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My Week in Ottawa: Sept 28-Oct 3

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

Monday September 28th

Monday marked the beginning of the first full week back in Parliament, but the pandemic has brought many changes to life on Parliament Hill.

I used to attend sittings in the House of Commons in between a flurry of morning meetings and evening receptions. But now, a suite of virtual meetings and webinars have replaced in-person events. I am still participating in many important meetings, but many of my meetings are now taking place when I am in Nanaimo because I can participate in virtual meetings from anywhere.

On Monday, the House of Commons was debating the government’s motion about how to proceed with Bill C-4, An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19. This bill establishes three new COVID-19 financial support benefits for Canadians, in light of the continued impact of the pandemic on people’s livelihoods - the Canada Recovery Benefit, Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, and Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit.

The goal was to fast-track this legislation to make sure Canadians get the support they need as soon as possible. However, the House needed to unanimously agree on the process of how to fast-track the legislation, or else Bill C-4 would take much longer to become law.

During Question Period, I asked the government whether they would implement a wealth tax. Canada’s wealthiest citizens have increased their wealth by $37 billion since the pandemic began, and they should be contributing their fair share.

I then presented a petition about cannabidiol (CBD).

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-addictive, non-intoxicating, non-psychoactive part of the cannabis plant that is associated with a number of health benefits. The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to amend the regulation of CBD and classify CBD as a natural health product, to remove CBD from the prescription drug list at certain dosages and to legalize the transportation of CBD products across the Canadian border.

In the evening the House of Commons held its first ever virtual vote. The vote was on a motion put forward by the Bloc Quebecois that expressed opposition to the Speech from the Throne because it did not contain certain specific provisions. It took about two hours to get through some initial technical delays, but eventually we got through it and the motion was rejected by all the other parties, including Greens.

Tuesday September 29th

Debate on how to proceed with Bill C-4 continued into Tuesday. In the afternoon we held a vote to put a time limit on this debate. I voted “yea” so that we would be able to move onto debating the actual bill itself later in the evening. I also voted in favour of a motion to recognize that recently revealed Conflict of Interest breaches by a former MP were unacceptable. The House passed both motions.

I then spoke in the House of Commons to express my disappointment in the government’s lack of financial support for people with disabilities. I have raised this problem numerous times in the House of Commons, and sent multiple letters to relevant Ministers requesting additional supports. It is unacceptable that people with disabilities have been left behind in COVID-19 support programs.

A few more votes took place in the evening. First, I voted against a Conservative amendment to change the process on how to proceed with Bill C-4. I then voted in favour of the original Motion about the proposed process, which passed in the House.

Once this Motion passed, the House was able to debate Bill C-4 on an expedited timeline. Debate went late into the night, and at 1:55 AM, Parliament unanimously agreed to pass the bill. As I mentioned in last week’s update, only one Green Party caucus member can be physically present in the House of Commons at a time. Elizabeth May was on house duty that night and I voted virtually.

Wednesday September 30th

Wednesday was Orange Shirt Day, a day that honours and remembers residential school survivors. I wore an orange shirt in Parliament.

In my MP statement I made the link between Orange Shirt Day and the importance of protecting wild salmon for true reconciliation. Sockeye salmon stocks have been decimated but the government continues to allow open pen-net salmon farming, which endangers wild salmon. The government needs to take emergency action to protect salmon stocks.

I also had the opportunity to respond on behalf of the Green caucus to the government’s statement about Orange Shirt Day. I spoke in recognition of residential school survivors and the destructive acts that have been committed to destroy the cultures and languages of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

I also shared a personal story about my granny Irene Starr from Kitamaat Village. Granny Irene never talked about her time in residential school. Years later I learned about her trauma in an unexpected way. That moment will always stay with me, and it motivates me.

During routine proceedings I presented a petition with 15,000 signatures calling for the decriminalization of psychoactive plants and fungi that have traditionally been used for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. This petition was developed by the Canadian Psychedelic Association as part of their Decriminalize Nature initiative.

I sponsored this petition because mounting clinical research, and thousands of years of traditional use, have demonstrated the healing properties of these plants. While presenting the petition I applauded the decision by the Minister of Health to approve requests from four terminally-ill cancer patients to legally receive psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for end-of-life anxiety. Since then additional requests for this therapy have also been granted.

In debate I once again brought up the astounding fact that Canada’s wealthiest people are profiting off the pandemic and asked the Conservatives whether they would support a wealth tax.

Thursday October 1st

On Thursday the House of Commons voted on a motion put forward by the Conservative Party to express several regrets, including regrets that the government has not acknowledged the need for a new policy on Canada’s relations with China.

I believe it’s time for Canada to fundamentally reassess our foreign policy, and have called on the government to invoke sanctions on Chinese Communist Party officials who have perpetrated human rights atrocities in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong.

However, in debate I reminded Conservative MPs that it was their party who locked Canada into the 31-year Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). This FIPA gives China unprecedented power when they invest in Canadian companies, including the ability to sue Canada if our laws interfere with China’s profit-makingeven if those laws are in place to protect human rights, the environment, and national security.

I voted against this motion along with the majority of the House, and the motion was rejected.

Friday October 2nd

On Friday, the House of Commons debated Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code. The purpose of this bill is to require judges to participate in continuing education on matters related to sexual assault law. I did not have any interventions in Parliament on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Senate approved Bill C-4, passing into law the new COVID-19 benefits for Canadians that the House of Commons had debated earlier in the week. The government can now start rolling out these support programs.

Saturday October 3rd

The Green Party of Canada’s leadership contest closed on Saturday and I attended the leadership announcement event in Ottawa. I gave a speech thanking my friend and colleague Elizabeth May for her mentorship and guidance as the former leader of the party.

After much anticipation, Annamie Paul was elected the new leader of the Green Party of Canada, winning over the seven other candidates who participated in the leadership race. It was a historic win. The first Black leader of a Canadian federal party, and the first Jewish woman to lead a federal party. It took us until 2020 to get here. That’s too long, but I’m glad we are here.

Following the announcement I congratulated Annamie Paul and am very much looking forward to working with her.

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