenaki Museum opened its doors to visitors who wanted to discover Abenaki culture and heritage: 50 years of collaboration with the Odanak community.

To mark the occasion, a new exhibit will pay tribute to all those who founded the museum, supported it and kept it going all these years. This exceptional exhibit runs until December 23, 2016. It is a must-see.

Since 2011, the museum has won 11 recognition awards. In a little more than six months, the museum won four awards of excellence and recognition: the Société des musées du Québec Excellence Award, the National Aboriginal Cultural Tourism Award, the Quebec Aboriginal Tourism Award in the Interpretation Site category, and the Canadian Museums Association Award of Excellence.

The museum earned these awards of distinction for its innovative archeological projects and for its research, which promotes understanding and learning. I invite my colleagues to not only come visit the Abenaki Museum this summer, but also and especially to come discover and learn about the rich heritage of the Abenaki people.

 

June 17, 2015 

The Environment

Mr. Murray Rankin (Victoria, NDP):  

Mr. Speaker, just off the coast of my riding is a cluster of islands in the Salish Sea that encompasses the best marine and coastal environment in urban Canada. Home to migratory birds, rare plants, orca whales and sacred sites for the Songhees First Nation, today these are under-protected and under threat. Lack of coordination and enforcement have left them vulnerable, and we must act now to prevent further damage.

The University of Victoria' s Environmental Law Centre has studied the legal designations available to protect this area and preserve the uses, rights and title of the Songhees First Nation. Many of these designations require the direct support of the federal government. Others require Ottawa to work with the Songhees First Nation, the province of British Columbia, and the municipality of Oak Bay.

As our community considers the options in this new report, I hope we will find a true partner in Ottawa. We have a rare moment to save a precious environment, so let us work together.

 

Aboriginal Affairs

Hon. Thomas Mulcair (Leader of the Opposition, NDP):  

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have already decided, and they want change.

Did the Prime Minister ask Pope Francis to apologize on behalf of the Catholic Church for its involvement in the horrors of residential schools?

[Translation]

Did the Prime Minister ask Pope Francis to apologize on behalf of the Catholic Church for its involvement in the residential schools?

I am not interested in what document was submitted. He met with the Pope. Did he ask for an apology or not?

[English]

Did he ask for an apology, yes or no?

 

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  

Mr. Speaker, this government has apologized for that. We have brought to the attention of the Pope and the Catholic Church the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It will be up to the Catholic Church to decide how to respond to the recommendations that are pertinent to it.

The kind of change Canadians are seeking is change that means more prosperity, lower taxes and greater trade. That is the kind of change they are looking for. They are not looking for the high tax, protectionist, anti-prosperity agenda of the NDP.

 

Aboriginal Affairs

Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP):  

Mr. Speaker, four decades after the waterways around Grassy Narrows were contaminated, a new report has revealed that the mercury levels in parts of the English-Wabigoon river system are increasing. The mercury is an obvious risk to the health of the Grassy Narrows First Nation, but despite this, there has not been any adequate study of the impact of these levels on people's health.

A new report calls for a comprehensive study to be concluded. Will the government support this study, yes or no?

Hon. Bernard Valcourt (Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):  

Mr. Speaker, the health and well-being of first nations is a priority for our government, and we continue to work with the Mercury Disability Board and the Province of Ontario to support their work in addressing the issue of mercury contamination. We have been working in partnership with the first nation and the Province of Ontario for a number of years, and that good co-operation and work will continue.

Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP):  

Mr. Speaker, there is yet no answer to this question for the people of Grassy Narrows First Nation.

Let us move on to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women.

This Friday, the RCMP is expected to publish a report talking about this ongoing tragedy. Indigenous people have called for the full analysis and details of what numbers are out there so that all systemic factors can be addressed and analyzed. This evidence should come before an inquiry as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has also recommended.

When will the government take seriously the issue of the national epidemic that is missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada?

