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My Week in Parliament: June 14-18

Monday, June 14th

On Monday morning, there was a time allocation vote for Bill C-30, The Budget Implementation Act. Time allocation motions place time limits on debates that would otherwise continue. Bill C-30 still has flaws, and it is going to take time and democratic debate to properly amend it. I voted against time allocation, but unfortunately, the motion passed.

Bills should not get rushed through because of an unnecessary upcoming election. There are certain signs that the government could be planning a snap election before the fixed election date. For example, a special debate is scheduled for tomorrow night so MPs who are not intending to run for office again can give speeches. All parties, including the Liberals, agreed in May that holding a pandemic election would be irresponsible. An election is not needed—Parliament is working and the government still has the confidence of the House.

I asked the government why we have a special debate planned for tomorrow when there is no need for an election.

Later in the day, there was a vote to extend the sitting hours of the House of Commons for the rest of June. The motion would make it so that beginning today, the House would continue to sit on Mondays and Wednesdays until midnight, and on Fridays until 4:30 pm. I voted in favour of this motion, and it was agreed to. There is a lot of important work that needs to get done before the House adjourns next week for the summer recess, and this extra time will better allow us to get it done.

I also tabled two petitions. The first petition had 10,984 signatures and was concerned with strip mining in the Alberta Rocky Mountains. This practice causes irreversible environmental damage, poses a direct risk to local sources of clean drinking water, and threatens tens of thousands of jobs in agriculture, recreation, and tourism. The petitioners called on the government to impose an immediate ban on strip mine expansion in the Rocky Mountains.

The second petition is about old-growth forests on Vancouver Island. Many First Nations have asked for deferrals on old growth, but so far their calls have been ignored. The petition called on the government to work with both the provinces and First Nations to immediately halt the logging of these endangered ecosystems. It also called on the government to fund the long-term protection of old-growth as a priority for Canada’s climate action plan and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

I had a busy night in the House of Commons. I have been working hard on amending Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act. I have done so in committee, in meetings with various media and broadcasting organizations, and in the House. I personally put forth 29 amendments to this bill. Tonight we debated a motion that would fast-track the bill through the House.

During the debate, we spoke about the filibustering and spreading of misinformation that went on in the Canadian Heritage Committee by the Conservatives about what is and is not Canadian content (CanCon). I spoke about the misinformation of the Canadian public on what Canadian content really is.

I spoke about a conversation I had with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). APTN told me that it is vital for Indigenous voices to be heard on the internet. They stressed to me the importance of building Indigenous languages through broadcasting. I asked the Minister of Canadian Heritage to comment on the importance of revitalizing Indigenous language and culture in this country.

I brought attention to an amendment I proposed in the Canadian Heritage Committee that would level the playing field between independent producers and broadcasting undertakings. Due to hours of filibustering, we did not have the chance to debate this amendment, and it was ultimately voted down by the Conservatives. I asked the Member for Edmonton-Strathcona, who I worked alongside in this committee, why she thinks the conservatives would not support my amendment.

Free speech has been a topic of discussion throughout the study and debate on Bill C-10. I asked the Conservatives if they think that social media platforms are a place of free speech.

In my final statement of the night, I reminded the House that freedom of speech is already protected in the Broadcasting Act, despite misinformation campaigns that have tried to say otherwise. I also took the opportunity to ask the Conservatives why they voted down an amendment I had proposed to level the playing field between independent producers and larger companies. This would have been a market-based solution to a market imbalance.

Tuesday, June 15th

On Tuesday I jointly seconded Motion 92, which calls for an end to the current ban on blood donations for men who have sex with men. The motion calls for a gender-neutral screening process that examines the behavior and risk of those donating blood. This was a Liberal election promise in both 2015 and 2019, yet we have yet to see action on this issue. It is well past time to put an end to this homophobic and discriminatory blood donation ban.

During Question Period, I asked the government if they will commit to a full, independent inquiry into Canada’s Indian hospital system. I also called on them to release all relevant documents for that purpose. I have heard many first-hand stories from Indigenous elders in my riding about the horrific practices that took place at these hospitals.

Wednesday, June 16th

On Wednesday morning, I jointly seconded Bill C-309, An act to amend the Canada Elections Act (Indigenous languages). This bill was brought forth by the Member from Nunavut, Mumilaaq Qaqqaq. The bill would require federal election ballots to be available in Indigenous languages. In Nunavut, 46% of voters’ first language is Inuktitut, but the ballots they use to vote are only in English and French. 9.6% of residents in Nanaimo-Ladysmith are Indigenous, yet there are no Indigenous languages present on their ballots when they go to vote. Those that speak Indigenous languages deserve the same representation as English and French speakers in the electoral process.

The House voted on four items today;

  • Motion-62 for a Federal dental care plan. The Green Party has been calling for the inclusion of dental care in our universal health care system under the Canada Health Act for years. I also jointly seconded this motion to further show my support on this issue. I voted “yea” and was extremely disappointed to see the motion voted down by both the Liberals and Conservatives.

  • Opposition Motion Amendment to section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking nation. I voted in favor of this motion and it was agreed to. This motion recognizes the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces to amend their respective constitutions.

  • Bill C-271, An Act to amend the Governor General’s Act. This enactment would set the Governor General’s annual salary at $1. While I agree that the Governor General’s pension and benefits should be reviewed, this bill is not realistic. Further, it would only allow those who are independently wealthy to become Governor-General. We do not need to create more barriers to positions of power for marginalized groups. I voted against the bill, and it did not pass.

