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My Week in Parliament: October 26-30

Monday, October 26th

Monday was a very exciting day. It was the Toronto Centre byelection where our Green Party leader Annamie Paul was running. Annamie did a fantastic job. She grew the Green vote in her riding by 25%, coming in second place with 32.7% of the vote. She made considerable gains and built significant momentum for the next election.

One of the many advantages of being a Green MP is that I have colleagues all over the world. I met with the Scottish Greens today, who hold the balance of power in the Scottish Parliament. We spoke about the pathways towards a Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI) in both of our countries, and the ways in which we can work together to make GLI a reality.

I had an interview with the Hill Times (paywalled), to discuss temporary foreign workers. I brought up the need for a pathway to citizenship for these workers. Many people return to Canada year after year to do the same job but do not have the opportunity to apply for citizenship. COVID-19 has shed light on the vulnerability of workers when they are tied to one company. They need to have the flexibility to leave their employer to transition to other work in Canada. This would ensure that these workers have proper protections and are not exploited.

In the House today, I took part in the debate on Bill C-6, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code on conversion therapy. I raised the point that someone’s sexual orientation cannot be changed through some “conversion” process. I asked the government what their stance is on banning the practice outright, for people of all ages.

Last week, the Conservatives introduced a motion to direct the Health committee to do an in-depth study of the government's response to COVID-19. The study would focus on vaccine development and distribution, COVID-19 safety protocols in long-term care, and Canada’s level of preparedness to deal with possible future pandemics. On Monday, I voted in favour of this motion. I support greater transparency in government, but I am cautious of the motion being used to increase hyperpartisanship within the health committee. You can find more about the Green Party’s position here.

I presented e-petition 2471 in the House today, on the topic of body cameras for the RCMP. Body cameras alone do not necessarily change police behaviour, but they are a tool for transparency and accountability. They could serve as vital evidence within courtrooms to protect from false testimonies.

Tuesday, October 27th

On Tuesday, the House sat to debate Bill C-6 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy). Sexual and gender identity rights are human rights. We need to go much further as parliamentarians to protect people from homophobia and transphobia. Conversion therapy is not therapyit is torture. I asked the government if they agree with me that we need to see an outright ban of this practice across Canada.

Later that afternoon, I had a meeting with the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Investment Board. The CPP Investment Board is responsible for investing in CPP funds that aren’t currently needed to pay pensions and benefits. My caucus colleague, Elizabeth May, and I brought forth some of the concerns we have been hearing from constituents in regard to CPP investments. We spoke about the need for the CPP to avoid investments in fossil fuels, the American prison system, weapons manufacturing, and coastal banking in China. I recently sponsored two petitions, calling for divestment of the CPP from fossil fuels and open-net pen aquaculture. Instead, CPP funds should be invested in a green and just future.

Wednesday, October 28th

I started off my day in a meeting with the Canadian Association for Long Term Care. We discussed chronic underfunding from the government in long-term care homes. This underfunding has become even more apparent in the face of COVID-19. We also discussed policy changes that should be made in terms of immigration, so we can meet the critical shortage of nurses and front-line workers in these facilities. I expressed my support for national standards for long-term care, and for an end to for-profit care homes.

Shortly after, there was a vote in the House on the second reading on Bill C-6 on conversion therapy. I voted in favour of this bill, and it was agreed to. I am looking forward to this bill being sent to committee for further consideration because this means we are one step closer to finally passing this life-saving piece of legislation.

I also attended the first meeting of the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group. I became Vice-Chair of the group and look forward to continuing my work with them.

I presented a petition in the House today on environmental sensitivities, which affect approximately 3% of Canadians. The petition calls on the government to create a ‘classification of disease’ designation code in Canada for environmental sensitivities so that those affected can have access to medical care.

In the evening I had an interview with the student newspaper at Vancouver Island University, the Navigator. We spoke about the single-use plastics ban that is set to come into effect in Canada next year. The article focused on the issues that single-use straw bans pose to the disability community. For now, the ban is a good first step but climate action needs to be about climate justice. We need to consider who is going to be most affected by the decisions that are being made and make sure we do not leave marginalized communities behind.

Thursday, October 29th

Debate in the House today was on a Bloc Quebecois opposition day motion. This motion calls for an official apology from the Prime Minister for the enactment of the War Measures Act in 1970, and the use of the army against Quebec’s civilian population. The motion mentions the nearly 500 Quebeckers who were arrested and detained without charge.

However, others were collateral damage of the October Crisis, too, such as the children who lived in real fear of their parents being taken away at night because of their political involvement. I asked my colleague whether they think these people also deserve an apology for the actions that our government took at the time.

I also brought up the government’s past internment of Japanese and Ukrainian Canadians. The Government of Canada has clearly made mistakes in the past. In the case of the October Crisis, the government overreached and an apology is in order.

My day ended with a vote on the second reading of Bill C-7, on Medical Assistance in Dying. I voted “yea”, and it was agreed to. It will now be referred to the justice committee for further study. I am looking forward to hearing expert testimony on this bill in committee. It is an extremely important piece of legislation and it is important for us to get it right.

Friday, October 30th

Debate in the House today was on Bill C-5 for a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. I brought up what I have been hearing from Indigenous people in my ridingthat reconciliation is dead, or that it is just a word that has lost its meaning. I asked the Member for Winnipeg Centre what Truth and Reconciliation calls to action should be prioritized.

During Question Period, I asked the government about freighter anchorages in the Southern Gulf Islands. I asked the government to mandate improvements at the Port of Vancouver, ban the export of thermal coal, and end the use of the Southern Gulf Islands as a parking lot for freighters. This is an issue I hear about regularly from community members in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. They are fed up with the excessive noise, lights, and exhaust from these parked freighters, not to mention the environmental destruction and safety risks they pose. I also recently sponsored a parliamentary petition calling on the government to eliminate these freighter anchorages.

On Friday, I presented a petition in the House about prison farms. The petitioners noted that the Correctional Service of Canada is establishing for-profit prison farms involving beef, dairy, and intensive animal agriculture, to sell to the private sector. Prisoners working in these facilities make under $1 an hour. Associating massively underpaid prison labor with the private sector is a human rights violation, and is not something that can continue. The petitioners are calling on the government to cancel this prison agribusiness. They instead are calling for a transition to prison farms under a plant-based non-profit model that can feed food banks and food insecure communities. I recently also wrote a blog post about the issues with prison farms under the current model.

During further debate on Bill C-5, I asked about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission call to action #1, which is child welfare. The number one reason First Nations children are apprehended in the child welfare system is poverty. There are more First Nations children in the child welfare system now than at the height of the residential school system. I asked the government when they are going to move forward with measures like a guaranteed livable income, an urban housing strategy, and a rapid housing program.

In the same C-5 debate, I spoke about the systemic racism that Indigenous people face in the health care system. I worked in a film for the Hul'qumi'num Health Hub before I became a Member of Parliament. Along with elders from the community, we created a video that is now used to train people who go into careers in the health care system about traditional healing techniques, Indigenous ways of life, colonial history, and Indian Hospitals. I asked the Member for Joliette how he thinks we can eliminate systemic racism in the health care system.

I also asked the government about its role in respecting the Haldimand Treaty.

This marked the end of my week in Parliament. The House will resume on Monday, November 2nd.

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