Mrs. Cathy McLeod (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and for Western Economic Diversification, CPC):  

Mr. Speaker, these are terrible crimes against innocent people, and the RCMP said in its own study that the vast majority of these cases are addressed and solved through police investigations.

We do not need another study. We have already had over 40 studies that have been done. We need to move forward with the action plan that is going to improve the lives of women and children living on reserves.

 

Aboriginal Affairs

Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP):  

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise here today to continue the pressure on an issue I raised in this House a few weeks ago.

A question that I repeatedly asked both as the NDP aboriginal affairs critic and as the member of Parliament for Churchill is how the government can justify egregiously long wait times when dealing with indigenous communities.

First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people are bucking under the lack of attention and response on issue after issue. When it comes to first nations settling land claims, implementing treaties, claiming treaty land entitlements, and creating additions to reserves, the government needs to act. Nations are waiting for the government to enable them to create economic opportunities for the prosperity and welfare of their people and across the country in all regions.

Unfortunately, it is the glacial response or sheer inaction on the part of the minister and his department that is standing in the way.

I am here to raise the issue faced by the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, or NCN, a first nation in northern Manitoba that has been attempting to convert an addition to reserve package known as the Mystery Lake parcel for 12 long years. The minister has given no reason for the delay, which is costing the first nation millions of dollars. That is money that could be spent to improve the lives of their people.

Chief Marcel Moody from NCN came all the way to Ottawa to advocate for his people. He testified at our aboriginal affairs committee, where he said:

 

We've been trying to convert that property to an urban reserve for the last 12 years. It's been a slow and cumbersome process. ...

 

It has taken that long. Over that time we have lost between $20 million and $30 million because that property hasn't been converted to a reserve. ...

 

 

The support from the mayor and council of Thompson has been great. ...The support has been always been there from Thompson. It's a process that's so slow, and it really impedes our ability to move forward as a community.

My question to the government is this: when will the President of the Treasury Board and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development move to sign the NCN addition to reserve?

In most cases when the government is delaying ATR implementation, it is the municipalities that are ready and willing partners in the exchange. In fact, when Chief Moody came to testify at the aboriginal affairs committee, so did Tim Johnston, the previous mayor of Thompson. He spoke in support of the first nation:

 

One of the comments we make is that the challenge, when we're talking access to capital, is that we have to encourage first nations to create capital. Unfortunately, right now, at the federal level there are real challenges with doing that between programs and policies among departments, which counteract, in many ways, the ability of first nations to accumulate wealth.

 

Mystery Lake is a prime example of this problem. The process has been under way for 12 years, including many years prior to that in negotiations. ...This is absolutely a shame.

The NCN's Mystery Lake package is a done deal and will work to benefit both the first nation, the City of Thompson, and our region as a whole. It is only now being stalled because the government is not prioritizing this case.

I repeat: when will the President of the Treasury Board and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development move to sign the NCN addition to reserve? 

Ms. Roxanne James (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, CPC):  

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the question from the member for Churchill.

Our government is committed to improving community access to lands and resources and simplifying processes for additions to reserves. Completing additions to reserves is part of our government's overall commitment to helping unlock the economic potential of reserve land. We understand the benefits that increased economic activity on reserve land brings to first nation communities. It increases their self-sufficiency and allows them to participate more fully in Canada's economy.

Since forming government, we have been committed to improving the Indian Act land administration to promote economic development on reserve and to provide first nations with the tools they need to take greater control of their own affairs. For example, by clarifying processes and improving alignment with provincial and municipal practices, the land designation and additions to reserve processes have become far more streamlined than in the past.

Our government supports the treaty land entitlement process in Manitoba, which includes the Cree nation mentioned by the member. We know that the fulfillment of treaty land entitlement agreements assists in building partnerships and spurring economic development on reserves and in surrounding communities. Businesses and citizens of nearby communities are able to feel the effects of the increased prosperity enjoyed by first nations in the area.

Adding land to reserve is just one way in which we are working with first nations to drive economic participation and job creation in aboriginal communities.

