This is page numbers 241 - 272 of the Hansard for the 13th Assembly, 7th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was chairman.

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Tabled Document 30-13(7): Great Slave Lake Forestry Report And Business Plan, March 1999
Item 14: Tabling Of Documents

Page 258

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Tabling of documents. Item 15, notices of motion. Item 16, notices of motion for first reading of bills. Item 17, motions. Motion 18-13(7), Mr. Krutko.

Motion 18-13(7): Support For Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi
Item 17: Motions

April 21st, 1999

Page 258

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker I would like to move a motion for support for Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi.

WHEREAS Roberta Vaneltsi is a resident of the Northwest Territories and is a person of Gwich'in heritage;

AND WHEREAS she is the mother of two children, namely: Roman Cerny, born May 5, 1986; and Petra Cerny, born January 20, 1989;

AND WHEREAS the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories issued a custody order on June 29, 1994, which granted joint custody to the parents of the two children, Roberta Vaneltsi and Petr Cerny, and which permitted Mr. Cerny to take the two children to the Czech Republic for a period of one year only;

AND WHEREAS Petr Cerny failed to return the children to Canada when scheduled to do so by Court Order;

AND WHEREAS Roberta Vaneltsi was subsequently granted sole custody of the children by an Order issued from the Supreme Court of the Yukon;

AND WHEREAS Petr Cerny has consistently disobeyed the Canadian Court Orders and has refused to return the children to Canada or to let the children travel to Canada for the purposes of visiting with their mother;

AND WHEREAS when the children were initially sent to the Czech Republic, the Czech Republic was not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the civil aspects on International Child Abduction;

AND WHEREAS Ms. Vaneltsi could not then rely on the Hague Convention to have here children returned to her;

AND WHEREAS the Czech Republic is now a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction;

AND WHEREAS it is every child's right to be able to visit with, and spend time with, their parents;

AND WHEREAS it is critical that aboriginal children be exposed to their culture and to their heritage;

AND WHEREAS the Courts of the Czech Republic have yet to make an order which would allow the children to travel to Canada to visit with their mother;

NOW THEREFORE I MOVE, seconded by the Honourable Member for Hay River, that this Legislative Assembly supports the efforts of Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi in securing meaningful visits and contacts with her children, Roman and Petra Cerny, including visits to their home in the Northwest Territories;

AND FURTHER that the Premier and Executive Council are strongly encouraged to request the federal government to take all possible measures to assist Ms. Vaneltsi in being reunited with her children, including contacting the Government of the Czech Republic to express its strong concerns with respect to the fact that these children are being denied the opportunity to visit with their mother in Canada and are being denied their right, as aboriginal children, to be exposed in a meaningful fashion to their aboriginal heritage and culture.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 18-13(7): Support For Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi
Item 17: Motions

Page 258

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. The motion is in order. To the motion. Mr. Krutko.

Motion 18-13(7): Support For Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi
Item 17: Motions

Page 258

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this issue has been around for a number of years. I have raised it in the House in the past. Basically I have asked for support from this government and also to ensure that we try to assist Ms. Vaneltsi in trying to regain her children and bring them back to Canada so that they can spend time with her. Mr. Speaker, this incident has been around for a number of years. Ms. Vaneltsi has made every attempt to her ability, using the judicial process she has obtained legal council, she has made attempts to travel to the Czech Republic to try to convince the court in the Czech Republic to allow her children to have access and visits to Canada to be with her. There has been a Court Order issued by this government regarding the question about the access of the children where Mr. Cerny refused to bring those children back to Canada. Yet, in the Court Order by the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories, it clearly stated that he was only to have the children for one year. Also regarding the question about custody, Ms. Vaneltsi has received sole custody of the children in the Supreme Court of the Yukon, in which yet again that order has not been recognized, but now Mr. Speaker, the only avenue that Ms. Vaneltsi seems to feel she has to her ability to try to do something is a political process.

