Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I would like to begin by acknowledging that I’m joining you from Mi’kmaki, the ancestral territory of the Mi’kmaq people.
My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. Senator Gold, I was pleased that today the government released its action plan in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report and its recommendations. I applaud Minister Bennett and the government for taking the lead on this, and I am encouraged by the efforts of this government to ensure that those directly affected were integral to the development of the action plan, because without people being involved, any report or recommendations are for naught.
I’m encouraged by the commitment by the government of substantial funds to achieve the promises contained in the action plan, but this leads to my concerns. The report makes many promises, but it seems to lack a commitment to definable actions. What are the timelines? What are the milestones? I worry that an already protracted process will go on for another indeterminate amount of time as we await the promised legislation announced today.
Senator Gold, could you let us know when we can expect the promised legislation as outlined in today’s announcement? Will the legislation be developed in consultation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis people? Why wasn’t the legislation outlined in today’s report developed concurrently with the report so that we could have seen them both on the same day?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the questions and for raising these very important issues. The process of bringing us to this place, which, as I said in response to an earlier question, is only the first step in the many that are necessary, was one engaged with and in partnership with Indigenous-led organizations, survivors and others. That is a pathway that the government will continue to pursue going forward.
Indeed, the government is very pleased that contributing partners from across Canada have come together and that this national action plan has been released.
The Federal Pathway, which is the federal government’s contribution to the national action plan, outlines the current and future work needed to end systemic racism, sexism, ableism and economic inequality that has perpetuated violence against Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQ1A+ people. The federal government pathway does indicate some areas where legislation will be co-developed, such as distinctions-based Indigenous health legislation, a legislative framework for First Nations policing that recognizes First Nations policing as an essential service and legislative reforms that acknowledge the importance of Indigenous-led, multi-sectoral and healing responses as part of the justice system. The national action plan, colleague, is a plan for continued collaborative work and that’s the reason — to get to one of your questions — why it is not accompanied by immediate legislation. That legislation will be developed in partnership with the stakeholders and partners to which I’ve made reference.
Senator Cordy: I’m very pleased to see you referring a few times to partnerships. We know that, in relations with Indigenous peoples, partnerships have been sadly lacking throughout much of the history of our country. So I’m pleased that it’s very important.
I would like for the government to provide us some assurance that the First Nations, Métis and Inuit people won’t have to wait another two years for another report to outline the measurable actions that will be undertaken. As Senator Plett said earlier — and maybe I don’t have the words exactly — behind every missing and murdered Indigenous woman is a family and friends. I think we have to understand that the time element and, as you said, the partnerships moving forward, are extremely important. Can we have some assurance that this will be done in a timely way?
Senator Gold: Colleague, I want so desperately to provide assurances and comfort. In the tradition from which I come, it is said that the loss of one life is the loss of an entire world. That is so true in terms of what so many are experiencing and have experienced for far too long.
I cannot give assurances about timelines in the context of a process, a partnership and collaboration that I have described. But I can assure this chamber and all Canadians that the Government of Canada is committed to working with dispatch and in partnership to make progress in this most important area.