Our government also continues to support the first nations land management regime. This very successful first nation-led initiative enables first nations to manage their own lands, resources and environment outside the limitations imposed by the Indian Act. Currently, this regime has benefited 94 first nations across the country.

Our government remains focused on ensuring Cree nations benefit from economic opportunities such as these. This is one of the most effective ways to improve the well-being and quality of life of aboriginal people in Canada. Our government is committed to working with first nations so that more first nations can access lands, resources and economic opportunities. 

Ms. Niki Ashton:  

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member of the government for her response. Many of us have said that the government has made a commitment to treaty land entitlement and additions to reserve. However, the issue here is not what has been said. The issue is the lack of action.

What I would ask of the member and the government is to move on the application that has been made by NCN, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, on the specific parcel that is truly only awaiting an approval by the President of the Treasury Board. Obviously, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs is also involved.

This is an addition to reserve situation. It is something the municipality is firmly behind. It is something that our region desperately needs. Obviously, the first nation is asking for this to be done as soon as possible. When will this addition to reserve be completed?

Ms. Roxanne James:  

Mr. Speaker, as I have already said, our government is committed to improving community access to lands and working collaboratively with first nations to deliver on our additions to reserve commitments.

Expanding the reserve land base through additions to reserve is an important mechanism by which first nations can foster economic development in their own communities. That is why our government remains committed to working with all Cree nations. We understand that improving the additions to reserve can create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity in first nation communities right across our country. This benefits not only aboriginal communities, but all Canadians. 

 

June 18, 2015
Aboriginal Affairs

Ms. Megan Leslie (Halifax, NDP):  

Mr. Speaker, the facts are well known, and women across Canada live the reality of gender-based violence every single day. However, indigenous women face the starkest reality. They are more than three times more likely to be victims of violence and seven times more likely to be murdered.

In order to end this violence, we need to come to grips with the factors that cause it. Why is the government refusing to listen to indigenous women who are calling for an inquiry to do just that?

Hon. K. Kellie Leitch (Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, CPC):  

Mr. Speaker, as I have said before, these are terrible crimes against innocent people, and the best way of dealing with these issues is to make sure that we are taking action. This has been studied many times over, but what aboriginal women have told me across this country is that we need action. That is why we tabled in this House an action plan in September 2014 to move forward on preventative projects to make sure that there is support for the victims of these terrible crimes as well as to make sure that they are protected. I still do not understand why the opposition members refuse to support that action plan.

Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP):  

Mr. Speaker, what indigenous peoples are saying and what we are saying is that it is time for the toxic current government to go.

[Translation]

The Aboriginal Economic Progress Report was released yesterday. We see that equality of aboriginal and non-aboriginal people will not be achieved even by 2022. First nations on reserve had the worst results for almost all indicators, including employment and education.

How does the minister explain such a disastrous record?

Hon. Bernard Valcourt (Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):  

Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, we welcome this report and we thank the committee for its work.

Our government understands that economic development is essential to improving the living conditions of aboriginal peoples. Since the beginning of our mandate, we have taken steps to improve the living conditions of first nations by giving them the means to fully benefit from Canada's economic prosperity. We also created the first nations job fund and made investments to improve the education system, and we will continue in that vein. 

Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP):  

Mr. Speaker, the question is this. When will the government step up and put an end to the third-world living conditions that first nations face across this country?

Today the Manitoba government is making a historic apology for the Sixties Scoop, a file that has been long ignored by the federal government. While Manitoba is demonstrating a commitment to reconciliation, the Conservative government still significantly underfunds child welfare services on reserve, and the results are devastating. In fact, there are more children in care today than there were at the height of the residential school system.

The question is this: How in good conscience can the Conservative government continue to discriminate against first nations children?

Hon. Bernard Valcourt (Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):  

Mr. Speaker, we remain committed to the health, safety and well-being of first nation children. The hon. member ought to know that child welfare services are delivered throughout the country according to provincial law and standards. We will continue to take action to ensure that children and families have the support they need to lead healthy lives. 

