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My Week in Parliament: March 22-26

Monday, March 22nd

Monday was World Water Day. All living things need water to survive, but for many, this basic need is not being met. Hundreds of millions of people around the world lack access to clean drinking water, including 41 First Nations communities here in Canada. Access to clean drinking water is a fundamental human right, but increasingly water is being treated as a commodity and profit center. I called on the government to push back against the commodification of basic human needs and defend the human right to water.

In the morning, the House sat to discuss an opposition motion to remove profit from long-term care. In June 2020, it was reported that Canada has the highest record of deaths from COVID-19 in long-term care homes of all the OECD countries. That’s an appalling record to have. I asked the government if they agree that Canada should have national standards for long-term care.

Later this day, I had an interview with the Hill Times. (paywalled). We spoke about government efforts to fight COVID-19 misinformation. I noted the importance of providing credible information and expressed my concerns about leaving censorship in the hands of social media giants. The best way for the government to combat misinformation is by providing correct information.

In honor of World Water Day, I presented a petition that calls on the government to work with First Nations, all levels of government, and private landowners to bring community drinking watersheds under public ownership. We need to ensure these watersheds are a secure source of clean drinking water for future generations.

I also brought forward Motion 77. This motion calls on the government to recognize that a crisis has unfolded in Canada’s long-term care homes throughout the pandemic. The death and suffering in these facilities is deplorable. Long-term care residents must have the dignity, quality of life, and care they deserve. The government needs to work with the provinces to get COVID-19 cases to zero in long-term care.

And I seconded Motion 69 on combating tax evasion, which was brought forth by MP Stephane Bergeron. This motion calls on the government to take a series of actions to stop companies from using tax havens and ensure multinational companies pay their fair share in Canada.

Tuesday, March 23rd

On Tuesday, the House of Commons voted on yesterday’s opposition motion to remove profit from long-term care in Canada. I voted yes, and was disappointed to see the motion rejected, especially during a pandemic that has had such a terrible impact on residents and workers in long-term care homes. This is something that my caucus colleagues and I, along with Green Party leader Annamie Paul, have been strongly advocating for.

That evening, I had the third meeting with the newly formed Youth Advisory Council (YAC). The YAC ensures that I hear regularly from youth in the riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith. It is a non-partisan council that is open to local youth 15-25 years of age.

Wednesday, March 24th

The House voted on five items:

  1. Bill C-232: An Act respecting a Climate Emergency Action Framework: I voted in favor of this bill, however, it did not pass.

  2. Bill C-231: An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act: This bill would have banned the CPP Investment Board from investing in any companies that violate human, labour, and environmental rights. I voted in favor of this bill, but it did not pass.

  3. M-36 to establish Emancipation Day: I voted for this motion and I was happy to see the House pass it unanimously. In October, I sponsored a petition calling on the government to proclaim August 1st as Emancipation Day. When legislation is brought to the table by other parties, Greens are always happy to support it.

  4. Motion for Reopening the Economy: I voted against this motion and it did not pass. Re-opening the economy during the peak of the third wave without adequate social and financial support prioritizes the economy and puts workers at risk.

  5. Bill C-230: An act respecting the development of a national strategy to redress environmental racism. I voted “yay” and the bill passed on to study at committee.

Later that afternoon, Green Party parliamentary leader MP Elizabeth May presented a Private Member’s Bill to lower the voting age to 16, and I seconded it. This is something that Greens have long advocated for. Research shows that when political engagement starts at a young age it is more likely to endure for a lifetime. Young people should have a say in the decisions that are being made for their futures.

I also presented e-petition 3094 that saw national support, regarding Canada’s trade relationship with China. Petitioners call on the government to reduce our trade dependency on China, a country where evidence demonstrates mass violations of human rights. They additionally call on the International Trade Committee to investigate and provide a report on the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) and examine the human rights violations as well as Canada's supply chain dependency on China.

That evening, the House sat to discuss Bill C-22, which would establish diversion measures for simple drug possession offenses. This bill is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough. The war on drugs has been a colossal failure and enforcement efforts have targeted Black and Indigenous people in particular. We should be going further with this bill, by looking at European models of drug decriminalization and harm reduction.

On Wednesday evening, I had a follow-up debate on a question I asked earlier this month about old-growth forests. These forests are under threat, and if their destruction continues it will accelerate climate change and biodiversity loss. Old-growth forests are invaluable; they store more carbon than is currently in the world’s atmosphere and soak up twice as much carbon as a tropical forest. We need to commit ourselves to the principles of UNDRIP and recognize the rights and title of Indigenous peoples and their stewardship of these endangered ecosystems.

Thursday, March 25th

On Thursday morning, I spoke about the need to redirect funds that had been earmarked for the Canada Student Service Grant into the Canada Summer Jobs Program. That ill-conceived program resulted in a missed opportunity to help young Canadians when they needed it most.

The House sat to vote on a series of motions relating to the upcoming budget. Each year, Parliament needs to approve the government budget and anticipated spending;

  • Votes 81, 82, 83 & 84 were on the supplementary estimates. The supplementary estimates are needed to make adjustments to the government’s main spending plan and take place at regular intervals throughout each year.

  • Votes 85, 86, 87 & 88 were on the interim supply. Interim supply is how parliament approves advanced government funding to use in the interim period of April-June while the main budget is still being agreed upon.

I voted “yea” for each vote, and they were all agreed upon. More information about the parliamentary financial cycle is available here.

I seconded Motion-76 brought forth by the M.P for Edmonton-Strathcona, Heather MacPherson. The motion recognizes the destructive impact of coal mining in the Rocky Mountains. It stresses that the government needs to ensure resource exploration and development proposals meet the highest standards of consultation and involvement with Indigenous peoples in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

On Thursday evening, the House sat to discuss Gender-Based Violence. We heard some truly horrific stories and statistics throughout this debate about survivors who lost their jobs and had family members face violence for reporting their experiences. I asked the government how sexual assault survivors are supposed to deal with impunity in the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP.

I also brought up the need to implement funding and programs to work towards fixing these problems where they begin.

Friday, March 26th

On Friday, I presented two petitions to the House of Commons. Petition e-2194 is concerned with the continued logging of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island. These petitioners call on the government to introduce federal legislation that protects these endangered ecosystems.

Petition e-3177 is about the erosion of human rights in Poland. The petitioners call on the government to condemn the violence and persecution of women, ethnic minorities, and members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community in Poland and to call on the Polish government to uphold their obligations under international human rights law.

After, I attended the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage meeting to hear from witnesses about Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act. I asked the Canadian Association of Community Television Stations and Users to tell the committee about the important role community media plays in Canada’s democracy.

Saturday, March 27th

I attended a protest at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria to protect old-growth forests. I had the privilege of speaking at this event. This protest was deja vu for me; in the early 1990’s I worked for the Western Canada wilderness committee and was active in the movements fighting for the Walbran Carmanah and Clayoquot Sound. We won those fights because we stood together, and I am hopeful that the fight to protect BC’s last remaining old-growth ecosystems will have a similar victory. You can watch my speech on Facebook.

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