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My Week in Ottawa: May 19-21

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

Tuesday May 19th

I was on Parliamentary duty in Ottawa again this week on behalf of the Green Party.

On Tuesday, I participated in the virtual parliamentary meeting on COVID-19, and we started by observing a moment of silence for the tragic Snowbirds crash that happened in Kamloops over the long weekend.

After our moment of silence the meeting continued with regular business. I presented a petition calling on the government to uphold the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and immediately halt all existing and planned construction of the Coastal GasLink project on Wet’suwet’en territory. It was my Green colleague Jenica Atwin’s turn to ask the government questions.

Later on, I took the opportunity during our regular COVID-19 technical briefing for MPs to ask government officials some of my questions. I continue to participate in these briefings to get clarification about eligibility details, application processes, and timelines for COVID-19 relief programs, and to help answer constituents’ specific questions.

Wednesday May 20th

On Wednesday I attended the in-person parliamentary meeting in the House of Commons. I was wearing a Moose Hide square. The Moose Hide Campaign is a grassroots movement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and boys who stand against violence towards women and children. I wear this square regularly as a conversation starter, to engage men to speak out against violence.

I responded to a statement by the Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development. In my speech, I focused on some of the ways that the pandemic has increased the inequality faced by women in our society. We know that there has been an increase in violence against women and children, and many homes are not safe places.

Further, frontline workers such as those working in our devastated long term care homes are primarily women. We need to ensure these women are paid fairly and we also need a national inquiry into long term care facilities to ensure the safety and dignity of seniors and workers.

We also need a Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI). One benefit of a GLI is that it would reduce the risk of violence towards women. Creating a GLI for all Canadians was one of the top recommendations of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

After my speech I asked a series of questions to the government about fraud and tax scams. There are worries about fraud in our COVID-19 relief programs, but we see more fraud in other areas. Canada loses an estimated $19 billion a year in tax evasion, and polluters abandon their messes and leave them for taxpayers to clean up.

We need to crack down on this type of fraud instead of worrying about whether struggling Canadians are receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. We need to see accountability for the executives who extracted wealth from Canada’s oil and gas resources and then left behind hundreds of thousands of abandoned oil wells to clean up.

I asked the government if they agreed that a GLI would be a more dignified way of helping Canadians. I also asked them if they would hold executives accountable for their actions.

After my questions I took part in a general debate about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many Canadians are now getting the help they need but there are still many gaps in support programs. In this debate, I advocated for many of the groups who still need help: micro businesses, the arts and music industry, municipalities, Aboriginal friendship centres, non-profit organizations, airline passengers, seniors, and persons with disabilities.

I have also been advocating for these groups during the crisis outside of the House of Commons. For example, our Green caucus has urged the government to provide a bailout for municipalities and make airline bailouts conditional on full cash refunds for passengers. I have also written to many Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries asking them to consider additional support and measures, such as increasing Old Age Security and CPP Disability benefits.

Thursday May 21st

On Thursday morning I held a press conference urging the federal government to uphold its obligations to the international community. Canada needs to meet its climate commitments and uphold human rights.

I was very disappointed when the government lifted the moratorium on arms exports to Saudi Arabia in April. Saudi Arabia has been accused of war crimes in the conflict of Yemen and there is evidence of Canadian-made light armoured vehicles being used there. The government also needs to maintain a strong stance opposing Israel’s plan to illegally annex settlements in the West Bank.

I wore a mask to my press conference and spoke briefly about the lessons we can learn from how Taiwan has handled the pandemic. I recently wrote a blog post about how Taiwan has successfully curbed their COVID-19 cases, largely with the use of personal protective equipment. Masks are a low-tech solution that will help get us back to a new normal as our economy reopens.

After my press conference, I attended the virtual parliamentary meeting on COVID-19 and then had a meeting with Steven Lee, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Environmental Stewardship. Steven has been advocating for a #CleanReset after our crisis and recently spent three years travelling across Canada to speak with young people about climate change.

After another technical briefing, I attended the standing committee meeting on Industry, Science and Technology. I heard from cybersecurity and industry experts who discussed the security consequences of so much activity happening online these days.

Thursday marked the end of my two weeks in Ottawa. I biked home and prepared for my trip back to Nanaimo the following day.

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