Ms. Vaneltsi has made every attempt to use the judicial process and I believe that it is these types of issues that ourselves as Members of the Legislative Assembly and also as people who have to protect the residents of the Northwest Territories in any way we can. Especially children. We have to find a political solution to this problem and I have made statements in this House in the past which have asked this government to intervene on her behalf. Yet she has not received any real meaningful support from this government in regards to representing her and her intervention with the courts. Also, she has made attempts to get the federal government, through our MP, Ms. Ethel Blondin-Andrew, and our Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Jean Chretien, where letters have been sent back and forth with no real positive outcome.

I am asking Members of this House, the Premier and Members of Cabinet, to strongly make an effort to bring Ms. Vaneltsi's children home back to Canada and the Northwest Territories where they belong. With that, Mr. Speaker, I call for the support of all my colleagues and Cabinet. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Motion 18-13(7): Support For Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi
Item 17: Motions

Page 259

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

To the motion. The seconder. Mrs. Groenewegen.

Motion 18-13(7): Support For Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi
Item 17: Motions

Page 259

Jane Groenewegen Hay River

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would also like to speak in favour of Mr. Krutko's motion. I seconded the motion. I expressed in my Member's statement yesterday that I sympathize very much with this mother and her inability to gain access to her two small children, who are now residents of a foreign country, and it would appear that she has been caught up in a web of international rules and red tape and unfortunate circumstances from which I do not believe it is going to be possible for her to solve with her own resources. I do believe this is an instance where this government could bring its influence to bear in this situation and through contacts with the federal government and Minister of Foreign Affairs could help to see this situation resolved. I believe that is the kind of action that the last paragraph of this motion is calling for.

This is a very unusual case. You do hear of cases like this occasionally, we have all seen documentaries of TV programs when something like this happens, but this is an instance that is close to home in which we as a Legislature, I believe, should take an active role in resolving on behalf of a northern constituent. I think we should bring this to the floor of the public arena, I think if there is anyway we can draw national or international attention to this sad situation, I believe that we should do so. With that, Mr. Speaker, I would just like to say that these are the reasons for my seconding the motion and I would, as well as Mr. Krutko, encourage all Members, including Members of the Executive Council, to become involved in solving this problem as soon as possible. These children are growing up and as each year passes they are missing the influences and input of their mother. I believe it is a matter that should be dealt with as quickly and as directly as possible. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Motion 18-13(7): Support For Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi
Item 17: Motions

Page 259

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. To the motion. Mr. Ootes.

Motion 18-13(7): Support For Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi
Item 17: Motions

Page 259

Jake Ootes Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am aware that Mr. Krutko has been working on this situation for at least the last three-quarters of a year. I recall he raised the issue in this House some time ago and he has spoken to us in committee and on an individual basis. I am very supportive of this particular motion. I think that certainly many people are affected by this, the mother and the children are extremely affected by this. I think that from a government standpoint, no doubt our Minister of Justice and also the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, can no doubt contact the federal Department of Justice and perhaps the Department of External Affairs to see what the problem may be, Mr. Speaker, to address this situation, to see what kind of help that can be provided to find some resolution to this.

It must be very aggravating for someone like Ms. Vaneltsi, and possibly her children, to be separated. Certainly our government in Canada can work on this and, as Mrs. Groenewegen has said, perhaps this needs to go into the public arena to be addressed. I know that Mr. Krutko has briefed us on this situation and pointed out that Ms. Vaneltsi has spent considerable time and money in an effort to deal with this. She has been to the Czech Republic to see if she could retrieve her children, all without success and no doubt with great aggravation. I am very supportive of this motion and will encourage the government to provide its support. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Motion 18-13(7): Support For Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi
Item 17: Motions

Page 259

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. To the motion. Mr. Morin.

