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On Thursday May 20, I  spoke  at third  reading  on bill 56  which   concerns First Nations in Manitoba and yet, in contrast to their practice of consulting municipalities with respect to laws  dealing with municipal issue,  First Nations people were not consulting before  bringing in this legislation. 

Bill 56–The Smoking and Vapour Products Control Amendment Act

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): While we agree that smoking is a significant health concern and that lung cancer and various other cancers which result are very serious and should be taken seriously from a health perspective, we completely disagree with the approach taken by the government to impose this measure on First Nations without having consulted with them first and without having listened to them and partnered with them in bringing forward any measures.

      It is particularly insulting that this government, when it came to municipal bills or bills which affected municipal governments, went out of its way to consult with people in the municipal community before bringing the bills in, but when it came to First Nations people and First Nations governments, this bill was introduced without previously doing any consulting. The process was disrespectful, it was wrong and it was a really bad decision by the government.

I can take members back to when the original bill was brought forward to ban smoking in public places–excluding, of course, First Nations communities. There was a task force which was set up that went out around the province–it was an all-party task force, I was on that task force–and we listened to people. And that listening to people and holding the discussion was very important to building understanding, to building consensus, to building a feeling that indeed this was necessary, and that was done, and it has made a big difference.

      But this government felt no need to consult, to build understanding or to build consensus. It was–and is–a disaster. And it is very sad that it is now a disaster which the new minister, the MLA for Southdale, is owning.

      It didn't need to be that way. The minister could still withdraw this bill. MLAs on the Conservative side–if they have integrity–could decide to vote against this bill, recognizing that it was very flawed in the way it was brought in, and completely wrong to do  it that way, and against all principles of fair consultation, against all principles of establishing a pathway to reconciliation.

      So I hope we will see, on the government side, some members go against their party and vote against this bill. If the members or MLAs there have any integrity at all, they will do so. I hope that will happen.

      And, Mr. Speaker, those are my comments. I look forward to this bill not being passed. I look forward to it being not implemented. And I look forward–if it is passed and implemented–to it being struck down on a constitutional basis.

      Thank you, merci, miigwech for the opportunity to say these words.


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