Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Beaches—East York.
I will begin by acknowledging that this House rests on unceded Algonquin Anishinabe territory. I will also take the opportunity to thank the people of Fredericton for putting their faith in me once again.
I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
It was certainly a journey to return to the House. Our paths to this place are unique. We all have had our battles. We learn, we grow, we keep moving forward. I want to congratulate my fellow members of Parliament on their election and for the privilege to stand in the House to represent Canadians.
I also want to congratulate the Hon. Mary Simon on her historic appointment and the remarkable career that led her to the throne. She makes me feel humble and proud to be Canadian and grateful for my home, which is on native land. This we must acknowledge each and every day as the foundation of reconciliation. As Governor General Simon said:
This land acknowledgement is not a symbolic declaration. It is our true history. In each of your own ridings, I encourage you to seek out the truth, and to learn about the lived realities in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. Although each community is distinct, we all share a desire to chart a way forward together towards reconciliation.
I was looking for leadership on reconciliation in the Speech from the Throne and a moment of education for those who need reminding of their treaty relationship or the ones eager to find ways to improve their allyship. Our Governor General is telling us to keep talking, learning, sharing, reaching out, building bridges and doing the work, and there is still so much work to do. We see treaty rights met with violence in the east, legal and hereditary rights challenged in the west, a water crisis in the north, a housing crisis in communities and cities across this country and ongoing investigations into former residential facilities. We have been faced with the horror of racism and systemic genocide time and time again. As Mary Simon remarked, “We cannot hide from these discoveries; they open deep wounds.”
It is imperative to our success and our collective well-being that we confront trauma in Canadian society. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada educates us about the intergenerational trauma that still ripples through communities today, about underfunded education and child welfare services, and about discrimination. Anyone who was surprised by the discoveries of unmarked graves should read the TRC report. I implore them to.
The TRC also tells us about the work that has been done and what is ongoing. There has been significant growth and healing in ways that I have had the immense pleasure of witnessing: in children reclaiming traditional names, dancing and drumming; in seeing elders in residence share their knowledge to institutions seeking to decolonize; in better educational outcomes and increased capacity in health, science and business; and in indigenous art and cultural expression.
Since 2015, there have been effective indigenous language revitalization projects in New Brunswick schools through Wolastoqey Latuwewakon. These efforts prevented a prediction that the Wolastoqey language would have died out by now.
[Member spoke in Wolastoqey and provided the following text:]
Ktahcuwi kilun mecimi-te wehkanen ktolatuwewakonon weci skat ksihkahtuwohq.
[Member provided the following translation:]
We always have to use our language, so we do not lose it.
The Speech from the Throne was also read in lnuktitut. That is an incredible milestone for Canada that we should all be proud of. What I heard in the Speech from the Throne was the intention to ensure “Action on reconciliation. Action on our collective health and well-being. Action on climate [crisis].” These are also the priorities that I heard at doorsteps. I want to be able to return home to my constituents after the 44th Parliament with results. I know we all do.
We have a huge responsibility to act right now in confronting the biggest challenges of our lifetime, and for the generations to come. We have been listening to the youth who take to the streets every Friday, striking from school for the sake of our collective future. I can see in my mind all the slogans and signs from climate rallies over the years: “There is no Planet B”, “Our house is on fire” and “Change the politics, not the climate”. These are pleas for action.
The Speech from the Throne declares that our earth is in danger, that we must adapt, that we are well beyond the point of no return and that we can no longer point fingers as to who is responsible or bicker over the steps required to mitigate the damage. All communities across the globe must prepare for what is to come.
The millions who have signed petitions, written letters, organized demonstrations, written policy resolutions and started divestment campaigns are making a difference. Their voices have pushed corporations to address their carbon footprints, develop sustainability strategies and move away from single-use plastics. Renewable energy and electric vehicles have never been so accessible, and consumers are empowered to make responsible choices, making the market more competitive. We did this. Never doubt that actions, even the smallest ones, can have a ripple effect and change the world around us.
Our government has committed to 30% protected coastlines and waterways by 2030, more conservation in national parks, active transportation, green community infrastructure, ending fossil fuel subsidies, banning coal and limiting pipeline expansion.
I want Canadian kids to feel good about going back to school and about planning their futures. We need them to study engineering, science, sustainable agriculture and critical race theory. We need them to embrace their role in the transition that is under way. I want them to trust in their government and feel comfort in our demonstrated actions.
We need more aggressive timelines on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, and I will be the first to admit that. We need to protect the oceans, whales and other carbon-sequestering species and actively support biodiversity. We need to overhaul pesticide and herbicide use, move away from industrialized farming and continue to ramp up renewable energy while empowering municipalities as ground zero for the transformation.
We must also be prepared for extreme weather events, mitigate flooding, implement firebreaks and engage indigenous knowledge, as we know too well that the impacts of the climate crisis are already severely affecting our lives regardless of where we or our loved ones are living in this country. Mother Nature has a way of reminding us of her power and the pandemic is no exception.
I will read an excerpt from the speech. “The pandemic has shown us that we need to put a focus on mental health in the same way as physical well-being because they are inseparable.” What led me here was to fight for mental health access in my community for indigenous youth, women and mothers. The COVID-19 experience has compounded an already existing crisis. Currently, in my home province we have a fourth wave of the virus. Furthermore, ERs are closing, health care workers are on strike, reproductive rights continue to be restricted and 18,000 people in Fredericton’s city centre alone do not have access to a family physician.
The federal government and provincial partners need each other to fill these gaps now. Modernizing means investing in e-health, human resources, housing and immigration; addressing the opioid crisis; and focusing on prevention. Everything is connected, and without the basics for survival no one can be successful. Retention of physicians and nurses starts with listening to them about why they are burned out. Better data collection, planning and strategizing can better distribute the resources we already have.
I am a class of 2019 member of Parliament. After just five months of my political career, the pandemic hit, the world stopped, our children were out of school, workplaces shut down and planes were grounded. All at once it became abundantly clear that nothing else matters if we do not have health. I have spent the last two years speaking for my community and bringing their voices into this place to make change. Fredericton is an amazing place with informed and engaged citizens. Every time I speak, I speak with their voices in my ear. Their number one concern is access to health care.
Despite the difficulties we face at this moment, I am more hopeful than ever. My message for Canadians today is one of strength and faith that there are better days ahead. I say this knowing the urgency in the change that is required and the disparity that is felt too often across this nation. I too have felt it. People are not alone.
The terms of the game have changed and so have we. Looking throughout this chamber, across the aisles and in the wings, I know we are up to the challenge. It will take all of us: a strong, united government; a healthy pragmatic opposition; and a real commitment to collaboration.
I will read once again from the speech. “Confronting the hard questions will not always be easy or comfortable—and it will require conviction—but it is necessary. The outcome will be a sustainable, united Canada, for you, for me, for our children, and for every generation to come.” The message I heard loud and clear was unity and a commitment toward action, and that will always get my vote.