NDP MP pushing for committee hearings on ‘suicide crisis’ and residential school settlement agreement

Conservative MP wants Aboriginal affairs committee to study TRC’s 94 recommendations

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
OTTAWA—The lone NDP member of the Aboriginal affairs parliamentary committee is hoping the Liberals and Conservative MPs around the table will agree to hearings on the suicide crisis facing some Indigenous communities and the Indian residential school compensation process.

NDP MP Charlie Angus said Friday he has filed two notices of motions with the committee clerk to hold hearings on the suicide crisis and the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) which was created to determine levels of compensation for abuse faced by Indian residential school survivors.

The motions will be discussed by the committee on Tuesday during an in camera session.

“I think we have a real opportunity with this new committee, with new MPs, new ideas and a new government,” said Angus. “Let’s get down to work so we are making tangible differences…and these are areas where we can begin that process.”

One of Angus’ motions calls for the committee to “study the crisis in youth suicide facing First Nations, Inuit and Metis on and off reserve” and that the MPs travel to communities “impacted by the crisis.”

The motion also calls for witnesses to include Health Minister Jane Philpott along with Indigenous leaders.

Earlier this year, the Mushkegowuk Council released a report which concluded First Nation communities under its umbrella in northern Ontario faced a suicide “pandemic.”

The study found that 600 children and youth from the communities of Moosonee, Moose Factory, Missanabie Cree, Taykwa Tagamou, Fort Albany, Attawpiskat, Kashechewan, and Chapleau Cree either thought about, attempted or committed suicide between 2009 and 2011.

The second motion called for the committee to “study the implementation of the Indian residential school settlement agreement and the Independent Assessment Process and their impact on reconciliations.”

The motion calls for Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennett and Justice Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould to appear as witnesses, along with Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Chair Murray Sinclair, officials with the IAP oversight committee, all the signatories to the settlement agreement and residential school survivors.

The top officials in charge of overseeing the IAP process recently called for a halt to all residential school abuse claim cases currently before adjudicators where Justice Canada lawyers tried to have a residential school disqualified based on administrative and technical grounds. The request came after Bennett announced department officials would be reviewing cases were the tactic was employed.

The IAP has also been beset by a litany issues, including investigations and convictions of lawyers who’ve taken advantage of residential school survivors.

Conservative Aboriginal affairs critic Cathy McLeod said she wasn’t aware of Angus’ motion, but said she was looking to propose the committee study the 94 recommendations issued by the TRC.

“I thought it would be appropriate to do a more in-depth analysis,” said McLeod. “Look at cost and outcomes.”

McLeod also said she was interested in studying the child welfare situation on-reserves in light of the recent Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling. The tribunal determined that Ottawa discriminated against First Nation children by underfunding child welfare services in communities.

APTN also contacted the offices of Liberal MPs Michael McLeod and Don Rusnak, who sit on the committee, seeking comment, but neither returned the call.

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