• Post published:May 2, 2023
  • Reading time:7 mins read
  • Post category:At Home / In Ottawa

Madam Chair, I will be sharing my time with the member for Sydney—Victoria.

I first want to acknowledge that I am addressing everyone today from the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people. At the core beliefs of the Anishinabe is the notion of respect. Each element is part of the cycle of life. Each element has its purpose and deserves as much respect. Our relationships are what matter the most, and we should cherish them.

I would be lying if I said anything other than that I am deeply saddened to be here this evening, yet again, to continue this essential conversation on the real crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and two-spirited people. Even if the conversation is continuously evolving, we have to admit that it is not concrete, rapid or transformative enough for families who are missing loved ones, such as families back home in Fredericton right now.

How did we get here? That is a question we do not ask ourselves enough. I remember first learning about this issue. My stepfather taught native studies, and he brought his lived experience to the classroom. He took part in the Kanesatake resistance, and he has consistently represented Wabanaki voices at the United Nations. He is a lodge keeper, a language keeper and a pipe carrier. From when I was very young, he would share with me the truth about injustice in Canada for indigenous peoples and how women were targeted for their strength, leadership and resilience.

Women and girls give life to the nations, but they were an inherent threat to the goals of colonization and assimilation. I learned with horror of how indigenous women were killed or went missing at significantly higher rates and how law enforcement was far too often slow to investigate or pursue justice, if it was pursued at all. Only 53% of murder cases in the Sisters in Spirit database have been solved, compared with 84% of all murder cases across the country.

We often felt alone in our efforts to bring awareness. There was no media coverage at that time. There were no demonstrations, and no one knew or cared to know what we were talking about. We have come a long way in Canada since that time, but that fact alone will not bring these women home. This issue is about misogyny, racism and systemic discrimination. Today, my wish would be that this discussion can also be about hope, not just for awareness or education but also for broad consensus and swift action. It can be about hope for adequate resources, policy change and justice. We are here to ensure that the laws of the land and Canadian society are accountable and that women and girls are no longer taken from us by violence.
The issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is not a phenomenon. It is not the result of unexplained circumstances. We know the root causes, and we can and must address them. We know, for example, that housing is a critical piece of this issue, and indigenous women are five times more likely to experience homelessness. Current investments are not enough, but I know that I am working with my colleagues in this House to make a difference in communities across the country. We are seeing the narrative shift, and solutions do exist.
I look around this chamber, and I am incredibly proud and honoured to work with such devoted and informed MPs from every party in every corner of Canada. I thank all of them for their work, their tireless advocacy, their friendship, their teachings and their tenacity, and I am grateful to know that real allies are in positions to act. I feel a synergy that did not exist in this House or in this country before. I am more certain than ever that we will drive the change to make things better. I know that each of us addressing the House this evening is deeply influenced by the conversations we have with community leaders, with elders, with organizations and with representatives who are leading the cause and guiding the path forward.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the people in my own riding who are making a true difference in people’s lives. They are the indigenous women of the Wabanaki territories, the team at the Under One Sky Friendship Centre, the Gignoo Transition House, traditional leadership, chiefs and councils, health directors, education directors, and language and culture teachers. I am using my voice to uphold theirs, because they are the ones who inspire me to do more.

Let us not lose this momentum. Let us not lose another life to violence against indigenous women and girls and two-spirited people.
On May 5, we mark Red Dress Day. Red dress walks bring people together and give strength to families and loved ones. Public vigils shine a light on those lost. May we never forget their stories and passions. May we honour their lives, and may we act now to end this crisis. Woliwon.
Madam Chair, I deeply appreciate the teachings that my colleague from Nunavut brings to our committee on indigenous and northern affairs.
I absolutely support the red dress alert. I was really pleased to see it as part of our 2023 budget and that the steps are already there to get this moving forward. I also just appreciate the leadership from the member for Winnipeg Centre for bringing this forward. It was not something I had heard of before, and I really think that it would have an immediate impact and at least mobilize that call to action that we are hearing about. It would bring that awareness piece to realize how urgent this crisis really is. I believe it would save lives.
Madam Chair, as I mentioned in my speech, it is one of the root causes. It is one of the reasons why we have this issue and this crisis in Canada. I think it is incumbent on all of us as members of Parliament to do that work within our own communities and to have those conversations.
Personally, I meet with our J Division RCMP leadership team, in my riding, as well as with our Fredericton city police, to constantly push them. How are they meeting the action plan? How are they strategizing to ensure that this does not come to impact more families in our community?

I am not always satisfied by the answers that I get. However, they know that I am there pushing them and that I am not going to give up until we see this come to a resolution.
Madam Chair, I have really tried to look at this issue from a multi-faceted standpoint. I think it is very complicated, and there are many things we can do.

I have been so incredibly proud of the work of our indigenous and northern affairs committee. I have to mention again the members for Nunavut, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River and Manicouagan. There are so many others. We work really collaboratively; we are all there for the right reasons, and we have all come to an understanding. We actually began our committee with a blanket exercise just for all of us to understand this collective history that we have and our duty and responsibility as parliamentarians to be on the same page and to address this issue.

I was also really fortunate to be able to sponsor Bill S-219, an act respecting a national ribbon skirt day on January 4, in this House. This was done in the name of Senator Jane McCallum for Isabella Kulak and her community in Saskatchewan.
These are concrete steps that we can take to honour and cherish indigenous women, as well as to uphold culture and identity in this country. I think that is a key component to this whole discussion this evening.