  • Bill C-254, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act, and the Canada Business Corporations Act. I voted in favour of this bill, and it was agreed to. This enactment would clarify the application of the Charter of the French Language in Quebec. It will now be studied by the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

After the votes, I presented another petition on the logging of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island. Old-growth forests provide immeasurable benefits including carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and cultural, recreational, and educational value.

On Wednesday evening, the House debated a motion to find the Public Health Agency of Canada in contempt of parliament. On June 2nd, the House ordered the government to provide it with certain unredacted documents about fired scientists from a level 4 National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. However, the Liberal government is blocking the release of these unredacted records. I asked the government about when these scientists started working at this lab, and if they think the Harper Conservatives could have been complicit in hiring them.

Thursday, June 17th

I started off my day with the presentation of a third old-growth petition of the week. The petitioners called on the government to ban the export of raw logs, maximize resource use for local jobs, and ban the use of whole trees for wood pellet biofuel production.

On Thursday, the House considered the main and supplementary estimates. This process grants parliamentary approval for routine government spending. In relation to spending by the Department of Transport, I asked about the implementation of a Vessel Arrival System at the Port of Vancouver.

In May, I introduced a Private member’s motion calling for a Vessel Arrival System. A Vessel Arrival System would be a practical solution to the problem of freighter anchorages in the Southern Gulf Islands. These anchorages cause numerous social and environmental disturbances and create serious collision and safety risks. A Vessel Arrival System would address these problems and make trade more efficient and effective. It would also help Prairie farmers, who are currently losing $23 million each year due to inefficiencies at the port. I asked the government if they think we should use our ports more efficiently to save Prairie grain farmers money.

In the afternoon, there were 9 votes to concur in the main estimates and the supplementary estimates. Bill C-33 and Bill C-34 were both voted on at all stages to approve routine government spending. I voted in favour of all 9, and they were all agreed to.

There was also a vote on the motion that was debated on Wednesday evening to find the Public Health Agency of Canada in contempt of parliament. This was a question of parliamentary privilege. The House has the right to access the documents it requests from the government. I voted in favour of this motion and it was agreed to.

The House then voted on an opposition motion to formally censure and express disappointment in the Minister of National Defence for misleading Canadians on issues such as the covering up of sexual assaults in the military. I voted in favour of this motion, and it was agreed to. Canada has a legacy of covering up sexual assaults in these institutions and it is vital that we work towards undoing this.

That evening, I made a speech about the struggles that small and medium-sized businesses have faced throughout this pandemic. The supports the government has provided to these businesses throughout the pandemic have been appreciated but have not been nearly enough. Too many Canadians are still falling through the cracks.

But not everyone has been suffering financially throughout this pandemic. The ultra-wealthy and large corporations have massively increased their fortunes by pandemic profiteering. Banks, credit card companies, and retail giants have made out like bandits while so many Canadians continue to face financial insecurity. Low-income Canadians were forced to choose between paying their rent or putting food on their table. This often left them with no choice but to turn to payday loan companies. These predatory companies are facilitated by the government and lock low-income people into a cycle of endless debt. There is a serious issue with wealth inequality in this country. The government must step in to protect Canadians from the gouging that is being done by these companies.

Friday, June 18th

On Friday morning, I jointly seconded Bill C-313, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (banning symbols of hate). It recognizes the importance of preventing all forms of hatred or violence against minority groups based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or disability. It would make it an offence to publicly display hate symbols or emblems from hate or terrorist organizations. This is an extremely important piece of legislation, especially given the recent rise in hate crimes in Canada.

I also presented my fifth and final old-growth petition of the week. It is part of a large stack I have sitting on my desk now, with over 15,000 signatures. The petitioners call on the government to work with the province and First Nations to follow through on our international commitments to protect biodiversity.

During debate on Bill C-30, the Budget Implementation Act, I spoke about the need to help businesses that are starting up. I asked the government if they think it is fair that there is pandemic profiteering by the big banks and large corporations when so many small businesses and working people are struggling.

I had a meeting with Laurie Meijers-Drees about the Nanaimo Indian Hospital. Laurie is a Professor of Indigenous/Xwulmuxw Studies at Vancouver Island University. We discussed the interconnectedness of residential schools and Indian Hospitals in Canada. She told me stories about what she had heard from elders during her research on Indian Hospitals. There were stories of children getting separated from their families to either be put up for adoption or put into residential schools. There were instances of people being medical experiments and forced sterilizations. Families were often not informed that their loved one had died or that their child was taken to a residential school. These were truly horrific events that happened not that long ago in our own community. It is important that while we uncover the truths of what happened at residential schools, that we do not forget about the horrors of the Indian Hospitals in this country.

On Friday afternoon I visited the Islamic Centre in Nanaimo once again. When I was there last week I was invited to come back and address the community members after their Friday prayer. I expressed my sympathies and condolences to the Islamic community. The hate-based attack that took place in London, Ontario on June 6th left four members of a Pakistani Muslim family dead and one child orphaned and gravely injured. I spoke about the long history of racism in Canada. Many new Canadians face hate, intolerance, and violence. Racism and discrimination are part of the day-to-day reality of Indigenous peoples, people of colour, and members of the LGBTQ++ community. I spoke about the need for everyone to feel welcome in Canada, no matter where they were born, what religion or race they belong to, and what their gender or sexual orientation is. It is up to all of us, including new Canadians, to welcome and accept those who are different than we are.

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