 

Mohawk Lake

Mr. Phil McColeman (Brant, CPC):  

Mr. Speaker, Mohawk Lake is Brantford's most untapped natural asset, an urban lake minutes from our downtown, bordering on historic parkland to the north and land that is primed for redevelopment to the south.

It is surrounded by history, including the site of Ontario's first ever hydro generating station and important first nations sites like the Mohawk Chapel and the Woodland Cultural Centre.

Sadly, today the lake sits polluted and abandoned.

However, our government supported local efforts to clean up the neighbouring polluted land, and when we have finished the job of cleaning up the liquid brownfield next door, the Greenwich-Mohawk lake district will become one of the most promising destinations for future development in our community.

The Mohawk Lake working group was formed as a community effort to finally restore the lake into an asset that everyone can enjoy, and by working together, I know we can achieve the goal of finally bringing yesterday back to tomorrow and unlocking the true potential of this ecological gem. 

Aboriginal Affairs

Hon. Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul's, Lib.):  

Mr. Speaker, yesterday's report of the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board confirmed that under the Conservative government, gaps between aboriginal people and the rest of Canada are getting worse.

Underfunding education, inaction on overcrowded housing, crumbling water systems and inferior health care are not only morally reprehensible, but economic incompetence.

When will the government make the concrete investments necessary to ensure the equality of opportunity that first nations, Inuit, and Métis deserve?

Hon. Bernard Valcourt (Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):  

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we welcome the report of the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board and we thank the board for its work.

We agree that economic development is key to improving the living conditions of aboriginal peoples everywhere in Canada. That is why since coming to office we have taken measures to improve first nations' well-being by enabling them to take full advantage of Canada's prosperity. We will continue to work with willing partners to continue in that vein. 


June 19, 2015 

National Aboriginal Day

Mr. John Rafferty (Thunder Bay—Rainy River, NDP):  

Mr. Speaker, this Sunday is National Aboriginal Day, and by happy coincidence I will not be in Ottawa this year but will have the privilege of joining my brothers and sisters of Fort William First Nation at Mount McKay in their celebrations.

In addition to the traditional celebrations, this year we will also reflect upon the findings and recommendations of Justice Sinclair and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I would also like to personally wish Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy a happy and well-deserved retirement and thank him for his strong leadership over his many years of service in his many important roles.

With the election of a New Democratic government this October, Canadians will finally have a federal government that accepts responsibility for the immense injustices perpetrated upon our founding people by those who came later, a federal government that will make a solemn promise to ensure that these injustices are never repeated, a federal government that will finally work on a nation-to-nation basis with Canada's first peoples so that we can walk together, hand in hand, towards a better future.

Mino-giizhigad. Happy Aboriginal Day. Meegwetch.

 

Aboriginal Affairs

Ms. Rosane Doré Lefebvre (Alfred-Pellan, NDP):  

Mr. Speaker, Sunday is National Aboriginal Day, and we have sadly just learned that the economic conditions in aboriginal communities have gotten worse under the Conservative government. According to The Aboriginal Economic Progress Report, the employment rate for people on reserve is 9% lower than that for other Canadians.

How does the minister justify such a disastrous record?

Hon. Bernard Valcourt (Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):  

Mr. Speaker, I urge the member to read the entire report. She will see that significant progress is being made across the country. Our government understands that economic development is necessary to improve living conditions for aboriginal peoples.

Since the beginning of our mandate, we have taken measures to improve living conditions for the first nations by giving them the means to fully take advantage of the country's economic prosperity. We have invested in education and training, for example, and we brought in income assistance reform to give these children personalized services to help them acquire skills.

Ms. Rosane Doré Lefebvre (Alfred-Pellan, NDP):  

Mr. Speaker, with answers like that one, I think that Canadians need a real change in government.

