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My Week in Parliament: May 31- June 4

Monday, May 31st

My week started off at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to discuss the amendments that have been proposed to Bill C-10: An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act. Bill C-10 is far from perfect. More than 120 amendments have been proposed by all parties. So far, I have proposed 27 amendments and the Liberals themselves have proposed 28 amendments to their own bill.

I spoke about an amendment that was brought forward by the Conservatives. There has been a lot of discussion and confusion about how to determine what is and isn’t defined as Canadian content (CanCon). As a long-time broadcaster, professional musician, and artist manager, I have a lot of experience using this system. I explained how it works before the committee.

I asked a question in the House to Chrystia Freeland, the Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister. While Canadians have struggled throughout the pandemic, four of Canada’s big banks have raised their service charges. I asked if the government is going to rein in these exploitative corporations to protect Canadians and small businesses.

Tuesday, June 1st

On Tuesday morning, I had an interview with The Tyee for an article about psilocybin treatment. We spoke about a petition I presented in Parliament last year that received 14,910 signatures that called for the decriminalization of plant medicines. Psilocybin brings terminal patients understanding and peace, and yet the government continues to block psilocybin therapy in Canada. I said that this treatment should be accessible to those who need it, but that it is unfortunately unlikely that the current minority government will give this issue attention.

I then attended a roundtable hosted by the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance. The purpose of the roundtable was to provide input from the Island region into Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy. The goal of the Blue Economy Strategy is to grow our ocean economy on all three coasts while maintaining healthy oceans and advancing our conservation objectives. Fifteen participants and six observers identified five areas to focus on: renewable energy, aquaculture, environmental sustainability, innovation, and fisheries. Climate change, Indigenous opportunities, and labour were themes that were woven throughout and addressed within each of the five chosen topic areas. The discussion notes were submitted to the government as feedback for the strategy.

Yesterday, we received the horrific news about the discovery of the burial sites for 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. As horrific as this news was, it was not surprising for Indigenous peoples in this country, and those who have been listening to the survivors of the residential school system. I wrote a separate blog post on this, and I encourage you to read it. There was an emergency debate in the House today to discuss ways forward towards truth and reconciliation.

During this debate, I brought up another set of institutions that were present across the country- Indian Hospitals. The Nanaimo Indian Hospital was located here in Nanaimo-Ladysmith and I have heard from elders about experimental medication and dental practices on Indigenous people that occurred there. I asked the government what they think about having documentation from these Indian hospitals released so that the appalling track record of these institutions can be available to the public.

I asked the Member of Parliament from Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, whose riding borders Kamloops if he agrees with me that the government should be paying for ground-penetrating radar at all of these sites. The information and documents related to the children who died at these sites across the country must be released by all levels of government, as well as the churches.

Wednesday, June 2nd

The House voted on five items today:

  • C-237, An Act to establish a national framework for diabetes. This bill would improve Canadians’ access to diabetes prevention and treatment. I voted in favor of this bill and it passed unanimously. It will now move on and be considered by the Senate.

  • C-233, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sex-selective abortion). I voted against this bill and it did not pass. I wholeheartedly support a woman’s right to chose, and this bill comes far too close to infringing on the abortion rights that have been so tirelessly fought for in this country.

  • C-272, An Act to Amend the Copyright Act (diagnosis, maintenance, or repair). This bill would reduce certain barriers to make items more repairable in Canada. Right now it is often very difficult and expensive to repair the items we own. Better repair options will reduce the waste we generate. I voted “yea” and this bill was agreed to. It will now be studied further by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

  • CPC opposition motion (Documents related to the transfer of Ebola and Henipah viruses to the Wuhan Institute of Virology). I voted for the motion and it was agreed to. Parliament has the right to access the documents it requests from the government.

  • C-204, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (final disposal of plastic waste). I voted for this bill and it passed on to the Senate. It will allow for stricter regulations on the export of plastic waste to countries that do not have the equivalent plastic disposal rules that Canada does. I also jointly seconded this bill earlier this month to further show my support.

I jointly seconded Bill C-299: An Act to amend the Telecommunications Act (access to transparent and accurate broadband services information) that was brought forth by M.P. Dan Mazier. Access to high-speed internet is out of reach for far too many Canadians, and this bill would work towards solving this pressing issue. It would require internet companies to provide Canadians with a reliable and comparable indicator of internet speeds. This would be especially beneficial for those living in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities across Canada.

Thursday, June 3rd

On Thursday morning, there was a debate on an opposition motion for action towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. The motion calls on the government to provide immediate funding for further investigation at more residential school properties across the country, in alignment with the Truth and Reconciliation’s calls to action #71 to #76. This is a motion that has my full support. The petition I sponsored calling for the same actions opened for signatures on Thursday, too.

During debate, I brought up a video that I made for the Cowichan District Hospital. I interviewed elders who talked about their treatment in both the residential schools and the health care system. While we are uncovering the truths of what happened in these residential schools, it is important to not forget about the atrocities that occurred in Indian hospitals as well.

Later that day, I took the opportunity to bring up the concerns I have with Bill C-12, The Climate Accountability Act. The Canada Energy Regulator has reported that Canada will miss its Paris Agreement targets because of the oil and gas sector. Many Liberal MPs seem to be patting themselves on the back for this bill being “better than nothing”, but that is an extremely low bar to set. We are in the middle of a climate crisis; we cannot afford something that is “better than nothing”.

During further debate on the opposition motion for action towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, I spoke about the current realities for Indigenous children regarding the foster care system. The main reasons that children are apprehended by the system are poverty and lack of affordable, adequate housing. Only 4.9% of children in Canada are Indigenous, but they make up 48% of all children in care. This is a continuation of a system that apprehends children from their families.

I also brought up a possible solution to combat this legacy - Indigenous housing designed by Indigenous people. This would address the driving force of why so many Indigenous children get apprehended, by creating a larger stock of affordable housing for communities. I asked the government if they agree with me that we should have a fourth leg to the national housing strategy for urban Indigenous people, designed by urban Indigenous people.

In my final statement of this debate, I talked about my adoptive family who went through the residential school system and dealt with abuse at these institutions. I re-affirmed my support for this motion and stressed the importance of recognizing the residential school system as a genocide.

Later, I met with staff from the Iisaak Olam Foundation as well as from Vancouver Island University. This meeting was one of a series of meetings I have been coordinating in order to share information about Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs). IPCAs are a tool that Indigenous people can use in order to regain rights and responsibilities on land within their traditional territories. The process of setting up an IPCA must be Indigenous-led. My goal is to ensure that the First Nations in our region are aware of this opportunity and to support them in implementing IPCAs if they choose to go down that path.

Friday, June 4th

My week ended the same way it started, in the clause-by-clause study of Bill C-10 at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. I proposed an amendment to the bill that would exempt user-generated social media content from regulation under the Broadcasting Act unless a Canadian creator opted in voluntarily. This would address concerns about freedom of speech in the bill, while still providing an option for Canadian creators to be better promoted online through discoverability.

I spoke about the CRTC’s current system and how it could be applied for discoverability purposes. I went over the “MAPL” system. I emphasized before the committee that this system is much simpler, and more accessible than many have made it out to be throughout the study of this bill. As a former broadcaster, these systems are something I have had a lot of personal experience dealing with.

Parliament adjourned for the weekend, and it will resume on Monday, June 7th.

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