HANDARD: Jenny spoke on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry and asked why government has not implemented the 231 call for justice?

House of Commons Debate
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Government Orders
December 7th, 2022 / 10:15 p.m.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Madam Chair, I want to take a moment to acknowledge my colleagues, the member for Winnipeg Centre and the member for Nunavut, who spoke very powerfully and so starkly about the situation that indigenous women and girls face.

I was reflecting about what I was going to say and I changed my mind about 100 times. I have landed on this. I reflected back to seven years ago when the government made the announcement that it was going to initiate a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. I have to say my heart sang with joy thinking of the changing moment, the significant moment where the voices of indigenous peoples and families had been heard finally, and the government of the day was going to do something about our stolen sisters, indigenous women and girls.

I was not part of the Liberal government. I am still not part of the Liberal government. I will never be a Liberal member. However, my heart sang with joy, because of the hope that it represented. Then as the work continued, I started to have a sinking feeling. Reflecting back, Marion Buller, the lead commissioner, and her team advised nine months into the inquiry that they were using their own personal cellphones and their own email. They did not have office space to undertake the work.

Fast forward to after the report was put out, where a genocide had been recognized even by the government, and 231 calls for justice had been put on the public record. The government promised that it would put forward an implementation plan. Three years later, where is that implementation plan? It is nowhere to be found.

It is not just New Democrats who are saying this. Marion Buller said on the public record that the federal government had “fallen flat on its face”. She said:

We don’t have an implementation plan. There hasn’t been any sort of cohesive statement on the part of the federal government about what it plans to do. There is no looking forward. If there is an implementation plan, I don’t know about it and they’re keeping it quiet. But, they have quite literally fallen flat on their face in terms of their responses. 

She said, “I just find it appalling that the genocide is continuing, because it is and they’re not being held accountable.”

That is the reality of where we are today. Consequently, we in the community and my colleagues see loved ones of family members grieving, in pain and in anger at the loss of their loved ones. Hence we are having this debate tonight.

Tonight I had the pleasure, the honour and the privilege of meeting the family members just outside of the chamber. I shook their hands, looked them in the eye, and made the commitment that we will never stop fighting, even when they leave this place. We should not have to do this time and time again. We should not have to say the names over and over again, and each time with different names, with more hurt, more pain and so much loss, with hope dashed to say that something will happen.

My riding of Vancouver East is very similar to that of my colleague's in Winnipeg Centre. I remember so many years ago when I was just an activist, walking the streets, doing rallies and protesting about a serial killer in Vancouver East. People denied it. When we raised it, people accused us of trying to obstruct justice by suggesting that there was a serial killer and demanding an inquiry.

To the names of the people who have been brought up today who went missing and who have been murdered, Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, Rebecca Contois and Buffalo Woman, I add these names: Tatyanna Harrison, Chelsea Poorman, Noelle O'Soup and Ramona Wilson. These are just the latest few, and there are so many more. 

They do not have to be dead. They did not have to die this way. It does not have to be this way. For tonight, once and for all, will the government take action and fully implement the 231 calls for justice?

Mike Morrice Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Chair, I want to start by recognizing what a strong voice the member is in this place in calling for housing that is for indigenous, by indigenous. 

As the member calls out for the federal government to follow through on all 231 calls to justice, at least nine of them relate to housing. I wonder if she would like to comment further on the critical need for the federal government to follow through specifically on the calls to justice related to housing.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Madam Chair, there is no question that housing matters, and it will save lives. The missing and murdered indigenous women and girls inquiry mentioned housing over 200 times. Can members imagine not being able to access housing, and as a result of that being subject to extreme violence every moment of the day to the point where their lives are lost?

What the federal government can do is, in budget 2023, ensure that there is at least $6 billion over two years for a for indigenous, by indigenous urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy and let the indigenous community lead this work. There is already a coalition that has been set up to do this work. The government needs to fund it, be that true partner and get the job done.

Blake Desjarlais Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Madam Chair, I want to be quite frank. We have heard a lot of discussion today, and for indigenous people, whether it was yesterday or tomorrow, their lives will largely remain the same, and I am angry because of that. I am upset and angry that we have to have this discussion in this place constantly, and that the lives of indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people continue to be ignored constantly. I am angry about that, but I also know that, when an indigenous person like myself gets loud, people stop listening. 

I want to be as clear as possible. We cannot continue to wait, but there is a long history here. This did not happen overnight. Colonialism, racism and, to be frank, misogyny are the reasons we are here today. Indigenous women are not the problem. Colonialism and violence against these women are the problem.

Can the member speak about the root cause of the tragic losses of indigenous women, girls and two-spirit folks that is so deeply rooted in our history here in Canada?

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Madam Chair, I have to say that there is no question in my mind that it is colonialism that is the root cause of this. There is no question that governments and the successive governments allow for the genocide to continue, which is also the ongoing problem of the situation. 

When everybody in the House got up to say that they hear the families, they see them and hear them, well then, I ask them to take action. Words are cheap, but lives are not cheap, and the lives of these indigenous women and girls and two-spirited people matter. 

They matter very much, and we need to honour them. We need to honour them from this perspective as well: They are the very first people who were the owners of this land, and we are their guests on their land. We need to honour them and respect them and take action. We do not need more words.

Matthew Green Hamilton Centre, ON

Madam Chair, we heard today the government side, unfortunately, frame this about hope, about these communities demanding hope. However, I do not recall there being 231 demands for hope. There were 231 demands for justice, demands for action. 

I would love for the hon. member, in her closing remarks, to explore why it is important that we do not just sit here with platitudes, offering talking points about hope, but that this government takes responsibility for taking clear and targeted steps towards action.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Madam Chair, as we continue to talk about this, which the government is doing, people are dying and lives are being lost. The violence taking place is real.

When we say we need to do this work, what we need the government to do is put actions to words. I want to see in the budget real, significant investments, and want the government to spend those investments, not just to put them on paper and not take action. I want to see the government's implementation of call for justice 1.7, because we need the government to take responsibility and ensure there is independent accountability for that work, not just platitudes.

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