Today the RCMP will release a new report on missing and murdered aboriginal women. The families of these victims, aboriginal groups, the provinces, the territories, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and even the United Nations all agree that we need a national inquiry to understand and put an end to this tragic problem.

Will the government stop ignoring this issue and launch a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women? 

Mrs. Susan Truppe (Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women, CPC):  

Mr. Speaker, we do not need another study on top of the 40 we already have. It is our government that continues to stand up for victims of violence. Since coming into office, we have toughened sentences for murder, sexual assault, and kidnapping and have imposed mandatory prison sentences.

We also passed historic legislation that gave aboriginal women on reserves the same matrimonial rights that member has, including emergency protection orders, and that member and her party voted against it.

It is our government that is taking action. It is our government that stands up for aboriginal women and girls, not that side of the House.

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP):  

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' idea of tangible action to end violence against indigenous women is funding a website. It will take a lot more than a website to end this horrendous violence. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, national aboriginal organizations, Amnesty International, and victims like Rinelle Harper have been very clear: we need a national inquiry.

Canadians are tired of the current government playing partisan games with the lives of women. When will the Conservatives agree to a full inquiry into the murders and disappearances of indigenous women?

Mrs. Susan Truppe (Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women, CPC):  

Mr. Speaker, it is our Conservative government that brought the action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls as well as the family violence protection program. That member and her party, once again, voted against them. Since coming to office, we have passed more than 30 criminal justice and safety initiatives. That member and her party voted against them. Again, we passed Bill S-2. That party and the member voted against it.

While our government takes action, the opposition party does not. That side of the House never votes to support women and girls in Canada.

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP):  

Mr. Speaker, a website is not action, and that is not the end of it. Canadians know that under the current government, aboriginal unemployment has increased and the wage gap has increased. Instead of helping aboriginal communities, the government does not even count unemployment on reserves. It allows businesses on reserves to bring in temporary foreign workers. The Conservatives have failed to invest in education or infrastructure that could help communities develop. They have been left in dire poverty. Why are the Conservatives ignoring our indigenous communities?

Hon. Bernard Valcourt (Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):  

Mr. Speaker, the NDP and that member can try to play politics with the situation of first nations and aboriginal Canadians, but it will lead nowhere. The fact of the matter is that since we have come to office, we have taken measures to improve the well-being of first nations. For example, in the last budget, we again increased significant resources to expand the first nations land management regime, which has led to some $300 million in further investments in aboriginal communities. Again, the opposition voted against it.

 

Highlights from the Senate

June 16, 2015

National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls

Inquiry—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck rose pursuant to notice of March 25, 2015:

That she will call the attention of the Senate to the National Roundtable on missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls and the Government of Canada's Action Plan to Address Family Violence and Violent Crimes Against Aboriginal Women and Girls.

She said: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to my inquiry into the National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls and the Government of Canada's Action Plan to Address Family Violence and Violent Crimes Against Aboriginal Women and Girls.

Our previous three speakers have talked about human rights issues. In fact, this, too, is a human rights issue quite simply because, according to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 15, equality rights, "every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination."

Now, of course, we know about the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women who do not receive the equal protection of law, so it's a human rights issue.

A historic roundtable of provincial, territorial and Aboriginal leaders, two federal ministers and family members of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls was held on February 27. In May 2014, the RCMP documented that nearly 1,200 Aboriginal women and girls have been murdered or gone missing since 1980. Aboriginal females are three times more likely to be murdered and four times more likely to disappear than other Canadian women.

(1810)

Incredulously, though almost all provincial and territorial leaders have called for a national commission of inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, the Prime Minister has said repeatedly that his government would not do so. After the historic roundtable meeting, Ministers Leitch and Valcourt held a separate press conference to reiterate that their action plan released last September was all that was needed.

After the roundtable, Minister Leitch stated:

No single community, no individual, no organization or government can end violence against Aboriginal women and girls alone. We all have a shared responsibility . . . and the federal government is committed to doing its part.