Motion 18-13(7): Support For Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi
Item 17: Motions

Page 259

Don Morin Tu Nedhe

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I, too, will vote in favour of this motion made by Mr. Krutko, MLA for the Mackenzie Delta, and seconded by the MLA from Hay River. Mr. Speaker, I think this is an injustice, that our government should do what it needs to do to try to correct. I believe that this whole issue falls in the hands of the federal government, who is our government as well, and they should be working on behalf of the Canadian citizens to try to retrieve these children from the Czech Republic. Mr. Speaker, that would be the most devastating thing to the mother of these children, to be separated from them. I just could not imagine how cruel that is to the mother.

Mr. Speaker, our government should immediately be in touch with our MP, who is our link to the federal government, as well as the Prime Minister. The Premier's office does have direct contact with the Prime Minister of this country to protect the citizens of our country. This lady is a citizen of Canada, she is a citizen of the Northwest Territories, so we should do whatever possible and as soon as possible to try to protect her rights, as well as the rights of her children. Mr. Speaker, I believe that our Member of Parliament, like I said earlier, plays a very important role and we should, through this motion, by passing this motion, giving her direction on what to do, as well as the Prime Minister of this country. I believe that the Premier, knowing him well, will action this once we have passed this motion in this House and will action it with proper action. Thank you.

--Applause

Motion 18-13(7): Support For Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi
Item 17: Motions

Page 259

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. To the motion. Mr. Antoine.

Motion 18-13(7): Support For Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi
Item 17: Motions

Page 259

Jim Antoine Nahendeh

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to state for the record that the Cabinet is very sympathetic to the difficulties experienced by Roberta Vaneltsi. There are very few things in this world that are more powerful than the love between a mother and her children. Those of us with children here can all too easily put ourselves in her position and know the pain that she has probably been experiencing and enduring all this time here. I have been aware of this situation for some time.

Since the motion provides a direction to the Cabinet, the Ministers will be abstaining from the vote. However, it does not take away from the importance of the issue, and I want to ensure Members and the mover and the seconder and Members on the other side of the House and members of the public that we are very supportive as a Cabinet, and we will do whatever we can to assist in this very difficult situation. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Motion 18-13(7): Support For Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi
Item 17: Motions

Page 260

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. To the motion. Mr. Erasmus.

Motion 18-13(7): Support For Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi
Item 17: Motions

Page 260

Roy Erasmus Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I, too, will be voting in favour of this motion. Mr. Speaker, it is unacceptable that someone could take a Canadian child, particularly an aboriginal person from this region, to another country and not return those children to the mother. We know that this is not an isolated incident, Mr. Speaker. This happens a lot of times, frequently. In fact, we see the posters in the stores. We go to Wal-Mart, you see some posters. You go to the drugstore, you will see posters of missing children. Often times there is another picture right beside that missing child and it is one of the parents who has kidnapped that child. This instance is basically the same thing. These children were basically kidnapped through the use of deception, taking advantage of the good will and the naiveness of Ms. Vaneltsi. The father of those children used the illness of his parents in the Czech Republic so that she would agree to allow those children to leave this country. When she was there, they did not come back. Not only that, he did not send the kids back either.

Ms. Vaneltsi has gone to the Czech Republic, Mr. Speaker. She has gone to courts there. Unfortunately, there was no assistance from our embassy and Canadian representatives at that time. She wound up with a lawyer, I understand, who could not speak English and with no interpretation in the courts. Mr. Speaker, this type of thing cannot be allowed to happen. This should not happen to a Canadian citizen.

We need to make sure that if she goes back there, she has every assistance available. Our Premier, our Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, needs to impress on Ottawa on how important it is. This does not only affect this one woman and her children. It is Canadian citizens all over the place who this should not be happening to. We do need to ensure that we can provide her with the greatest political assistance at as high a level as possible to correct this injustice. Other Members have spoken about how painful it must be, the love of parents for their children, and I cannot agree more. I simply cannot imagine it. Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, I will be voting in favour of this motion. Thank you.

--Applause

Motion 18-13(7): Support For Ms. Roberta Vaneltsi
Item 17: Motions

Page 260

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

To the motion. Mr. Krutko, do you wish to make your closing statement to the motion?