As this is my final MP report for 2013, I wanted to reflect back on some of the events of the past year that stand out in my work as a Member of Parliament for our riding of Okanagan-Coquihalla. On a personal note, one of the events that I followed closely was the criminal trial that resulted in a guilty verdict for the individual who took the life of Penticton resident Lynn Kalmring. As I shared in the House of Commons, Lynn was a loving mother, sister, daughter and friend to all who loved her. Lynn's life was tragically taken in a senseless and brutal act of domestic violence. There are many details that cannot be publicly shared out of respect for the privacy of Lynn’s family but it remains clear to me that there is still much work to be done to help victims of serious crime and domestic violence. While the outcome of the trial was welcomed by the Kalmring family, we should never overlook the magnitude of loss that is experienced and how victims can continue to be re-victimized in a system that is slowly evolving to recognize the need for change. I have spoken in support of two such measures in the House of Commons this past year and will continue to endorse legislative changes that better protect victims of serious crime and domestic abuse.
Another series of events that occurred in late 2013 have also been quite telling from my perspective. Two of my colleagues in caucus both reached significant milestones with their private member’s bills in December. One of these members was widely reported about in the media and the other was from my perspective largely ignored by the same media. The private member’s bill you did hear about was Bill C-559, the Reform Act of 2013, introduced by Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong. The private member’s bill you didn’t hear about was Bill C-428, the Indian Act Replacement and Amendment Act introduced by Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River MP Rob Clarke. What is more surprising over the difference in media coverage on these two bills is that while Bill C-559 has not yet been deemed as votable, Bill C-428 passed 3rd reading debate in the House of Commons and is now before the Senate at 1st reading. What is also noteworthy is that MP Rob Clarke, the author of bill C-428, is also a member of the Muskeg Lake First Nation. In fact, the Library of Parliament has confirmed that going back as far as 1867, no private member’s bill introduced by a member of First Nations origin has ever received Royal Assent or passed third reading in the House of Commons. For those that do follow my MP reports, you are likely reading about MP Clarke’s historic achievement in the House of Commons for the very first time. When one considers both the symbolic importance of this achievement by MP Clarke and the important subject matter of the bill, it raises concern that it has been overlooked by many.
I mention Bill C-428 and MP Rob Clarke as it is my view that all too often a First Nation’s success story or achievement is ignored, while the challenges such as in Attawapiskat (as an example) remain front page news for weeks on end. Rob Clarke’s Bill C-428 and Michael Chong’s Bill C-559 both share one trait in common– they propose a challenge to the status quo and suggest that we consider reform if there is a better and more effective means to govern. As we head into 2014 and the promises of the New Year I believe we can all keep an open mind and ask ourselves what things we can change to improve in ourselves and those around us. While it is undeniably true that we as a country have incredibly much to be thankful for, we should also never cease to challenge ourselves and others to do better. As Canadians we always succeed when we rise to the challenge of building a stronger Canada. As always if you have a comment, question or concern, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-665-8711. My sincere best wishes to all for a prosperous New Year in 2014!
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.