Honourable senators, while the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women is indeed a shared responsibility, by holding a separate news conference and by not committing to funding any new initiatives, it appears that the federal ministers have essentially off-loaded their primary responsibility onto the provincial, territorial and Aboriginal leaders.

Honourable senators, after the roundtable, Minister Leitch said the federal government would not undertake a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. The ministers think their national action plan is sufficient, but how good is their national action plan? Sadly, it is too narrow in its focus and most of the actions are too late — after the victim has been murdered or made missing.

Worse yet, the national action plan is fixated on the as yet unsubstantiated premise that Aboriginal men are the main perpetrators. This significantly limits the effectiveness of the national plan in preventing the disappearance and murder of Aboriginal women and girls.

Honourable senators, let's examine the Conservative government's national action plan. There are four major budgetary items totalling $25 million over five years: $8.6 million over five years for community safety plans; $2.5 million over five years for projects to break intergenerational cycles of violence; $5 million over five years for anti-violence programs; and $7.5 million over five years for victim services.

The national action plan budget is about $5 million per year and, while the federal ministers may imply that this is substantial, it is a small amount of money compared to the $100 million per year spent by Aboriginal Affairs fighting First Nations on various matters in the courts, and the more than $100 million spent on Canada's Economic Action Plan ads since 2009.

It was just reported that Aboriginal Affairs didn't even spend its entire budget for the last five years — $1 billion was unspent. That's correct, $1 billion: $200 million per year was unspent for the last five years. Can you imagine what we could have done with that billion dollars?

Let's review the four components of the Conservative action plan. When we examine these programs and their effectiveness to address what we know about the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, we find that the national action plan falls significantly short.

It should be noted that the Conservative government officials have repeatedly said that enough research has been done on missing and murdered women and that it's time to take concrete actions to ameliorate this tragedy. Having said that, you would expect that the government members responsible for this issue would have read the 40 reports that they refer to and you would expect that they would have thoroughly reviewed the research findings from the RCMP and the Native Women's Association of Canada. Clearly, that has not been the case.

Honourable senators, the Conservative government has developed a national action plan that is based on their assumption that most Aboriginal women and girls are murdered or made missing by the actions of the Aboriginal men living on First Nations reserves.

Minister Valcourt, at a private meeting with Treaty 7 and 8 chiefs stated that Aboriginal men were responsible for 70 per cent of the missing and murdered Aboriginal women cases. At first the RCMP stated that they would not verify the minister's statement because they don't do race-based analyses. However, RCMP Commissioner Paulson later stated that the 70 per cent statistic was correct and that another report with statistics would be released in May.

I've been waiting for these numbers to include in my speech, but the RCMP have not yet released any new information. As of today, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network said the RCMP will release an update tomorrow, but there will be no such numbers on the racial identity of the perpetrators.

Now, to get back to the plan: First, $8.6 million over five years has been promised for the development of community safety plans on reserves across Canada. While this sounds great, it's not a new initiative. The Aboriginal Community Safety Planning program was launched in 2010. Surely this Conservative government could have initiated something new. After all, they had 40 reports and more than 700 recommendations to aid their planning. The safety planning program is flawed because it focuses only on First Nation reserves. It does not address the safety issues for the majority of Aboriginal women who live in urban or rural areas. The Metis and the Inuit don't live on reserves, and neither do the majority of First Nations people.

Honourable senators, policing is also included under the community safety plan. The First Nations Policing Program received funding for $612.4 million over five years in 2013. Again, while this may sound good, First Nation policing is underfunded. Gosh, where could that $1 billion been helpful here?

In 2014, for example, the Nishnawbe Aski and Anishinabek police services in Ontario and the band constable program in Manitoba all faced critical funding shortages. In the case of Manitoba, the federal government unilaterally withdrew their band constable funding program. Fortunately, the provincial government stepped up and provided funds — at twice the federal level.

