• Post published:November 17, 2020
  • Reading time:6 mins read
  • Post category:In Ottawa
Madam Speaker, I am thankful to once again speak to Bill C-3, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code regarding training for judges on sexual assault.
At first reading, we heard amazing speeches from engaged and passionate parliamentarians across party lines. I agree with the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader in his remarks this afternoon that these rounds of debate demonstrate a level of co-operation within our minority Parliament that I too appreciate and would love to see more of.
I would like to use my time today to speak to the opportunity I had to participate in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in tabling my first amendments as a member of Parliament.
As a member of an unofficial party, the opportunities to get involved in these important matters are both broad and limiting. In a three-person caucus, I hold 10 critic files and monitor 10 committees. As I am a member of an unofficial party, my opportunities to be involved are at the discretion of different members. I am not a regular face on the justice and human rights committee, however, I was welcomed and treated with respect, and I wish to formally thank all members for their hospitality.
I also want to thank my incredible team, especially my parliamentary agent, for working hard and being committed to promoting rights.
I will also take this moment to celebrate that one of the four amendments I tabled was accepted. I sincerely appreciate the support and feedback I received in this venture. More importantly, I am thrilled at what this amendment means for Canadians, for women and for victims of sexual assault. It is a meaningful step toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples in Canada.
I tabled three other amendments that echoed those put forward by my Liberal and NDP colleagues. I joined in their concern for adequately clarifying social context, as it can and does include a variety of subjects. My team and I listened to organizations and advocates. We considered it essential to understand the intersection of systemic oppression and gender identity, and the dynamic it plays in the perpetuation of sexual violence.
I was alone, however, in addressing the need to include indigenous voices in the development of training seminars and in recognizing the impact of the failures within the justice system on indigenous peoples. My amendment to section 60(3) of the act as detailed in Bill C-3 ensures that indigenous leaders and representatives of indigenous communities will be included in consultations to develop seminars for judges related to sexual assault law.
With this in place, seminars on matters related to sexual assault law will be developed after consultation with indigenous leaders and representatives of indigenous communities. It enshrines indigenous leadership up front, not consultation after the fact, which we have seen time and time again. It embeds meaningful recognition that indigenous women and girls face rates of sexual assault three times higher than non-indigenous Canadians.
We cannot continue to ignore the prevalence of sexual violence and its impacts on indigenous, Métis and Inuit women. I believe that this is essential. This section explicitly mentions the need for involvement of indigenous leaders and representatives in the development of these seminars.
This amendment is consistent with the spirit of the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and it represents a significant act with respect to the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. I will celebrate this win, but with a commitment to continue to push from all angles for ways to ensure that the dignity and rights of indigenous peoples are upheld in this country.
I received interesting comments about this amendment. They suggested that it was perceived as being too complicated to explicitly highlight indigenous peoples in the bill and that it is a slippery slope to begin to name different groups. I was taken aback by this, especially considering that same week we had debated in the House a bill that would have indigenous peoples recognized in our citizenship oath, distinctly recognized as the first peoples of this land, as a critical step on our path toward reconciliation.
Therefore, I reject the notion of it being a slippery slope to include indigenous leaders and representatives in this amendment. It is never my intention to exclude when highlighting indigenous peoples. It is, rather, the opposite, and it is within the world view that I was taught, which is an inclusion of all life and all peoples, including 2-spirited, Black Canadians and other people of colour.
Additionally, this amendment was never outside the realm of possibility, as its intent was included in the way forward in the RCMP sexual assault review and victim support action plan. This is where the RCMP outlined its commitment to the development of a sexual assault training curriculum, including mandatory education about the history of colonialism and racism in Canada, the role of racism and sexual assault myths and misconceptions.
The plan includes training being developed in consultation with front-line workers, survivors and organizations that reflect a diversity of backgrounds, including Black and indigenous women and girls, transpeople and non-binary people. I would go even further to suggest that, if we include indigenous leadership and representatives at all levels of government and in all sectors in Canada, we will all be the better for it.
I wish to end tonight by sending my condolences, love and prayers to the family of Chantel Moore. They are dealing with yet another immeasurable loss while awaiting the report from the inquest into her death. We cannot take these issues lightly. We cannot ignore that, as conversations about consent and violence against women have evolved generationally, so too have conversations around systemic racism.
As we empower today’s bench with the education they need to assess questions of consent and rape, so too must we empower them with an understanding of systemic racism and the way those issues intersect. By passing Bill C-3, we tell the women of Canada, including indigenous women, that they matter, that we believe them and that we will do everything within our power to ensure justice for crimes against them. No longer will a biased judgment from an uneducated judge prevent this from happening.