Colleagues, surely if the Conservative government was serious about making Aboriginal communities safe, they would have provided sufficient funding for policing on reserves, especially in Manitoba which, like Saskatchewan, is an area where Aboriginal women and girls have the greatest risk of being murdered or made missing.

If the Conservative government officials think that the main problem is violence occurring on First Nation reserves, why did they cut the resources for on-reserve police in one of the most unsafe areas of the country? It just doesn't make sense.

Honourable senators, now let's examine the second item in the government's action plan: $2.5 million over five years to break intergenerational cycles of violence stemming from abuse in the Indian residential schools. Included under this second item of the national action plan are the Family Violence Prevention Programs. While this is a good initiative, its main focus again is reserve communities. As I said before, Inuit, Metis and First Nation families who live off reserve are neglected.

It's important to note that the intergenerational violence that occurs on reserves stems from the deliberate actions and policies of the government aimed at Aboriginal people. The residential schools system, the Indian Act and the political marginalization of Aboriginal people in Canada are all factors that created an intergenerational cycle of abuse and violence on Indian reserves. The present Government of Canada should not forget that this cycle of violence was created by federal governments of the past.

Four months ago, Minister Valcourt stated that Aboriginal men were responsible for 70 per cent of the murders of Aboriginal women. His statement angered the chiefs to whom he was speaking. Valcourt's statement was outrageous. It ignored the root causes of the high rates of family violence, the intergenerational legacy of abuse and violence, and the devaluation of women learned at Indian residential schools. How can he blame Aboriginal boys and men for violent behaviours without taking into account that federal government legislation and policies created the residential schools and gave Aboriginal women fewer rights than Aboriginal men?

How can Minister Valcourt say that First Nation men have a lack of respect towards women on reserves without acknowledging that this is part of the cultural norm for all Canadians? He should know that that teaching was part of the assimilationist agenda imposed on Aboriginals through the Indian residential schools which eradicated the traditional respect that Aboriginal women received before colonization.

Just two weeks ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission held their final public event here in Ottawa. Their work has made it abundantly clear that there is a link between Indian residential schools, intergenerational trauma and family violence, and missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. What is of prime importance is that the commissioners also made it clear that non-Aboriginal Canadians have learned to devalue and denigrate Aboriginals.

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Colleagues, the third item under the Conservative national action plan is $5 million over five years for anti-violence programs. While a new awareness program to denounce violence against Aboriginal women is to be developed in conjunction with the Native Women's Association of Canada, the emphasis once again is on family violence and Aboriginal boys and men on reserve. While this is an important aspect, Aboriginals know that an awareness campaign to educate Canadian society at large on ending violence against Aboriginal women and girls is also needed. Furthermore, as noted earlier, the Truth and Reconciliation report makes it crystal clear that non-Aboriginal communities have also been taught to devalue Aboriginal women.

Colleagues, the fourth item under the national action plan is $7.5 million over five years for the Family Violence Prevention Program, which provides services for women, children and families on reserve who are victims of family violence. This program also funds 41 women's shelters on reserve.

According to an APTN news article, however, money provided for new family violence protection programs is not new money but was money taken from the budget for on-reserve women's shelters. While more money is available for new programming, there is less money available for shelters. Clearly this makes little sense as the two actions are contradictory. The national action plan is, in effect, increasing the risk of violence against Aboriginal women by decreasing funding earmarked for shelters.

Honourable senators, it is clear that the four measures contained in the national action plan are inadequate.

The premise that it is Aboriginal men living on reserve who are responsible for the murder or disappearance of Aboriginal women and girls was first mentioned by suspended Senator Brazeau in 2010, during our study of the matrimonial property rights act. Unfortunately, Minister Valcourt has followed Senator Brazeau's thinking.

Minister Valcourt has said:

Obviously, there's a lack of respect for women and girls on reserves . . . if the guys grow up believing that women have no rights, that is how they are treated.

He, of all people, must surely know that the reason why Aboriginal women have fewer rights on reserves was because of the Indian Act. The minister is blaming Aboriginal men for disrespecting Aboriginal women, when he should be blaming the treaty-era White men in 1876 who developed the Indian Act, which granted fewer rights to Indian women than to men.

Contrary to what Brazeau and Valcourt have claimed, the Native Women's Association of Canada reported that most Aboriginal woman and girls are most likely to be murdered or to be disappeared off reserve. According to their 2010 research report, only 7 per cent go missing from a reserve and only 13 per cent are murdered on a reserve. Seventy per cent of Aboriginal women and girls disappeared from an urban area and 60 per cent were murdered in an urban area.

Could I have five more minutes, please?

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Dyck: Furthermore, the Native Women's Association of Canada data show that Aboriginal women and girls are three times more likely to be murdered by a stranger. It is obvious that the Harper government has ignored these findings and thus has made a serious mistake by focusing their actions on family violence on Indian reserves.

Honourable senators, perhaps the most damming indictment of the Conservative's national action plan is that it ignores the role of non-Aboriginals in the murders and disappearance of Aboriginal women and girls. Most everyone knows that non-Aboriginal men have murdered Aboriginal women. There are many well-known cases, such as the serial killers Willie Pickton and John Crawford.

The 2010 NWAC research report What Their Stories Tell Us: Research findings from the Sisters in Spirit initiative clearly documents that both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal men murder Aboriginal women. Their data show that at least 23 per cent of the murderers were non-Aboriginal; 36 per cent were Aboriginal; and 41 per cent were of unknown race. It's very difficult to determine the race with any degree of certainty. That's why there's such a high percentage there.

On March 20, however, Minister Valcourt claimed that 70 per cent of the murderers of Aboriginal females were indigenous, according to unreleased RCMP data. He indicated that this data would be reported to the public. Initially, the RCMP said they don't collect this type of data and won't be releasing any data on the racial identity. Then, as noted earlier, Commissioner Paulson said the numbers would be released last month, but so far nothing has been released. Today, APTN is saying the RCMP will release a report tomorrow, but the update report will not include information on the ethnicity of the perpetrators. We're back to square one. The credibility of Minister Valcourt and the veracity of his statement are thus very questionable.

Honourable senators, the actions taken by the government to prevent the murder or disappearance of Aboriginal women and girls should have been better thought out and based on all the available facts. While there are some good individual programs in the action plan, it is clear that it is an action plan to tackle intergenerational family violence on reserves, but it is not an action plan on missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. While family violence may be part of the root causes, there are other root causes and factors that lead to the greater risk of Aboriginal women to be made missing or murdered. The federal government has not designed an action plan to specifically address missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. Even the words "missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls" are not in the title of their action plan.

Honourable senators, the only way to get an effective national action plan to prevent Aboriginal women and girls from going missing or being murdered is to launch an independent commission of inquiry. An independent commission of inquiry would not be unduly influenced by preconceived ideas about Aboriginal women and men and at least an independent commission would recognize that non-Aboriginal men play a significant role in the murder and disappearance of Aboriginal women and girls. We could access all available data, including any that the RCMP may have but will not release.

Colleagues, over the last two years, there has been a steadily increasing public awareness about the large numbers of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. An Angus Reid poll conducted last October showed that three-quarters of Canadians are in favour of a national inquiry. Just two weeks ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners also recommended a public inquiry.

Recommendation 41 of their summary states:

We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal organizations, to appoint a public inquiry into the causes of, and remedies for, the disproportionate victimization of Aboriginal women and girls. The inquiry's mandate would include:

i. Investigation into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.

ii. Links to the intergenerational legacy of residential schools.

Honourable senators, seven years ago, in June 2008, Prime Minister Harper apologized for the imposition of the Indian residential schools and the harms done to generations of people, and yet today he still refuses to call a commission of inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Colleagues, that is just not right. It is just not right. Something must be done.

(On motion of Senator Lovelace Nicholas, debate adjourned.)

Assembly of First Nations